HUSD outlines distance learning expectations

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Diane Sieker photo

A presentation of the online model, or distance learning, and typical days for elementary, secondary, special education and teachers were the main subjects covered at the Hemet Unified School District study session and special meeting of the governing board, Tuesday, Aug. 4.

The meeting was available to the public as an audio-only live feed accessed via the district’s website and hosted on YouTube.

Distance learning involves interaction, instruction and check-ins via computer. Computers, hot spots, tech support, teacher devices and other technology will be provided by the district.

Gov. Gavin Newsom released guidance for schools to reopen for the 2020-2021 school year, July 17. Due to the guidance criteria, all schools – public, private and charter – within Riverside County schools will not be permitted to return to school in a traditional manner. HUSD will open the school year in a fully online learning model beginning Monday, Aug. 17.

HUSD is working to provide a quality instructional program for its students. The district’s online learning model will differ significantly from what was offered when schools closed in March.

Students will receive a combination of live instruction provided by their teacher, plus independent projects, assignments and activities.

Additional support will be provided for English learners, students with disabilities, foster students and homeless youth. Program will be designed to be substantially equivalent to in-person learning.

All schools within the district will continue 100% online learning until the end of the middle and high school grading period, Friday, Nov. 6. At this time, Riverside County’s coronavirus status with the state will be reviewed and it will be determined if the schools can offer more traditional schooling.

HUSD’s special education department and case managers will work with families with students that have an IEP during their transition to online learning. Special education services and IEP meetings will be offered virtually or telephonically during this time. IEP and 504 Plan accommodations will also be implemented accordingly during online learning.

School staff will communicate times in which families can pick up materials their students will need to engage in online learning.

The California Interscholastic Federation released the 2020-2021 athletics calendar. Currently, athletic activity is not permitted. Fall sports for high school will begin in mid-December if state/county guidelines permit.

The Academy of Innovation will continue providing an online learning option for the entire school year, regardless of future public health orders that may allow for a return to full-time, in-person, seat-based learning. Families interested in keeping their child in the online learning model for the entire 2020-2021 school year can enroll in The Academy of Innovation.

During the district’s study session, a presentation was made illustrating the typical daily routines that can be expected with the online model of education.

“A Day in the Life of an Elementary Student” introduced Bella, an imaginary second grade student.

She begins her day by logging into her Chromebook and entering the Google Classroom to see the day’s announcements and activities.

Classes are presented in 30-minute increments beginning at 7:40 a.m. Bella clicks on the Google Meet link in Google Classroom to attend her whole-class group meeting online. She and a few students stay on the Google Meet for their English language arts small group instruction.

Bella works asynchronously at home on her ELA break from 9:10 a.m. to 9:40 a.m. Asynchronous learning happens on the student’s schedule, and they have the ability to access and satisfy learning requirements within a flexible time frame.

Bella logs back into Google Classroom and joins the Google Meet for her small group math lesson.

From 10:10 a.m. to 10:40 a.m., she asynchronously practices her math lessons.

At 10:40 a.m. to 11:10 a.m., she takes a break, then logs back into Google Classroom for physical education.

Lunch is from noon to 12:30 p.m., after which Bella logs back into Google Classroom for more teacher and instructional aide support or to finish her asynchronous work.

The presentation went on to describe a typical day for a high school student.

William, an imaginary 11th grade student, logs into his Chromebook and goes to Google Classroom to see the day’s announcements and activities. Secondary schools will follow a traditional six-period schedule with a Monday and Thursday schedule and Tuesday and Friday schedules with alternating Wednesday schedules.

Asynchronous sessions continue throughout the school day. A 45-minute sample consists of greeting and review of norms/expectations – five minutes, check-in, mindful moment or movement – five minutes, instructional activities, discussion, unpacking content, practice, etc. – 20 minutes, C4U, Q&A, feedback, etc. – 10 minutes, exit ticket, wrap-up and closing – five minutes. At the end of William’s day, he can check in with his counselor and his teachers for extra guidance if needed.

“A Day in the Life of an Elementary Student in Moderate-Severe Special Day Program” featured Mariah, an imaginary fourth grader. Her day was split into half-hour and 15-minute increments. She logs into her Chromebook and into Google Meets to join her class for their morning routine and calendar review with her special education teacher, supported by instructional aides.

Mariah follows along to a movement music video guided by her teacher and aides. She learns about safety and sanitary routines. For example, instruction on properly washing her hands will be offered via synchronous lesson or asynchronous video.

The class engages in the synchronous learning of foundation academic and social skills as a whole group. Mariah will join a whole class or small group lesson for English language arts using the interactive, unique curriculum. One-to-one or small group break out rooms that will be supported by instructional aides.

Mariah and her class will listen, follow along, read to a live reading of a story by her teacher or listen to a pre-recorded story. She will join a whole class or small group lesson for math.

Mariah will work on her specific IEP goals, possibly applying discrete trialing teaching methods. Her class will engage in asynchronous learning games for review or log in for speech with her speech pathologist along with other classmates.

Mariah can log in to get extra help from her teacher, aides or receive extra related services, such as occupational therapy, adaptive physical education, behavior support, counseling or communication device support.

Teachers have been attending professional development sessions, preparing for the coming school year.

Teacher teams, instructional coaches and TOSAs came together the week of July 27, to plan the first six weeks of school for each grade level and core content areas.

There have been over 120 sessions of professional development to support teachers in preparing for opening the year online during the week of Aug. 3.

Parent information and training opportunities include a virtual back to school night, virtual training offered in English and Spanish, Google 101 for parents, supporting children in the online learning environment, social emotional supports for children and families and nutrition and wellness.

Parents shared concern that the distance learning model will be challenging for everyone involved.

“I just picture these kids, home alone, trying to figure out these links and then it’s break time and there’s no bell to remind them it’s time to go back to class,” mother Brianne Hopkins said. “I want her to see her friends and be face to face with a teacher when she needs help or is engaged in debate or discussion.”

“It’s going to take some time to get used to,” Brandi Lewis Machado said. “My oldest is going into second grade and my daughter is going into kindergarten, and I have a 3-year-old at home that likes to get into everything, so focus is going to be difficult. I am also a working mom, and when the beauty industry is allowed to open, I will have to go back to work but I am having to cut out days of work to be able to do this. This whole situation is hard and will be stressful. I hope it works out, but I am unsure if it is going to work for my family.”

For more information, visit the HUSD at https://www.hemetusd.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=254711&type=d&pREC_ID=582624.

For more parent information, visit https://parentcenter.hemetusd.org/.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.