Thoughts on returning to school in Pinedale
by Jay Harnack, Superintendent, SCSD#1
July 28, 2020
If You’re Going to Tell People the Truth…
by Jay Harnack
Last night, I dreamed I was swimming in an ocean of orange soda. But it was just a Fantasea.
Billy Wilder, who won six Oscars as a director famously said, "If you're going to tell people the truth, be funny or they'll kill you."
Since my reputation as a hilarious superintendent (oxymoron?) precedes me, and hilarity achieved, I'll get right to the truth-telling.
Since my last post, I have been receiving a lot of questions about our distance learning option for this coming fall. Much of the interest in the distance learning option seems to be rooted in a concern that students will have to wear masks all day. I thought it was important to communicate to our families the reality of the plan components, and it's true that students and staff are required to wear masks when we cannot achieve social distancing.
That being said, we will be doing our best to space and organize our classrooms and other spaces in such a way that we can achieve social distancing. If we can achieve that, and I believe we can in many instances, students and staff will not be required to wear masks in those settings. Where we can't, we will require masks. There is no doubt students will be wearing masks when on campus, but I don't think that's going to mean all day.
The hardest truth about our distance learning format is that I cannot give you specifics about what that will look like just yet, and I know you are anxious for those details. The folks who need to do that work (teachers and principals) aren't under contract right now. The principals will return to work in early-mid August and the teachers return August 20th.
That's not stopping the work from getting done, however. We have staff coming in despite being off contract to do this work and get the information to you ASAP. It just means that it's going to go a little slower than you would probably like.
I do think however, I can give you some generalizations. I am not typically fond of doing this. I'd rather say I don't know something than spreading a potential falsehood. If honesty is the best policy, then silence is the second-best policy. But I know many of you are already in full-on decision-making mode for the fall and every bit of information is important to you.
For those families that were a part of our district during the closure last spring, the distance learning format used at that time is undoubtedly your frame of reference for distance learning. That is not the format that will be used for our Tier I or Tier II distance learning format. If our schools are ever closed (Tier III) by a local or statewide health order, we may need to return to something similar to that, but our Tier I and Tier II distance learning format will be different in the following ways.
Distance learning and face-to-face students will have the same curriculum and pace. Distance learning is the same class but instructed through technology outside the classroom.
It will likely be asynchronous. This simply means that while distance learning students will receive the same curriculum at the same pace, they will not be required to attend the class at the exact time the rest of the class is meeting face-to-face. They will do the same work, with the same deadlines, but they will do the work from home at their own pace. NOTE: This type of learning is highly dependant on a student's ability to work independently and their ability (or yours for younger students) to demonstrate effective time management. Please consider that when making your choice.
Students who choose distance learning will be issued a device from the school if requested.
It will not look the same in all schools and all classrooms, and nor should it. Each of our teachers possesses different skills and strengths related to distance education. They will have the autonomy to develop a plan for distance education in their classroom that matches these skills and strengths and is age-appropriate.
Hard truth: This will slow the pace of instruction for all students. It is simply not possible to do two things as fast as we once did one thing.
It will be a bumpy ride, but we will do our best. Not only will be building this airplane while we are flying it, but we will also be drawing up the blueprints at the same time.
I hope this information is helpful to you as you begin thinking about our return to school. As soon as we can provide more specifics at the school level, each of our schools will do so.
We will be releasing surveys for each school in the near future that will ask you to share with us your initial thoughts on your choice for the fall. We know you may not have all the information you would like regarding that decision, but it's important for us to get an initial impression for staffing purposes. Please take the time to complete the surveys.
And just to be on the safe side.