[00:00:00] Jessica: The next question we have is what unexpected challenges did you face and what were positive experiences or outcomes that came from the challenge?
[00:00:11]Christine: Maybe I’ll talk about preparing for September. We reopened in September and while we had a gradual onboarding plan. By the end of October, we had, and we continue to have a hundred percent of our students K through eight who want to attend school every day, coming to school every day. And we have a structure where half of our high school can come in the morning and the other half can come in the afternoon due to spacing limitations.
[00:00:39] And then we have students who need to be there full day, who are able to come full day. So basically, even though we weren’t open in September, in the same way that we have been in the past, our district has been open since the first day of school with very few closures due to COVID because of the way that we have structured our response based on department of health guidelines.
[00:01:05] So I think the challenge wasn’t unexpected, I think one of the significant challenges in the degree to which the challenge was- had to be navigated- was the comfort level of staff reporting back to work. It was very hard to be at a place where people felt that coming back to the building with students onsite in September was was comfortable for many people because we are in the middle of a pandemic.
[00:01:36] And we had been closed for so long- for some of our staff- that was the first time many of them had left their homes was to come back to work. So while we did planning and we worked together and we had community teams that involved parents and experts, public health experts, and our administrators and our teachers.
[00:02:00] When it came down to being ready to open in September, there were a lot of challenges with supporting staff to come back on site to support our work. And that was really tough. That was a really tough time for us. Collectively as a community. , as we prepared to open. And like in many other places who opened, you had staff who couldn’t return to work because of specific needs.
[00:02:29] And then you also had staff that decided that, you know what, it’s my time to retire, which was understandable. And then we had in our structure, we have we have, our class is divided in half. So you need additional people to help support that. For example kinder maybe a second grade classroom that would have one teacher. You split that class in half. You now need two people because you’re in two different rooms to keep to be able to maintain social distancing. So all of that translates to staffing issues and hiring. So trying to hire to support the model and also trying to support staff, not just faculty, but staff in our buildings who were feeling really uncomfortable about returning was very challenging.
[00:03:19] Jessica: I had, I was not aware that was the route that you guys decided, but I think that is you have repeated yourself and I couldn’t agree more. That sounds like an enormous challenge- one that I haven’t quite heard fully in depth because. I don’t know that many have, and I think that’s what everybody has wanted.
[00:03:42] So you guys were able to do that, but you still acknowledge it was very difficult, making sure your staff felt safe returning to school to be able to do the onboarding necessary to have your students and staff back then just in the safety procedures, guidelines, health experts saying what would work.
[00:04:03]I know at our school district, we had a few different options starting this school year. Like you guys said you had to close down in March, but then in September, when you reopened being able to have in person. For any grade level, let alone, you said 8 through 12. Is that what you said?
[00:04:26] Christine: So K through 8- we did have a we did have a window of time where we wanted students and staff to learn our new procedures. So throughout the month of September, we had days where a portion of the students were in and the other portion of our students were home live streaming into the classrooms. Because when we, when our kids aren’t with us, they’re able to live stream into their class to get direct instruction alongside find their classmates.
[00:04:59] And the reason we set up that model was two reasons. First, we knew that there would be families that wouldn’t be comfortable sending their students back to school because of their own family unit needs. And also we anticipated that we would have pockets of students that would need to stay home due to exposure, and we didn’t want instruction to stop.
[00:05:19]So what we, our whole model is based on this concept that you don’t need your teacher in front of you to be teaching you. However, we want you with us in school, because that’s where instruction is best able to happen. So if you go into our for example, in an elementary classroom you were in a pod with, let’s say 10 kids with your core teacher.
[00:05:43]And then there is another 10 kids in your class that, that are with a different teacher. And so that particular pod of kids rotate between their core teacher and the other teacher, while the core teacher delivers instruction to both kids using our technology. And then that core class will also receive music and PE and other instruction either outside or in that unit using our technology.
[00:06:15] So our whole program is heavy on leveraging the technology in a way that instruction continues. The kids are with us every day, but we’re doing it extremely safely when it’s taking place within the context of our classrooms. And we bring kids together outside, when we have big spaces and it’s warm and you can socially distance.
[00:06:38]And it because of the science and the guidance from the health department. Yes, because of the way that we’ve structured our, our our academic world here in this district, we have kids that are home live experiencing exactly what many of our kids are taking place in school.
[00:06:56] And we have the opportunity for all of our students, K-8 to come to school every day and operate within the context of our environment and see their teachers and get the support they need in order to facilitate learning. At our high school, we wanted to see everyone every day. We didn’t want to set up a model where we wouldn’t see you.
[00:07:15] So you either come in the morning or you come in the afternoon and then some of our kids can come all day long. And then when you’re not here, you’re zooming into your classroom. So in the morning, if you’re, if you are home, you’re zooming in while your classmates were in their classrooms and in the afternoon, you’re here and you’re up.
[00:07:32] And the classmates who are in the morning are now zooming in. But our model is also very flexible. So our our high school kids have the option of zooming in to school or coming in for a half day. We made that decision collectively and we’ve done some trend analysis and we don’t, we’re not right now seeing an impact on how kids are performing based on allowing them to have that level of flexibility for all of us.