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August 21 Return School Update: Distance Learning School Year is Underway
August 21, 2020
Dear WCCUSD Families,
Thank you for all you have done to help us get this school year started. The recent wildfires and resulting smoke and power outages threw even more uncertainty into our efforts to roll out the distance learning platform. Despite the challenges, we have seen many successes.
Students, families, teachers and school staff are engaged and building relationships in this new environment. Students are showing up to their online classes and re-establishing important personal connections to caring adults and peers. Teachers have developed engaging lessons and are refining their craft so they can be even more effective in a distance learning environment. I believe that this district is on the path to having a successful academic year.
I want to go over a few more important items that may need some clarity:
Attendance and Engagement
As with the face-to-face classroom, student attendance and engagement during Distance Learning is crucial to student success. Students are expected to attend each of their classes and remain engaged. Attendance is taken every day, Monday through Friday, in the live Homeroom period. This is the place for students and their homeroom teacher to focus on Social Emotional Learning and provide a safe check-in while we are in the Distance Learning model. Students who miss Homeroom will be referred to the School Attendance Review Process. If a student misses Homeroom, the student must interact with their teacher that school day before 3 p.m. to be marked present.
Students are also expected to be “engaged” in each of their classes. Because some parts of the distance learning model may be done asynchronous (not live), student “engagement” must be captured. “Engagement,” a new state legal term,” is now recorded by the teacher. Students who are not marked “engaged” in their classes will also be referred for support services depending on the identified cause. Simply showing up in an online class is not enough to be considered “engaged.” Students must submit an assignment in order to be considered “engaged” in a class and teachers and students will have a window to communicate with each other to make sure “engagement” is happening.
Returning to School
Some school districts around the state are seeking waivers to return to in-person instruction, which has led to the question: will WCCUSD do the same? Members of this community including the Board of Education were very clear that the number one concern about returning to school was the safety of students and staff. We will not return to in-person learning or seek any waivers to do so until the pandemic situation meets certain conditions.
To protect students, community and staff, the district and its employee groups agreed on a set of science-based standards from the Harvard Global Health Initiative that must be met before any school opens for in-person learning or the district applies for any waivers.
The conditions that must be met include:
- There must be less than 10 daily new cases per 100,000 people in Contra Costa County, and surrounding counties where students or employees live
- Positive test ratio must be 3% or less
- Anyone must be able to get access to a test regardless of symptoms and be able to get tested within 24-48 hours
- Patients must be notified of test results within 24-48 hours
- There must be 30 contact tracers per 100k or 5 tracers per every confirmed new case, whichever is higher
Once those conditions are met, we will work with our staff to first bring back those students who need the most help and support.
Athletics and Facilities
When the smoke clears from the wildfires, you will see some students using our fields to prepare for their upcoming athletic seasons. Even though CIF has postponed interscholastic athletic competition until the winter, teams are allowed to work out if they follow strict health and safety guidelines. All students and staff taking part are following all health care protocols in place.
We are excited that the student-athletes will be able to engage in some limited practices and look forward to the day when the health conditions allow for a more robust set of outdoor activities.
For the time being, all district field and play facilities are closed to the public. We do not have the capacity to monitor and maintain those facilities being used by the public at this time. We hope that we will be able to open up our outdoor facilities to members of the community soon.
We believe we have made great strides in ensuring technology and access for our students and staff as well as rigorous and robust instruction. If you have a question or concern, please use the teacher office hours or the family hour on Friday to confer with teachers or school leadership. As always, feel free to reach out to me if you have any other concerns, questions or general feedback (positive or negative) as we need to hear what is working and what is a challenge.
Thank you again for a great start to the school year and for your patience as we find solutions to the challenges that we have faced.