Tahoe Truckee Unified to open school year with distance learning

In a letter to Tahoe Truckee Unified School District families Thursday, newly named Superintendent Chief Learning Officer Carmen Ghysels announced the district will open on Sept. 2 through distance learning due to COVID-19:

“Ever since the temporary closure of our school facilities in March, we have explored a wide range of options to return to on-site instruction,” Ghysels wrote. “The safety and health of our students, staff, and families have guided all of our work. 

“Unfortunately, the number of cases of COVID-19 within our school district boundaries far exceeds the threshold deemed safe by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) ) to reopen schools for the start of the new school year. Based on this data, and the directives of our local county health officers, last night our board made the very tough decision to open our schools in distance learning on September 2, 2020. 

“We are heartbroken to have to announce this. We want to be on campus, engaging with our students with in-person instruction. None of us chose this pandemic and its repercussions, and we certainly never imagined COVID-19 would still be with us now. Our goal is to return to in-person instruction as soon as it is safe to do so and under the guidance and direction of CDPH and our local county health officers. (Note: while CDPH did issue guidance late on Monday regarding applying for waivers for in-person instruction for elementary schools under specific conditions, based on the number of COVID cases in our school district boundaries, and a lack of access to timely testing and results, TTUSD does not meet the criteria to be approved for a waiver.) 

“Our intent is to transition into a hybrid model with students on campus a minimum of two days per week and the balance in a virtual setting with a year-long distance learning option for families who don’t feel comfortable having their child return to campus. 

“Back in March, we all quickly pivoted and adjusted to remote instruction and learning. While we did much better than many other school districts in California, we recognize there are many opportunities for improvements. We’ve learned a great deal since last spring, and we’ve been planning for months for a variety of contingencies to best serve the needs of our students in these challenging and unique times. 

“What Distance Teaching and Learning will look like this fall:

  • We will provide rigorous instruction that matches the quality of in-person instruction.
  • We will have daily live instruction at all grade levels with a schedule that matches our students’ in-person/traditional schedule. 
  • We will incorporate social-emotional learning into our school days at every grade level.
  • Teachers will connect with their students each school day through online instruction and check-ins. 
  • Teachers will hold “office hours” and be available to students and parents on an as-needed basis to maximize learning through responsive instruction, re-teaching, and establishing and maintaining positive connections. 
  • We will provide meaningful assessment and feedback for each student.
  • Grading and accountability will return to normal expectations, and daily student attendance will be documented in Aeries. 
  • The content for every grade level will be aligned to grade-level standards. 
  • Additional support will be provided to address the needs of scholars who are performing below grade level,  and those who need support in other areas.
  • The district will continue to provide professional development and training for our staff so they can provide our students with the best education possible in these new learning environments. (Note: school will start one day later than planned – on September 2 – to allow for an additional day of staff training for distance  learning   

“We are putting together a comprehensive “TTUSD school reopening and safety guidebook for families” that is chock full of important information on what to expect for the 2020-2021 school year for both distance learning and our hybrid model. This document will evolve throughout the school year as the needs of our students and families evolve. It will include information about our teaching and learning models, social-emotional wellness, home to school transportation services, support for students with disabilities,  support for English Learners, and much more. 

“For this school year, we are also offering a full-time, TK-12 distance learning program called Cold Stream Alternative (CSA) Distance Learning Program. This is different from our Cold Stream Alternative Independent Study option and is for families who do not want their students to attend school in-person this school year for health reasons or other concerns under COVID-19. 

“So we can meet the staffing needs for all of our families, we ask parents who want their child to be in our CSA Distance Learning program all year long to reserve your child’s spot by completing this short form by August 12, 2020. (Please note, if you chose the CSA Distance Learning Program, it would be a commitment through the end of the semester in January 2021. Click here for FAQs on the CSA Distance Learning Program.)

“We will continue to communicate with you regularly, and we’ll have another update for you next week with more information on the data confirmation process and support, school bus passes (currently on hold) and food service offerings.

“Thank you for your patience, support, and partnership in educating our children as we navigate the ongoing and unpredictable challenges this pandemic presents. We appreciate you.”

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