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As the new school year nears, MVLA instructors find new ways to bring normalcy to virtual classrooms

An empty classroom during the last week of school at Los Altos High School on June 2, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

School will be different this fall for students in the Mountain View Los Altos High School District, as it will be around the country. But what district leaders are hoping doesn't change is students' ability to continue to learn and challenge themselves in a variety of subject areas.

And the new school year is coming soon: an online orientation program for incoming freshmen is scheduled from Aug. 5-7, and the new school year for all students is set to begin Aug. 12.

The district has come up with two options, Option A and Option B, that families can select as their distance learning plan for the next semester.

Students will be enrolled by default in Option A unless they fill out a form to participate in Option B. Families can access the form here. The deadline is Aug. 17.

Option A is to do distance learning through the high school and increase on-campus learning as it becomes permissible under state and local health guidelines. Students will take classes in real time with their classmates and with district teachers.

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Option B is to use an online learning program that's provided by a third party – specifically UC Scout, as well as other distance learning providers like Edgenuity. A teacher facilitator from the district will be available to work with the student if needed. Daily attendance would not be recorded and the courses would be self-paced, unlike Option A. In either case, students would be able to access extracurricular programs, clubs, a tutorial center, school counselor and mental health support. Both programs would offer letter grades and classes that comply with the University of California's A-G high school course list.

District leaders explained that Option A would be the preferred option but that Option B would provide valuable flexibility for students in special circumstances. Those circumstances might include students who have to care for siblings during school hours, who work during the day or who won't go to campus under any circumstances due to health concerns.

On Monday night, several teachers presented some of the new activities and programs they're planning to implement in Option A to make distance learning more engaging. Students who sign up for Option B won't be able to switch until the end of the semester, while those who are enrolled in A won't be able to switch to Option B except for medical reasons.

Several departments have received funding support from the MVLA Foundation for tools that will bolster the level of hands-on learning students can do at home. The district now has a set of mini-microscopes, which students will be able to take home for use in labs in biology, forensics and environmental science classes. Physics teacher Stephen Hine gave a demonstration of an interactive online video-based lab activity that allows students to take measurements and follow the scientific process.

In addition, students in Jill Denny's choir program will receive tools to enable high-quality home recordings and training in how to record their singing at home. A four-person production team will also provide assistance to help piece together virtual choir performances.

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Band instructor Ted Ferrucci explained that while the marching band and color guard competitions are on hold this season, he's working with composers to rewrite larger ensemble pieces to be performed by smaller groups. The music programs are planning pilot programs with different software that reduces the lag time over video calls.

And for P.E., students will be able to track their physical activity through an activity app, like a FitBit, according to superintendent Nellie Meyer.

When it comes to establishing new norms for the school year, explained Teri Faught, the district's distance education administrator, students will be expected to show their faces in each class, tuning in by video, dressed for the day and sitting upright.

And, when the time is right, Meyer said, the district wants to bring students back. They would come back in small cohorts and priority would go to students in special education, students learning English and those who were disengaged in the spring.

But none that is allowed right now – Santa Clara County is one of 34 counties on the state's COVID-19 watchlist and, as such, the district has been directed to open with distance learning.

There is also more guidance available now about how the district should handle COVID-19 cases, should those occur on campus when it is open, Meyer explained.

If a student or staff member has symptoms, he or she should be sent home and be tested.

If the test is positive, he or she should be quarantined for 14 days from the last exposure. The district would notify the public health department and identify contacts. Those contacts would be quarantined and testing would be encouraged.

If the test is negative, the person may return to school three days after the symptoms resolve. If the person provides permission, the school may consider sharing that the test result was negative.

A school may be closed down if there are multiple cases in multiple cohorts at a school, or when at least 5% of the total number of teachers, students or staff are cases within a 14-day period. This depends on the size and physical layout of the school. As Meyer pointed out, 5% of a local high school's population could be as many as 100 cases, so the public health department and district could intervene before then.

If one school in the district had to shut down, would the others close down too? Meyer said that decision would have to be made with the public health department.

The district plans to allow teachers and staff back on campus first, and they will be able to get testing through El Camino Hospital. It is also getting Plexiglas barriers, hand sanitizer and tools to mark 6-foot areas to encourage social distancing to prepare the campuses for whenever they can reopen, according to administrators.

