This week we received a number of important messages from Sacramento (CA Department of Education as well as Governor Newsom’s office) on the topic of school closures and the future of education in the State. Suffice it to say there are far more questions than firm answers. The Governor indicated that it was doubtful we would be back in session this semester, while other leaders were quick to point out that this is not yet confirmed.
We do know, however, that yesterday Governor Newsom officially cancelled State-wide mandated tests; we are still trying to figure out what this means for testing that was already underway but not yet complete at the time of the closures. We also know that the Governor by executive order mandated that school funding continue during the closures, so that districts and charter school organizations may continue to pay employees and maintain operations. This order also called on schools to serve lunches to families.
I am proud of our team that we have been able to serve hundreds of daily lunches to families as detailed in previous posts, and that as per an AEA-Board of Trustees resolution we are compensating all employees, including part-time hourly staff, during the closures. I am committed to continuing this practice into the foreseeable future as we seek to take care of our entire community (students, families and staff) in the face of challenges unprecedented in our lifetime.
With yesterday being the first official day of online learning at AEA across all grades, our goals between now and the end of next week are to raise the percentage of students logging in and participating in online learning to 100%, help make our entire community feel comfortable in the online space, and continue setting clear expectations for our students and families in terms of what they are accountable for producing. I would like to remind our entire community that such a dramatic sea change from traditional educational models (many of which date back more than 100 years) to teaching and learning online is not something that happens in a day, a week or perhaps even a month. There are bound to be bumps along the way, and I encourage tolerance, grace and patience all the way around as we navigate this directional change. In our desire to maintain rigor and not fall behind, the temptation for all of us is to fall into the trap that more is better in terms of online content and what we are asking of our students and families. There are no bells to mark the end of a period, no lunch breaks and recess built into the day, and no digital alerts to let us know when students (and teachers for that matter) are tired, confused, or simply need a break to focus on the other challenges in our lives. This requires each of us to make a concerted effort to maximize the real-time opportunities to speak with each other (whether this is in ZOOM video conference “office hours” or Google hangouts or other means) and when in doubt to reach out for help and clarification. Though we are physically separated, we are not alone.
Be well and stay healthy.