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Sac City Unified Independent Study Families Frustrated By 'Lack Of Communication'

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - Several students in Sacramento City Unified's independent study program at Capital City are waiting in limbo and wondering what their school year may actually look like.

Many families feel the district hasn't communicated well throughout the process, and even though the school year is already underway—some kids still don't have a teacher.

"It's really frustrating," said Samantha Benton, a mom of two.

As a nurse, she felt it was safest for her kids to avoid the classroom until it's safest to go back.

"I really don't feel like it's safe for kids to be together indoors yet," Benton said.

She's still waiting to learn what her kids' curriculum looks like for the year. For now, she said they're working on homework packets received from their home schools.

"My son who's a fourth-grader did receive a packet within a few days and he started to work on it this week," Benton said. "My daughter who's a seventh-grader still hasn't received anything."

Her story is one of thousands enrolled in the Capital City program. Some parents have shared the district's plans were too last minute, and say they didn't hear anything until the day before school started.

Kristin Goree, also a SCUSD mom of two, enrolled her kids in independent study, too. One of her kids has an IEP, and the other is immunocompromised. Though, she was turned off by what she called a lack of preparation.

"The process for that has been really difficult with little information," Goree said. "We really felt like it was our only option to send her in person."

A week into classes and Sacramento City Unified says a total of 1,600 students signed up for independent study. The district said about 400 kids know who their teacher is for the year, but nearly 1,200 are waiting to know more. As for staffing numbers, the district has hired 15 full-time teachers but still needs to add 23 more.

"We need to figure out something better than what's happening right now," said David Fisher, president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association.

SCUSD, like every other district in the state, is legally required to provide quality independent study for kids based on AB 130, passed in July. The idea was to give parents who didn't feel comfortable sending kids back to class a viable option as an alternative. Fisher, with the Sacramento City Teachers Association, said they weren't approached with any plans from the district until August.

During the first week of school, the district had mentioned to CBS13 the SCTA wanted to negotiate the independent study program alongside other in-person health and safety protocols - but couldn't make an agreement. The district also said they already had an independent study option at Capital City, and wanted to expand on that program and hoped to offer more synchronous time for students.

"Our counter-proposal, our idea was let's open independent study on a school by school basis where you can have the teachers already there sort of administer it," said Fisher.

Because of the lack of agreement, the SCUSD said the minimum requirements under AB 130 were implemented.

The crunch parents were put in, though, remains a frustrating concern for parents like Benton—who now worried about the quality of education her kids may receiving.

"I really don't feel like it's equitable," Benton said. "It's three hours of instruction one day a week."

CBS13 did reach out to SCUSD for comment on Thursday but was referred to a letter sent to independent study parents on Wednesday night. The letter signed by Chad Sweitzer, Instructional Assistant Superintendent with SCSUD, concludes with this statement:

"We acknowledge that there has been a significant delay in our communication and offer our sincerest apologies. Please know our team is working as quickly as possible to get this new program up and running for all of our 1,600 enrolled students."

The hope, per the district, is to have the year's plans figured out within the next week or two.

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