Teaching & Learning FAQs
If you do not find the answers you need on this page, please complete our Reopening FAQs Form. If your question is not answered by a current FAQ, the question and answer will be added to the FAQ section below. FAQs will be updated regularly.
Attendance and Instructional Minutes
An LEA, or Local Education Agency, for the purpose of this section means “school district.”
How will districts take and document student attendance on distance learning days?
Each LEA shall document daily participation for each pupil on each school day, in whole or in part, for which distance learning is provided. A pupil who does not participate in distance learning on a school day shall be documented as absent for that school day. (EC 43504(d) and (f))
Each LEA shall ensure that a weekly engagement record is completed for each pupil documenting synchronous or asynchronous instruction for each whole or partial day of distance learning, verifying daily participation, and tracking assignments. (EC 43504(e))
In order to be marked as present on a distance learning day, a pupil must engage in daily participation. What constitutes daily participation?
Daily participation may include, but is not limited to, evidence of participation in online activities, completion of regular assignments, completion of assessments, and contacts between employees of the local educational agency and pupils or parents or guardians. (EC 43504(d))
Can schools meet the 180 instructional days requirement through distance learning?
For the 2020-21 school year, a LEA shall satisfy the annual instructional day requirements... through in-person instruction or a combination of in-person instruction and distance learning... (EC 43502(c))
Annual instructional minute requirements were waived but daily instructional minutes requirements were not. What is the difference?
The chart below shows the minimum daily instructional minutes for each grade level/grade span versus what SCUSD usually offers. Schools are expected to offer 180 days of instruction with at least the minimum instructional minutes per each instructional day.
Minimum Daily Instructional Minutes
Kindergarten: 180 per day (versus 296)
Grades 1 to 3: 230 per day (versus 296)
Grades 4 to 8: 240 per day (versus 321)
Grades 9 to 12: 240 per day (versus 360)
Annual Instructional Minutes (180 days/year)
36,000 (200 minutes/day)
50,400 (280 minutes/day)
54,000 (300 minutes/day)
64,800 (360 minutes/day)
How will instructional minutes be calculated for distance learning?
Day in which there is only distance learning: Instructional minutes shall be based on the time value of assignments as determined and certified to by a [certificated employee]. (EC 43502(e))
Day in which there is both in-person and distance learning: In-person instructional minutes plus assignments made under the general supervision of a [certificated employee]. (EC 43502(e))
Will distance learning students have synchronous instruction and a schedule?
(Rev 2/24/21) Yes. Students will have a daily schedule to avoid conflicts. Teachers will also provide a combination of synchronous and asynchronous instruction. The distance learning program will be significantly improved from the "emergency distance learning" of the spring. The district’s distance learning instructional program can be found on the district’s Reopening webpage.
If a school implements distance learning, must they provide daily synchronous instruction?
Yes. The district is providing clear guidelines for teachers and families on the number of minutes for daily live instruction and the forms of live interaction, and it is included in the district’s distance learning program design in the Reopening Plan. The State of California mandates that, "Distance learning shall include...daily live interaction with teachers and peers for purposes of instruction, progress monitoring, and maintaining school connectedness. This interaction may take the form of internet or telephonic communication, or by other means permissible under public health orders. If daily live interaction is not feasible as part of regular instruction, the [district board] shall develop... an alternative plan for frequent live interaction..." (EC 43503(b)(6)). The district is developing a system to be managed by school site administrators to monitor daily live teacher interaction with students.
When can LEAs offer distance learning?
The intent is that LEAs offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible. However, LEAs can, and in some instances must, offer distance learning and/or hybrid models of learning under certain circumstances during the 2020-21 school year [Education Code Section 43503(a)(2)].
- Distance learning and/or a hybrid model of learning (a combination of in-person and distance learning) can be offered as a result of an order or guidance from a state or local public health official.
- According to a letter to the Journal, the intent is not to require a directive from local public health officials specific to closing down in-person learning, but rather that LEAs actively work in consultation and collaboration with public health officials in determining whether to offer distance learning for a particular site or LEA-wide. The provision is also not intended to prevent an LEA from adopting a distance learning, hybrid, or mixed-delivery instructional model to ensure safety. Instead LEAs have flexibility to determine what instructional model the LEA will adopt during the COVID-19 Pandemic, taking into account the needs of their students and staff and their available infrastructure, provided the model adheres to an applicable state and local health guidance.
- LEAs do need to continue to follow all other public health guidance, directives, and orders, including those not specific to schools, that impact school indoor and outdoor facilities and activities (e.g., social distancing guidance).
