Superintendent's Newsletter

April 17, 2020

Dear MUSD Community,

I am writing to provide you with updates on our distance learning, grading, graduations, and a number of other topics relevant to our COVID - 19 response efforts in MUSD. Please take the time to review this message in detail. As a quick shout-out to our current MUSD Seniors, I’ve changed my picture on the newsletter to my Senior picture. We are thinking of you Seniors!


Over the past month, I’ve been so impressed by our staff, our parent community, and our students. Our teachers, support staff, classified staff, and food service staff are all working harder than can be imagined to support our students. Our parents and guardians are juggling the challenging demands of personal and professional obligations while also supporting the learning of their children. All of these changes, happening in such rapid sequence, have presented many challenges and I am so grateful to see our collective response across MUSD.


While the title of our interim school model is “Distance Learning”, I think it is important to remind everyone that our current situation is more accurately described as “Teaching and Learning Through a Pandemic”. Never before have we seen such a rapid shift in the delivery of instruction and services. Each family has their own personal circumstances relevant to overcoming the challenges of the Shelter in Place order and these uncertain economic conditions. As I am sure we can all understand, the recent events related to COVID-19 do not affect all people equally. I offer this reminder to allow for each person (staff, student, and parent) to remember that this is all new, it is not perfect, and it is temporary.


As we move through the next six weeks of our school year, there will likely be many new developments and I will continue to communicate with our staff and community as quickly as possible. Please be sure to review the remainder of this message in detail. Below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions (and answers) intended to help provide our parents and community with helpful information.

Sincerely,


CJ Cammack, Superintendent

Martinez Unified School District

FAQ's - MUSD Distance Learning and COVID-19 Response

What can I expect during Distance Learning?

As we move into this second phase of Distance Learning, students will be receiving instruction from their teacher(s) for the next six weeks of our traditional school year. The intent of the instruction is to focus on key state standards that teachers believe will be important for students in preparation for their next school year. It is important to note that not all students will have the same exact delivery of instruction and/or program. Depending on the subject matter, grade level, and content, the learning experiences for children may range from online lessons, video conferences, webinars, use of online resources and third party programs, as well as traditional paper and hardcopy work. Our incredible Special Education teachers and support staff will also be providing specialized instruction for their students, to the extent feasible, during distance learning. We have great faith and trust in our teachers and support staff in designing successful learning experiences for students over the next six weeks.


What can I do to help my child structure their day?

It is important to remember that even though students are normally at school for roughly 7 hours a day, creating a matching time model for distance learning is not recommended. While we can’t replicate the entire structure of the school day including, recess breaks, lunch break, passing from one class to the next for secondary students, physical education, etc. It is helpful to try and create some daily structure for your child, to the extent feasible.


As a parent of two school-aged children, and as a former classroom teacher, I suggest trying to create structured learning times at home, to the extent possible. Set a schedule for waking your child up each day and completing morning routines (even the teenagers). If feasible, structure time in the day for your students to have academic activities. For example, your child may or may not have an online/video class each day at a specific time, but you can set blocks of time for them to work on ELA, another time for Math, time for physical activity (even if it is indoors). For secondary students, to the extent feasible, structure a schedule where they are working on subject matter for each class at specific times of the day.


I understand that structures are often dependent on parents working remotely and their availability to supervise and/or help. Please know that it is with great humility and imperfect practice that I offer these suggestions. I can tell you that our family schedule, sleep patterns, and academic work schedules have all changed since March 16th, which is why I say to the “extent feasible”. Again, we can only commit to doing our best through these challenging times, and our best may vary from one day to the next. Together, we can work through these challenges.


Are there any support structures available?

Yes. Please feel free to contact your school administration and/or counselors and teachers. We understand these times can be stressful for many reasons and MUSD wants to be here to help. Please be mindful, that email communication may take a bit longer than normal for a reply, as virtually all communication is coming through email at this time.


In addition to the support our great counselors can provide, please also remember that if you or someone you love needs more immediate help, you can contact the Contra Costa Crisis Center by calling 211 or 800-833-2900 or text ‘HOPE’ to 20121. Our district also has the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System in operation if you see something that needs to be reported. https://www.saysomething.net/


Will my student advance to the next grade level?

Yes, as we embark on the 2020-2021 school year, in most cases, all students will progress as we would in a normal year to year sequence. As we start the next school year all MUSD schools will have to make some adjustments in the sequence of how we generally plan and design the content of our instruction for the beginning of the year in order to meet the needs of students.


What will the start of school look like for the 2020-2021 school year?

This week, the Governor shared some of his initial thoughts about what the start of school may look like at the start of next year (August 2020). I know this generated a lot of discussion for staff members and I am certain it was a point of conversation for families too. While the Governor’s remarks indicate that plans are being considered, please know that only references discussions at the state level. We have not been contacted at the local level regarding any plans for next year.


