Coastside kids are beginning school from home today as both Cabrillo Unified School District and La Honda-Pescadero School District convert to remote learning until at least April 3.
At Cabrillo, the plan was originally to give teachers Monday and Tuesday to meet and plan their lessons for the three remote weeks. But midday Monday, after five local counties instituted a shelter-in-place order prohibiting nonessential travel, it became clear that Monday would be the last day in classrooms for the foreseeable future. Teachers worked late into the evening to prepare.
Cabrillo Superintendent Sean McPhetridge said he was visiting school sites when he got word of the shelter-in-place order. He said he is encouraging teachers to work from home going forward.
According to McPhetridge, a letter will go out today to parents and students updating them with more information about remote school and the resources available to them and their kids. Right now, McPhetridge said his priorities include making sure kids have access to the technology they need to complete their remote coursework and getting students necessary services like food and counseling.
“I think the digital divide is something that we always assume is happening, but it's times like these where we find out what the need is,” McPhetridge said. “I would say the same thing about food.”
McPhetridge said food service employees, considered essential, are distributing to-go meals — one lunch and a breakfast for the next day — from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at El Granada Elementary and Hatch Elementary to any student who needs food. McPhetridge said the district is also working to distribute technology to middle and high school students who need it.
Half Moon Bay High School Principal John Nazar said, after meeting with teachers and department heads this week, he feels confident that teachers and students can adapt to the new learning environment.
At the high school, each student has a take-home laptop and will be given a WiFi hotspot if they don’t have internet at home. Nazar said the expectation for high schoolers is that each class will assign around 40 minutes of work per class per day, and said the school is working with students and families that need additional accommodations. Nazar acknowledged that remote learning will not mirror classroom instruction, but said he would let his staff be creative and collaborative in finding solutions.
“We are operating as a school, but in a very different capacity,” Nazar said. “... Now, it's not going to be perfect, we’re going to learn a heck of a lot over the next few weeks on how to adjust learning.”
McPhetridge agreed. He said while guidelines and expectations like target instructional minutes are in place, he wants to let teachers use their expertise to best convert their classrooms into a remote learning environment.
For Hatch teacher Abby Foster, that means preparing hard-copy packets for young students who won’t typically be interacting with technology themselves. It also means relying on parents to supervise learning. Foster said her students should be able to do their assigned work on their own, but that she will be available remotely for questions or help. Foster teaches both Spanish immersion classes and traditional ones, and said language divides between parents and students’ coursework is an area where she can offer hands-on help.
“It’s never the same as face-to-face contact with your students,” Foster said. ”We’re missing that, but, at the same time, students are gaining time with parents and caretakers, so they’re gaining one-on-one time.”
Carrye De Mers runs the language arts and reading department at Cunha Intermediate School. She said the technological divide varies widely depending on the student, the class and even the grade level. De Mers said she wants to make sure her students are able to interact with learning materials remotely in a meaningful way — not just on their phones.
She said she’s working to keep up classroom routines and is choosing highly accessible lessons to start, but said she worries about introducing new material to students who are still working through adapting to the new platform. She also voiced concerns about students who learn best in a cooperative environment.
“I suppose with an emergency situation, we can only do what we can do,” De Mers said. “I wish it was different. … Being in uncharted waters for Cunha, and for the world around us, is definitely a challenge.”