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As the new school year nears, MVLA instructors find new ways to bring normalcy to virtual classrooms

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Jul 28, 2020, 1:56 pm

School will be different this fall for students in the Mountain View Los Altos High School District, as it will be around the country. But what district leaders are hoping doesn't change is students' ability to continue to learn and challenge themselves in a variety of subject areas.

And the new school year is coming soon: an online orientation program for incoming freshmen is scheduled from Aug. 5-7, and the new school year for all students is set to begin Aug. 12.

The district has come up with two options, Option A and Option B, that families can select as their distance learning plan for the next semester.

Students will be enrolled by default in Option A unless they fill out a form to participate in Option B. Families can access the form here. The deadline is Aug. 17.

Option A is to do distance learning through the high school and increase on-campus learning as it becomes permissible under state and local health guidelines. Students will take classes in real time with their classmates and with district teachers.

Option B is to use an online learning program that's provided by a third party – specifically UC Scout, as well as other distance learning providers like Edgenuity. A teacher facilitator from the district will be available to work with the student if needed. Daily attendance would not be recorded and the courses would be self-paced, unlike Option A. In either case, students would be able to access extracurricular programs, clubs, a tutorial center, school counselor and mental health support. Both programs would offer letter grades and classes that comply with the University of California's A-G high school course list.

District leaders explained that Option A would be the preferred option but that Option B would provide valuable flexibility for students in special circumstances. Those circumstances might include students who have to care for siblings during school hours, who work during the day or who won't go to campus under any circumstances due to health concerns.

On Monday night, several teachers presented some of the new activities and programs they're planning to implement in Option A to make distance learning more engaging. Students who sign up for Option B won't be able to switch until the end of the semester, while those who are enrolled in A won't be able to switch to Option B except for medical reasons.

Several departments have received funding support from the MVLA Foundation for tools that will bolster the level of hands-on learning students can do at home. The district now has a set of mini-microscopes, which students will be able to take home for use in labs in biology, forensics and environmental science classes. Physics teacher Stephen Hine gave a demonstration of an interactive online video-based lab activity that allows students to take measurements and follow the scientific process.

In addition, students in Jill Denny's choir program will receive tools to enable high-quality home recordings and training in how to record their singing at home. A four-person production team will also provide assistance to help piece together virtual choir performances.

Band instructor Ted Ferrucci explained that while the marching band and color guard competitions are on hold this season, he's working with composers to rewrite larger ensemble pieces to be performed by smaller groups. The music programs are planning pilot programs with different software that reduces the lag time over video calls.

And for P.E., students will be able to track their physical activity through an activity app, like a FitBit, according to superintendent Nellie Meyer.

When it comes to establishing new norms for the school year, explained Teri Faught, the district's distance education administrator, students will be expected to show their faces in each class, tuning in by video, dressed for the day and sitting upright.

And, when the time is right, Meyer said, the district wants to bring students back. They would come back in small cohorts and priority would go to students in special education, students learning English and those who were disengaged in the spring.

But none that is allowed right now – Santa Clara County is one of 34 counties on the state's COVID-19 watchlist and, as such, the district has been directed to open with distance learning.

There is also more guidance available now about how the district should handle COVID-19 cases, should those occur on campus when it is open, Meyer explained.

If a student or staff member has symptoms, he or she should be sent home and be tested.

If the test is positive, he or she should be quarantined for 14 days from the last exposure. The district would notify the public health department and identify contacts. Those contacts would be quarantined and testing would be encouraged.

If the test is negative, the person may return to school three days after the symptoms resolve. If the person provides permission, the school may consider sharing that the test result was negative.

A school may be closed down if there are multiple cases in multiple cohorts at a school, or when at least 5% of the total number of teachers, students or staff are cases within a 14-day period. This depends on the size and physical layout of the school. As Meyer pointed out, 5% of a local high school's population could be as many as 100 cases, so the public health department and district could intervene before then.

If one school in the district had to shut down, would the others close down too? Meyer said that decision would have to be made with the public health department.

The district plans to allow teachers and staff back on campus first, and they will be able to get testing through El Camino Hospital. It is also getting Plexiglas barriers, hand sanitizer and tools to mark 6-foot areas to encourage social distancing to prepare the campuses for whenever they can reopen, according to administrators.

Comments

carmen
Cuesta Park
on Jul 28, 2020 at 8:03 pm
carmen , Cuesta Park
on Jul 28, 2020 at 8:03 pm
1 person likes this

Why shouldn't the teachers consider Option C; going back to the classrooms and teaching the students who opt for going back to school? So sad! they are hurting the children's education and the economy. The parents need to go back to work. Are we running a political agenda here too at the expense of our children?


