OCTOBER 25, 2020

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A Message from the Superintendent

As anticipated, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) moved Riverside County back to the state’s purple tier (Tier 1: Widespread), effective October 20. The state’s decision to move Riverside County backwards into the most restrictive tier ended a week-long adjudication process that Riverside County health officials requested on October 13. Read the Riverside County Press Release in English here or in Spanish here. Find the current COVID-19 status indicators in the "News" section of the Round-Up below.

The change in status restricts schools in Riverside County from reopening for in-person instruction. Districts may request an elementary school waiver to reopen following the State's social distancing and other safety guidelines, but as of this date no public school districts in Riverside County have been granted a waiver (find the County's waiver list here). As reported in my message last week, we plan to reopen for in-person instruction for students and staff in the hybrid program on January 19, 2021, dependent upon Riverside County's COVID-19 status at that point in time. The second semester begins on January 4, 2021, but will begin remotely since the impact of the holiday season on the County's COVID-19 status will not be established by January 4.

Given the reality of our current conditions, our efforts remain focused on effective on-line instruction, as well as providing student and parent support. We have made a successful transition from crisis schooling, after Governor Newsom abruptly closed schools in March, 2020, to our current schooling model, structured and designed to incorporate a variety of instructional approaches, including direct instruction, peer learning, and independent work. While the challenge of teaching and learning in a virtual environment is often overwhelming, we are improving everyday as our instructional team adds tools and strategies to help students learn at deep levels. GoGuardian is among those online tools. Learn more about it later in this message.

Among the challenges our instructional teams face is building the same sense of community and mutual support that teachers and students thrive in when they all share a physical space. But it's not totally lost, it simply requires different strategies to build it. One of our primary goals for on-line learning is to foster student self-regulation and help students help themselves and each other. Many students are working together remotely outside of the classroom setting. As on-line learning continues, students are finding more ways to help themselves and each other. The inconsistencies of on-line learning have provided an unanticipated opportunity for our students to be their kindest and most generous selves as they help each other navigate these challenging times, in and out of the classroom. Collaborating, problem solving, and being resilient, adaptive, and flexible are all values that are hugely predictive of future success. Our students are developing these skills and many others.

As a parent, it's natural to feel stressed about potential learning loss, screen fatigue and other negative elements of distance learning that your child may be experiencing. But give yourself some grace. Trust that your best is good enough during the pandemic. Parents and children alike are learning many new things they’ve never faced before. But, what if your child is struggling with mental and emotional health? Or, if online learning has become so tedious or hard to keep up with that your child has become disengaged? Or, if your child is experiencing emotional breakdowns? There is no easy solution. Instead, it's ongoing communication with your child's teacher and your school's principal and mental health professionals. Office hours are the perfect time to connect and discuss strategies with your school's support team. Please ask for extra support. Our student services team can connect families to a variety of resources that can provide support in many ways, including counseling and therapy to help children of all ages strengthen their ability to self-regulate, tolerate frustration, and adapt to new environments and circumstances beyond their control.

Most importantly, do not ignore red flags that your child may need more help and support. Changes in appetite, significant changes in sleep, disinterest in activities normally enjoyable to them, pervasive irritability, or passive or active thoughts about death are all red flags. Please reach out to your school's principal or counselor, or contact our Mental Health Coordinator, Mrs. Tanya Gillick via email or phone 951-509-5139. Watch her September 2, 2020 webinar on building resiliency below in the "News" section under the Family Engagement Series of Workshops button.

This past Monday, October 19, the window opened for families to select either the hybrid or virtual program for the second semester. The window will remain open until October 30. Here are the most common questions families are asking about the second semester:

Why do students/parents have to choose again to be in either the hybrid or virtual program in the second semester?

We asked students/parents to make a one-semester commitment back in July for planning purposes. We are following the same process for the second semester so that all of our families have a choice in the event they feel differently than they did in July or if the conditions in their lives have changed. Every family must submit a form. Please contact your principal if you did not receive the email on January 19.

Why do we have to decide on virtual or hybrid by October 30 when the second semester doesn't start until January 4?

Even the smallest changes impact class schedules and teacher assignments. Principals and counselors need time to effectively reschedule in the event there is a significant amount of program change requests.

What if I change my mind in January when students in the hybrid program return to campuses for in-person instruction?

We are again asking for a semester commitment for effective planning and to ensure that when schools do reopen for in-person instruction, all of the students in the hybrid program attend. Students in the virtual program will remain in the virtual program regardless of whether or not schools reopen for in-person instruction.

Will my child have the same schedule and/or teacher(s) for the second semester?

If all students remains in the same program (hybrid or virtual) they were in during the first semester, there will few if any changes. If there is student movement from one program to the other, there will be scheduling changes, depending on the number of changes and the impact those changes have on class sizes and teacher assignments. Principals will work closely with students, families, and staff to minimize the disruption.

Will seniors in the virtual program during the second semester be able to participate in their home school's end-of-the-year events, including graduation?

Yes. Depending on the conditions in the spring and exactly how the events will be conducted, seniors in both the virtual and hybrid programs will have equal access to all events. Our high school administration teams and ASB leaders will communicate their school's plans for senior activities and other commonly held events.

Will 5th graders and 8th graders in the virtual program during the second semester be able to participate in their home school's end-of-the-year events, including promotion?

Yes. Like our high schools, our administration teams and ASB leaders will communicate their school's plans for promotional activities and other commonly held events to ensure equal access regardless of whether a student is in the virtual or hybrid program.

This past Wednesday, our Parent Engagement Office hosted a workshop on cyber-security and on-line safety (find a recording in English and Spanish below in the "News" section). Among the topics of the workshop, we introduced our distance-learning partner GoGuardian, which we use to manage on-line learning. We use it for filtering, classroom management, device management, and school mental health support. Learn more about using GoGuardian Parent here to support your children in navigating their online learning experience. For easy and direct access to your student's online activity, learn about the GoGuardian Parent App here. Watch a video for parents on how to use GoGuardian produced by our Parent Engagement Office in English or in Spanish. Also, watch a presentation on CyberSecurity in English or in Spanish.

In closing, another great resource for children and their families is our after school-hours Expanded Learning On-line Program (ELP) for all Kindergarten through 8th grade students. Our dedicated, positive, and supportive ELP team offers homework assistance, self-paced activities, and live on-line classes. Yes, it's more screen time, but it's a fun way to safely engage in creative activities. Find the daily schedule of activities here. Below in the "News" section under Expanded Learning, please check out the award-winning art that our ELP students produced for the annual Lights On After School celebration.

On behalf of the Board of Education, please reach out to our school and district leaders, our teachers and instructional support teams, and our student service resource professionals to access extra support. We can provide the support either directly or by connecting our families to other agencies that specialize in specific services. As the reality of the pandemic continues to negatively impact children and their families, it's never been more important to reach out.

Everyone of us can use a helping hand these days. As we are learning from our students, this crisis has become an opportunity for people everywhere to deepen their sense of care, to spread goodwill and strengthen social bonds, and grow resilient together. Our students have always been our best teachers. We learn so much from them.

Stay healthy. Stay positive. Be well.

In partnership,

Allan Mucerino

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Covid-19 testing is now available at multiple locations throughout Riverside County. Click on the button above to find a testing facility near you closest and schedule your test.

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See the award-winning art work celebrating Lights On After School below

The Riverside County Department of Education (RCOE) also provides many services for school-age children and their families. Click on the image below or here to visit the RCOE Parent Portal. To browse by topic, click on the links below for detailed information.

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