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Reintroduction Update: BVSD now planning to begin school remotely on August 26

After reviewing the data we have collected over the past couple weeks, we have decided to start the school year on Wednesday, August 26 in Phase 1 – Home Learning. 

 

 

   

 

 

Dear Boulder Valley Families and Staff,

I want to begin by first thanking everyone for their extraordinary patience and support over the past few weeks. 

With a little less than a month before school begins, I know that everyone is yearning for stability. What I’m about to share, depending on your perspective, may or may not be the news you were hoping to hear.

After reviewing the data we have collected over the past couple weeks, we have decided to start the school year on Wednesday, August 26 in Phase 1 – Home Learning. 

How did we come to this decision?
Over the past few weeks we have been diligently working to gather the data needed to inform our next steps. We have been monitoring three key data sources.
 

boulder county public health dataCOVID-19 Health Data
Until now, our decisions (including our initial plan to start in Phase 3) were based primarily on the COVID-19 Health Data and the expert advice of our partners in public health. While they have been very supportive of our plan and the health-precautions within it, the situation is changing.

We are witnessing a sustained upward trend in cases in our area that has given us reason to pause.
 

Additionally, last Thursday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued new guidelines that would prompt the closure of cohorts (groups of students) and schools for up to 14 days to quarantine, for probable COVID-19 symptoms, which are also widely seen during cold and flu season, as well as confirmed COVID-19 cases. 

Finally, recent studies are raising concerns that some of our earlier thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on children, including transmission and illness may need more time to understand.  As more children begin to participate in activities outside their homes, we are learning more about these topics.

Student Opt-Out Data 
Based on the latest data we have, only about a quarter of our students have opted out of in-person learning. That, on face value, would mean that the majority of our families have been planning on sending their kids to school. The communication from our families, however, tells a different story. Many parents are indicating that they want ultimate flexibility, because while they want their students to attend in-person, they hope to switch back-and-forth day-to-day based on the latest news in the community or situation at their school. Some are also indicating that they’d like to see how the first weeks of school go. Then, if it is safe, they would send their students to in-person learning.

Teacher Exemptions 
We also now know that nearly 300 teachers have received exemptions from on-site work because they or their family members are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 as specifically addressed in the Governor’s Order.  With this number of exemptions, we are unable to fully staff in-person learning in our current Phase 3 model.

 

Conclusion: We are not prepared to start in Phase 3

After analyzing the data, we do not feel confident that we would be able to move forward with the hybrid model, nor would it be safe or stable to do so. The last thing we want to do is have students moving in and out of in-person learning because of confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in our schools and community. It would be very disruptive, as we have seen in other school districts that have already returned.

As a result, we will begin the year in Phase 1.

Let’s start with remote learning 

We will begin the school year on Wednesday, August 26 with Home Learning.

Starting remotely offers a number of benefits. First, it allows our educators to focus on ensuring that Home Learning is much improved from what our students and parents experienced last Spring. This is very important because, regardless of what phase we are in this school year, Home Learning will be the consistent baseline. We intend for it to be a firm foundation for students – something that ensures students continue to learn regardless of the situation.

This summer we have been diligently working at improving Home Learning. Our goal has been to go beyond simply addressing the concerns we heard from parents and students last Spring, to make remote learning more consistent and engaging across our entire system.

Our teachers will be returning over the next couple weeks and we have scheduled professional development to help support them in improving their instructional practices in this mode of learning, as well as sharing district-wide expectations regarding what this type of learning will look like.

What can students and families expect?
While there will be some flexibility, we plan to have schedules at every level, so that everyone knows what they can expect on a weekly basis. This year, we intend to have students involved in educational activities for the length and hours of their normal school day, while also recognizing that there should be healthy limits for screen time.

Remote learning will include both synchronous (together at the same time) and asynchronous (individual) learning, students can expect to have more interactions with their teachers. Beyond having morning meetings or other social check-ins with their teacher and fellow classmates, teachers will be leading learning opportunities virtually on a regular and consistent basis.

