SATURDAY, DECEMBER 5TH, 2020

During the virtual school board meeting held on May 26, district officials covered proposed reopening plans and statistics on schoolwork among other items. 

In the meeting, Associate Superintendent Sharon Ofek presented her draft of logistics for reopening schools. 

Her slides covered six parts: instruction, technology, operations, wellness, facilities and governance, with students and their wellbeing as the main focus of all planning. 

“(We put) the students at the center of all of our conversations, all of our decision making, and figuring out what is best for our students,” Ofek said. 

The planning covered three situations in the fall: schools reopening in full distance learning mode, schools reopening in a blended or modified in-person format or schools reopening with no restrictions. 

However, Ofek said the possibility of reopening with no restrictions is almost certainly not going to be the chosen situation given the guidelines from public health authorities. For now, Ofek said the district is focusing on drafting options for blended and online distance learning. 

“We want to have a balanced approach to teaching and learning, so in a blended hybrid model, there’s face-to-face time and then there’s independent learning time,” Ofek said. 

Whether online, blended or in person, the district has planned on giving letter grades and taking attendance, actions that reflect a typical school environment. 

“We have a lot of more experience now than we did 10 weeks ago,” Ofek said.

 “We want to leverage that and provide some student engagement and access to rigorous learning.”

The slides also presented a new in-progress draft of a fall school schedule representing the blended reopening option if public health regulations will allow it. 

In the proposed secondary school schedule, half the student population would be on campus on Mondays and Tuesdays while the other half would be working from home in a digital learning environment. On Wednesdays, all students would work independently, tutorial and office hours would be held and teacher collaboration and staff meetings would occur in the afternoon. On Thursdays and Fridays, the students attending school would reverse, and follow the same schedule as the students who physically attended on Mondays and Tuesdays. The elementary school schedule has yet to be determined. 

“We would have some really good professional learning and development around what blended pedagogy looks like and much more routine expectation of what students should be doing on their days on campus as well as their days off,” Ofek said.

As of now, teacher rotation, school schedules, student learning groups, custodial protocols, bus protocols, class sizes and the decision of whether or not to continue to have an open campus are still being developed. 

“To quote Dr. Austin from earlier around what (school in the fall) could look like, ‘this is by no means the final schedule,’” Ofek said. “(The presentation) represents a framework for reopening schools in the coming fall and the work in this presentation and that information included in our more details guiding document represent a true cross departmental effort to… determine what each of the constantly changing elements are that we need to figure out as we prepare to open up for the new school year during a tremendous amount of uncertainty.”

Superintendent Don Austin also presented several slides summarizing statistics collected from a survey given to families that evaluated parents’ thoughts on their child’s homework time and thoughts on learning in the fall. 

“(There’s a) pretty nice breakout of school participation by level, so we’re excited about that,” Austin said. 

The survey received more than 3000 responses. 

“We asked ‘how much time is your child spending right now on all the schoolwork?’” Austin said, referencing the contents of the first survey. “Somewhere, kind of that three hours or less a day is starting to win the day.”

The results of the first two surveys showed that more than 50% of families had students spending three hours or less on all school work, and more than 50% of families thought that the amount of work their kids received was just about right. The third survey asked families whether they would prefer online distance learning or socially distanced in-person learning in the fall. 

“About a quarter or so of our families are indicating right now that they would like to come back for an online or distance learning program only, and that is not atypical,” Austin said. 

The district is still considering their next steps and looking at data collected from the family surveys and the public as well as county public health guidelines in their planning for the fall. 

Austin said, “It looks like families want options for an online program and we have to communicate it.”

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