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Escondido elementary schools: ready for new year, geared up for distance learning


A Bernardo Elementary School parent drives up to receive materials and instructions for starting the new school year.

Escondido’s elementary schools began launch of the new school year this past week, with distribution of materials, a webinar welcome from the superintendent and ongoing preparation for distance learning.

With the August 25 first day of school, the district will be implementing total distant learning  – rather than either face-to-face instruction or some hybrid model (face-to-face/virtual) — as mandated by Governor Gavin Newsom for those counties with unacceptably high levels of viral infection. 

The Escondido Union School board said it will be evaluating its learning approach – first on September 25 and then going forward – with the hope of moving to the hybrid models that the board approved at its July 16 meeting, emphasizing that this will happen only when it can be done safely.

Via drive-through and walk-up (masks required) each school began delivering  grade-level materials to students and parents this past Monday through Thursday morning. Items delivered included textbooks, associated learning materials, a district iPad, and instructions for virtual activation. All school offices are now open (though closed to the public), with additional assistance made available by phone.

The district’s free, to-go meal distribution program has been extended through August 24 at five locations: Central, Farr Avenue, Felicita, Glen View, and Oak Hill elementary schools, 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday. Meal distribution is for students 18-years-old and younger.

In the school buildings spaces used by students and teachers will be disinfected daily (with focus on high-touch areas), and students in grades 3 through 8, and employees, must wear a “face covering,” according to the district’s website. 

Temperature and symptom checks of students and employees will be administered at entry points, and those with a temperature of 100 degrees or higher will not be allowed onto an EUSD campus. Any student exhibiting symptoms during the day will be placed in a designated area to be picked up by a parent, guardian or caregiver.

With distance learning being used by the district — either totally or as the constituent of any future hybrid approach — The Times-Advocate asked a school staff member to describe the assistance that teachers, students and parents will be provided for best implementation of the virtual technology.

Following are the questions we asked (in bold), with answers provided by the district’s Assistant Superintendent, Educational Services Dr. Laura Philyaw.

Overall, what training have teachers gotten for distance learning? And what is the help available to kids and their families to use distance learning? If a student/family is having trouble, what resources do they have?

In the spring, our teachers were given a wide range of digital professional development resources to help them quickly develop distance learning programs when schools were closed down. 

In preparation for the coming 2020-2021 school year, teachers will receive eight hours of professional development on best practices for distance learning, including the following topics:

  • Shifting to a virtual learning environment
  • Technology basics for virtual learning environments 
  • Community in a virtual learning environment
  • Designing a virtual learning environment
  • Feedback and assessment
  • Implementing project-based learning
  • More ideas for technology implementation

In addition, EUSD has a cohort of instructional coaches prepared to assist teachers in implementing each of our models of distance learning. We have structures to support students and families. Intervention teachers and paraprofessionals will be supporting teachers in distance learning instruction, as well as providing intervention for students. 

Parents will be provided video training to support them as they work with their students in a distance learning environment. Family liaisons will provide direct support to families in need of assistance. 

EUSD will be monitoring student participation and completion of work in order to identify students and families in need of assistance. All students will be provided with an iPad and, if needed, a hotspot for Internet access to fully participate in all distance learning programming.

What subject matter is being delivered to students (all of them?), and what can’t be delivered – such as music or art?

All students will receive the core subject areas via distance learning. Elementary students also will receive physical education and music. Middle school students will participate in an elective wheel that includes courses such as art, music, STEM, and technology. EUSD also plans to offer enrichment classes after scheduled distance learning classes.

Who is developing the subject matter for each course? Is someone doing that for each school and class? Or does each teacher develop his/her own? Is there any outside resource to develop the subject matter materials?

Instructional coaches have identified priority standards, adjusted pacing guides and suggested standards-based lesson topics for each core curricular area. We have instructional coaches in place to support teachers in creating robust distance learning programs. In addition, EUSD has purchased digital personalized learning programs to supplement teacher instruction. 

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