We hope you are well and finding opportunities to enjoy summer. This week’s update is aimed at providing additional information regarding the remote-only learning portion of our broader reopening plan. Most students and families experienced remote learning for the first time last spring; so, naturally, that has become the reference point. It’s important to know how our current plans for the fall compare to the remote learning experience of March/April/May. Many aspects will be different.
First, we believe strongly in the unmatched impact in-person classroom instruction has on student learning. There is no substitute for a face-to-face school experience with a highly skilled, caring teacher. In Goochland, we have the best around. Without question, a fully remote experience sacrifices certain aspects of learning for most students. That said, we are committed to providing the best remote learning experience possible given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and resources we have available.
Remote teaching and learning this fall will be significantly more dynamic than it was when we closed last academic year. The plans for the fall will require that families find an available high speed internet connection at least one time each week. We have several locations throughout the county available for public access to high speed internet, including our school parking lots, the parking lots of our county fire stations, and the public library. The full list of these sites and physical locations can be found here.
This requirement of weekly internet connection is imperative because teachers will produce new content and resources frequently, students will be required to submit assignments regularly, and teachers will be able to provide valuable feedback on that same regular basis. For the most part, this was not possible last spring.
While the week-to-week interaction of remote learning will be greatly enhanced this fall, the “live” (synchronous) availability of our teachers to students who are learning remotely will be limited to Wednesdays. Simply, all of our teachers will be leading in-person instruction in our schools on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays under our current reopening plan. This leaves Wednesdays as the dedicated day for remote learning facilitation.
What follows is a snapshot of remote learning under our current broader reopening plans through the lens of (1) a student, (2) a parent, and (3) a teacher:
STUDENT PERSPECTIVE FOR REMOTE-ONLY LEARNING
Students will receive instructional materials from their teachers weekly. One of the primary instructional methods for remote learning will be for the teacher to video/audio record in-class lessons and produce supplemental recordings as necessary and make them available to students who are learning remotely at home. Students will not be able to access instruction in real time with their peers who are receiving instruction in person. All instructional resources will be available through our learning management platforms like Schoology (grades 3-12) and Seesaw (grades PK-2). Uploading these materials will require students to connect to the internet at least once each week. Students will work largely independently on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Teachers will be available for support through telephone and Google Meet on Wednesday from 8:00AM to 3:30PM, as well as through delayed-response messaging like email and Schoology throughout the week.
Student work will be evaluated using a traditional A-F grading methodology that was in place prior to the school closure in March. Additionally, students can expect to be engaged in their academic work much more each day than they were in the spring:
Grades 9-12 High school students will be engaged in approximately 20-30 cumulative hours of academic structure weekly, in addition to flexible opportunities for students to focus on their health and wellness. Students enrolled in college-level courses, including ACA and AP, should plan for approximately 5+ cumulative hours of academic engagement weekly for those classes. All other high school classes will require approximately 4-5 cumulative hours of academic engagement each week.
Grades 6-8 Middle school students will be engaged in approximately 15-25 cumulative hours of academic structure weekly, in addition to flexible opportunities for students to focus on their health and wellness. Students enrolled in high school credit-bearing courses (i.e. Algebra I) should plan for approximately 4-5 cumulative hours of academic engagement weekly for those classes. All other middle school classes will require approximately 2-4 cumulative hours of academic engagement each week.
Grades 2-5 Upper elementary students will be engaged in approximately 2-3 cumulative hours of academic structure daily, in addition to flexible opportunities for students to focus on their health and wellness.
Grades PK-1 Primary grades students will be engaged in approximately 1-2 cumulative hours of academic structure daily, in addition to flexible opportunities for students to focus on their health and wellness.
PARENT PERSPECTIVE FOR REMOTE-ONLY LEARNING
Parents who have chosen the remote learning option for their children must ensure that students have access to a reliable internet connection at least one time each week. Again, the full list of these sites and physical locations can be found here.
