Updates: Blended and Remote Learning

Dear EVCS Families,

Next week families will be given the opportunity to switch their children’s learning preference from fully remote to blended learning. As per the Chancellor’s announcement the other day, this will be the only opportunity this school year to opt in to blended learning. This shift in policy was not well received by parents and schools alike, and it is my sense that this could change (again), but for the time being this is the situation. I know that this is a major decision – and a stressful one – to make at this point in the school year, especially given how uncertain things are, so I want to make sure that families have all the information currently available in order to make as informed a decision as possible.

Our Instructional Model – Remote/Blended Learning

Currently 39% of our students have opted in to fully remote learning. Students who are learning in the fully remote model work primarily with the teachers who are working remotely. Each grade level currently has one teacher assigned to the fully remote cohort. Fully remote students have synchronous and asynchronous instruction daily, including targeted small group work and whole class interactions that support academic as well as social-emotional learning and community building.

The remaining 61% of our students have opted in to blended learning. Students enrolled in the blended learning model come in to the building on half of the school days and learn from home remotely on the other half of the school days. When they are learning on-site it is in small groups of around 9 students. When they are learning remotely they have limited, but regular synchronous interaction with the grade-level remote teacher, and they have access to pre-recorded, asynchronous instruction and tasks that can be completed with relative independence. Blended learning students generally do not have small group instruction on blended remote days. Inherent in this model is that on blended in-person days students will get an intensive small group instructional experience that is tailored and targeted to their needs and next steps, and blended remote days will include less real-time contact with a teacher.

Remote and blended learning each have their pros and cons. Remote learning students have the benefit of continuity and consistency. They always work with the same teacher and have access to synchronous instruction in academic subjects five days a week. For many families who have chosen fully remote learning, the fact that their children are not in regular, close contact with others during this pandemic is an invaluable benefit. Of course the downside to fully remote learning is that students do not get the in-person human contact of friends and teachers right now, and the majority of their learning experience involves the use of technology, which can be problematic and a challenging way to learn for some students. Blended learning students have the benefit of coming in to school to learn in-person with friends and teachers. On the days when they are in the building they will always be in a small group and get targeted, individualized attention. The downside is that on the days when they are learning at home they will have limited synchronous instruction and contact with a real-time teacher and will therefore need to be more independent. We are doing everything we can, given the truly challenging circumstances, to provide our students with the level of instruction, support and attention they need and deserve, while also recognizing that neither instructional model comes close to the kind of experience that we would wish for our students in ordinary times. We understand and respect that each family is going to choose the pathway this year that is the right one for their unique situation, and we will do our best to make sure that all of our students, regardless of the mode they are learning in, are engaged, making progress and having fun. I will be hosting a town hall meeting on Monday November 2 at 5:00 to answer any questions that you may have about our instructional models this year. You can access the meeting at this link.

The one common factor in all of the experiences that our students will have this year, is that everyone will spend at least part of their time learning remotely. While older students can be more self directed, we know that the majority of our students need help and support from an adult at home, and we know that this is, in most cases, you! We consider parents to be our partners in our student’s education always – but far more so this year than ever before. As such, we want to make sure that you have a sense of the trajectory of skills, understandings and expected academic outcomes on each grade level. Here is a folder with the key priority standards for reading, writing and math for K-5that may be helpful to you, as you support your child’s learning at home. Please also note that each teacher will host a curriculum share for parents in their cohorts on November 24 to discuss these priority standards and answer any questions you may have about our approach.

Thanks for making it all the way to the bottom of this very long email. I appreciate you! Looking forward to seeing you soon.