March 26, 2020
I wanted to update you on PUSD’s plan to transition from optional learning resources to distance learning and instruction on April 6. While our initial intent was to physically return back to school on April 6, unfortunately, the likelihood of that happening is remote. I am meeting with the San Diego County Superintendent and other local school district superintendents next week to discuss the extension of our emergency closures. We will notify you as soon as any final determination and recommendations are made.
In the meantime, we have been busy preparing for the longer-term closure of schools including, distributing devices to our teachers who do not have any at home, training teachers and providing professional development and resources on how to teach online, creating and sharing lesson plans across grade levels, and surveying families on their technology needs. The process has been thorough, deliberate, and collaborative as we completely change the way we are educating over 36,000 students, and we appreciate your patience.
Student Readiness & Access
It is very important to ensure that all students are able to access distance learning when we launch. Next week, we will be distributing approximately 3,000 Chromebooks at our school sites, based on our initial needs assessment sent out to all families last week. Please check your email for checkout and pickup instructions. If we have not yet heard from you, please fill out the device checkout form immediately. I greatly appreciate our Technology & Innovation staff, administrators, and volunteers who are mobilizing to make this effort happen.
When we begin distance learning on Monday, April 6, there will initially be some frustrations and challenges. This is the first time most teachers and students are engaging in distance learning. Please have patience and understanding as we embrace this new model of delivering education. Next week, teachers will begin reaching out to their classes to ensure student readiness for distance learning. In preparation for distance learning, all TK-12 students should ensure they can log into Canvas (MyConnect). For help with password reset, username help, or trouble logging on, you can contact the IT help desk here. Next week we will provide some helpful distance learning guidelines for students and parents.
What will Distance Learning Look Like?
During distance learning, students will receive instruction, engage in assignments, collaborate virtually with classmates, and receive feedback on their work from their teachers. The expectation is not for students to be online for the same amount of time they are physically in school. Distance learning allows for shorter, more condensed “classroom” time and more flexibility for students to go at their own pace. Teachers will also hold “office hours” for questions or clarification. Good digital citizenship is expected of all students in a digital learning environment.
Please speak with your child about this shift from optional learning activities to distance learning - this is essential to every students’ success. Each teacher will provide a set learning schedule so your students are not missing any valuable content. Teacher support will be provided online, through office hours, and other supports. Attendance and participation are important. Teacher sessions may be recorded in order to provide families some flexibility. Remember that part of effective scheduling is building breaks into the day and not trying to put too much learning into one block. A general rule of thumb is 30 to 60 minutes of learning and then a break. Breaks may need to be more frequent for younger students.
The week of April 6-10 will be considered a soft launch for PUSD’s distance learning. This gradual transition is important to ensure teachers, students and families are able to work out any challenges they might encounter and navigate the tools, resources and schedules. Adjustments will be made as we continue this transition to distance learning.
Grades and Credit
The most important thing for us to focus on during these closures is the continuation of actual teaching and learning. Student work and assessments will be used to help teachers understand what and how much their students are learning and understanding. The completion of work will be noted, but grades will not be assigned at this time. The California Department of Education (CDE) made this very clear in its guidance to school districts. State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond said, “This is a time to use assessment to inform instructional practices, and assessment should not be punitive to students at this time.” We are monitoring this closely and will make adjustments once the CDE confirms additional details. The CDE has also suspended all state assessments. I know this presents many questions on how students will progress to the next grade or graduate. Let me be clear: our seniors WILL graduate and our goal is for all students to make academic progress, despite the physical closure of our schools. Our team is receiving guidance from the CDE on how to record credits for courses taken during the emergency closures.
Sping break will remain as scheduled, April 13-17. (Valley Elementary and Abraxas High will also keep their scheduled spring breaks.) We will collaborate with our union leadership to determine the impacts on employee work obligations and responsibilities during Spring Break. Meal service will continue to be provided. Additional information will be provided next week. If desired, students will be able to continue their learning through reading and by accessing online resources and practice lessons. From Monday, April 20 and until schools can reopen, PUSD will continue to implement distance learning for all students.
Remember: from K-12 districts, to colleges and higher ed institutions, everyone in education is grappling with this new reality. We are learning and adapting and in doing so, we are all practicing a growth mindset. Structures and processes as we know them will have to change and be flexible. But I am confident that together, we will be able to persist through difficult times, celebrate accomplishments and successes, and reach out to one another when we need help. I am proud to be part of #TeamPUSD.
Marian Kim Phelps, Ed.D.Superintendent