Thanks to a San Diego Schools member letting us post this recent analysis of their district's fall reopening plans as a template for others.
This is a template any parent can use to urge their District and their Board to consider changes to their proposed distance or in-person learning plans
Dear Board Trustees and Superintendent ______________,
Thank you for your continued work for our District during the pandemic. I hope you and your families are staying well.
In light of Governor Newsom’s guidance, it is highly likely that Distance Learning will be how students start learning this Fall. Also, given the CDC and CDE guidance of offering a choice of Distance Learning even if students are back on campus, it is clear that the Distance Learning program must be a robust program where students will engage, learn and master curriculum.
Our group of parents and students are writing to request that you consider the additional elements and questions set forth below as part of the Distance Learning program, as well as for the Traditional Learning program since we hope there will be some opportunity during this school year to engage in Traditional Learning.
We are hoping these elements and questions will help as the District continues to refine the Fall Learning Program, and they are offered with the best intent and in the best interests of the [District name] community.
[If there’s an imminent Board Meeting: Finally, we would appreciate if these elements and questions could be addressed by administration prior to the Board [vote OR discussion] regarding the Fall Learning Program at the Board meeting ___________ night.]
Please know that these suggestions are being provided with the best of intentions and solely to help the District with its planning and in the best interests of the community. Our intent is not to offend anyone, but to help and provide parent input without any judgment.
We have a chance to truly innovate in a very difficult time, and we know the District values innovation.
If you have not had a chance already, we also respectfully urge you to look at programs already adopted by other schools that have on campus Traditional Learning programs and robust Distance Learning programs planned, as well as the ability to have students switch between the two as circumstances dictate.
Poway and Vista are both offering this dual model in a safe and fiscally reasonable manner.
Another excellent resource can be found at: https://philonedtech.com/covid-19-planning-for-fall-2020-a-closer-look-at-hybrid-flexible-course-design/ (“Distance Learning Article”)
Additional Elements to consider and questions to answer regarding Fall Learning Program:
· Complete Transparency/Early and Ongoing Communication With Clear, Detailed Plans. Whatever the District is planning, there MUST be early and transparent communication with parents so they can make alternative plans or any plans for the upcoming Fall Semester.
o The Board should consider having at least one well- advertised Zoom or Google Meet Town Hall meeting to have an open discourse with the community about what is most important to them, and to at least discuss the Fall Learning Program in detail. There should be no time limit and every person that wishes to speak should be allowed to speak. Board Trustees should be ready to answer questions.
· Student Examples: Please provide detailed examples of a typical day in each of an elementary, middle and high school student’s life (including a typical student, a special needs student and an ESL student) in each of Traditional Learning and Distance Learning, as well as when a student transitions between Traditional and Distance Learning based on COVID-19 county rates. These examples would be extremely helpful for students and parents to understand how school will look for them this Fall.
Town Hall Meeting: The Board should consider having at least one well- advertised Zoom or Google Meet Town Hall meeting to have an open discourse about the Fall Learning Program in detail. There should be no time limit and every person that wishes to speak should be allowed to speak. A Q&A session should be included with District Administration, Board Trustees and the community.
Request waiver for on-campus Traditional Learning for elementary schools. Per Gov. Newsom’s guidelines, although San Diego is currently in a red zone, district superintendents may request a waiver to re-open in person instruction for elementary schools (see below).
“Local health officers may grant a waiver to allow elementary schools to reopen in-person instruction if the waiver is requested by the district superintendent, in consultation with labor, parents and community-based organizations. When considering a waiver request, the local health officer must consider local data and consult with the California Department of Public Health.” https://www.gov.ca.gov/2020/07/17/governor-gavin-newsom-lays-out-pandemic-plan-for-learning-and-safe-schools/ see also: https://ktla.com/news/california/gov-gavin-newsom-expected-to-announce-guidance-for-reopening-schools/
By Gov. Newsom adding the ability to do obtain a waiver, he is tacitly acknowledging that the 0-12 age cohort is less likely to get COVID-19, but wanted parents and labor organizations on a local level to buy in. There is no reason to give up on this option. Have the VTA take a member wide vote of elementary teachers ONLY since only they will be affected, making sure they have the studies regarding the risk with the 0-12 age cohort so they can make an educated decision and then consider still offering CHOICE to those teachers that have health or family issues to teach from home.
Keep People Employed! The dual model with at least elementary kids in school keeps district personnel, teachers, and parents employed and helps keep the economy thriving. Our common goal should be to facilitate a return to work. This plan can be done safely.
Request waiver for on-campus Traditional Learning for middle and high schools based on North County San Diego COVID-19 rates being low.
Push the Governor for all Special Education Students to be on campus at least part of the day. For many of these students, they need multiple teachers and the experience can be difficult to replicate in a Distance Learning setting.
Letter Grades to be offered with possible CHOICE for C/NC by class. After review of all Spring Semester 2020 California high school grading policies, the numbers show that 81% of California public high school students had the opportunity for a letter grade in Spring 2020. Any district that did not give grades in the Spring cannot once again be part of a minority in this case and put its students at any more disadvantage when competing for college. If there is concern for any students disadvantaged by Distance Learning,
CHOICE for C/NC on a class by class basis could be given. HOWEVER, there must be a commitment to help those students based on the lessons learned from the Spring Distance Learning, and this includes
teachers recording lessons that students can access later in the day if they for example, have to watch siblings (but see point below re: having elementary students go back to school),
ensuring connectivity and access to technology
help from family advocacy groups if there are concerning circumstances in the household, such as abuse
Transition between Learning models. Using a specific example, please illustrate how students will transition back and forth between Traditional Learning and Distance Learning based on County COVID-19 rates?
