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SRCS Update 03-18-20: Educational Plans & Remote Learning
Posted 3/18/20

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Dear SRCS Community: 

 

I want to share our plans to continue the education and learning for all San Rafael City School students over the coming weeks. I realize this is a lengthy communication, but we have a lot of important information to share. First of all, I want to acknowledge that many of us are feeling frustrated, anxious, apprehensive and scared about the spread of COVID-19 and the closure of schools and shelter-in-place orders. Please know that this unprecedented situation impacts every person and every family differently. Some of our families have members who are already sick, some are working, some are not, some are worried about getting food on the table and paying the rent, some of us have elderly parents in our care, or some of us are single and trying to take care of our kids. One thing we do know about COVID-19 is that the spread is going to continue to impact more and more of us. Knowing this, our first priority is the health and safety of our students, staff, and community. 

Through it all, I ask for your patience and understanding as we try to navigate this crisis, knowing that we are all doing the best we can and that stress impacts us all in different ways. 

I am proud of how our district is handling this emergency situation. I can promise you that staff members have been working exceptionally hard to address all the different aspects of this crisis.

 

Furthermore, last Friday, we were all stunned to hear of the death of one of our Madrone students, and our hearts go out to his family and friends. This tragedy further heightened anxiety. Thankfully, our administrators, staff and students responded so competently to the situation, and we also thank the San Rafael Police Department for their help and service. Finally, we received mental health counseling support from our own counselors and from districts throughout Marin. Seeing the community come together under tragic circumstances was a wonderful demonstration of how we can support one another. 

 

Last week, as we foresaw the possibility of potential school closures and began planning for how we would meet the educational needs of our students, we also realized we had other important issues to address.  In addition to providing mental health counseling this week for students and staff, we also had to plan to distribute food to families, and on Monday we were ready to go with the availability of bag lunches that were distributed at Bahia Vista. During this crisis our food services team will continue to prepare and distribute meals to our families every school day.  In addition, we are being asked to identify emergency service workers who can help to provide child care for our health care workers’ children so that they can continue to care for the sick. This need will only continue to grow.  We have also identified the essential workers in the district and are making arrangements to ensure staff are paid, technology is in place so we can communicate, and our schools are cleaned and sanitized.  There has been a tremendous amount of communication, coordination and planning to consider.  

Finally, we have been trying to centralize our communications so we are consistent. In the coming weeks, you will be hearing more from your school more as we become comfortable with Online Remote Learning.  


EDUCATION PLANS
Last week our team of education services staff and our instructional coaches were able to plan and design our first learning packets for every one of our TK-5 students.  Over 3,200 packets were distributed to every elementary student before the break began. In addition, we immediately notified staff that they should begin to become proficient in one of our two learning management systems that would allow them to connect with students on-line during the break. For our high schools, this system is called Canvas, and for our K-8 schools we use Google Classroom.  Some of our teachers are already using these systems but many are having to learn them now.

 

I also want to make a few comments about equity and how we plan to address online learning. Unfortunately, many of our students and their families do not have access to a computer at home or the internet. About 60% of our families participate in the Free and Reduced Lunch program and many do not have the resources to provide laptops or internet service to their children. Our first priority right now is to be able to provide Chromebooks to all high school and middle school students who do not have a laptop at home.  This is a large undertaking that involves inventory, checking all devices, ensuring proper check out procedures and ensuring a smooth distribution plan (while keeping social distancing in place). More details about the distribution of the devices will be sent out on Friday, March 20.  Once our secondary students have these devices, then all students will have access to online learning and will be required to complete the assignments.  While most of our neighboring districts have had a 1:1 laptop program in place, SRCS does not.  However, we are using this crisis as an opportunity to ensure access to online learning for every student.  We have ordered another 1,000 Chromebook devices so that we can get them to every one of our elementary students, and will keep you informed of our progress. This week, staff are participating in professional development on using Canvas and Google Classroom, alongside best practices for remote learning.
 

Remote Learning Plan for Week One (March 16th to 20th)

  • Teacher Focus: Learning Google Classroom & Canvas 
  • Student Focus: Reading and journaling based on initial expectations sent out by teachers. Start checking out SRCS’ Twitter and Facebook feed and post ways your students are learning. 

Week Two (March 23rd to March 27th)

  • Teacher Focus: Getting classes setup in Google Classroom & Canvas, setting up daily schedules for classes. 
  • Student Focus: Chromebook distribution grades 6-12 at sites for students in need. More information to follow.

