April 23, 2020
If you’ve spent any time on social media in the past few weeks, you might have seen stories of how school districts have taken on the huge task of transitioning from traditional school to emergency remote learning. While there have been many stories of challenges in this transition with serious inequities making themselves known even more than before, there are also stories of districts prioritizing the healthy, safety, and well-being of those in their care long before continuous learning is started.
I recently had the chance to talk with two district leaders that have done this very thing. First, I talked with Dan McDowell, director of learning and innovation at Grossmont Union High School District in San Diego, California. Our conversation focused on the distance learning plan the district developed. Second, I talked with Dr. Robert Dillon, director of innovative learning at The School District of University City in St. Louis, Missouri. Our conversation focused on how the district focused on meeting families where they were to humanize learning and ensure they were connected.
Please take a few minutes to give these quick conversations a listen.
#1: Grossmont Union High School District’s Plan for Distance Learning
When California schools closed on Friday, March 13, 2020, Grossmont Union High School District in San Diego’s East County decided not to rush back into teaching and learning. The district’s 16,500 students and 800 teachers needed guidance on best ways to continue learning in the throes of a pandemic. So, a team of district leaders and teachers set out to do just that. The resulting document that outlines the district’s distance learning plan, which is designed to spread workload for students and teachers evenly and consistently over a week. More than the plan itself, the district calls out the importance of approaching this work “with grace and flexibility,” extending both to students and teachers. GUHSD is openly sharing their distance learning plan in hopes that it might help others.
#2: University City’s Plan for Meeting Families Where They Are
The leadership of the School District of University City in St. Louis, MO approached their switch to remote learning in three phases to meet families where they are. Phase one focused on basic needs for all 2,800 students and their families, including communication with the district to provide information on mental health services and food pick-up locations. Phase two focused on ensuring students and teachers had access to devices and at-home connectivity (with the help of existing partnerships with Sprint and T-Mobile) while planning for new learning. The current phase is shifting to new instruction with thoughtful feedback while teachers focus on taking care of kids and humanize learning.
- University City’s website: https://www.ucityschools.org/
- UCity Twitter: https://twitter.com/ucitylearns
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