Blended Learning

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Dear EVCS Families,

After what truly feels like the longest spring in history, we are finally at the finish line. Hobbled and totally exhausted, but we made it. We generally like to end every school year with all of the loose ends tied up, and with a sense of closure and excitement for what comes next. This year that last-week-of-June-feeling is more complicated, as we are heading into our summer break with a lot of uncertainty about what September will bring.

Last week at our PA meeting I shared the (limited) information that I had about the Chancellor’s suggestion that we would be moving towards a “blended learning” model in the fall. Of course, every piece of information that we have leads to many questions for which there are not currently answers, and no new information has been provided by the DOE since last week. Not knowing what to expect can feel frustrating and anxiety producing for all of us – and I want you to know that I am committed to full transparency and passing along any information I have to all of our families and staff, as soon as I have access to it. One thing is becoming clear – figuring out exactly how our school will roll out blended learning must be a collaborative effort, including all stakeholders at our school. In that spirit, below are some bullets summarizing the main points of what we discussed last week and there will be another PA meeting tomorrow evening at 5:30 to continue the discussion. Unfortunately there isn’t much in the way of new information to share tomorrow, but I’m sure there is still a lot of processing to do of the information we have.

Here’s what we know and are thinking about:

The Chancellor is suggesting that NYC public schools will likely shift to a blended learning model next fall, that will provide each student opportunities to learn at home through remote learning as well as in school with teachers.
Schools will be expected to schedule students and teachers on staggered schedules to allow for social distancing, according to CDC guidelines that require each individual to have 65 Sq ft. of space within the classroom. Based on the average NYC classroom size, this would allow for 9 students with 1 adult in each classroom at any time. System wide, New York City has the ability to work with 49% of our 1.1 million students in-person at any given time.
Every principal was provided with data specific to our schools that show building utilization and capacity numbers, given our projected enrollment next year. Our school’s capacity to work with students in our current space in our building is roughly 33% – well below the City and District average. In other words, many schools may be able to come up with an alternating schedule that would allow their students to learn in school with a teacher in a classroom half of the days, or even more frequently, but our students would most likely be able to come into school at most 1/3 of the days. It is well known by the District, CEC, and Central DOE that our building is overcrowded. Alleviating this overcrowding for our students has been a priority of the DOE for years, and has now taken on a new urgency. From what I understand, the DOE is considering a range of options to address this situation, even for just the short term, so that our students can have equitable access to live, in-person teaching and learning.
Exactly what sort of alternating schedule schools may adopt will likely vary, and could be alternating days, alternating weeks, or am/pm shifts. From what I understand now, schools will have the flexibility to put in place the model that is the most convenient (or, perhaps least inconvenient, if we’re being accurate) for our families and staff. We will be surveying families soon to better understand your needs and preferences.

So many questions abound. For example, how will we service our students with IEPs, who require an ICT setting? What about students who rely on paraprofessionals? What about lunch, recess, specials like art, music and PE? How will our teachers balance and manage both remote and in-person learning for all of their students? How do we maintain social distancing with our youngest students, for whom it is just very unnatural and difficult? Will there be school busses? Can we arrange for siblings to have similar schedules? What if they go to different schools? Bathrooms? Masks? The list goes on and on. It’s frustrating to not have answers at our fingertips to our many questions, but let’s ask the questions anyway.

I hope to see you tomorrow to continue the conversation, to commiserate, to hopefully begin to envision together how we might make lemonade out of these lemons, and of course to wish each other well as we start the summer. Looking forward to it. And if you can’t make it tomorrow, I’ll be in touch throughout the summer as new information comes out and as opportunities to engage in a process around this emerge.

As ever,

Bradley