Summer of Thinking: San Diego Unified Parents Embrace Think Tank Sessions, Offer to Shape School Reopening Plans

Posted: Sunday, July 12th 2020

As San Diego Unified maps out 2020-21 back-to-school plans with new guidance from the California Department of Public Health, parents continue to collaborate with district leaders in a series of Think Tanks designed to harness suggestions and concerns from throughout the city. 

The online Parent Think Tank sessions were designed to give families an opportunity to participate in the district’s reopening through collaborative problem-solving forums. Parents and guardians have been brainstorming solutions to potential obstacles the district may face once it’s safe to physically reopen schools.

PTA member Janis Tan participated in a Think Tank on mental health and wellbeing. She said she’s hopeful the district will incorporate some of the recommendations her group provided.   

“I appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with the district as we try to navigate what the upcoming school year will look like for our students and families,” Tan said.

The Think Tank sessions were planned based on the interest of parents who responded to a district survey. A majority of parents indicated their main focus was centered around how to implement health and safety guidelines for families, students and staff, from the time students left home to the time they arrived on campus. 

Separate sessions have covered physical and mental health, specialized settings for students with disabilities, Parents as Partners, supporting English learners, and volunteerism. 

Reopening plans for San Diego Unified schools are being outlined in concert with local health guidelines and in accordance with state directives. The valuable insight provided this month from parents will complement back-to-school planning at the district and school-level.

Tan is among nearly 2,000 parents and guardians who responded to Think Tank sign-up forms and surveys sent out in late June, registering for sessions and agreeing to join the process to provide possible solutions for reopening schools. 

During the Think Tanks, facilitators from the district have met with parents in Zoom breakout rooms to brainstorm solutions to problems to be addressed ahead of the physical reopening of schools. 

The forums have been conducted in multiple languages: English, Spanish, Swahili, Somali, Vietnamese (Vietnamita), Arabic (Arabe), Tagalog, and Karen (regional dialect to parts of Thailand and Burma).

Feedback from the problem-solving sessions from parents will be presented to the district’s executive team for consideration when it comes to incorporating and finalizing the plan to ultimately reopen San Diego Unified schools. Although the Think Tanks are winding down, parent feedback will be welcome throughout the summer and into the new year.

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