Over the last few weeks, the school district has put over 8,600 computers into the hands of students who need them and connected thousands of students to Wifi. (Courtesy photo)

From the school superintendent: Learning while at home

As a district we are implementing a phased-in distance learning plan and today, we begin our third phase

In my last column, the last week before we had to stop face-to-face instruction, I shared some tips for parent-teacher conferences and emphasized the importance of parents and caregivers talking with their child about their progress and schoolwork.

Now, with the closure of our school buildings through the remainder of the school year and students continuing their education from home, the importance of partnering with our families in service of learning is more apparent than ever.

Learning while home

Even though school buildings are closed, the school year continues. As a district we are implementing a phased-in distance learning plan and today, we begin our third phase. Before I get into that, let me tell you about the first two.

Right after we first closed schools in mid-March, during our first phase, we offered activities to engage students independently at home. We know the shelter in place was and continues to be an adjustment, and it’s important for parents to take the time they need to focus on both their own and their children’s health and well-being.

During phase two, we provided additional at-home options for independent learning that included a variety of subject areas and more support for our English learners, students with disabilities and other diverse populations.

Our third phase, which launches this week, is teacher-facilitated, interactive distance learning. What will this look like? Well, we’ve been working closely with educators in our district to answer this very question. Each school is developing its version of a distance learning plan and schedule while the curriculum and instruction teams at the central office have created options for teachers to use including schedules, lesson plans, learning activities, and resources, which are available to teachers and other site-based educators.

Digital distance learning: access and security

Your student’s safety and security is a top priority as we transition to learning in a more virtual environment. Our district has selected a suite of tools we recommend based on the safe and secure experience that is possible with these tools. We are providing recommendations, training, and support for teachers and staff in order to prepare them to safely facilitate digital learning experiences.

Besides giving everyone time to adjust to the shelter-in-place and evolving with new health information, we phased in distance learning to get as many 3rd through 12th grade students as possible equipped with devices for online instruction.

We’ve made tremendous strides: in just a few weeks, we’ve put over 8,600 computers into the hands of students who need them and connected thousands of students to Wifi. I am so thankful for all the staff, volunteers, community partners, and donors who stepped up in service of our students to make this happen.

With all these big changes in a short amount of time, we’re aiming to stay in touch with all our families. To consistently update families with new information we are sending out a digest three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. You can read all previous digests on our website.

Wellness first

As our public schools begin doing more to educate students during closure, parents, please remember that we know you are doing the best you can. We understand that it can be difficult to supervise your child’s learning. You may have to work yourself or you may be taking care of others. Whatever you can do to support your child’s learning is wonderful. We’re all doing the best we can under the circumstances. Please continue to prioritize taking care of yourself and your loved ones.

Vincent Matthews is the superintendent of schools for the San Francisco Unified School District. He is a guest columnist.

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