The Escondido elementary school district’s COVID-19 information website homepage. Find the website at: eusd.org/covid/%5B/caption%5D
The Escondido Union School District has introduced a new COVID-19 website (eusd.org/covid/.) It is an improvement over the existing district website when it comes to delivering up-to-the-date information to parents, teachers, staff and others to assist in such vital tasks as accessing low income meals for students or distance learning so elementary students can keep up with studies while campuses are closed. Everything in the website is available in English and Spanish.
I interviewed Dr. Luis A. Rankins-Ibarra Tuesday about the new site. He called the COVID-19 outbreak easily the biggest challenge he has faced since becoming superintendent. “If you really think about it, when you go into something so significant you usually have quite a runway,” he said. “You have six months to a year to plan out. We had to do this in two to three weeks.
The new website is a big step forward: a comprehensive guide for EUSD families, teachers, staff, and community members that provides:
1) One stop place for everyone to access quick facts
2) Answers to the most commonly asked questions posed by the staff and community during our school closures.
It’s a step more sophisticated than the existing EUSD website (although it is a part of it.) “When we designed our website—at the time of the wildfires— we actually had an emergency red button that would flash when there were announcements to make related to emergencies. And another one for putting information that people might need,” said Dr. Ibarra.
Under the assault of the need for tons of information related to the closing of the schools—such as student lunches and distance learning—the website proved inadequate. “We found that this started to get pretty complicated and we said, ‘Let’s put a page together that is a one stop shop for parents,’ ” said the superintendent.
It contains a FAQ (frequently asked questions) section that addresses queries such as “I want to continue learning for my kid. How do I do that?” Or “How do I get access to meals?” “We have it all there,” said Dr. Ibarra. “When things go back to normal it will be a page within our website where people can go to find quick facts and answers.”
The district gets a lot of questions every day. Some are answered in the weekly notifications sent by email to families. “This will now house all of our information on distance learning plans, technology, how do I do this or that,” he said. “It includes a tutorial page on how to use Zoom and other communication aids.” There are a variety of platforms to use, he said, “But right now Zoom seems to be the most robust.”
The elementary district has combined with the Escondido Union High School District to serve meals for students who qualify for low and reduced cost meals at eight sites. According to Dr. Ibarra, they serve 5,900 meals a day. “As of last week we had served just under 70,000 meals since the closures,” he said.
The most common question Dr. Ibarra confronts is also the hardest to answer: When will they reopen?
Many resources are listed on the website, such as six sites where anyone can access Wi-Fi by sitting in the parking lot. People can upload or download school assignments.
The enhanced Wi-Fi signals are now available at: Central Elementary (behind the preschool on South Broadway), Del Dios Academy, Juniper Elementary, Mission Middle, Reidy Creek Elementary, and Rock Springs Elementary. At these locations, any EUSD-issued devices will connect automatically to the EUSD-EDU network. Other devices can connect to EUSDGUEST; the password is guest2020. If you visit a parking lot for Wi-Fi access, please have your children remain in the vehicle to maintain social distancing practices.
“As we are getting geared up for when it will open, there could be big monkey wrenches thrown into our way,” Dr. Ibarra mused. “If we go back; what are those restrictions going to look like? We are going to have to remain nimble.”
Asked who he is relying on the most during the crisis, Dr. Ibarra said, “You have to rely on everyone because we are so interconnected. Just to get our meals up to speed, which happened overnight, it takes custodial crew, our warehouse, our kitchen, nutrition staff and administrators to help set it up. Every little thing we did relied on a whole lot of people. I would say everyone has stepped up to the plate. It literally took everyone.”