Last Friday, in response to the increasing amount of coronavirus cases in the region, County Superintendent Mary Ann Dewan announced that all public schools in Santa Clara County would be closed from March 16-April 3.
A couple days later, on March 16, Santa Clara County officials ordered a “shelter-in-place” to begin the following day, telling residents to stay in their homes, and only leave for essential items and activities, like picking up groceries or seeking care from medical professionals.
Although news and updates surrounding COVID-19 have been coming quickly, communities all over the world have had no choice but to adjust to the rapidly changing landscape of these uncertain times.
Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) is no exception. Since news of the closure, MUSD teachers, staff, department heads, and officials have hit the ground running, activating online learning platforms and setting up systems for working and distributing information in order to ensure that students’ learning goes on uninterrupted.
The possibility of closure had been something that MUSD had been preparing for for weeks.
“We’ve created an infrastructure that can handle blended learning and distance learning,” said Assistant Superintendent of Learning and Development Norma Rodriguez. “I am extremely proud of the close-knit community that I am so fortunate to serve. Everyone has come out, collaborated, and stepped up to this new way of learning, of continuing the learning; and it has been changing by the minute.“
Superintendent Cheryl Jordan put together a Pandemic Response Committee to create an emergency plan, which included communicating with stakeholders, and ensuring that leaders across all school sites were prepared for flexible learning.
”We told the principals to go to their schools and have a meeting with staff and start planning,” said Rodriguez. ”We asked them to develop a schedule and put the content together [for a distant learning platform].”
The district’s new system for academic instruction at home is called: MUSD EducatEveryWhere.
For younger students, teachers prepared independent study packets, full of worksheets and activities. Other teachers created Google Classroom platforms for their classes, in order for students to access lessons, and for teachers to monitor learning and provide support when needed.
This week, thousands of students across Milpitas have been adjusting to this new way of learning. Many teachers have set aside time to check in and talk to their students, either one-on-one or with the entire class, over Google Meet or Zoom.
Olivia Contreras, a co-principal at Milpitas’ sole dual immersion school, Randall Elementary, is proud of the work staff members have done to prepare for virtual learning:
“Early this week, our student nutrition, clerical, custodial, and paraprofessional staff have been working tirelessly to continue to provide meals and services to the families who need them. We have all come together to do what is needed for the Milpitas community,’ said Contreras. “Kristan [Randall’s other co-principal] and I are also doing what is needed — assisting our families and connecting them with teachers and resources, communicating with families and staff as much as possible and as soon as possible as things change rapidly, attempting to provide some normalcy by checking in with personnel on a regular basis.”
She is also heartened to see the ways in which parents are staying connected to Randall staff by using ParentSquare.
At Pomeroy Elementary, Principal Nichol Klein and Assistant Principal Deanna Sainten are finding creative ways to stay connected to students and families. In the last few days, they’ve started recording “story time” videos on YouTube.
Some teachers across the district have created YouTube channels, also recording videos to do things like check-ins and reading, in an effort to keep the connection with their students going strong.
In addition to the new EducatEveryWhere platform, MUSD staff has been loaning Chromebooks to students in need of them, as well as offering free meals to youth 0-18, from 9am-12pm, for 5 days a week. Meal pickup locations are at Milpitas High School, the MUSD Board Room, and Spangler Elementary.
Two days ago, Governor Newsom signed an Executive Order, suspending the state testing requirement for all students during the 2019-2020 school year. A day before that, on March 17, Newsom, at a press conference, stated that he believes schools throughout the state will most likely be closed for the remainder of the school year.
Earlier this afternoon, the Santa Clara County Office of Education announced the launching of a web portal for teachers, parents, students, administrators, and support staff, which is full of information on “…setting up virtual classrooms and accessing lesson plans and resources, to sharing ideas with parents for how to keep children engaged at home.” You can find it here.
The Beat hopes to capture the efforts of MUSD teachers and staff as they continue finding creative ways to engage students at a distance. We’d also love to gather any information from parents about how the online learning system is working. If anybody from the district or the parent community has videos, information, or photos to share with us, please send them to: [email protected]