Shore intends to start the 2020-2021 school year remotely, with a phased in approach to getting small groups of students back to “in-person school”. Groups will be based on priority and with the implementation of extraordinary health and safety protocols to minimize risk to students, staff and their families. The foundation of each model of learning will be consistent pedagogy of enriched blended learning that can be applied to any setting/model. Our experience and inquiry will deepen our understanding of the elements most effective for each model/setting in which students are learning. For example, students who are physically at school may have quicker access to feedback that is critical to mastery of skills. 1:1 synchronous sessions for remote learners can be designed to provide activities that enable students to demonstrate skills and receive this same immediate, high density of feedback.
Students will attend Monday through Friday with shortened and staggered schedules. Our plan is to have elementary students attend school from 8 am to 1 pm; and middle/high/post-secondary students attend school from 9 am to 2:30 pm. When we scale up such that all students are at school, these schedules will enable us to transition fewer students from buses into and out of school with more care and attention to necessary health and safety procedures.
School will look different. Health and safety strategies recommended to mitigate the transmission of coronavirus will be front and center, especially in the beginning of the school year. Masks, social distancing, handwashing, will be challenging for the majority of our students. For this reason, staff will be provided with more training and personal protective equipment than will be necessary at some other schools. Social stories, behavior plans and reinforcement, and school-wide PBIS interventions will be emphasized in the early weeks of returning to school in an effort to increase adherence to these new behaviors and habits. Protocols have been developed for providing direct assistance to students in activities of daily living (such as personal care, dining, and hand-over-hand hygiene activities), as well as those who may require physical interventions for behavior safety.
With these changes instituted, we are confident that we can safely offer this In-Person School option to all of our students who are ready to resume their learning, therapy services, and social-emotional growth at school, five days a week.
A combination of in-person (at school) and remote learning (from home) is an alternative we considered offering along with in-person and remote learning. Surveys of Shore families indicated that even those who have reservations about their children with significant health issues returning to school full-time, want their children to get direct, in-person therapy services. For these students, we will start the school year with remote services, supplemented by on-site scheduled appointments with therapists, teachers and nurses. IEP teams can directly evaluate and provide services to students while also training families on using technology, developing daily schedules, and incorporating opportunities for students to use functional skills in their homes.
Parents who are not yet comfortable with their children attending school in classrooms full time can accompany their children to an area of the school designated for these 1:1 “appointments” with one or more IEP Team members. Activities, materials and recorded video lessons that will be used in the remote learning setting can be given to parents during these school sessions. Since expectations for attendance and grading will be the same in all models of learning, parents’ collaboration will be critical to students’ success.
Remote services will be the opening learning model for all students. As students return to school in phases, those scheduled for later starts will continue to learn remotely. When we are able to fully scale our return, remote learning will continue to be an option, when school opens, particularly for students whose health issues may impose additional risks to attending school. Shore’s remote services quickly started last spring and evolved quickly from week to week. Google Classroom and Class Dojo were the primary platforms that were used to manage and deliver instruction. As indicated above, an integrated blended learning model will be used throughout Shore, with different elements emphasized for remote learners.
This school year will bring more rigor and expectations on the part of both school staff and students/their families. Students’ IEP goals will be addressed, therapy and other related services provided, and all other state standards for curricula will be the basis of instruction. Attendance and grading policies will be established, consistent with those students learning “in school”, and reviewed with all remote learners and their families. It will be the expectation that attendance is taken during typical school start times and at various times throughout the day, just as (typically secondary school) teachers take attendance each class period.
Remote students will join all or small groups of classmates who are in school for some periods of time when it is appropriate to do so. Instruction will include synchronous and asynchronous models with opportunities for 1:1 instruction. Since time on learning requirements will apply to remote learners, interactions with teaching and therapy staff as well as social interactions with peers will be increased such that students are engaged in school activities all day, even when they are learning from home. Given these increased expectations, ongoing parent/family support and training opportunities will be provided at the beginning of the school year and regularly throughout the year to assist families in their new roles as educators and therapists.