Empty Desks - Now until April 30
It's not hard to pick a theme for my background this month. Empty Desks, Quiet Hallways, Barren gyms and ball fields. We are in week three of our shut down, since March 15, and now we have been extended to the COVID-19 shutdown until April 30.
These are extraordinary times. We have been asked to sacrifice our freedoms, restrict our travels and stop educating those whom we serve, the students, parents and patrons of North Fayette Valley. One of the highest priorities of NFV schools is the Health and Safety of our people.
Our Social and Emotional lessons will be embedded in our onliine materials to you. But also, we have instructed teachers to be wary of our surroundings when talking to kids and parents. We want to help, not add stress, to your day, and in so doing, we recognize time is precious, especially in difficult situations.
That is why we are ramping up our in a voluntary program, where student work cannot be graded, but teachers will be providing feedback. Quality feedback is still vital to the learning process and students will be able to use feedback to keep them on track with critical standards so that they ca have a successful year in 20-21.
Any commitments we ask of you should not be time intensive for students or parents. Our guidelines call for minutes, not hours for younger children to be online for school. As the children go through higher grades, the more we may ask of them, but never do we want to interfere with the daily needs of family members.
On Sunday night March 15, Keystone AEA Chief Administrator, Pat Heiderscheit had called a meeting to discuss impending school closures due to Coronavirus with all superintendents of AEA1. Each of us had been starting on plans for the closure, believing we were going to make the call to close ourselves, as worries about the impact of a new, unknown viral sickness was closing in. At 8:00 pm Governor Reynolds took that decision out of our hands and recommended a 30 day closure of all schools in Iowa. Details were vague and we were directed to wait for guidance the next day.
At that time the most important details came out:
- These days/hours will be waived, they will not be made up as snow days.
- The closure is to last 4 weeks, which equates to return to school on Monday April 13.
- USDA (administrators for school hot lunch programs) have approved Summer Food Service Program meals should be made available during the shutdown.
- Districts may choose to use online education strategies, but they may NOT require student participation. Special Education services will not be provided.
- Required districtwide tests, (ISASP) was waived for one year.
- Local decisions will be made pertaining to amending graduation requirements, or determining what sufficient data would be to earn credits to graduate.
The NFV school board then held a meeting on Wednesday, March 18 to approve changing the annual calendar, setting a return date, and determining the status of hourly paid employees during the shutdown. With the Certified teaching staff on contracts that are guaranteed, a menu of activities including professional learning and preparation for delivering instruction via internet was developed. At that time, school board members approved a resolution to continue to pay hourly staff through these first four weeks of shutdown. Some will be working (Custodians, secretaries and cooks) during the shutdown, but many were left without work.
Since then, we have identified a number of individuals who are at a higher risk of being impacted by COVID-19 due to age, respiratory disease, high blood pressure, auto-immune disease, pregnancy, and past cancer/chemotherapy regimens. These employees will not be asked to work outside of their home. The district is working on finding opportunities to put healthy non-working hourly staff to work on district projects.
Continuous Learning is the introduction of new learning, of required content, which would be graded through online strategies. F.A.P.E. is Free and Appropriate Public Education, a standard all public schools in the U.S. SHALL provide for ALL students. Typically in classrooms with face to face instruction.
If we go to Continuous Learning and expect all students to participate virtually, to deliver F.A.P.E. all students must be able to participate fully with their peers. Families without internet access in the home will not be receiving F.A.P.E., unless the school district provides it. Also students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (I.D.E.A.) must be served with the same accommodations they would be eligible for as included in their IEP. This may mean Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Braille Readers, Sign Language interpreters, and para-educators, etc. would need to deliver these services.
In order for NFV to assign students content, standards to learn, during a shutdown and require completion with grades for students through on-line delivery, we would have to assure everyone F.A.P.E. Thus far we have not found a way to support F.A.P.E. for everyone. That is why we are pursuing Voluntary Enrichments and teacher feedback to support student learning. We will do our best to serve everyone, and not to penalize anyone who cannot participate in on-line learning.
As a result we are focusing on a small group of students who need to earn credit for work completed prior to March 13. Grades and standard mastery will be determined by the grade achieved in all assigned assessments due on or prior to that day.
If we become eligible to use voluntary enrichments and lessons of your students, we will jump into high gear and do the best that we can. We will NOT be trying to accomplish a complete curriculum, but rather focus on Critical Standards only. We know that the emotional well being of students and parents is very important to everyone.
The Department of Education and Keystone AEA staff have been working diligently to get us ready for Continuous Learning. Until that time, we will focus on items called Voluntary Enrichment Opportunities that have come to you and your students' emails. These are content items that your students could be working on at their own pace. Being prepared for the higher grade levels in August of 2020 is a goal your students should work towards.
Students who do not have all tasks assigned prior to March 13 completed , should be working towards completion of that work. Retakes and incomplete work assigned prior to March 13 should be completed and handed in by these students in order to assure credits going into next year. Seniors need to get grades to a proficient level for work prior to March 13 in order to earn the passing grade necessary for graduation.
All other students will continue to receive opportunities to learn through the online resources being provided by our teachers. Special Ed teachers will be working with their roster students and Specials teachers (music, PE, art, etc) will also be contributing to your learning opportunities. The following links are some of the opportunities Keystone and the DOE have offered in addition to the materials provided by NFV teachers.
NFV resources NFV Resources for Continuous Learning
Habit 7 - Sharpen the Saw
Sharpen the Saw. What does that mean? This phrase is an idiom that originally means to "work smarter, not harder". But it also translates easily into "Invest in Yourself," which is a great way of reminding oneself to take care of yourself, these days, that comes out as "Stay Safe."
Taking care of ourselves has become quite difficult in the grips of a pandemic. We feel helpless and lost, our attitude and outlook can't help but be lower than low. Whether we're working or not, we have restrictions and extra responsibilities and worry. But in reality this is even more reason to give yourself some time, and to focus on the Four Dimensions of Renewal. These dimensions; Body, Heart, Mind and Spirit need your attention as much as your family and your daily chores.
Renewel of the Body, Heart, Mind and Spirit needs your awareness of yourself. If you're fatigued, then listen to your body, take care of its needs. If your mind is always worrying, give it something else to do, divert your stress through hobbies, or dig into some new learning, being "self-isolated" could be an opportunity. If the Social/Emotional capacity of your heart just seems overwhelmed, that can impact your relationships negatively. Do a relationship check, call or video conference in to an old friend. This isolation and stress of this disease can make you doubt your spiritual life. But you are in control of that spirit, enjoy some inspirational reading, or music, or better yet, can you find a way to volunteer, what a great reward that would be.