Mondays will still be Learning Launch days. Teachers, who will be using the day to plan, will provide students with videos and exercises that will prepare them for the rest of the week’s learning. Additionally,  students and parents will receive an overview of the learning plan for the week, as well as assignments and resources.

As we shared previously, we are working to get technology that will eventually allow teachers to bring students at home into their classrooms. This will be beneficial both for Home Learning and, eventually, any hybrid learning.

Home Learning Then (Spring 2020) & Now (Fall 2020)

Here is a comparison between Home Learning last Spring and what we plan to provide this fall:

 

Spring 2020

Fall 2020

 

Platforms

Teachers using different platforms. Parents and students having to learn multiple platforms

PK-3: All will use Seesaw, an interactive platform for younger learners

 

Grades 4-12: All students will use Schoology

 

Engagement

Students did work when they were able.

Students will have a daily schedule to keep them engaged throughout a typical school day, and receive a daily opportunity for live support from a staff member.

 

Teacher Interaction

Students had occasional teacher interactions.

Students will have daily interactions with teachers.

 

Lessons

Students were mostly doing assignments based on previous learning.

Students will have access to recorded video lessons as well as live lessons and small group instruction to address new content and grade level standards.

 

Grading

Elementary students weren’t given grades. Middle school was pass/fail. High school students were given grades.

There will be consistent grading scales at each school. Pass/Fail will only be used on an individual basis in accordance with Board Policy IKA-R/IKAA-R/IKAB-R. 

 

Communication

Students didn’t know what to expect from day to day.

Students will have a consistent schedule and will receive a weekly plan from their teachers on Monday afternoons.

 

Special Education in Phase 1
When our District provides educational opportunities or benefits for students through distance learning and online instruction, the District’s intent is to provide equitable opportunities and benefits for all students, including students with disabilities. For students with IEPs, the focus during this phase 1 (all remote learning) will be on what is essential, practicable, and reasonable to deliver during this unique time and the needs of individual learners and their families. 

At phase 1, particularly if this phase continues for an extended time, parents and student(s) should expect to hear from licensed special education staff by phone and/or email to collaboratively discuss the child’s learning priorities and how best to address them in this model, including shifts in service times and approaches and preparation of plans or other documentation. 

Child Care
We do recognize that the decision to start in Phase 1 is an especially difficult burden on some families, especially those with working parents. That is why we are continuing to work towards standing up Child Care centers at our schools. They will provide a low cost or free child care environment that is safe, quiet and work to support students with their remote learning. Child Care will operate 5 Days a Week, 10 hours per day: 7:30am - 5:30pm.

Cost:

  • $40/day 

  • No cost for families who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch

  • Scholarship/waiver process for families with financial hardships

We will have more information, including locations soon on our childcare website: childcare.bvsd.org

Integration of Learning Pods
As you may know, families in our community have begun to organically create small academic support groups for students. We have been meeting with some of the parents who are developing these learning pods and are creating a plan to connect and support learning happening in the community. With an eye towards encouraging equity, we will be working to support learning in these pods, by providing academic resources and materials, training pod leaders on BVSD’s academic scope and sequence and helping to facilitate social interactions and academic opportunities with our schools and other pods, allowed under current health orders.

Athletics and Activities
While we are moving to Phase 1 for the opening of the school year, existing programs in athletics and activities at the high school level will continue to operate to the extent consistent with the guidance of Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) and public health officials.  All such programs will continue to implement the strict health protocols we’ve had in place since June.  

On July 29, 2020, CHSAA announced CHSAA Golf will be as normal and CHSAA Boys Tennis and Girls Softball will begin Aug 10. On July 7, the Colorado Bandmasters Association announced it is cancelling the fall 2020 Marching Band Season.

