Revamping Health Education for Distance Learning

Oakland Unified School District, California

Oakland Unified School District, with support from CDC, maintained students’ access to quality sexual health education during the pandemic by supporting teachers’ instruction and adapting the curriculum to be engaging and inclusive in a distance learning format.

A student learning by doing schoolwork at home using a laptop.

As a result of numerous challenges faced by students and teachers adapting to the pandemic, it was essential that the Oakland Unified School District’s sexual health education curriculum was modified to be engaging for students in distance learning and easy for teachers struggling to learn new online teaching platforms. By identifying the challenges that teachers and students were experiencing, and addressing them with creative approaches, Oakland Unified School District provided approximately 8,000 students in grades 6 to 9 with quality sexual health education during an unprecedented year of distance learning.

Oakland Unified School District staff adapted the Healthy Oakland Teens curriculum by creating lesson presentations and student worksheets for live online instruction and developing narrated video lessons for students to complete at their own pace. Students also received additional resources and tools, such as headphones, so they could have privacy to engage with online sexual health education in a crowded household. Based on needs identified by surveying teachers, district staff created visual lesson summaries and vocabulary sheets to better serve newcomer and special education students. To further support newcomer students, 9th grade video lessons were overdubbed into Spanish, Mam, and Arabic by district interpreters so that students could access the content in their primary language. Social workers were available to assist newcomer students and teachers during sexual health education.

Finally, Oakland Unified School District staff re-envisioned teacher professional development for distance learning and provided intensive, skills-based online sessions to over 200 teachers to ensure that every teacher responsible for delivering sexual health education could be effective in this new format.

This revamped curriculum and support for teachers ensured that students gained important knowledge and skills, such as making informed choices about their own behaviors and accessing confidential healthcare and telehealth services, even during distance learning. Oakland Unified School District now also has a flexible distance learning version of the Healthy Oakland Teens curriculum that can be easily deployed when needed.