How Distance Learning Will Be Different This Time
Dear Parents/Guardians and Staff Members:
The unprecedented disruption to public education that occurred when schools closed in mid-March is still being felt today. As you may be aware, the Chula Vista Elementary School District will begin the school year on August 31 in a distance learning instructional model. This decision was made with the safety of our entire school community in mind. While I know some of you had disappointing first impressions of distance learning based on your spring experience, I also know of parents who reported that their children had great experiences in distance learning. Still others are concerned about uneven, perhaps inequitable roll out of distance learning in the new school year.
I am dedicating this week’s message to address how off-campus instruction in a distance learning instructional model will be different this school year.
Microsoft Office 365 will continue to be the primary platform in which instruction and connection with students will be made; therefore, all teachers will continue to be offered multiple, ongoing trainings on the Microsoft Teams component of the Office 365 platform. Additional professional development will continue to be provided throughout the year. And in response to student and families’ technological needs, the District will continue to take a research-based, phased approach to loaning of devices and WiFi hotspots to those who need them. In fact, we are planning to deploy more devices within the next month.
Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced that schools are to be closed to in-person instruction until public health data indicates it is safe to return. His announcement aligned with our approach and centered on five key areas:
- Safe in-person school instruction based on local health data
- Strong mask requirements for anyone in the school
- Physical distancing requirements & other adaptations
- Regular testing and dedicated contact tracing for outbreaks at schools
- Rigorous distance learning
In regard to rigorous distance learning, under newly enacted state law, school districts are required to 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.
With those considerations in mind, CVESD will host a Summer Learning Camp from August 10 – 21 in a distance learning model. The Summer Learning Camp will serve students who were selected and invited to attend based on assessment data from earlier this spring, which indicated a need for intervention and to address possible learning loss.
The Summer Learning Camp will include a rigorous instructional day for students through a structured daily schedule. The instructional day will include direct instruction in language arts and/or mathematics, with support provided in small group and one-on-one interaction. Research-based practices, and intervention materials aligned to the adopted curriculum will be used. Click here to learn more about what the instructional day will look like for our Summer Learning Camp. This program includes some parameters defined within Assembly Bill 77 (AB 77) that significantly increases academic rigor and requirements for student-teacher engagement.
Take comfort in knowing that the criteria within AB 77 will be fully implemented in this year’s distance learning, which ensures content will be aligned to grade level standards and is provided at a level of quality and intellectual challenge substantially equivalent to in-person instruction. Click here to view a visual representation of what this entails.
A Task Force on Reopening Schools is meeting continually to improve on our practices for safe reopening of campuses, and ensure that CVESD starts the upcoming school year with challenging and engaging class assignments for all students.
We all share the governor’s belief that “Learning is non-negotiable,” and that school districts must provide meaningful instruction in the midst of the pandemic. The governor also made clear that schools located in counties that are on the Monitoring List must not physically open for in-person instruction until their county has come off the list for 14 consecutive days. As of this writing, San Diego County remains on the Monitoring List.
Like our students and dedicated staff, I look forward to that date when we are able to return to campuses for in-person instruction. I also know that safety is paramount. As we prepare to start the year in distance learning, take a moment to view these tips for “Virtual Learning at Home” in English and Spanish. Thank you to those who have already provided input via our recently emailed survey. If you have not yet responded, there is still time. Click here to participate. I will share the survey results in my next newsletter, as well as greater detail on what a school day might look like when the academic year begins on August 31.
Francisco Escobedo, Ed.D.