In this inaugural episode of Season Four of The Education Trust’s podcast, ExtraOrdinary Districts, Sergio Garcia, principal of Artesia High School in ABC Unified District in Los Angeles County, is joined by two teachers: William Napier, chair of the special education department and Stephanie Palutzke, acting dean. Napier and Palutzke are also the school’s teacher union representatives, and they and Garcia joined Karin Chenoweth (@karinchenoweth) and Tanji Reed Marshall (@Remarsh76) for a wide-ranging discussion of what teaching and running a school is like during a pandemic.

All are eager to get back to face-to-face instruction but, as Garcia said, “There’s a lot of fear. And I will tell you, there’s fear on the teachers’ side, there’s fear on the students’ side.” That fear is rooted in the reality of the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 300,000 people in Los Angeles County and killed some family members of Artesia students. Palutzke discussed how union and district administrators are working together to iron out details to try to make sure that both safety and instructional needs are met when students do return to school buildings. They all talked about the challenges of building relationships in a virtual environment and how students are not able to learn as much as they would have under normal circumstances. At the end, Garcia tells Napier and Palutzke that one of the big tasks facing them is thinking about how to “accelerate our kids” as soon as school is able to meet normally.

To learn more about Artesia High School, read Schools that Succeed (Harvard Education Press, 2017) and listen to Episode 3 and Episode 16 of last season.

Music and recording by Mike Petillo of Tonal Park.