2020-21 Reopening FAQ


    What is “SMART,” and is it offered to all students?

    SMART stands for Study, Math, Assessment, Reading, & Tutorial.  It will only be offered during the in-person week once the school is in Hybrid Blended learning, and then only to students who attend school in-person.  During the SMART period, students may take assessments for at-home week subjects, participate in community building, do work from in-person classes, do their independent math and/or world language practice, or silently read.  It is a flexible offering, similar to Qu3ST, and will also serve to build connections with math, social studies and world language teachers who students would otherwise only see virtually.


    What is the difference between the Hybrid/Blended Learning and Virtual Academy model?

    The Hybrid/Blended model allows for students and staff to safely be together on campus. Under this model, our students will essentially be split into two groups, with each group of ~375 rotating time on campus on a weekly basis. A Hybrid/Blended student will have one in-person week and one at-home week. In a given week, half the students will be in-person and the other half will be at home.  The courses offered in-person will be a student’s ELA, Science and PE/Electives courses and the at-home week will be a student’s Math, Social Studies and World Language electives. The one exception to the above schedule is in Cloud Nine Academy in the 7th grade, in which Social Studies is an in-person subject, and ELA is an at-home subject. 


    Under the Virtual Academy model (students who selected 100% in-person learning), students will be doing distance learning 100% of the time. Despite being virtual students, they will have the same alternating week course schedule as Hybrid/Blended Learning students: ELA, Science, and PE/Elective one week, and Math, social Studies, and World Language the other week


    How big are class sizes during Distance Learning? During Hybrid Learning?

    All virtual classes will be roughly 24 students, though some classes may be slightly larger.  For in-person learning, the class size will be the size of a stable cohort :12-13 students.


    Once I select my child’s learning preference, am I able to change to the other program?

    Once you make your choice to place your student in Hybrid Blended Learning or Distance Learning, you have committed to your choice for the entire first trimester. The school will consider requests to change as we approach the end of Trimester 1, November 13, but it will depend on capacity. We cannot guarantee a change from one program to the other, but will do our best to fulfill requests.


    What kind of personalized support or intervention can I expect from my child's teacher this year?

    This year teachers are very limited in their ability to support students outside of their instrucitonal time. Normally, teachers would be using their preparation period, brunch, lunch, and even before and after school to meet with students. Now, with restrictions on when students may come on to campus and when they must depart, students needing to remain in stable cohorts, the loss of preparation time within the day, and disinfecting between class periods, those regular times are not available. Our hard-working teachers work coninuously throughout the school day from Launch to dismissal. During passing periods and even during lunch, they are disinfecting their classrooms before the next stable cohort arrives. Their preparation time, normally within the school day, is either before school starts or after school ends. Teachers will of course continue to support students as best they can, but the pandemic is limiting their ability to extend themsevels as much as they normally do. Our teachers are disappointed by this, but this is where we are. Just as we are focused on helping students get through their days with alternating week courses, on-campus electives and physical activity, and community building in cohorts, we are equally focused on keeping the work sustainable for our dedicated teaching staff.


    Since we are all starting in Distance Learning, what can a Hybrid student expect?

    A Hybrid/Blended learning student can expect a schedule with the same teachers that would teach her/him in the Hybrid model. While the courses and teachers will be exactly the same during Distance as in Hybrid, students’ classes will take place at different times of the day, and class sizes during Distance Learning will be larger.

    Who will be teaching the Virtual Academy students and will they be in a Hillview academy?

    The Virtual Academy teachers will be Hillview teachers, and students who selected Distance Learning 100% will also be in a Hillview academy.


    How are Virtual Academy students integrated into the Hillview schedule?

    Students who chose Distance Learning will be in classes only with other Distance Learning students during their ELA, Science and PE/Electives week.  During their Math, Social Studies and World Language week, they will be in classes with Hybrid/Blended learning students as well as with Distance Learning students in certain classes.


    What electives are offered and can my student make a choice? 

    For the 2020-21 School year Hillview will continue to offer electives in a modified form.  In creating our schedule, we decided to put certain subjects in the “in-person” week and certain subjects in the “at-home” week. Electives are most engaging when students can participate in person, so they landed in the in-person week. Because of our constraints of keeping students in stable cohorts and minimizing risk to our teachers by having as few student contacts as possible, however, it was necessary to limit choice. Therefore, students will cycle through three electives, and the combination of the three will depend on their grade levels. Electives will come from three of our four visual and performing arts strands: Art, Drama, Industrial Technology, and Leadership/Broadcast. 


    Electives and PE alternate every six calendar weeks. For example, a student may start the year with six weeks of PE, or six weeks of an elective. Then, at the halfway point of the trimester, they will change from PE to elective or elective to PE.


    All students will take each elective sometime throughout the 2020-21 year. The electives per grade level are as follows:

    6th Grade:

    • Character Strong Leadership (Darmanin)
    • Drama 6 (Hairston)
    • Media Literacy (Mathenia)

    7the Grade:

    • Technical Drawing/Architecture (Bratt)
    • Art and Makerspace (Kogan)
    • Mixed Media Journalism (Darmanin)

    8th Grade:

    • Drama 8 (Hairston)
    • Technical Drawing/Architecture (Bratt)
    • Art and Makerspace (Kogan)


    These electives will be provided during distance learning as well as in-person when the school is allowed to host students on campus under the Hybrid/Blended Learning model. Parents may not request a specific elective.


