Dear Benicia Unified Families,
We hope this communication finds you well and enjoying the last few weeks of summer vacation. Just a reminder that school begins on August 17, 2020, this year.
We wanted to take this opportunity to recap the July 23, 2020 Board meeting presentation where we outlined key points regarding the start of school this year. Governor Newsom outlined several points in his guide and mandate on July 17, 2020, for the safe reopening of schools. Two of these points are relevant to BUSD in opening virtually this fall. These were:
Safe in-person school based on local health data
- Schools located in counties that are on the Monitoring List must not physically open for in-person instruction until their county has come off the Monitoring List for 14 consecutive days.
- Solano is on the monitoring list.
Rigorous distance learning
- Devices and connectivity will be provided as needed so that every child can participate in distance learning
- Daily live interaction will occur for every child with teachers and other students
- Class assignments that are challenging and equivalent to in-person instruction
- Targeted supports and interventions for English learners and special education students
- In BUSD we will offer targeted supports for students who are struggling and meet identified criteria
Bulleted below are just some of the differences families can expect to see when school resumes virtually this fall.
BUSD is committed to supporting all students experiencing success during their Virtual Schooling. This commitment includes:
- Robust virtual learning through rigorous and expanded curricula and essential standards including student mental health and connectedness. Every effort has been made to ensure that high-quality core and supplementary materials are available for teachers to use both in the classroom and virtually. All of the BUSD adopted materials will be utilized; however, several additional instructional materials were added to ensure that students could access the tools and resources they needed from home.
- Synchronous and asynchronous live interaction and learning daily, including attendance and accountability. Students will have live interactions with their teachers and peers daily. This means there will be assigned times at the elementary and class periods at the middle and high schools where students must attend synchronous learning activities with their teachers and peers Monday-Thursday. Fridays will be asynchronous learning days for students; however, teachers will schedule check-in and support times for students. Synchronous instruction means that Learning happens live with the teacher through video or audio instruction. In addition to the synchronous interactions, students will have work to complete during asynchronous times. Families will need to expect that students will be virtually attending school and working on work between the traditional school hours each day. Students are expected to attend all mandatory classes and check-ins as required by their teachers and in alignment with Senate Bill 98. Attendance is required and will be documented daily. If a student does not participate in full virtual learning, they will be marked absent.
- Ensuring all students have devices, internet access, and a common virtual platform. BUSD has ordered Chromebooks (like all Districts we are hopeful they arrive in time), and will be providing all students with devices and supporting families to ensure they have access so they are fully able to engage in their learning opportunities. For grades TK-8, please click on the following link if you need to request a Chromebook. We will send further details regarding the distribution process in a separate communication. All students and teachers will use Google Classroom as the platform for their learning and instruction. The Instructional Technology Department has set up a live chat to support families in real-time to solve technology issues. This live chat will be available Monday – Friday 7:30am – 4:00pm, starting the first day of school, and can be found on the technology page in the bottom right hand corner.
- Ongoing assessments and progress monitoring to support learning. BUSD will be using an assessment system called NWEA MAP for all students in grades K-12 in English and Math. This assessment platform allows for ongoing benchmark and monitoring of student progress in identified skill areas as well as the broad content areas. Data from this assessment will be used to identify the direction for instructional practices for the classroom as well as students in need of additional intervention support. NWEA Map is a high-quality tool that is aligned with the statewide assessments and has been proven to be predictive of how students will fare on those assessments. This is important because teachers will be able to identify areas of concern and address those areas specifically early on.
- Intervention and supports: BUSD will be providing support intervention services and Special Education services in a myriad of ways to students. Students who require these support to be successful and continue to grow on their learning journey will receive extra support virtually in small groups more frequently than their regularly scheduled synchronous learning times. BUSD staff will work with families to create a consistent schedule for these support sessions. Students who receive extra intervention support will be assessed using a progress monitoring protocol to ensure that they continue to grow as learners and strengthen their skills in the identified areas.
- Expanded communication with families. All parents can request to be added to their child’s Google Classroom as a “guardian.” This means that parents will receive notification regarding assignments for their child’s class. In addition, school sites and the District Office will communicate via newsletter and updates as much as practicable. The District will host opportunities for families to provide input and feedback on a variety of topics throughout this year.
- Professional Learning focused on creating virtual learning environments. All staff have access to high-quality professional learning in areas of focus throughout the summer and the school year. In coordination and cooperation with the Benicia Teachers Association, BUSD created a Virtual Learning Platform with a variety of topics including creating robust online learning classrooms, equity and culturally responsive practices, curriculum and instruction, data and technology, special education, and social-emotional learning. In addition, the Virtual Learning Platform includes all mandatory yearly training for staff.
What to expect on August 17, 2020
- Students will be enrolled at their normal school and assigned to the school’s typical bell schedule
- Daily instruction will be both synchronous and asynchronous
- Supports for students, including student well-being, will be available in addition to instructional time
- Students will have an individual learning device (the devices are currently on order), and necessary curriculum to fully participate in their classes
- Households that need connectivity will receive support
- Attendance will be taken each day and for each class
- Standards-Based Report cards at the elementary level and grades at the secondary level for all students
Several SAMPLE schedules were presented (see slides 30-31) at the board meeting. These SAMPLE schedules are to give families an idea of what a typical day will look like during Virtual Learning. At all levels and in all classrooms, teachers along with their site administrators will set a consistent daily schedule. At the elementary level, students may be assigned a “cohort” group and have several times to attend synchronous learning throughout the day. Some classes and subjects or lessons may be more effective taught in a small group setting. Each family will receive communication about their child’s schedule soon.
Registration opened on Monday, August 3, 2020, please check your email for registration information and click on this link for assistance. Registration will close on August 16th, please be sure to complete it as soon as possible. More communication will be forthcoming from your sites with specifics about what to expect for the beginning of the school year.
As always, we thank you for your support and flexibility as we adapt to the frequently changing requirements and landscape of education in the era of COVID-19.
Leslie Beatson, Ed.D.
Assistant Superintendent, Education Services