- For students who are medically fragile, students who are self-quarantining because of exposure to COVID-19, or for students who would be put at risk by in-person instruction.
- The letter to the Journal notes that the intent is to allow LEAs to offer distance learning based on the unique circumstances of each student. It allows for medically fragile students, and those in self-quarantine, but also for those students who would be put at-risk by in person instruction and as such, does not require an LEA to verify or make a determination that a request for this allowance meets a specific standard.
- Non-classroom-based charter schools do not provide distance learning as defined in EC Section 43500(a). Instead, non-classroom-based charter schools continue to provide independent study pursuant to their petition. As a result, this new requirement does not apply to non-classroom-based charters who were defined as such pursuant to EC Section 47612.5 as of the 2019–20 fiscal year.
Distance learning requirements are in place for the 2020-21 school year. LEAs that offer distance learning will not face penalties for instruction that doesn’t meet the requirements outlined in Education Code Section 43504 prior to September 1, 2020. To the extent possible it is recommended that LEAs begin the school year meeting the requirements outlined.
Can an LEA be required to offer distance learning?
An LEA must offer instruction through distance learning if it is unable to offer in-person instruction in part or fully pursuant to a state or public health order.
Does an LEA need to get approval from a public health official to transition to distance learning?
An LEA does not need to seek out or receive approval from a state or local public health officer prior to transitioning instruction to a distance learning model. However, districts are required to follow public health orders and guidance, as applicable, in determining safe in-person instruction, and when distance learning may be necessary.
What would be the class size for on-campus learning?
(Rev 7/21/20) There is no change in the class size but, when we move to hybrid, we will likely have only half of the students return to each classroom on each given day.
Can all classes be moved outdoors?
(Rev 7/21/20) No. While we appreciate the feedback from some families and community members, creating outdoor schools is not feasible. Our approved reopening plan involves guidance and negotiated assurances within a process. For reasons too numerous to explain, SCUSD will not move classes outdoors as a rule. Teachers will be encouraged to find times during the day when outdoor activities and learning may be appropriate, although outdoor instruction will NOT be mandated in any way.
What happens if we select distance learning for elementary school and in-person school is closed at some point?
(Rev 7/21/20) Nothing. If you are already in a distance learning program, you will remain with the same teacher throughout a closure.
What happens if we select the hybrid program at the elementary level and schools close?
(Rev 7/21/20) You will remain with the same teacher throughout a closure. The class will shift from hybrid learning to distance learning and, when the closure ends, you will return to class with your same teacher.
When will SCUSD be asking families to commit to in-person or distance learning at the elementary level?
(Rev 2/24/21) Commitments were due by February 8, 2021.
Once the preferences are submitted, will families have the opportunity to make changes?
(Rev 2/24/21) To minimize disruption to the child's routine, families are committing to a model through the end of the 2020-2021 school year.
Middle and High Schools
What will happen to my middle or high school student if students return to class and we select a distance learning option?
(Rev 2/24/21) Nothing. You will remain with the same teachers.
What would be the class size for on-campus learning?
(Rev 2/24/21) Approximately half. Some rooms may not reach full in-person class size capacity of the room size occupancy limit for COVID-19 is smaller.
Have you ever considered a hybrid schedule to reduce class sizes?
(Rev 7/21/20) Yes, we considered it, but the sheer number of students at our middle and high schools does not make the hybrid model a practical option from a facilities, master schedule, staffing, and least disruptive point of view.
Independent and Out-of-District Study
What independent study options are available?
(Rev 8/3/20) The district does not offer its own independent study program for elementary and middle school students and will not be creating one as there was only a small number of families interested in this option. High school students who desire an independent study model will need to enroll at Wilson High School, which runs an independent study program. Home schooling is another option for interested families. Please see the out-of-district options below that we have collected for your information.
If we disenroll this year, will we be able to return to our current Santa Clara Unified school in the 2021-2022 school year?
(Rev 11/5/20) You will be able to return to your current school (including open enrollment school) in the 2021-2022 school year so long as you inform the district’s Enrollment Center and your current school of your intent to do so IN WRITING by February 1, 2021. This includes if you temporarily leave for a private or another school outside of our district.
What are my out-of-district home schooling and independent study options?
(Rev 8/11/20) Several charter schools in the region offer a virtual academy option. Please review the Santa Clara County Charter Schools Directory for more information.
Below are Santa Clara County school districts that, to our knowledge, are currently offering an independent study program.
- Cupertino School District
- Gilroy Unified Virtual Learning Academy
- Moreland School District
- Oak Grove School District Virtual Learning Academy
For families seeking to homeschool their child, please visit the California Department of Education Home Schooling webpage.