Posted by Leighangela Brady on 5/7/2020 5:30:00 PM

What is distance learning and what does it mean for students, teachers, parents and principals?

Distance learning means instruction in which the student and instructor are in different locations. Methods could include online instruction, take home packets, phone calls, emails, text reminder applications, and other means of communication. Differences in teaching and learning will vary between classrooms, just like they do in our physical schools. What doesn’t vary is our focus on standards, and our expectations for students to engage and try their best. The principal’s job is to continue supporting our teachers by providing training, visiting classrooms, holding staff meetings, and securing resources. There is no instructional expectation of parents; but we do request that parents provide dedicated time and a place for students to learn- similar to when students are doing homework.

How is the district supporting families with devices and technology?

Each school held a technology distribution day the week we returned from spring break, and a second day the following week for families who couldn’t make it out to the first distribution day. As a result, every student should now have either an iPad (grades TK–2) or a Chromebook (grades 3–6), a power cord, and earbuds. Families without Internet connections at home also received a hotspot device. Devices are configured so that Internet access is only possible through a secured district filter which blocks inappropriate sites and protects students’ privacy. Programs are used regularly by students in our physical classrooms, so we are confident that our students will thrive in this new virtual environment. Students have a single sign-on to avoid the need for multiple logins and passwords, and teachers are able to monitor online access and program use. If students experience any issues with their devices, parents can do one of the following: 1.) Email tech@nsd.us, 2.) Complete NSD Device Issue survey, 3.) Leave a message with the Help Desk at (619)-336-7783. Devices with issues will either be fixed remotely or swapped out for a different device by appointment.

What reassurances do we have that students won’t suffer significant learning loss during this time?

The timing of our school closure plays a significant role in our assessment of grade level achievement. Teachers typically focus on the core clusters of the grade level standards in the first two trimesters up and through spring break. The third trimester (which we are in now) is an opportunity to review standards for mastery and apply standards at deeper levels. With the suspension of State testing this year, teachers actually have more time for this purpose through distance learning. Of course, to ensure that students have not missed any learning, we are recommending that teachers start next year with a thorough review of the previous year’s standards.

What other resources are available for families?

The best place for families to look for resources and information is our District website at www.nsd.us. Once there, just click on the COVID-19 button. This link provides current updates on school closures, meals, and distance learning. During the COVID-19 pandemic, National School District will continue to serve breakfast and lunch daily at Las Palmas School from 10:00 a.m.– 12:30 p.m. Starting on Monday, May 4, 2020 a second location will be open at El Toyon School. Weekend meals are also available for pick-up on Fridays at either of these two locations. We have also developed parent specific section on the COVID-19 section of our websiteto provide families with community resources, family support, tutorials and training. We encourage any parent in need to also reach out to their child’s teacher or principal for any reason.

How are teachers providing students with feedback? What about report cards?

As mentioned previously, the third trimester is an opportunity to review standards for mastery and apply standards at deeper levels. Therefore, students have already received grades on progress toward grade level standards in the first two trimesters. Due to the unexpected closure of schools, we have decided not to provide formal grades this trimester. Instead narrative comments about distance learning will be placed in each child’s file. Students will still be required to complete assignments, and teachers will still be providing students with feedback on completed work; however, without the pressure of formal grades, we hope students and teachers will explore the possibilities and depths of distance learning to the fullest extent possible.

When do you anticipate schools will reopen? What will be the same, what will be different?

Unfortunately, we still do not have exact information about when and how schools will reopen again. What we do know is that schools will likely stay closed through the end of this school year and hopefully reopen as planned in July for the 2020-21 school year. Students will finish this school year with their current teachers; and move on to the next grade level with new teachers for 2020-21 (except for our sixth graders who will promote on to the middle school). While we would love to return to school as normal, it may not be possible for health and safety reasons. Depending on the evolving state of this pandemic, classes may continue in distance learning, open with modifications to ensure social distancing, or open fully if the public health department allows. Only time will tell, but we will continue to monitor the situation carefully and provide updates as they become available.