Distance Learning will be much different than last Spring

--- Published on July 28th 2020 ---
Teen working on computer

Natomas Families and Colleagues,

Last evening, Natomas Unified and the Natomas Teachers Association leaders came to an agreement on how Distance Learning will look for 2020-2021.  This is an agreement for all students that also recognizes the challenges Distance Learning creates for all teachers/certificated staff.  We know at minimum, Distance Learning will be needed in August and September.  Based on the virus’ continued trend, we hope to be able to smartly transition back to traditional classroom learning this year.  If we cannot, this Distance Learning agreement and other actions we will announce later will be much stronger than last spring.

Natomas Unified Students and Families would get:

  • School starts August 27th and ends June 10th – regardless of the learning format.
  • Distance Learning will take place 5 days a week (except for holidays or vacation schedules), until we are allowed to transition back.
  • Teachers are responsible for planning appropriate standards-based instruction, responding to parents and students in a timely manner, supporting diverse learners (eg. IEPs/504s, English Learners, Gifted and Talented Education “GATE”, etc.), building rapport and connections with students, regularly monitoring student work completion and participation, providing students feedback, and reporting non-participation to the site administrator for additional outreach and follow up.
  • Attendance will be taken by teachers and grades assigned based on the traditional student academic progress and effort.
  • All academic programs continue such as International Baccalaureate, AVID, Advanced Placement, and Career Technical Education.
  • Elementary: Virtual instruction every day that includes “live” interactive (synchronous) instruction of 3 hours, which includes a daily morning meeting, and an additional 30 minutes of independent work with teacher support on top of the three hours (asynchronous).
    • Daily time for English Language Development (English learners), intervention, and enrichment (what NUSD has called WIN time) will be a part of the synchronous instruction each day.
    • Social-Emotional Learning and Student Connectedness: Elementary students will receive a daily additional 30 minute period of social-emotional learning and/or connection time.  Twice a week with their teachers and 3 times a week with other site staff so students make multiple adult connections even though they are in Distance Learning.
    • Physical Education time, and where appropriate, Spanish time will continue.
  • Secondary: Virtual instruction every day that includes “live” interactive (synchronous) instruction every day that will vary a little based on each school’s schedule.  To avoid student overload, in some cases, students will delve in with their teachers deeply on about half the subjects each day while also being able to check in live with the other half of their teachers each day.
    • Social-Emotional Learning and Student Connectedness: Teachers will be available during their extra prep time for social-emotional support and to help ensure students are emotionally safe and connected.
  • NEW – Office Hours: Elementary teachers will provide 50 minutes of office hours for families and students to connect and get assistance every day, secondary teachers will provide 60 minutes each day.
  • Both elementary and secondary will follow a structured virtual “bell schedule” (if you will).
    • Look for more information on that from principals.  Each school will start at the beginning of each day at the typical set time.
  • For students with an IEP, SDC, and RSP, teachers will provide weekly synchronous instruction in a manner consistent with how their time is scheduled with traditional in-class learning and to the PRE-COVID IEP.  As a side note, Natomas Unified just purchased iPad minis for students with an IEP who struggled with Chromebooks in the spring.
  • Virtual sessions/support from counselors, psychologists, Speech and Language Pathologists, and social workers will continue.
  • At all grade levels, NUSD exceeds the new state daily instructional minutes requirement.

Highlights for our Natomas Unified Teachers/Certificated Staff:

  • Continued full pay and benefits.
  • Increased daily prep and collaboration time every day.
  • A schedule that combines live, interactive instruction plus opportunities for office hours and prep to plan and assist students and families.
  • Three (3) additional paid days of teacher-directed prep time before the school year begins (paid at their daily rate) – this year only.
  • Option to work safely from home or in their classrooms.
  • Increased support for students from classified personnel.
  • Continued teacher Apple technology utilized in NUSD for multiple years plus a small internet stipend.
  • Choice to use Zoom or Google Meet as the primary virtual platform, and the ability to use other digital tools.
  • Of course, a continued duty-free lunch each day.

Now that NUSD has a starting part, look for new targeted actions to support our Foster Youth, Homeless students, expanded connectivity for extracurricular activities, more social-emotional support staff, and more.  We are also looking into the viability of smaller, focused supports for students of essential workers, Foster Youth, homeless families, and working families.  No promises, but we can now shift time from negotiating to planning full speed ahead.

To our classified (CSEA colleagues), we have been in contact with your leadership for the past few weeks.  Now that Distance Learning is crafted, we will turn to taking a look at what all of your roles will look like.  If you were meant to start work on August 13th, your pay will start then. We will negotiate the effects of the changes later.  Please do not worry about whether your pay is coming or not.  It is!

Chris Evans