distance learning stock

All district students can now pick up free breakfast and lunch

While no major changes have been made to the Cloverdale Unified School District’s (CUSD) reopening plan, at the most recent school board meeting on Sept. 9 the district superintendent and principals gave an update on how each school site is doing with distance learning. Additionally, Superintendent Betha MacLain gave an update on where the county is sitting in regard to its ability to allow districts to reopen for hybrid learning or even apply for waivers that would allow smaller, elementary schools to reopen ahead of the greater school population.

Documenting distance learning

Rather than create a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), districts are creating Learning Continuity and Attendance Plans that are used to outline district goals for distance learning, as well as account for uses of distance learning-specific funding and state-set requirements for learning.

“The Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan really and is intended to be an accountability tool and a communication tool with our stakeholders. It does not get evaluated, judged, approved by the state or by the county. It’s something that we developed to share with our community so the community has a way to understand our planning,” MacLain said.

Districts are required to provide certain types of support for students, parents and staff during distance learning. Some of what has to be provided includes access to digital resources; feedback and assessment on student progress; support for English learners, special education students and foster and homeless students; and it has to address learning loss through supplemental services. Districts also have to list out how they’re spending learning loss mitigation funds from the state and how they’re working to provide social and emotional learning for students, mental health services, as well as other areas.

“For distance learning, I think it’s important to note the difference and I think a lot of parents and certainly our staff feel the difference. That in the spring, (it was) do what you can however you can. Now it’s very different — this is what distance learning is and you have to be in compliance with all these rules and regulations,” MacLain said, adding that staff and teachers have been working diligently to make sure that distance learning this time around runs better and more smoothly than it did in the spring.

At the sites

During a report out from the Teachers Association of Cloverdale, association president Erika Sauder said that teachers have been going above and beyond to try and make instruction interesting and interactive for students. Sauder noted that one teacher gave their students live goldfish to take care of to go along with a lesson they were teaching.

“We are working beyond hard and we’re proud. We have high attendance rates, we have kids excited to be there, we have good communication with parents right now … that being said, it’s exhausting and we all knew it would be,” she said.

When giving updates about their individual school sites, CUSD principals all expressed being proud of what their teachers and staff have accomplished with distance learning.

“Based on parent feedback, teachers have been busy adjusting their daily schedules to find that balance between live Zoom meetings and independent work,” Jefferson Principal Susan Yakich said, adding that teachers are putting together bags of materials that students can use for hands-on projects.

Yakich said that earlier in the day the school emailed parents to check in about how their students are doing, as well as how they can better adapt instruction for students.

Both Yakich and Washington Principal Mark Lucchetti reported better attendance than they saw in the spring, with numbers being similar to what it is when they have students attending school in person.

“I was probably the biggest opponent of distance learning there was when we started this … while it’s not as good as live instruction, it is working and the teachers are doing a phenomenal job. I can’t say enough about all they’re doing,” Lucchetti said.

He added that the amount of engagement with students and the amount of assignments being turned in have both seen an increase compared to spring as well.

“My biggest concern is that my staff gets burned out, even some of my toughest teachers are getting really maxed out,” he said.

Cloverdale High School Principal Christopher Meredith said that he’s in awe of everyone rallying together and working hard to replicate their classrooms in a virtual way.

Meredith said that his biggest concern is looking ahead at how students may be falling behind academically.

“Attendance has been pretty positive, it’s a little bit more of a challenge at the secondary level … I do know that many of our teachers as well as our staff are concerned about students who are starting to fall behind in their classes,” Meredith said, adding that the school is meeting to determines what steps it can take to help bridge that gap.

“It’s like we’re all first-year educators, so we’re all kind of supporting each other in that role,” Lucchetti said.

Free food

One change from the beginning of this school year is that the district is now offering free breakfast and lunch for CUSD students. When school began, some students had to pay for district-provided food. That was a change from how it was handled during the spring, when anyone under the age of 18 could come and pick up food.

Looking forward

The district is still scheduled to reassess whether or not it can reopen for hybrid learning during a meeting on or before Sept. 24 (the next board meeting is a special meeting on Sept. 23). Until then, MacLain said that the district’s reopening committee is still planning for both options, both in-person hybrid instruction and extended distance learning.

“If we do move into a hybrid format, we want to make sure that families have the option of distance learning,” she said.

Right now, districts in Sonoma County are still not able to reopen for hybrid learning, and smaller, elementary schools are unable to request waivers that would allow them to open. To reopen for a hybrid learning model, individual counties need to be classified in the “red” of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s newly released COVID-19 monitoring system for counties. Sonoma County is sitting comfortable in the “purple” tier, and would need to decrease both its cases per 100,000 per day count, as well as its percentage of positive cases per day (for more information on how the system impacts schools, click here).

Districts can also open for in-person learning for small groups of special education or English learner students in stable cohorts.

“At the current moment in the county, nobody is doing this except single-school school districts and I think all of us are hoping to learn from one another. Everybody is a little bit anxious about how to do this safely right now, and I would say that none of our adjacent school districts have done this,” MacLain said.

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