Superintendent

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June 23, 2020

Dear Parents/Guardians,

The SCSD Opening Up Schools plan was adopted by the SCSD Board of Trustees on June 18th. As mentioned in my June 12th communication, we are now asking you to complete the SCSD Parent/Guardian Survey #2 for opening up schools in Fall 2020. If you didn't watch the board meeting, or haven't had the opportunity to review the Opening Up Schools Plan, it would be very helpful to view the plan prior to filling out this survey. This information will be important as we prepare families for the return to school in August. 

SCSD will begin the year with two options for the 2020-2021 school year: A Blended Learning Program with some in-person and some at-home learning, or a Full Distance Learning Program, called San Carlos Connections.

BLENDED LEARNING PROGRAM: 

  • TK, Kindergarten, and First Grade: Students will attend a morning or afternoon session (AM/PM Plan) of in-person instruction 4 days a week, with a small stable cohort of students. There will be a break midday to clean and sanitize classrooms. 
  • Grades 2-8: Students will attend in-person instruction 2 days a week on an alternating day schedule each week (A/B/A/B) in smaller stable cohorts. A minimum day schedule will be followed initially and we hope to extend instruction to a full day as soon as possible. Efforts will be made to keep families together on the A/B schedule. 

CONNECTIONS - Full Year Option: 

  • For families wishing for an alternative to in-person instruction, students may enroll in the San Carlos Connections program, a home-based distance learning opportunity for the 2020-2021 school year. Connections will offer a blend of the best elements of independent learning, virtual instruction, and online education. A full year commitment is required to be part of a distance learning program in order to staff the program adequately. If you select this option below, you will be contacted with further registration information next week.

​​​​​​​Please complete this survey NO LATER THAN Sunday, June 28 at 9:00 pm. Please complete at least ONE SURVEY PER FAMILY. You may choose to fill out one per child if you so desire. 

If your youngest child is in 8th grade, please DO NOT complete this survey. If your family will not be returning to SCSD in the fall, please do not complete the survey, and contact registration@scsdk8.org so that we can remove you from future communications.

Thank you for your patience, support, and engagement in our process. 

Sincerely,
Michelle Harmeier, Ed.D.
Superintendent

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June 22, 2020

 

Dear SCSD Community,

 

Last Thursday evening, after hours of deliberation and study, our School Board approved our Opening Up Schools Plan to prepare for school in the fall. Thank you to the parents and staff who engaged in the Board meeting through presenting the plan, and through public comment.  The plan contains a continuum of learning models described below. 

 

The Opening Up Schools Task Force began work on this plan May 27, 2020. We want to thank the 130 staff and parents who participated in the weekly discussions by providing input and feedback. Staff invested significant time to create this plan based on the San Mateo County Office of Education Pandemic Recovery Framework’s four pillars, stakeholder input, parent and staff surveys, and the ability to implement models based on our current staffing and the availability of space on our campuses, to allow for physical distancing. Staff used the building blocks of health and safety, social-emotional needs of students, and academics as the foundation of the plan. Thank you for sticking with me through this lengthy communication, as we want to provide as much information to parents and staff now so they can prepare for the fall.

 

All schools in our region will be creating modified schedules for the 2020-2021 school year to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the risk of illness to our students, staff, families and the larger community. We are following the Four Pillars for a Safe Return to School as articulated in the San Mateo County Office of Education Pandemic Recovery Framework for Schools to guide our work, which include face coverings, health/hygiene, physical distancing, and limiting gatherings. We will communicate more specific information about how we will implement safety measures closer to the start of school. Our first day will be August 19, 2020.

 

Continuum of Learning Models in the Plan

There is no way to know what instructional model our health conditions will allow at any given point during the school year.  We will work toward having the most in-person learning time on campus, based on the health data. The goal of our plan is to provide a continuum of learning models that will allow us to follow the most current health orders and other guidelines provided by the State and County to the extent possible.  

