Questions About MPCSD's Reopening Scenarios
MPCSD began school on August 20, 2020 in the full Distance Learning for ALL mode. All students enrolled in the Alternating-Week Blended Learning Model attended distance learning with their class cohorts. Students enrolled in Virtual Academy (VA) are attending distance learning with their VA class cohorts, as they will do all year long. In-person instruction opened with the Hybrid mode for kindergarteners and first graders and for a smaller subset of vulnerable learners with an approved waiver on September 28. Grades 2 through 8 were phased in in the Hybrid Alternating-Week mode beginning October 19 after the county moved into the Red Tier which allowed all grades to open without a waiver. Now that all grades are operating in person in the Hybrid mode, the district does not need to close regardless of which Tier the county is in. See this press release dated November 30, 2020 from San Mateo County Office of Education for more information about school opening and the state's tiered system.
As of April 2021, the School Board is considering a further dial down of the pandemic response, and may wish to return some or all grades of students to school on a more "full time" basis. The Board will deliberate this at its April 15, 2021 meeting.
This section is divided into three subsections, as there are three scenarios around which school will operate for the 2020-21 school year. In which scenario we find ourselves will depend on health conditions in the area, local and state health orders, and Board direction--all of which are subject to change at any time.
The first set of questions--or first subsection--centers around the scenario that requires the highest degree of explanation and planning--the Alternating-Week Blended Learning Model. The second set of questions--or second subsection--addresses MPCSD plans in the case that we must return to Full-Time Distance Learning for All Students (Virtual Academy). The final set of questions--or third subsection--addresses what measures will be taken should the MPCSD Board be allowed and elect to a Full Return of All Students Daily.
The Alternating-Week Blended Learning Model
Q: What is the Alternating-Week Blended Learning Model?
A: Without the space, staffing or resources to return all students to school and still follow the San Mateo County Pandemic Recovery Framework, a model for school in which students attend In-Person Learning every-other-week in small stable cohorts with social distancing and other health and safety measures was designed. When students are not attending in person, they will be engaged in At-Home Learning with MPCSD staff. Parents may choose to keep their children at home and attend school 100% via Full-Time Distance Learning.
Q: Why can't MPCSD bring all students back to campus full time?
A: In order to follow the physical distancing guidelines of the Framework, allowing six feet of space around every person on campus even in classrooms, MPCSD cannot bring all 3000 students back to campus at one time. The School Board does not intend to modify the distancing guidelines against the Framework, but may consider doing so if the California Department of Public Health, San Mateo County Office of Education and Department of Health change their guidelines. Due to large student enrollment, facility size, and staffing limitations, we simply aren’t able to provide daily in-person instruction to each student and follow the PRF’s Four Pillars. Therefore, the team looked at models in which the number of students on campus at any given time is significantly decreased.
Q: How did the C19 Team come to the conclusion that the alternating week model was better than other models that could have been considered?
A: The C19 Team evaluated multiple models against health and safety, instructional/learning benefit, equity, mental health, operations, impact on parents/staff, and other metrics. Some of the reasons the team chose the alternating week model are as follows:
- The model allows MPCSD to most effectively implement the San Mateo County Pandemic Recovery Framework. The Framework is based on “Four Pillars.” They are: Health and Hygiene; Face Coverings; Physical Distancing; and Limiting Gatherings. Additionally, the Framework calls for students to be served in “stable cohorts,” with the number of students defined by the ability to appropriately socially distance within the available square footage. The alternating week model can well accommodate this requirement.
- The model allows MPCSD to bring students back to school for a meaningful amount of in-person instruction. For MPCSD to adhere to the PRF, especially with regards to Physical Distancing, there is no feasible way to have all enrolled students on our campuses at one time.
- In the District’s Advisory Team's estimation, the model is the safest choice for MPCSD. No model eliminates risk; bringing students and staff back to campus is inherently more risky than continuing 100% with Distance Learning. However, we must weigh the risk of fully reopening with the risk of continuing to have our students isolated at home, away from their friends, receiving instruction with limited coaching and support. Thus, if we are going to take on increased risk, we want to mitigate those risks to the best of our ability. The alternating week model will allow us to clean more thoroughly between groups, trace contacts should someone within a group test positive for COVID-19, and as effectively as possible contain the virus from spreading within and among groups sharing the same space.
- The model provides academic benefit. The continuity of a week of school allows every teacher and student to have a necessary and solid block of time to introduce a unit or new concept, practice, and provide feedback. Teachers can plan cohesive learning arcs for each week, reinforced by at-home practice, specialist (art, music, etc.) programming, and small group video support provided by classroom aides and paraprofessionals on the At-Home Learning week.
- The model provides social-emotional and mental health benefits. Teachers and staff are better able to develop relationships and build community in a solid week, whereas other models may feel disjointed for both mental health and home routines.
- The model will enable MPCSD to increase or decrease the amount of time for students on campus should future health orders change. An analogy you will hear MPCSD staff refer to over the course of this pandemic is the idea of “the dial” vs. “the switch.” Our responses will need to roll with the health conditions in the county like a dial, rather than turn on and off in a binary manner like a switch. The alternating-week model allows us the greatest flexibility and the least amount of disruption. To this end, it is certainly possible that despite all this planning, come August the health conditions require us to change course all together.
Q: On the In-Person Learning week, how many days will MPCSD students attend school?
A: Students in grades 2-8 will attend 5 days a week during their in-person week. Students in kindergarten will attend every day on an AM/PM schedule and first grade will come to school every day in smaller cohorts.
Q: Will MPCSD make efforts to accommodate my family’s needs when scheduling?
