Road to Reopening Schools: Reopening School Update (Friday July 17, 2020)

Dear AUSD Community:

I hope this email finds you well and discovering moments of joy amid these trying times. 


I want to begin by expressing my appreciation for each and every member of our community who provided valuable and thoughtful input regarding the reopening of school via our surveys, in-person meetings (Board meetings and forums), and the many emails sent to me and the Governing Board.  It is clear to me that we all care deeply about our children-their physical health and safety, their emotional well-being, and their academic progress. 

At the July 14, 2020, Board of Education Meeting, I recommended, and the Governing Board approved, my Road to Reopening Schools: Reopening School Plan. My recommendation was to adopt a hybrid approach for reopening schools (when it is safe to do so) and, in the meantime, to begin the school year with remote learning for students in all grade levels (preschool-12th grade).  As I stated at the Board meeting, my recommendation was not made lightly but based on the recent surge of COVID-19 cases statewide and the need to prioritize the health and safety of all members of our learning community (students, staff, and families). 

Like many of you, we are disappointed that we are unable to reopen school for in-person instruction.  There is nothing any of us wants more than to welcome all of our students back to campus. We recognize the academic and social emotional impacts of students remaining at home for their learning, and we are acutely aware of the impacts for our youngest learners and students receiving special education services.  To that end, we are planning a robust remote learning program for the fall, and we are also exploring opportunities to have students on campus in appropriately-managed, low-risk, small groups for academic instruction and social emotional activities.  We will prioritize our youngest learners, students receiving intervention and English language development, and those in need of mental health services for in-person activities as allowed by Governor Newsom’s recently released school reopening plans. 

We embarked on remote learning in the spring with no notice and little training and preparation time for our teachers.  As such, we acknowledge the expectations, instruction, and workload were not consistent across classrooms and grade levels.  When we resume school in the fall, we plan to have all students receive a minimum number of daily instructional minutes, daily live instruction, assignments that are collected and assessed by the teacher, and end-of-term grades/report cards.  In order to ensure a more successful remote learning experience, we will streamline platforms and applications through which students receive their instruction, monitor daily attendance and engagement, ensure all students have consistent access to a chromebook and internet, and provide training and support for families to assist their students with remote learning at home.

In addition to offering a robust remote learning experience, we are also planning to phase in our hybrid learning model when it is safe to do so.  This model will involve students attending in-person instruction in cohorts of 10-12 students on either Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday.  Students will participate in remote instruction and receive remote support when not attending classes; all students will participate in remote instruction on Wednesdays to allow for the cleaning and sanitization of campuses between student groups.  We are procuring personal protective equipment as well as other needed supplies to maintain safe school environments.

There are approximately five weeks remaining until we return to school for the 2020-2021 school year, and we have much work to do.  We will continue to provide timely updates to the community regarding our plans as they are fleshed out in collaboration with our site principals and certificated and classified staff. You will also hear more details about our planning process at the next Governing Board meeting scheduled for August 11, 2020. 

I want to close as I began, by expressing my heartfelt gratitude for each of you, your passion and compassion, your commitment to our students, and your dedication to our great Albany community. 

Stay Safe, Healthy, Hopeful and Encouraged,

Frank Wells, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools - AUSD

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