 

Traditional Schedule:  All of the plans on the continuum support the shift back to typical schedules and class sizes when and if the health order allows during the 2020-2021 school year.

 

AM/PM Plan: TK, Kindergarten, and First grade students will attend a morning or afternoon session of in-person instruction 4 days a week, with a small stable cohort of students. There will be a break midday to clean and sanitize classrooms. 

 

Blended Learning Plan: Students in grades 2-8 will attend in-person instruction 2 days a week on an alternating day schedule each week (A/B/A/B) in smaller stable cohorts. A minimum day schedule will be followed initially and we hope to extend instruction to a full day as soon as possible. Efforts will be made to keep families together on the A/B schedule. See Q & A below for more information.

 

Distance Learning due to Shelter in Place Orders: All students learn at home full time when health orders require shelter in place for the entire community, or when a class or school needs to be in quarantine temporarily due to a classroom/school COVID-19 case. 

 

Connections Distance Learning - Full Year Option: We encourage all students to return to school in the Blended Learning or AM/PM model to support their academic, social and emotional needs. For families wishing for an alternative to in-person instruction, students may enroll in the San Carlos Connections program, a home-based distance learning opportunity for the 2020-2021 school year. Connections offers a blend of the best elements of independent learning, virtual instruction, and online education. We would require a full year commitment to be part of a distance learning class in order to staff the program adequately. All parents will be asked to complete Parent Survey #2 to provide feedback about the spring distance learning program and express their interest in registering for this enhanced program next year.  Registration will begin in July.

 

Questions and Answers

We are aware that the uncertainty around the future of how school will look is unsettling. We want to provide parents with as much information and advance planning as possible. Now that we have a framework for our AM/PM, Blended Learning, and Connections Distance Learning Programs, we have a lot of work to do in just 60 days! Please review the most pressing questions below. There are many more questions to answer in the upcoming weeks that we will be working on throughout the summer, we will continue to keep you informed.

 

Q: Who serves on the Opening Up Schools task force and what was/is the team’s role?  

A: The OUS task force is composed of 130 members including leaders from all areas of the district’s operations team including health and wellness services, curriculum, facilities, student services, transportation, technology, as well as all site principals, teachers, classified staff and parents. Many staff team members are also parents in the school district. The role of the team is to advise the Superintendent on reopening plans. Members of the OUS task force, mostly staff, will be working to implement the plan over the summer, and the larger group will reconvene again in late July.  

 

Q: Is this a final plan or will there changes? 

A: No, this plan will be evolving with the health conditions. We know that conditions and health orders will be constantly changing and we need to be prepared to pivot with those changes. It is recommended that we plan on following modified schedules during the 2020-2021 school year or until a vaccine is readily available. We anticipate the AM/PM and Blended Learning models will be in place for the first 6 weeks of school and we will adjust the model based on current health conditions, staffing, and operations at the time. Staff will continue to provide regular updates to the Board and the plan will be on the Board agenda August 6 for review. The Board will consider recommendations from the staff to update the plan.  

 

Q: For those attending in person on alternating days, what will the days at home look like? 

A: This will be a Blended Learning approach - NOT a Distance Learning approach. Students will be engaged in independent learning that serves as an extension of, and practice with, the learning that occurred the previous day during in-person instruction. The A/B/A/B schedule has the least amount of time between in-person learning days, making the at home learning directly connected to the in-person class time. Assignments will NOT be optional, and will be part of the regular classroom learning. At home work will be directly connected to the classroom. It will not look like the Distance Learning you have come to know this year. We will ensure a reasonable pace, relevant, engaging activities, virtual connection opportunities with classmates, useful technology tools, and redesigned expectations for a manageable, and hopefully enjoyable, learning experience. 

 

Q: Why are grades 2-8 starting with minimum days?