Week Three (March 30th on)

  • Teacher & Student Focus is teaching online for all students


STUDENT EXPECTATIONS FOR NOW UNTIL SUNDAY, MARCH 22nd 

Elementary
Students should be reading and writing daily, and completing two to three pages in their packets. Playing outside, of course abiding by the shelter-in-place and physical distancing protocols, is also important. Late next week, another learning packet will be posted online. We are preparing and planning for another distribution of hard-copy learning packets for those who are unable to print them at home. If you’d like access to a number of high-quality resources, please visit our SRCS Remote Learning page.  More details to come. 


Middle School / High School
Expectations for all of our students: doing any make-up work that they can access; utilizing the enrichment activities that have been shared from individual teachers, school sites and the online SRCS Remote Learning page; and completing any work that was assigned to or given to them to take home on Friday. In addition, students should be reading. Our administrators are meeting daily and all schools are holding faculty meetings today and Friday, as we prepare for all teachers to be online teaching. 

Please note that due to the closure, students will have more time to complete make-up work and flexibility around turning in assignments. Your child’s school will follow-up with more specifics on this.


*Many teachers have already begun more robust remote learning through Canvas (grades 9-12) and Google Classroom (grades TK-8). We encourage students to begin checking these starting this week. Schools will be reaching out if they have not already. 


THE REMOTE LEARNING PLAN FROM MARCH 23rd ONWARD for TK-12
On Monday, March 23, teachers will begin a soft launch of online learning for those students who have technology accessibility. They will post announcements within Google Classroom (grades TK-8) and Canvas (grades 9-12) and upload and attach morning messages, class resources and assignments. All teachers TK-12 will have standard daily office hours from 9am - 12pm (unless otherwise specified by the teacher), Monday through Friday, during which they will be accessible online and through email. Please expect to hear more from your child’s school in the coming days.

Teachers will be posting daily lessons and required assignments beginning:

  • March 30 for high school students, and
  • April 1 for middle school students.

For our elementary students, teachers will post daily lessons that are only required for students who have technological accessibility. Again, packets are being created at this moment and will be disseminated next week. 

 

CHROMEBOOK DEPLOYMENT
Chromebook deployment will begin Thursday, March 26 for high school students and Monday, March 30 for those middle school students who require a device. More information will be forthcoming regarding the details and locations of the distribution.

Once we have deployed Chromebooks for grades 6-12 for those students in need, we will look at the feasibility of doing this in grades TK-5 with the remainder of our current inventory. As mentioned, we are keenly aware of the equity issues at hand and are working around-the-clock on plans to deploy Chromebooks to families in need, and to support distance learning. 

Finally, SRCS has established an Online Learning Page with a library of resources for grades TK-12. The link: bit.ly/SRCSRemote that is constantly evolving. Check it out! 


SOCIAL DISTANCING (ALSO KNOWN AS PHYSICAL DISTANCING)
I’d like to stress some important guidelines for all members of our community in these coming weeks. I ask that you follow the strictest physical distancing practices as much as possible during this uncertain period of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I direct this to students as well as to adults and families. Please do not allow your children to congregate with others and limit them and yourselves to a small group of individuals that you will be in physical contact with. Parents, we need you to support your children by keeping them AND others safe. The CDC has been clear and common sense requires this response. 


We all have a responsibility to do our part to make sure we keep the entire community safe. Please keep in mind that there are essential staff members and people at SRCS and beyond who are risking their health and the health of their families to perform necessary functions in our school and our communities. Front line employees including custodial and maintenance crews that are still at schools cleaning classrooms and offices to make our school a safer place for those who are still coming to the district office during closures. 


There are also dedicated medical personnel, bus drivers, law enforcement officials, day care workers, firefighters, grocery store cashiers, and many more who are all essential for our communities to function. Please respect their service to the community by doing everything you have the responsibility to do in this circumstance. Although families will need to make their own decisions, I advise you strongly to be mindful about gatherings and multiple contacts between students and suggest no congregating in ways that can help spread this virus.


This doesn’t mean that we can’t be outdoors. Please continue with outdoor activities such as walks, runs and yard work to the extent your health allows it and as long as you practice physical distancing. Practice physical distancing by maintaining distance, at least six feet, between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Avoid handshaking, hugging or other intimate types of greetings—greet others with a wave, nod or elbow bump instead.


And stay connected to loved ones by phone, email or other technological means. Ask friends and family to do any essential grocery shopping, picking up medications, etc. Please ask for help from friends, family, neighbors, community health workers, etc. if you become sick.


This is a period of unknown and all we can do is remain calm, accept what lies ahead and work together to help support the health and welfare of the larger community. Thank you again for your ongoing partnership and support as we navigate this unprecedented situation together.


Sincerely, 

Jim


Jim Hogeboom
Superintendent