Specific State Standards must be met: Governor Newsom’s guidance specifically states that distance learning must be rigorous and provide:
“Devices and connectivity so that every child can participate in distance learning.
Daily live interaction for every child with teachers and other students.
Class assignments that are challenging and equivalent to in-person instruction.
Targeted supports and interventions for English learners and special education students”
These standards can be met and students can thrive and teachers protected with the following:
o Synchronous (Zoom instruction), and asynchronous (recorded instruction) classes for those students who cannot participate in live instruction (see Distance Learning Article to see how relatively easy this is to do—see also Letter Grade point above re: further help for such students). § Assignments would be given, turned in and graded on the same timeline as Traditional Learning
§ Curriculum to be covered in Traditional Learning would be covered during Distance Learning at the same pace.
§ Teachers must be available for student and parent inquiries, and a way to escalate communication if the teacher is unable to respond.
§ Follow the standard school schedule for Zoom instruction o Lab Classes. How will Lab classes be done given that some of these are requirements to graduate? Would it be similar to having students on campus to take assessments?
o New Learning Management System. How will the new Learning Management System be rolled out and who is teaching students and parents how to use the new LMS? Will there be tech support available for specific challenges with this system? o Teachers teach from school. For a robust Distance Learning program, teachers must be on campus and available for students during standard school hours just like in a Traditional Learning model. Assuming elementary students are on campus, the below elements are very reasonable for 7-12. At a minimum, AP classes must be taught real time.
§ For office hours, teachers can set up a general Zoom hour where students can pop in and out like they would during Traditional Learning, except they use the “raise hand” or chat function to let the teacher know they have a question, etc.
§ Teachers that are currently sharing classrooms must be given alternative space where only a single teacher teaches in each space. As noted above re: SoCal weather, some teachers may be able to use outside space. In addition, if gymnasiums are not being used, that could be a space for teachers. Finally, if there are additional spaces on other campuses, a teacher could be placed there for Distance Learning purposes.
§ Teachers will be given best PPE to protect them when going to and from classrooms.
§ Live meetings of teachers or administration must take place outside with masks and social distancing or do meetings via Zoom
§ Teachers that have younger students, if elementary schools are on campus, their students will be in school. For those with 7-12, they will have Distance Learning. In any scenario, teachers that are working parents will have the same challenges that any working parent has in dealing with the Distance Learning model and we are asking those working parents to adjust and deal with it as well.
o Permit a larger amount of outside credits on high school transcripts: currently only  outside school credits are permitted in [District name]. [District Name] should increase the number of credits a student can take off campus and still show on the transcript. These are extraordinary times and if students can use other already established online services, particularly for AP classes, why not? This also means fewer students for the teachers in [District Name] to engage, monitor, and evaluate. It seems like a win-win on a temporary basis during the pandemic. You could even make the exception effective just for the next 2-3 years, so it is directly tied as an alternative for impact due to the pandemic. § Coordinate with local junior college for juniors and seniors to have dual enrollment and apply classes to college credit
§ Temporarily waive any requirement that a student must take a minimum number of classes through their home school (and this would need to be done in any case in light of the point below)
§ Inform all counselors of the process for outside credits including with private companies, noting the new UC guidance re: classes not being UC a-g approved but instead having the high school certify and self-report the class. See guidance here: https://hs-articulation.ucop.edu/guide/update-your-a-g-list/online-courses/
§ Perhaps have a Zoom meeting and record it if people cannot attend at that time.
Traditional Learning- on campus instruction:
Staggered Start and End. Fewer opportunities for kids to be crowded in front of doorways and passageways and parking lots. Keeps the atmosphere calm and education-focused.
Two class years on campus at a time. Less time in passing periods. No “lunch” at school. Other Districts are considering or implementing this for reference.
Outdoor instruction. Given the weather we have in Southern California, and with the likelihood of no sports this Fall, there are many spaces on campus including the football field where outdoor instruction could take place.
Teachers are kept safe:
Encourage donation to the Foundation to purchase strong PPE for the teachers.
Teachers can teach behind a plexiglass barrier.
Teachers can teach from a taped-off area where students cannot approach them.
Students can have sanitizer and counter spray and paper towels to clean their areas. They are expected to provide their own school supplies, so they can have these materials in their backpacks at all times. Parents can supply as they would any other school materials.
Teachers should be deemed an essential employee such as a medical professional, or grocery clerk, and then accordingly must be provided appropriate PPE.
Remote Teaching: Consideration of teacher presenting remotely into the classroom (with monitor facing classroom for students to see the teacher, and then a proctor to monitor class behavior but does not have to be close to kids)—this would give CHOICE to teachers that have health concerns
Bathrooms: add touchless soap (and refilled often), as well as well stocked paper towel dispenser. Historically, per parent and student experience, the soap and paper towel dispensers are often empty.
Free standing sanitizer dispensers: make these available in high traffic areas as well as regularly spaced throughout campus.
Keeps People Employed! The dual model with at least elementary kids in school keeps district personnel, teachers, and parents employed and helps keep the economy thriving. Our common goal should be to facilitate a return to work. This plan can be done safely.
Attrition: Students are starting to leave the District for private and charter schools based on the perceived risk of a lack of choice and meaningful instruction. A robust dual model leaning plan can mitigate permanent attrition.
If the above detail is included or above questions have been addressed in the Fall Learning Program, please let us know. Thank you for your time and consideration.