    In addition to these electives, there are a few electives that are available to students, and parents would have indicated these choices during the registration process last spring. 

    • World Language (7th / 8th grade)
      • Spanish: Spanish 1A, Spanish 1B, Spanish 1, Spanish 2
      • French: 1B, French , French 2
    • Spanish for Spanish Speakers, Levels 1 - 3 (6th / 7th / 8th grade)
    • ASB (8th grade)
    • Instrumental Music (6th / 7th / 8th grade)

    Most of these electives will take place during the week of math and social studies (at-home week) with the exception of instrumental music, which will take place in the “work block” period opposite ELA (during Distance Learning for All) for 7th and 8th graders. When some students return to Hybrid Learning, instrumental music for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade will be offered both in person and to distance students, but at different times of day. 


    For more information on what the electives are by grade level and PE offerings, visit Electives & Course Offerings.

    How will distance learning look different in the fall than last spring? What additional training will teachers have received to help them better deliver on Distance Learning?

    The number one difference will be a shift to a highly synchronous program, with classes scheduled at specific times and students required to attend those classes and be available for the entire class period. This differs from the spring, where we were intentionally asynchronous as we all adjusted to a new kind of learning on the fly. All distance courses will be a blend of synchronous, semi-synchronous and asynchronous learning, with a minimum of 30 minutes of live connection for each class each day.


    Second, last year we were all thrown into a distance mode with very little time to spare. Approaching this year, all of Hillview’s staff has been provided extensive training to support distance learning and will continue to receive training throughout the year. Our teachers learned a great deal last year. This year’s distance learning will reflect that learning, and will be a higher quality experience all around (not that the experience was too shabby in the spring!).


    Finally, Hillview is moving to a universal learning management platform called Schoology, and teachers have been trained on the tool which will allow for better communication and course management. We will provide more information and tutorials on Schoology in the first weeks of school.

    Since we are on a two-week model, what is being taught in the first week vs. the second week?

    What is taught to your student and when, depends on if your student is assigned to the BLUE group or the GOLD group.  

    • If you are in the BLUE group, the ELA/Science/PE-Elective week will be your Week A and Math/Social/Studies/World Language will be Week B. 
    • If you are in the GOLD group your Math/Social/Studies/World Language will be your Week A and ELA/Science/PE-Elective week will be your Week B.
    • If we are in Hybrid/Blended learning, your ELA/Science/PE-Elective week is also your in-person week (with the additional SMART period). 

    The one exception, noted above, is the 7th grade Cloud Nine Academy, where Social Studies will be in the A Week and in-person, and ELA will be in the B week and at-home. 

    Please visit School Hours & Schedules for the cadence of weeks by your assigned color.


    Why is math not being taught during the in-person week?

    There are several reasons why math is not being taught in person, but two of the most important ones are as follows:

    1. Our math department has the most experience with a flipped classroom approach. 
    2. Were we to have placed math in the in-person week, it would have resulted in “tracked” stable cohorts, meaning that a student’s math ability level would determine the composition of the stable cohort, and those students would have moved lock-step throughout the day during their in-person weeks. This practice is inequitable and creates homogenous and exclusionary groupings, and does not reflect our core value of diversity.


    Why did you choose to have ELA, Science, Elective/PE, and SMART during the in-person week?

    Our Steering Committee recognized that Science, Electives, and PE are subjects that lose a lot of their engagement when taught via distance, so it was important to have them be in-person. Science lends itself to hands-on phenonemon-based inquiry, while electives and PE give students an opportunity to move about and interact in an otherwise restrictive environment. SMART gives students an opportunity to manage the cognitive load of their studies, as well as have connections to their at-home classes and teachers, and to have in-person assessment. ELA, of course, lends itself to discussion and exploration of the human condition, Socratic seminars, and the like.

    We do not believe that Math, Social Studies, and World Language - or any subject for that matter - are best taught via distance. However, in order to have substance and synchronous learning opportunities during the at-home week, it was necessary to make some compromises. Please also see the above question, "Why is math not being taught in the in-person week?" for more information.


    If we select the Virtual Academy, are we getting the same math instruction as those students in the Hybrid Blended Learning model?

    Yes, the math instruction is the same for those students who opted into full distance learning.  They will be offered all of the same math courses (grade level, advanced, double-compacted) as those students who selected Hybrid/Blended learning and all of the same teachers. In fact, some virtual academy students may be in math courses with those students who selected Hybrid/Blended.


    What is happening with the music program?

    Despite the challenges of these times, Hillview is proud to offer students instrumental music who selected instrumental music as an elective last spring. Hillview is offering both virtual instrumental music (during distance learning for all and continued for our distance learners), as well as some in-person ensemble work during the SMART period without disrupting stable cohorts for students who are in-person. 


