A student studying online. Courtesy California Department of Education

San Diego Unified School District has expanded its distance learning program to provide more daily structure and virtual instruction time. Administrators are striving to create a pre-COVID classroom environment and make the learning experience as close to a traditional school year as possible for the district’s more than 121,000 students.

Here’s what families can expect when the new school year begins Aug. 31:

• A six-hour school day with customized learning experiences for each K-12 student

• All students will have daily, live interaction with their teachers via video conferencing

• Custom learning experiences will be based on student needs and will include daily live, online instruction (up to three hours), independent learning (at least two hours), working with other students in small groups or participating in educator office hours (at least one hour)

• All elementary students will receive instruction in reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies, physical education, and the arts

• Students will receive grades to measure their progress

Superintendent Cindy Marten said the district will continue working on access and providing free computers and Wi-Fi service to families that need them. In the spring, San Diego Unified provided more than 50,000 Chromebook computers to allow students the ability to work from home. More than 97 percent of students logged into their classes during that time.

“We continue working to bring all students back to campus as soon as it is safe and responsible to do so. In the meantime, we must ensure our students continue to learn and make academic progress,” Marten said.

Changes to the district’s online learning were made with help from parents and other stakeholders.

“Online learning is going to be better, because parents helped design it,” said Mahogany Taylor, president of the San Diego Unified Parent Teacher Association. “There will be many challenges to overcome this school year, both those that are currently known and those that are yet to come. But students, families and district personnel have repeatedly shown the courage, flexibility and teamwork necessary to make this year successful.”

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