As CHSAA and other groups make recommendations on additional athletics and activities, the School District will look at creating additional opportunities for our students.

Collaboration launched to explore safe and equitable in-person learning and support opportunities
We are committed to continuing to explore possible in-person learning opportunities for students who need the support the most. While our 5-Phase Back Together BVSD Plan addresses the physical environment that is allowable based on the health precautions that may be required over the course of the year – we are posed with a dilemma not addressed in the plan. 

Instead of presenting a new plan, we are working with our educators and community to develop what we are calling Phase 2+, to resume in-person learning in a safe, but limited manner.

This afternoon, I shared with the Board of Education that we are pulling together a Working Advisory Group, made up of our teachers, parents and community members. They will be working collaboratively with the district to propose possible in-person options that address the following, high-level areas:

  • Our Back Together BVSD Priorities

  • Equity

    • Significantly impacted learners

    • Working families

  • Youngest students

The group is being formed this week and will begin an iterative design thinking process next week, leading up to recommendations, which will be brought to the Board of Education on September 22.

Crayons to Calculators school supply distribution
Our educational foundation, Impact on Education, will once again be providing school supplies to students whose families cannot afford them. 

One kit will be provided to each student who needs them. The kits have been safely prepackaged for Pre-K, Kindergarten - 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade - 5th Grade and Middle/High School.

Dates/Time
Tuesday, August 18th from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Wednesday, August 19th from 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm  

Schools Sites (all 7 on both days)

  1. Emerald - Hug N Go lane West side of school

  2. Sanchez - Bus lane East side of school

  3. Creekside - Bus Loop East side of school

  4. Louisville MS - Bus Loop in front of school

  5. Crest View -  Bus Loop North side of school (Main Entrance)

  6. Columbine - Bus Loop West side of school (Main Entrance)

  7. Nederland MS/HS -  Bus Loop North side of school 

If you are unable to make it to any of the sites, please email the Family Hotline at families@bvsd.org or for Spanish speakers familias@bvsd.org. Or call 720-770-0102.

Impact on Education Fundraiser - Together We Bloom
Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

Help keep Impact on Education continue its outstanding work by participating in this week’s virtual fundraiser: Together We Bloom!  This event is a celebration of our community’s collective support for public education.  We hope that you join our garden celebration from your favorite view of your garden at home. Funds raised from this event will directly support students in need in our community.

The event will be hosted by Boulder Chamber of Commerce President and CEO John Tayer and will include auction items, a paddle raise, and live musical performances.

CLICK HERE for the details and to register.

Opportunities to Learn More

We know that many families may have additional questions, so we have set up a few ways for you to engage the district and learn more about our plan and to get answers.

Back Together BVSD Website
Our plan and Frequently Asked Questions have been placed on our reintroduction website: https://www.bvsd.org/reintroduction

We have updated our Frequently Asked Questions to answer questions around Phase 1.

Let’s Talk BVSD (Engagement Website)
You can join the conversation and stay updated as we continue to move towards the school year through our new public engagement website, letstalk.bvsd.org.

Simply register at https://letstalk.bvsd.org/register

Let’s Talk Education (BV22 TV Show)
On Thursday, August 6 at 4 p.m. we will talk more about the Back Together BVSD plan on our Let’s Talk Education show on BV22 (Comcast Channel 22 or livestream at www.bvsd.org/bv22). If you have questions, submit them via the letstalk.bvsd.org website.

Thank you again for your patience and understanding. The decisions around returning back to school have been the most difficult I’ve faced in my 24 years in education.

While this situation is certainly a difficult moment for BVSD and other school districts, I truly believe that public education will rise to the occasion once more. 

While school will look different this fall, we know that we continue to play a vital role in being a center of the community and a place that our students rely on for the support they need to succeed. Working together, we are coming Back Together BVSD, even if this school year will not look like any other we’ve ever experienced before.

Rob Anderson
Superintendent
Boulder Valley School District