A: Yes. We will make every effort to accommodate needs, particularly as they relate to child care on the At-Home Learning week. Our first commitment is that all siblings will be scheduled on the same alternating week, unless otherwise requested by parents. Beyond that, school site Principals will be sending a Child Care survey to parents to seek requests; we will make every effort to accommodate one request per family. A family’s A-week/B-week grouping will be communicated the first week of August. Questions regarding student scheduling should be directed to the school site.
Q: Is there a possibility that younger students could attend school in person more often?
A: In the Hybrid model, MPCSD will bring back kindergartners daily in two groups using an AM/PM model and first graders every day in smaller cohorts. Additional staffing was added to accomodate smaller first grade classes.
Q: What if I do not feel comfortable sending my child to school in person?
A: Parents who choose not to send their child(ren) to school will not be prevented from or judged for doing so. A 100% Distance Learning option (the Virtual Academy) will be available to families that choose not to send their children to school in person. Distance Learning will be facilitated by MPCSD teachers and staff in grade-level specific groupings across the district and facilitated by the District’s Educational Services Department, and led by Principal Theresa Fox.
Q: If I enroll my child in the 100% Distance Learning model, can I switch into the Alternating Week Blended Learning model?
A: Parents will have limited opportunities to return to In-Person if their decision changes, so are encouraged to think carefully about choosing Distance Learning.
Q: What do I need to know if I decide to homeschool my child instead of enroll them in MPCSD's Blended Learning or Distance Learning options?
A: In California with or without a pandemic, parents may opt to homeschool their children in a “private school setting” and not part of a distance learning option offered by a local school district. Parents who opt to privately educate or “home school” their children must first properly file a Private School Affidavit (PSA) with the CDE (Education Code (EC) Section 33190). By filing the PSA, the owner/head of the school acknowledges, under penalty of perjury, that the (home) school meets all statutory requirements for a full-time private school, such as keeping a record of attendance, which includes noting all absences of a half day or more, grade reporting, and providing instructional materials. Information about the regulations and process for filing a PSA may be found here: https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/ps/homeschool.asp.
Q: Will the school year be extended to make up for the missed on-campus time?
A: At this time, we do not anticipate the school year will be extended. California has moved to suspend instructional requirements to accommodate for pandemic response. To ensure appropriate student growth during the pandemic, In-Person Learning time will prioritize grade-level reading, writing, and numeracy standards through robust anchor instruction as those areas determine a student's progress and advancement to the next grade level.
Q: In the alternating week model, what will the on-campus week look like for K-5 students?
A: Planning is moving forward for the in-person instruction week to likely include:
- Social emotional learning and Community Circles
- English Language Arts (ELA) and Math anchor instruction
- Science and History integrated into ELA and math lessons
- Art or Library, depending on site preference
- Small group support and extension
- Physical education
Q: In the alternating week model, what will the off-campus week look like for K-5 students?
A: Planning is moving forward for the at-home instruction week to likely include the following, with live, synchronous learning experiences being prioritized:
- Community Circles live with in-person group
- Social studies/science content lessons
- MPCSD's "Uncommon Core" - cursive, keyboarding, grade level experiences, etc.
- ELA and math practice and extension
- Counselor-designed social emotional learning
- Music and World Language
- Art or Library, depending on site preference
- Intervention support
Q: In the alternating week model, what will the on-campus week look like for middle school students?
A: Planning is moving forward for the in-person instruction week to likely include:
- Four 65-minute class periods/day
- English Language Arts, Science, PE/Elective alternating
- SMART Time (Studying, Math, Assessment, Reading, Tutorial)
- Launch at the beginning of each day for student temperature checks and daily check-in
Q: In the alternating week model, what will the at-home week look like for middle school students?
A: Planning is moving forward for the at-home instruction week to likely include daily live Zoom instruction with teachers/support staff, and the addition of Schoology as ONE Learning Management System so that students and parents can have a "one-click" way to access the work and feedback. The week will include:
- Daily work blocks that include live teacher time in each block
- Math, Social Studies, World Language
- Live Connections with teachers/support staff/peers.
- Independent Reading
- Physical Fitness
Full-Time Distance Learning for ALL Students
Q: Under what circumstances will MPCSD move to a Full-Time Distance Learning Model for all students?
A: Circumstances that may require MPCSD to close its schools to students and return to Full-Time Distance Learning for alls students include:
- Local health orders return to Shelter-In-Place necessitating the closing of schools
- COVID-19 positive cases at one or more of MPCSD’s sites reach 5%, necessitating the temporary closing of that campus; or 25% of MPCSD campuses are closed due to COVID cases, necessitating the closing of the whole district. This will be assessed in collaboration with the San Mateo County Health Department according to the PRF.
Q: Who will serve students in a Full-Time Distance Learning model?
A: In Full-Time Distance Learning for all students, the entire MPCSD staff will be engaged in providing instruction to students. Instruction will be delivered remotely by each teacher, with support and small group instruction including aides, paraprofessionals, and specialist teachers.
Q: How can I support my children during distance learning?
A: MPCSD will provide you with the learning tools you need, such as physical materials and technology (please let your Assistant Principal know if you need to borrow a technology device or need internet at your home). There are things you can do around the house that will help your student succeed, too. Here is a helpful tip sheet developed by the Graduate School of Education at Stanford. Tips for safe ergonomics while using a computer can be found here.
Full Return of All Students Daily
Q: Under what circumstances will MPCSD move to a Full Return of All Students Daily?
A: Circumstances that may allow MPCSD to bring all students back to campus full time include:
- Local health orders ease or lift specific restrictions regarding physical distancing that allow all students to return and this can be accomplished while also managing the health risks to staff, students, and families.
- A COVID-19 treatment or vaccine is introduced, effectively ending the pandemic and returning life to “normal.”