Dear Parents/Guardians, Students, Staff, and Community Members:
The unprecedented disruption to public education that occurred when schools closed in mid-March is still being felt today. As you are all aware, the Keyes Union School District will begin the school year tomorrow on August 12 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.
Google Classroom and Zoom will continue to be the primary platform in which instruction and connection with students will be made. Our teachers will do all they can to share the workings of these platforms with both students and parents. Additional professional development will continue to be provided throughout the year for our staff and for parents. And in response to student and families’ technological needs, the District will continue to take a research-based, phased approach to loaning devices and WiFi hotspots to those who need them. In fact, we are planning to deploy more devices within the next coming month since most manufacturers have orders placed in backorder status as a result of the high demand. Please know it is one thing to demand schools do, but the reality is that many times we can only do what we can with limited resources.
Governor Gavin Newsom very 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 the county 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 as much as is possible with the given resources.
- 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.
The distance learning format 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 with the adopted curriculum will be used.
Take comfort in knowing that all is being done to assure 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 as equivalent to in-person instruction as is possible.
A Task Force on Reopening Schools has met continually to improve on our practices for the safe reopening of campuses and ensure that KUESD starts the upcoming school year with challenging and engaging class assignments for all students.
We certainly believe that “Learning is non-negotiable,” and that school districts must provide meaningful instruction in the midst of the pandemic. The governor has made it 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 today, Stanislaus County remains on the Monitoring List.
Much like our students and staff, I look forward to that day when we are able to return to campuses for in-person instruction. We had every hope that we would have been coming back in some form of a hybrid schedule, but we have been ordered to operate in distance learning mode only. 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 recent surveys. We are here to support you and feel just as frustrated with the environment we live in as we experience an unprecedented pandemic.
I wish everyone a happy and productive new school year. Keep hope in the fact that we will get through this. For now please do your part to remain healthy and safe and I look forward to the day we can hold public gatherings to celebrate kids.
Dr. Helio Brasil