As you would expect, MUSD is already thinking about these possible scenarios and will engage our staff members from all employee groups and begin planning for how school operations may need to be adjusted in the near future. While I know there is a desire to have the information shared as quickly as possible, it is important we take time over the coming month to gather as much information as possible, gain insight from our County Health Officials, state officials, and consider how we can find the best methods of protecting the health and safety of our students and staff while doing our best to open up schools for classroom-based instruction.


What about Summer School?

Unfortunately, the state and the federal government do not provide us additional funding to provide a general, large scale summer school program. MUSD has traditionally offered a credit recovery program for high school students only, and an additional Extended School Year Program for some of our Special Education Students with more intensive needs. It is increasingly more likely that our summer programs, as described above, will need to be done through a Distance Learning format. I don’t anticipate we’ll be able to re-open for classroom-based instruction this summer. More information will be provided in the coming week(s) on the topic of summer school for the programs described above.


How will student learning be graded and assessed during the Distance Learning Plan?

On April 1, 2020, Tony Thurmond, State Superintendent of Schools, issued updated guidelines regarding the issuing of grades during a period of school closure and distance learning (Letter). According to the CDE, while delivering distance learning, grades are to be used to inform instruction and may not be punitive. The CDE further delineated grading requirements in their updated FAQ page on Grading and Graduation. Colleges and universities have also provided clarifying information stating they will accept credit/no credit grades in lieu of letter grades for all courses, including A–G courses, completed in winter/ spring/ summer 2020 for all students. Grades of credit/no credit will not affect the UC or CSU calculations of GPA. Considering the dramatic changes in our education circumstances and our shift to distance learning, MUSD will implement the following guidelines with respect to 4th Quarter/Second Semester grades.


Elementary (Grades TK-5)

Grading for the semester two report card will reflect NA (Not Assessed). Teachers will provide individual feedback on overall progress in the comment section.


Middle and High School (6-12)

MUSD middle and high school students will shift to a Pass/No Mark grade reporting system for the 4th quarter and second-semester grades. We have been carefully studying guidance from universities regarding high school grading, and it is clear that students will not be penalized for missing traditional standardized tests or for receiving Pass/No Mark grades for Spring Semester 2020. Some of the clearest explanations of these assurances have come from the University of California and California State University systems, as well as from Stanford University.


Vicente/Briones

Vicente Martinez High School will align with the AHS grading policy and Briones Independent Study will align with the corresponding grade policies above.


MUSD's decisions related to grading for students in grades 6-12, were made with guidance from the California Department of Education, input from teachers, principals, and District administrative staff. MUSD is aligned with other school districts throughout our county and many across the state. The Pass/No Mark reporting will benefit our middle and high school students without unintended negative consequences for students with collegiate aspirations because the Pass and No Mark scores do not affect students’ grade point averages (GPAs).

A Pass or No Mark grade will not impact a student’s GPA. Thus, the student’s GPA will be the same as it was after the first semester of the 2019-2020 school year.


If my child receives a No Mark will they receive credits for the course?

No. A ‘No Mark’ means that a student does not receive the credits for the class. A student will need to remediate the course.


What about Graduation/Promotion Ceremonies?

We want to honor and celebrate the work of our Seniors in MUSD! We also want to celebrate the work of our 8th graders and offer them the proper welcome to high school. While it remains uncertain as to when we may be able to hold a gathering like graduation, we want to do everything we can to prepare for a celebration. Therefore, we are asking all our Seniors and their parents to reserve the following dates for possible graduation dates. We will approach each one with the hope of having the graduation that evening if permitted. If it is not permitted, we’ll move to the next day we’ve reserved, and so on. If we are unable to hold the actual graduation ceremony by the last date reserved, then we will use that date for any sort of alternative/virtual graduation ceremony. We’ve received some great ideas already from parents, community members, staff, and students, for possible alternative activities, if needed.


Here are the dates we would like you to reserve:


Save the Date: 1st Attempt

Thursday, June 25th, Vicente/Briones Graduation 6 PM

Friday, June 26th, AHS Graduation 6 PM

Friday, June 26th, MJHS Promotion 9 AM


Save the Date: 2nd Attempt

Thursday, July 23rd, Vicente/Briones Graduation 6 PM

Friday, July 24th, AHS Graduation 6 PM

Friday, July 24th, MJHS Promotion 9 AM


Save the Date: Final Attempt (Or Date for Virtual/Alternate Ceremony)

Thursday, August 6th, Vicente/Briones Graduation 6 PM

Friday, August 7th, AHS Graduation 6 PM

Friday, August 7th, MJHS Promotion 9 AM

Virtual Ceremonies - If we are not able to hold graduation/promotion events on any of the three dates specified above, we would use the reserved data in August as the date for a virtual or alternative graduation event, etc.


Will CAASPP and ELPAC still happen?

No, K-12 CAASPP (California Assessment of Student Progress and Performance) and ELPAC summative (English Language Proficiency Assessments for California) have been suspended.


What is the current status of Advanced Placement Testing (AP Testing)?

Traditional AP exams will not take place. Instead, students will take a 45-minute online free-response exam at home. AP Exam Overview. Be sure to check for the time of your exam.