We recognize the challenges parents face when trying to support their children’s remote, in-home learning while balancing all of the other demands each of us face as parents. We also recognize that students’ remote learning experiences are enhanced when they have a caring adult at home who can be available for support as needed throughout their remote learning experience. This commitment can vary widely depending on the age and level of independence of each child. We encourage our families to designate one or more members of the household to actively support their children’s remote learning to the greatest extent possible to help ensure success. Please reach out to your child’s school if you are faced with a hardship that makes this difficult. Our team knows that the remote learning experience is an endeavor that requires a partnership between our professional educators and our students. We know our parents and guardians are not the teachers. We are. We recognize and respect the wide range of challenges facing everyone during this lasting, historic hardship.
Families will have the opportunity to make changes to their children’s plans: remote vs. in-person. Requests to change from remote to in-person learning will be granted per our existing interim/report card schedule, essentially every 4 ½-weeks. This approach provides students and families with a level of flexibility, while ensuring each school’s team can adequately plan for their students.
Student work will be evaluated using our traditional A-F grading methodology that was in place prior to the school closure in March. Teachers will be available to families for immediate support on Wednesdays from 8:00AM to 3:30PM. As always, teachers will be available for two-way communication through email and Schoology (grades 3-12) and Seesaw (grades PK-2).
TEACHER PERSPECTIVE FOR REMOTE-ONLY LEARNING
Along with our students and parents, our teachers have been asked to adjust in ways that no one anticipated just a few months ago. Everyone has been asked to pivot as gracefully as possible and to work harder than ever. We are grateful to our entire school-community for their flexibility.
Under our current school board-approved reopening plan, our teachers will be delivering in-person instruction in our schools four days a week: Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Wednesdays have been designated as “student support/remote learning” days in order to accomplish several important tasks. It will be the primary day each week for teachers to provide direct support to their students participating exclusively in remote learning. Teachers will be available for real-time support through telephone and Google Meet on Wednesdays from 8:00AM to 3:30PM, as well as through delayed-response messaging like email and Schoology throughout the week. This remote learning/student support day on Wednesdays also provides our custodial and maintenance teams the opportunity to perform deep cleaning across our school division. And, in time, Wednesdays will be available for specialized support necessary for some students to maximize their opportunities for growth.
The structure of our plan provides the flexibility necessary to allow for both an in-person option and a remote, at-home option for students. As a result, teachers are being asked to perform a challenging balancing act, and our entire instructional team has been working tirelessly since March to identify strategies and resources to ensure as much success as possible. One example of this will be the use of videos as a foundational way to engage both in-person learners and students accessing instruction remotely at home.
Strategies like the use of instructional videos will allow teachers to pace instructional delivery similarly for all of their students, those accessing their learning at school and those accessing their learning remotely from home. Again, we will not be providing a synchronous video feed into classrooms during in-person instruction.
Finally, teachers will be evaluating student performance using the traditional A-F grading methodology that was in place prior to the school closure in March.
We have been intentional about developing our reopening plan in a way that adheres to the Center for Disease Control’s guidance (see our division’s Phase III Health Plan), maximizes student learning to the greatest extent possible, and provides broad flexibility. This flexibility includes instructional delivery options for families, as well as the ability for us to scale up or scale back our overall plan in response to changing health conditions both in our community and across the Commonwealth. Should we have to restrict in-person instruction further, our plan allows us to do so. Likewise, when we are able to loosen restrictions and increase in-person opportunities for students, our plan allows us to do that as well.
Our plan remains true to the “dimmer switch” approach we communicated back in the spring:
Again, the intention of today’s communication is to provide families with greater detail about the remote learning component of our current reopening plan that was approved by the School Board on July 14. If you have not already done so, please complete our most recent survey to communicate plans for your children. As noted in the parent section above, families will have the opportunity to make changes to their children’s plans; however, requests to change will be granted per our existing interim/report card schedule, essentially every 4 ½-weeks. This approach provides students and families with a level of flexibility, while ensuring each school’s team can adequately plan for their students.
Thank you, again, for everything you do for our school-community. As always, our team is just a phone call or email away. Stay safe!