Christopher Chiang
North Bayshore
on Jul 28, 2020 at 9:23 pm
Christopher Chiang, North Bayshore
on Jul 28, 2020 at 9:23 pm
6 people like this

We need to take an age-based approach to reopening that relies on our best science.
The body of science suggests students over age 10 begin to have adult COVID-19 risks, especially in high school.

This is fortuitous, since high schools and many middle schoolers, can handle remote learning better, and are better at having peer social interactions online.

We need to learn from Israel's mistakes and keep high school (and most of middle school) closed, so that we can open for under age 10 sooner. Under age 10 are less a COVID-19 risk, need in-person more, other nations report have an easier time following school safety procedures, and are easier to place in non-mixing cohorts, but all that won't help if we can't get community COVID-19 numbers down.

This is why it's concerning when MVLA still speaks of reopening once the county is clear. It would be safer and more pedagogically effective for MVLA faculty and high school students to focus on being unequivocally online for at least the term, such clarity may have reduced their need to have two remote options.

Students who can't do synchronous -could have- relied on recordings of live classes, thereby keeping their existing relationships they have with MVLA's talented faculty. It's a lot to ask of a teen to be successful with non-live classes with people they have no connection to.

Video on Recent Science on Children (UCSF):
Web Link

Article on Recent Science on Children (NY Times):
Web Link

Article on Israel's School-Based Outbreaks (Haaretz):
Web Link


MVHS parent
Cuesta Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 7:28 am
MVHS parent, Cuesta Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 7:28 am
Like this comment

If you look at the website for UC Scout which is the teaching method for Option B there is limited class selection. No chemistry classes, only AP Physics, no regular physics, no honors classes, no Chinese or Japanese language classes. For any grade above Freshman the Option B is a very bad choice as it will derail a child's class plan especially if they have been taking Chinese or Japanese for 2 years already. The district will need to ensure a better class choice than what is currently listed on UC Scout. Option A is still distance learning and if we never make it back to the classroom this year then so be it. It will be better for the kids to have daily online interaction with teachers and peers than to have no human contact every day all year and just sit listening to online lectures


MVLA Teacher
Blossom Valley
on Jul 29, 2020 at 7:59 am
MVLA Teacher, Blossom Valley
on Jul 29, 2020 at 7:59 am
15 people like this

Carmen,
If an Option C existed that was safe and allowed by the state and county, then I'm sure most teachers would like that. We miss our students and the classroom. However, the current mandate from the state is that any school that is in a county on a watch list MUST begin with distance learning. I don't see anything political about the health and safety of the community.


Steven Nelson
Cuesta Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 10:02 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 10:02 am
1 person likes this

Thank you Mr. Chiang for your well informed opinion and your "scientific grade" information links. I also wish there was an Option C for those selected teachers and student/parents that wanted to try it. Particularly LCFF Target students that are already years behind on their Math and Language skills. They are 'suppose' to have 20% more money available for their extra educational program needs according to California Board of Education adopted regulations.


johnpanzer
Sylvan Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 4:03 pm
johnpanzer, Sylvan Park
on Jul 29, 2020 at 4:03 pm
8 people like this

Chris Chiang makes good points. In addition to the health risks for teens, it is impossible to put them in stable cohorts without seriously compromising the differentiated instruction that high school provides. The situation can change but it seems unlikely to change to allow full physical return before the end of the school year — meaning, at best, a hybrid model if and when conditions allow it. Which means 50% virtual, so we should work to get really good at that.

Fortunately, child care is not nearly as big an issue for high schoolers as it is for elementary age children. In fact some high schoolers are providing child care for younger elementary age siblings — which speaks to another good reason to delay high school return to after elementary school, or at least have the option to do so.

These are difficult times for everyone and I hope we can work together to find the best options for our children.


Teacher
another community
on Jul 29, 2020 at 6:37 pm
Teacher, another community
on Jul 29, 2020 at 6:37 pm
5 people like this

Is this the nail in the coffin for public schools who are falling further and further behind their private school counterparts? Even the "best" public schools are failing our kids and our community. And it is not because of the teachers but rather the closed-minded, backward-thinking administrators who are not interested in trying to make lemonade out of the lemons they have been given.


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