Letter regarding Continuous Learning Plan

Though we knew this was a possibility, Governor Whitmer’s announcement to close schools for the remainder of the year is still heartbreaking. Students belong in school and we miss them terribly. That said, safety is our number one priority and we support the difficult decision made by Governor Whitmer. While at the moment this year may feel “unfinished,” I can assure you we have worked tirelessly to create our new Continuous Learning Plan, set to begin when we return after Spring Break. Teachers and staff have assembled robust learning experiences for students to use while school is moved to an online format. This is a unique opportunity for our entire community of learners to be innovative. Instead of trying to “think outside the box” we need to operate as if there is no box and connect in new and exciting ways around teaching and learning. Our Continuous Learning Plan will afford both structure and flexibility, adapting to each family’s needs each week.  “Innovation is taking two things that exist and putting them together in a new way."         - Tom Freston Collaboration & Benchmarking We have appreciated the nation-wide collaboration as schools across the country migrate teaching and learning to online environments. Through this opportunity to innovate and collaborate, we benchmarked our new Continuous Learning Plan with plans shared from districts across seventeen different states. We have pulled together as an educational community, learning from one another and adapting designs and tools to best meet the needs of our community of learners as we move forward in the curriculum. The new Continuous Learning Plan will look different from what students have been asked to engage with these past few weeks. It will offer suggested schedules, lesson lengths, and learning activities designed to support your child in continued learning while home. Our goal in this new program is to engage students in developmentally appropriate activities with appropriate amounts of academic time on task. Students will be given questions to pursue, not just answers to accept. We will give them things to create - not just work to complete. A New Frontier This new way of teaching and learning will challenge our thinking around what “school” is. Curiosity will drive inquiry and students will be free to innovate, create, and be pioneers in their learning. Furthermore, students will be encouraged to take academic risks while receiving feedback from teachers with the opportunity to try again. Whatever your child’s response to this “new normal”, please know that we will be there to support them along the way. You can expect teachers to communicate with families and students on a daily basis.  Continuous Learning Plans The Continuous Learning Plans will offer suggested guidelines for the maximum amount of time activities should take, which will hopefully help avoid frustration. We will also encourage student engagement in other important elements of a “normal” school day such as brain break/movement time, social engagement (through a variety of digital tools students can use to connect), flexible/creative play and discovery, and specials. We will continue to support students during this period of uncertainty. Students need to know they are cared about and cared for by the trusted adults they have come to know and rely upon during school. Access to learning and structure are proven to lower stress and anxiety, which is even more important during this challenging time.  The following are some tips for supporting your child especially during the first week after break. In the weeks to follow, we will provide additional tips and resources: Choice - seek your child’s input in the order in which they might prefer to engage in learning activities. This may look different by day - for example, you may not always start with math, but may rotate subjects each day. This allows your child to have some control over their day and the ability to self-direct often leads to happier, more engaged learners.  Chunking - if an activity is designated as 40 minutes, you might check in with your child at the 20-minute mark to see how they are doing and if they have any questions, new thinking, or connections to the learning. Each of us has a unique attention span, knowing your child and the chunks of time that match their learning style is an important consideration. Breaks - learners typically experience “brain breaks” throughout their school day. These include passing time at the secondary level, a quick stretch or dance-off in an elementary classroom, or a quick drink of water or snack. Translating these in-school experiences to home learning, you might try: 

  • Taking a quick walk around the house or through the yard.

  • Stretches, jumping jacks, dancing, or movements that cross the midline of the body.

  • Turning on a favorite song to sing or build choreography around.

  • Creating a quick sketch of a new idea, learning connection, or favorite place.

  • Getting a quick snack and drink of water.

Schedules & Routines - our brains are wired to seek patterns and the ‘known’. It can be helpful to review the daily schedule with your child at the beginning of the day so that they know what to expect for the day and how they will be successful. Children usually look for some sense of input or control here as well. Ideas might include, picking their work location, their type of brain break, their snack, etc. Working with your child to create your family schedule typically results in a greater sense of collaboration. Students with IEPs and 504s As we begin the rollout of the Continuous Learning Plan, we will provide support to students within the resources we have and through ongoing collaboration with general education teachers. We are creating alternate formats for instructions for those that may be unable to access online learning activities and will be providing further information and communication over the next week.  An accessibility menu will be available to any student who may need it as they access the Continuous Learning website. Students will have the ability to utilize Snap & Read and Co-Writer, which are online extension applications that will support students who may struggle with reading and writing and Learning Ally, with online audiobooks to support students with reading disabilities.  We will continue to schedule and hold IEPs virtually. If you are not comfortable holding your child's IEP meeting virtually, we will make arrangements to schedule the IEP once we are all back in the school setting.  Feedback: Students, Staff, Families The district will issue weekly surveys to students, staff, and families in order to gather critical feedback at the end of each week. The surveys are not intended to assess outcomes (grades, benchmarks, etc.), but rather they will inform the evolution of our Continuous Learning Plan. The survey results will help us to make decisions as we move forward and try to provide the most equitable remote learning experience possible.  What’s Next We anticipate launching our Continuous Learning Plan on or before April 12, 2020. Families will receive an automated notification (similar to those utilized on a snow day) with the website address of the Continuous Learning Plan.  Included on the Continuous Learning Plan website is an FAQ that will continue to expand as the weeks progress. Families will also find contact information for our Continuous Learning Plan Help Desk. This Help Desk will field all questions students, staff, and families have and the Help Desk Team will work to engage the appropriate district resources to support stakeholders and meet students’ needs. Over this next week, please take time to configure a comfortable spot in your home for your child to do school work. Please talk to your child about what this new version of school will look like and how your family will work together to support one another. Understanding that students thrive on routine and structure and both have been severely compromised as a result of the global health crisis, our new Continuous Learning Plan aims to provide both in a flexible and adaptable way. Wishing you and your family health and happiness over this unusual spring break. Sincerely, Pat Watson, Superintendent