Guest view: Getting back to school, safely

By Emma Tudor

Getting students back on campus is a priority for all schools this fall. Not only for high-need students who require extra support for their well-being, but for all students who are missing that crucial in-person interaction with their peers and teachers.

While most students in California are still learning online, Cajon Valley Unified School District has brought students back to campuses in cohorts. Sports For Learning, an educational support service and CSBA business affiliate, helped them do it.

“Sports For Learning has been an integral part of our reopening process here at CVUSD,” said Karen Minshew, the district’s assistant superintendent of educational services. “Our students are responding in a very positive way to the coaches who are on-site each day. We have really appreciated their blended curriculum of social-emotional learning and physical education. It’s exactly what our students need.”

Sports For Learning noticed a need in the current pandemic environment to help schools get their highest-need students back on campus safely and had something to offer: staff and a physical distancing curriculum. Over the past year, they have designed a unique and personalized academic program including in-person, on-campus activities that combine PE and SEL, as well as respecting the need for 6 feet of space between participants.

Since Sports For Learning has a large network of staff all over the state, they were able to quickly provide a team of university students, recent graduates and others who are passionate about giving back to the community to help open up 19 Cajon Valley USD schools. The program helps to keep students curious and excited about learning, as well as being physically active. SEL is well recognized as a way to foster stronger student connections with teachers and peers, and the program has received positive feedback.

Amanda Orwen, interim supervisor of Cajon Valley USD’s Extended Day Program, said the program has been very successful. “The team has been able to support us in our time of need, bringing staff to our sites and supporting the kiddos as they start their hybrid schedules,” she said.

Extended Day Program Supervisor Nicolle Starr said the students are so excited to see the coaches and the relationships they’re already building are amazing. “It’s been an amazing collaboration…we’re just so happy to have the support at our school sites.” she said.

At Lexington Elementary, Extended Day Site Lead Kathy Weeden, said the program not only provides much-needed movement during the day, but also teaches students how to interact with other people and how to get along. “Sports For Learning is a very important part of our day,” Weeden said. “It’s a gift to the kids. With COVID, they’re kind of stuck in a cubicle for most of the day, so when they see the guys come in their orange shirts to play, it’s amazing for them!”

Rejina Tobya, extended day site lead assistant said that the kids are communicating more with their friends and the staff, and are learning more about each other.

Sports for Learning has also helped support schools by providing on demand videos and live, virtual lessons as a resource for hybrid and distance learning. All classes combine SEL and PE, and even online, the students are kept active and moving.

Learn more about Cajon Valley USD’s reopening process in an article in the New York Times. Learn more about Sports For Learning at

Emma Tudor is an Academic Consultant at Sports For Learning, developing social emotional learning and physical education  curriculum.