We've tried to be clear and consistent about our core principles since March. Among these are
- the belief that students learn best when they're with us in school;
- the critical importance of ensuring the safety of students and staff;
- the commitment to providing our kids the best education we can; and
- the determination to provide our members what they need to deliver it.
Our work has aimed to keep these principles in mind at all times. We want to see and connect with our kids, and for school to feel like the thing we know and love- the thing we decided to devote a large part of our lives to. We approach the coming school year with the genuine desire not just to make it to the end, which was what spring felt like at times, but with an understanding that "this is what 'school' is," and the conviction that we're awesome at it.
And truth be told, I think without listing it among our core principles (we can't think of everything, even when we're thinking of it) we aimed not to drastically reimagine school, despite what some elected leaders may have thought this was the time for. There are some wild plans out there, and I fully respect the creativity that's been used to approach solving the problems we all face. Depending on who you are, maybe you would like to have tried a plan that looks like the one your kids will experience. For many of us, we like school the way it was - that thing we understand and are awesome at.
2020-21 will still be both different and difficult, though, and we've worked hard to find ways to help you meet the challenges. We've aimed to preserve flexibility, to reduce workload where possible, and where it wasn't, to help recover some of the time it takes to do that work. All of this was just to get to a framework (three, technically) we could call a starting point. There are weeks of work ahead. Members have been overwhelmingly thankful, patient and gracious. Your spirit is the most immeasurable asset we have in doing this work, so I want to thank you for all the outreach and support over the last few weeks.
Elementary Updates -
Up until a few days ago, we've all been working off this notion that we're starting hybrid in the fall. We, like many, rightfully have focused most discussions and energy on developing that model. It's the hardest to build, and the one we thought we'd need most imminently. Then guidance came out literally two weeks ago. And a few days later, the first plans emerged. Some early districts found ways to bring all elementary kids in every day. Since then, parents across the Island have increasingly urged districts to do everything they can to do the same. Whether or not we can pull this off depends on how many families opt for a 'full remote learning' plan (yes, this is now a thing). If enough students are remote to help reduce class size and create remote sections, and if we can solve our transportation problems, HHH will try to do the same. We're not there yet, but a normal school day with no remote instruction and small class sizes - even if group work looks different, and kids wear masks, and rugs are gone - would be as close to regular school as one could hope to get. If we don't get there, we'll start with the hybrid model outlined in the emails put out by the District today. To meet the challenges of balancing different cohorts of students in a hybrid model, we've added additional prep time to every day by capturing time in the morning otherwise used for traditional extra help and adding more prep time in during the day.
Middle School Updates -
Sticking with the premises outlined above, our middle school day will look mostly like it would in a normal year, with the obvious exception of classrooms having only a dozen students, all of whom are wearing masks. The difference will be in delivering instruction to students who are at home. We've ensured that there is no mandate for teachers to stream their lessons, but many may choose to do that. For those who don't teachers have the option of pre-recording content and posting activities as they did in the spring. Recognizing that this takes time, we've done a few things. We've removed formal extra help hours. (Teachers will still be expected to watch email and respond to questions from kids who are at home during the day.) We're eliminating as many duties as possible. And we've shortened periods to reinsert a '9th' non-instructional period back into the day. Details of how that period will work are still to be determined. We are confident this will help teachers find the time they need.
High School Updates -
As with other levels, high school days will look mostly like they would in a normal year. Again, class sizes will be roughly half of what we're used to, with another half of our students at home during any given period. As with other levels, there is no requirement for streaming to students who aren't physically in school, and again, teachers who elect not to stream will have options for pre-recording content to share with their classes. Because there are already 9 periods at the high schools, there was really no room to shorten classes and introduce an additional prep, so we had to get creative. A number of classes will be designated as 'onsite only.' For these classes, students may still be assigned work on remote days, but there will be no expectations for streaming, pre-recording videos, etc. The Course Offerings book is being reviewed to make these determinations, but as a rule of thumb, courses for which we control the curriculum are more likely to see this adjustment. Courses that lead to Regents, are governed by the College Board, etc., or whose curriculum is otherwise dictated by an outside entity, won't apply. With many teachers teaching at least one of these courses, we're confident this will help mitigate some planning needs. In addition, many teachers will have their duties removed in the coming school year, and again, there will be no formal extra help hours required (*see MS description). Finally, we're working with the District to provide teachers who have significant planning / remote instruction responsibilities additional 'prep days' or curriculum writing compensation each quarter to help them get their work done.
For all levels... this is a monumental task. We think the frameworks you see here are a great starting point, but we're certain many of you have questions. Give us some time to keep working through the details. 🙂