    Are teachers assigned to one cohort or do they teach multiple cohorts?

    First please note that the concept of a cohort, also known as a stable cohort, only applies when we are in-person. When it is safe to return to school, teachers will be teaching multiple cohorts.  A single teacher in a given in-person week will teach up to 4 cohorts (up to 8 over the course of two weeks). The size of an in-person cohort will not exceed 13 students.


    When we are in Distance Learning for All teachers will be teaching larger class sizes made up of approximately 2 cohorts, or 24 students, during the ELA week. During the Math week, class sizes will remain the same throughout the year, approximately 24 per class, although some classes may be slightly larger.


    For in-person students, when it is safe to return to campus, do they have to stay with their cohort the entire day? Can my student engage with other students on campus?

    In order to align with the safety protocols and measures set forth by state and local mandates, at this time a stable cohort must remain together, and not mix with other stable cohorts, while on campus.  Therefore, we will not have students from other cohorts engaging with each other inside or outside the classroom. 


    What is the school or parents doing to make sure kids don't break the 6 feet and mask rule once outside of school?

    Hillview cannot dictate or enforce social distancing and mask rules outside of school. It will be a community effort to continue to educate our students on safe practices.


    If my 6th grader is in double compacted math (Math 7B/8 Bridge) when will that class be taught?

    For 6th graders in double compacted math, the course will be taught virtually in Block 5 during the week of Math, Social Studies, and World Language. The class will not be offered during Trimester 1, as this is a unique year and students need to get into their new schedules, and teachers need some time to evaluate math competency levels.


    How soon could we be back in-person under the Hybrid Blended Learning model?

    This all depends on where San Mateo County is on California’s watch list list. Under current guidelines, a county must be off the monitoring list for 14 consecutive days in order for the school to reopen. And, then, in order for the school district to reopen, we need to have a reopening plan that addresses: cohort stability, cleaning/disinfecting practices, physical distancing, testing frequency, isolation protocols, hygiene practices, etc. Luckily, MPCSD has most of these logistics already planned out, except for the testing frequency and company. hen we do reopen in Hybrid mode, it will happen after a full A/B week cycle.


    Does the school and district expect that our student can all be back in person full-time this school year?

    We would certainly like to bring everyone back in person, but this will all depend on a vaccine and its availability, which makes this an unlikely scenario. Under the current health framework and state-mandated rules, widespread dissemination of a vaccine to the general public would not happen until emergency workers are taken care of first. It may be possible, though unlikely, that we can all come back sometime in 2021, but, again, this will all depend on health and medical circumstances.


    Will there be sports or any after school programs?

    At this time, there will not be any after school sports or activities, as activities on campus are limited under San Mateo County’s Pandemic Recovery Framework. In phase three of reopening, instructional and interest-based extracurricular activities can resume for those that can be implemented with small groups that can physically distance. However, our PTO is currently working with our after school program to develop virtual apps to keep students engaged in these activities digitally.


    How do I report an absence? Do I need to report an absence if we are in distance learning for all?

    Absences will still be reported the same way as before - through SafeArrival. If your child is sick, log in to SafeArrival and note the absence, even when in distance learning.


    How will experiential learning, lab-based subjects be taught via distance? 

    While a traditional “lab” is not possible, our science teachers are well versed in “PhET” simulations that allow students to observe phenomena and conduct experiments digitally.our science teachers are working on plans to keep students experimenting with basic household items when applicable to the subject matter. In addition, given aspects of all our courses are synchronous, the teachers can demonstrate phenomena conduct “live” labs and keep the students engaged in that manner.


    Will there be a need for parent volunteers?

    At some point in the future, we will need parent volunteers, but in the first stage of reopening, parent volunteers and visitors are not allowed on campus. Parent volunteers, for the express purpose of academic support, are allowed in the second phase of reopening, but even those are expressly for academic purposes. In phase three of reopening, parent volunteers and visitors can resume activities on campus, so long as they adhere to the four pillars.


    How can we best support our teachers?

    Teaching is one of the most challenging - and rewarding - professions during normal times. Conducting classes virtually, or even in person with social distancing, deprives teachers of many of the tools in their repertoire. For example, strategies like eye contact, physical proximity, or a short conference outside the classroom aren’t practicable via distance. The ability to monitor work over the shoulder and intervene with support is also difficult, if not impossible.


    Teachers will also continue to balance their own family situations during this time. They will have their own children who are learning by distance, and perhaps parents or other relations that they will be caring for. Some teachers, for health reasons, will not even be able to return to campus. Despite all these challenges, teachers will conduct classes daily and synchronously, and uphold high standards of professionalism.


    Parents can be most helpful by interacting with our teachers with a mindset of grace and flexibility. In addition, we need parents to support student attendance, which means helping students understand their schedules, helping students develop habits and routines so that they can be up and ready to log-in each morning, and ensuring students have a work space with all the necessary materials to be successful. Parents can also support us by reaching out when they encounter issues or need partnership. We are standing by to support, and we don’t want any student to fall through the cracks.


    For more information on the MPCSD Official Reopening Plan please visit the COVID-19 Reopening FAQ.