Learning In a Health Crisis: SOMa Needs a Plan

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Dear Dr. Taylor,

The emergency transition to home learning in March has had devastating consequences for many students, families and teachers. In terms of home learning, our district’s response to COVID-19 to date has been a failure. Nevertheless, the 20-21 school year presents an opportunity to do better. 

Our school district needs to act quickly and purposefully to develop a detailed plan for synchronous learning beginning in Fall 2020. Our plan for the Fall should include online learning, in-classroom learning, and  a combination of the two. Our plan must be put in place soon, so that everyone involved (teachers, admin, parents and students) can be informed and prepared before the return to school. We hope we all agree that these measures cannot wait until late Summer.  

We respectfully ask that you present a distance learning plan that includes the following: 

  1. Measures to ensure that synchronous learning is part of every alternative. Either in-person or via videoconferencing technology. 
  2. Three alternative plans: a) 100% remote learning; b) 100% in-classroom learning; and c) a hybrid of both remote and in-classroom learning (e.g., 50% of students in classrooms two days a week, the other 50% in classrooms two days a week, and all students remote on one day). We recognize that the same plan may not fit all school buildings. 

For purposes of presenting your plan to the community, we respectfully ask that you pledge to taking the following steps:

  1. Conduct a public live-streamed and recorded public meeting during which you present a unified and comprehensive draft plan.
  2. Publish the draft plan expeditiously, and at least one week prior to the above referenced meeting so that parents can have adequate opportunity to review. 
  3. Allow department heads and others who are responsible for strategy to present their plans, policies and procedures directly to the parents. This includes Dr. Taylor and his department heads (or acting departing heads) for Technology, Nursing Services, Assessments, Beyond the Bell, Business Office, Communications, Food Services, Human Resources, Information, Parenting Center, Safety and Special Services. Equity and access should be incorporated into everyone’s planning. 
  4. Allow a meaningful opportunity for public comment.

Finally, we ask that you address the following key questions: 

  1. What is our official online learning technology platform, and what are the standards for use? Please explain and provide screenshots. 
  2. What will we require of teachers in terms of synchronous online learning? Will these requirements vary by grade level?  
  3. What role will teacher representatives have in the development of our online learning plan?
  4. What kinds of professional development and other substantial support will be provided to our teachers to help them be effective? 
  5. Can a student choose to learn 100% online if the conditions for going to school are not suitable for his or her family? 
  6. How will the facilities be used or updated to encourage social distancing and minimize the risk of infection? What is the new standard for cleaning? 
  7. What are the health and wellness policies, and in particular what is the policy for returning to school after being sick?
  8. What are alternative plans in the case the pandemic worsens, or if conditions improve?
  9. What is the communications plan to keep parents informed of changing plans and policies?
  10. What is the timeline for implementation? Implementation should be started during the summer months, so that by the first day of school everyone involved (teachers, admin, parents and students) are comfortable and well-informed. 

Thank you for your efforts, Dr. Taylor. Our community knows how challenging your task is during these unprecedented times. We know that you and your team want the best for all of our students, and we hope you will rise to this challenge. We look forward to hearing more about how our district will emerge as a leader during these extraordinary times.