A:  Starting with minimum days will allow us to implement health and safety protocols and routines, and allows for staggered start/end times and staggered recesses to limit large groups.  Our hope is to extend the day as soon as feasible for our district, and staff are comfortable with following the health and hygiene routines and students working at home are more grounded in their learning routines.  Minimum days will allow us some time to create a plan for lunch service and supervision, which is a staffing challenge due to the uncertainty of the SMARTE Programs. SMARTE staff members normally provide student supervision and structured play during the lunch period. We are exploring ways to bring back our SMARTE staff to support the lunch program and provide after school care. Lastly, the minimum day will provide teachers time in the afternoon to support their group of students who will be learning at home that day. We will help students establish routines and receive support from their own teachers. 

 

Q: What are teachers doing on the 5th day of the week when they are not teaching the AM/PM students in-person or the A/B students in-person?

A:  During the regular school day/week/month when we have a traditional schedule, all teachers have time built into their schedules to plan for instruction, create and analyze assessments, collaboratively plan instruction with colleagues, and receive ongoing professional development.  Teachers may also be hosting small groups to meet the needs of our urgent learners on the 5th day. This time needs to be built into our modified schedules as well. To maximize learning time on campus for students, one day per week will be used for this professional time for teachers. The day of the week has not been decided and we are working with our teachers and the OUS planning team to determine which day of the week. Parents will be asked their preference for which day may work best for their family in Parent Survey #2, coming later this week, so that we can consider this input as well.  

 

Q: How will students receiving special education services be supported with the modified schedules?

A: Students who receive push in/pull out support in order to access specialized instruction and therapies will be contacted by their case managers in August regarding the implementation of these services. Student Services Director, Dr. Brenda Bachechi, will be available throughout the summer to respond to individual questions and concerns. 

 

Learning Center classrooms, which serve students who require significant support to make progress on educational goals, will continue to be served in small group settings as a “bubble cohort” and will have more in-person instructional time than the A/B/A/B schedule.  

 

Q: What if I do not feel comfortable sending my child to school in person? 

A: While we hope that we have made all the necessary accommodations to mitigate risk, we understand that some parents will not send their children out of legitimate health and safety concerns. These families may register for the San Carlos Connections Distance Learning program.  We are starting the design and planning of this enhanced distance learning program which will include attendance, grading, assessments, report cards and various methods of instruction. It is likely that due to planning restrictions, a choice for the Connections Distance Learning program may extend for a defined period of time; in other words, we may not be able to guarantee that a child can switch from the Connections program to in-person learning within the middle of a trimester. In the next week, all parents will receive Parent Survey #2. This survey will ask you to provide feedback about the distance learning program your child participated in this spring, and will ask you if you intend to enroll in the Distance Learning program for next year. Please take the time to complete the survey as this information is invaluable to us as we plan for providing high quality programs. 

 

Q: What resources will be available for parents who have to work full time and do not have childcare for their children? 

A: Probably the most pressing question from parents for any one of the modified schedules is what options will be available for childcare. We are sensitive to this issue and feel fortunate that in SCSD we have some capacity to address the issue through our SMARTE Program and other childcare providers that use our facilities. We are exploring how our SMARTE Program can operate to provide childcare after school for students in grades TK-3. San Carlos Belmont After School plans to operate their programs, and we are still determining a new vendor for 4-5 afterschool programs.

 

Q: When will I know my child’s schedule?  

A:  Principals will be working on schedules in August when they return. We know this is important information so parents can plan for work. We are committed to getting this done as soon as possible.

 

All of the pieces of our plan are starting to come together now that we have a framework from which to work. Our dedicated staff will be hard at work all summer to be prepared to welcome students back on August 19. As we work out the details of the plan we will keep you informed along the way. I hope it helps you begin to think about what the fall will look like for your family. 

 

We appreciate your patience with this difficult situation and we thank you for your support and engagement.

 

Sincerely,

Michelle Harmeier, Ed.D.

Superintendent

 

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