To help minimize the spread of coronavirus, Ceres Unified School District campuses are closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CUSD trustees unanimously approved a resolution on Thursday that temporary amends board policy/administrative regulation related to school instruction, student grading and graduation requirements.
The California Department of Education issued guidance on April 1 which states, in part, the local education agency should weigh its policies with the lens of equity and with the primary goal of first, doing no harm to students.
“The whole intent of the resolution was to make sure we support students and not punish them for things that may beyond their control during school closures,” CUSD Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Amy Peterman said. “When it comes to the grading system, we’re being more flexible with the way that credits are awarded (to high-school students). We’re weighing pros and cons about giving grades (to K-8 students) at the end of the year. We’ll provide more information about that in May. We’re not going to be holding kids back. The important thing for students to do is to keep learning and doing the work.”
Peterman, director of Secondary Education Paul Rutishauser and Director of Elementary Education Kirsten Saint created the CUSD’s Distance Learning plan, which relies heavily on the use of online educational tools.
Students in grades K-12 began Phase 2 last week, including Ceres High senior Siriana Gudino.
A 4.0 student since her sophomore year, Gudino takes care of her two younger siblings before dedicating time to academics.
“I do my homework at night when everyone is sleeping and the house is quiet,” she said.
Gudino’s class schedule includes Health, AP literature, Economics, Video Production and Pre-Calculus. She’s a teacher’s aide during fourth period.
“It’s hard to grasp we’re not going back to school,” she said. “I definitely miss being in class with other students and socializing. But I have the same mindset. Not wanting to fall behind motivates me. I don’t want COVID-19 to be the reason why I end senior year bad.”
Peterman, Rutishauser and Saint were the featured guests on the Ceres Learns at Home Q&A podcast on April 23.
They answered a host of questions submitted by listeners.
“The goal with our Phase 2 of distance learning was to ensure that students had access to some more structured learning opportunities as their time away from the classroom has increased,” Peterman stated. “This could include new learning that would have been taught during this time or perhaps a review of learning that had already happened. In addition, we have asked our teachers to share with our students at least one to two lessons per week, per subject. We are encouraging them to share digital lessons with our students, but we have also provided paper copies to our K-8 students in addition to having access to the digital learning opportunities. We’ve also asked teachers to ensure that they’re checking in regularly on their students’ social-emotional state, and they’re doing that in a variety of ways including reaching out and having Zoom class meetings or scheduling office hours when students can check in with them whenever they are needed.”
“So we’re very fortunate in Ceres that all of our students have been issued Google Chromebooks and have been using those since the beginning of the year,” she added. “But we also, upon learning about the impending school closures, acquired Internet hotspots so that we could check those out to students and families who don’t have internet access at home. We’ve distributed those widely across the district. Certainly all of our high school students and families should have those Wi-Fi hotspots. We’ve offered them also to our K-8 students.”
“So we all know that the most important thing we do at school is learn, and the job of the teacher and our job is a school district is to prepare our students for their next stage of life,” Rutishauser said. “That may be the next grade level, it may be college or career, but whatever it is, we’re trying to get students ready for that next step in their life. So the work your teachers are giving you is very, very important for that reason. We do encourage you to do the work and we encourage you to take that seriously. Now, that said, we also know that this is a time of crisis. If the work that you’re doing or the work that you’re getting is causing you an undue amount of stress, more than it normally would, and you’re having trouble keeping up with it, please talk to your teachers, reach out to your learning director or your principal or assistant principal – whoever that person is for you – and talk to them about what’s going on. People will work with you. We want to be supportive, but still help you learn and be ready for what comes next after school starts up again and the world starts up again. If you’re having trouble right now, just because of the situation your family is in, please reach out and we can help with that.”
“Right now, our students are trying to find a sense of structure and normalcy as they adapt to this new learning environment,” Saint said. “If it all possible, we would recommend finding a designated learning space for your student within the home. We understand that our parents do not have the deep content knowledge or the understanding of the state standards as deeply as our teachers. Instead, we want our parents to focus on reading with their students, asking them what their teacher is assigning and what they’re learning, look over the work that the students are producing. We understand that questions may arise, so we want parents to offer help to their students as appropriate and as they can, but also don’t hesitate to reach out to your classroom teacher and ask for guidance and support when that is needed. If you run into problems, contact the teacher, the school, the learning director, just like you would normally during the school year.”
“This school closure situation was thrown upon all of us with very little time for planning, and I’m just really incredibly proud of our teaching staff for the ways that they have stayed committed to students and committed to moving learning forward,” Peterman said.