|Navigating a Rapidly Changing Environment|
Parents, Guardians and Staff:
I hope your family was able to enjoy spring break, despite uncertainties brought on by the coronavirus outbreak. All schools, at this time, remain closed until at least April 6, with no on-campus meetings of students or staff, and no one allowed to work in our buildings for any reason other than deep cleaning and disinfecting.
In light of this, I want to provide a quick update on our preparations for K-12 remote teaching, learning and working. While most were hopefully able to enjoy some vacation, these days off were a whirlwind of collaboration by so many staff members who selflessly gave up their spring break with friends and family.
At first, the New Normal will Not be Perfect
I want to make it clear: this new normal may not be smooth in its introduction. We face unprecedented and unforeseen instructional challenges. The coming days will require tremendous flexibility with innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Then again, those are the hallmarks of an Eanes ISD education. Nevertheless, we ask for patience as we work through the process, identify areas of needed improvement and adapt along the way.
We often speak about the importance of resilience. I know these circumstances may stretch our ability to respond and adjust, but I am confident our teachers and students (with help from their parents) will do their absolute best.
In an effort to keep our staff updated and connected, we intend to hold two virtual staff meetings in the early afternoon, Monday, March 23 to discuss professional development, remote learning and provide an opportunity for staff to ask any questions they may have. We likely will need to divide staff into two groups, as some operational staff will be focused on device/technology distribution and others on providing food service to some in our community midday Monday. At this time, we anticipate both virtual staff meetings to occur in the early afternoon on Monday. Staff should expect details via email no later than Monday morning.
We also want to ensure our community is informed, so we are planning a virtual community town hall later next week. Please continue to check your email for instructions on how to access these meetings. The District is also exploring using this technology for principals to communicate with their staff as well.
Easing into Remote Learning
As we ease into this new way of teaching, learning and living, please watch for these details from your child’s teachers and principal based on this tentative timeline:
- As teachers and campus staff conclude spring break, most will be in online professional development to finalize remote learning platforms from Monday, March 23, through Wednesday, March 25. Student attendance will not be taken on these dates.
- By Wednesday, March 25, students and parents will hear from teachers about their classroom plans for remote learning.
- Families of students who receive Special Education services will receive a separate communication from that Department following this message.
- Remote learning and attendance will officially begin for most students in all grades K-12 on Thursday, March 26 - unless there are extenuating circumstances for a particular staff member.
- The initial remote learning plan will apply until adjusted and/or we re-open schools.
- Students and teachers will have time to acclimate to the new online format and no significant assessments will be administered until sometime early April. In this new online format, we recognize there will need to be additional flexibility in how students will be graded/assessed by their teachers. In our K-12 system, we have significant differences in the types of classes and in the developmental capacities of our students; we trust our teachers will navigate this new environment with compassion and fairness for all concerned.
- The need and format for remote learning will be assessed on a weekly basis, depending on what restrictions remain in place locally and beyond. If we continue to be closed after April 3, the next stage of online learning and assignments will be communicated as soon as possible.
Other Developments of Interest
- Provisions are available to students who qualify for daily free-and-reduced lunch, who were not able to bring their iPad home before the vacation or who need general technology support. We have already been in touch with many families who need assistance in these areas, but if you are among those groups and you still require assistance, please click on the preceding links to notify us by email.
- Internet Options
-For households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription, Charter is offering free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days. To enroll call 1-844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.
-All AT&T consumer home internet wireline customers, as well as Fixed Wireless Internet, can use unlimited internet data. AT&T will offer internet access for qualifying limited income households at $10 a month through AT&T Access.
- The Board of Trustees will likely hold its March 31 meeting virtually; more information will be announced next week.
- Travis County announced it will not conduct a May 2 election and recommended other political subdivisions postpone their elections until Nov. 3, 2020. The Eanes ISD Board will have discussions to decide if the May Trustee election will be postponed.
We understand this is a stressful time for many reasons. Some households are experiencing the loss of a job or perhaps caring for a sick relative; others may struggle with watching young children or convincing relatives to self-quarantine. We encourage families to keep their social-emotional wellness a priority, and we offer our social-emotional learning resources to assist during this time. As we think about the rapid changes in our society and what is within our realm of control, the article Parent/Caregiver guide to helping families cope with the Coronavirus provides tips to help parents and their children cope during uncertain times.
I will continue to send updates and information over the next several days, including details on the virtual staff meeting and virtual community town hall. Please continue to check our website with FAQS: www.eanesisd.net/coronavirus.
Please be safe and stay well,
Dr. Tom Leonard
Superintendent of Schools