Return to Headlines

June 16, 2020

June 16

On June 16, 2020, ACPS’  Thought Partners met for their third meeting to provide guidance for the reopenigand reimagining of schools.

Review of Research Studies: What ideas do you consider especially important for our work?

  • This work is complex.
  • We must start with the students in mind—building a sense of community and belonging. 
  • How do we get students to feel a sense of normalcy in light of all the changes they are undergoing?
  • School safety is essential, but we need a balance between the ideal and practical use in the classroom. 
  • Interaction with parents is essential: How can we make schools as safe as possible for them?
  • Creating smaller learning communities is also essential.
  • Playfulness is essential during this process.
  • Ensuring there are expectations, not interruptions to normal behaviors—from temperatures being taken to social distancing.
  • Technology budget increases.
  • Managing perceptions among staff, parents, and students—and determining protocols and information—to ensure that we establish a balanced approach wil be critical.
  • How do we help those looking at news everyday—and don’t want their children to return to school?
  • What is safe enough? What constitutes safety? There are certain things that can reduce the spread of the virus (e.g., masks) in competition with strong individual ideas about that when there is no mandate that is enforced.

What are three to five opportunities and challenges that could inform the actions related to the reopening scenarios? 

  • We must establish protocols and implement them with consistency.
  • There is so much ambiguity based on our cultural context. Clarity is essential.
  • How do we establish a schedule that keeps faculty and students safe while supporting the learning that needs to occur?
  • We are expecting that there will be students choosing not to return (or parents choosing that option). How do you manage that possibility? Are there alternatives for students and parents choosing this option?
  • No international system opened fully. Are we really going to open fully? Or are we going to open with certain cohorts of students with different pacing? Are there special populations targeted?

What are three to five opportunities and challenges that could inform the actions related to the reopening scenarios? 

  • This time offers us opportunities and challenges to meet the needs of all individuals, including ensuring staff are trained and student services are provided during this unique time. 
  • Parent resources and instructional tips are also essential for at-home learning.
  • Accountability in terms of school work is essential. We still have students who are not completely involved in distance learning, despite having resources to do that. How do we hold students accountable, whether virtually or in-person?
  • We have health data across the system—including last year’s and summer—creating a Community Dashboard to inform parents, staff, and community members to make wise choices. 
  • Balancing the budget is also critically important, including assurance of testing processes that are rapid.
  • Consistent messaging along the way for various constituencies is key: What is being planned and what is being done along the way?
  • We want to see every student at least once. Also, the technology platform is critical. Everyone in the elementary has Google Classroom; we need consistency—streamlining and being specific about how we are going to communicate (e.g., ZoomPod).
  • There is a  need to choose one platform and stick with it? (e.g., Zoom, Canvas, etc.). A huge challenge to parents.

What are the student/family implications and/or perceptions of a learning model where students only spend 25-30% of their time in school? 

  • Childcare—especially for essential workers. Parents are curious about what 50 or 25% actually means—including comparisons to Europe. Morning? Afternoon groups? There are guesses for parents, but there is also uncertainty. Get communication out to parents as soon as possible.
  • Get staff involved ASAP.
  • How do we convince parents that 25-50% of school time is robust—and how can we provide support for our children at home?
  • We can’t underestimate the significance of the economic impact of school closings or reductions in time in school upon parents and families. There is a need for support services and structures for parents and families—including the emotional implications of this process.
  • Can organizations provide full-day childcare every day (e.g., Campagna)? There are also physical locations in the community that offer internet access—How can families sign up to use Chromebooks there (with a staff there to provide support)?  We need to explore different options with our partners.
  • Getting out the ACPS plan as soon as possible is critical. Rec Centers and other places are already taken in some cases. 
  • How do we provide support for students whose parents have to work? 
  • The clarity of communication is key. 
  • The pressure on parents is huge: 
  • Can we create teams (e.g., in-school and on-line teachers completely in sync)? Really being thoughtful about what is happening in school vs. home (e.g., art projects and recreation options at home). Maximum teaching must occur during times when in-person or virtual learning is occurring.
  • Imbalances in assessment may occur when we have students learning at home vs. via distance learning.

 How do we ensure effective and collective communication of the plan to reopen?

  • There must be a consistent voice, including impact of plan, timeline, constituencies, regular and meaningful communication and a place for people to go for questions.
  • Teachers plan during the summer. Putting out communication in a timely fashion—How does this look for teachers and parents planning for reopening.
  • The feedback loops are key. People must be able to talk with—not just talked to. Asking people to give us feedback is essential: What do you think of the things we are doing? Does this make sense? Is this a good idea? Do you have suggestions for change? In business, companies create a trusted team of influencers—who launch products via people who represent different constituencies (e.g., SPED, EL, etc.)—Get their input representing certain voices. Use social media influencers (ACPS influencers…) Open question times for students: Am I going to be allowed to talk to my friends? Will I have to have my temperature taken? Helps to calm people down.
  • Communication should come from the central office doing Webinars, ensuring consistency of communication. We must all be on the same page with one place to go for messaging. It was so helpful that we were all on the same page and were hearing the same thing at the same time. Staff can give support, but messaging must come from the same place at the same time.