It is 2020 and no one could have predicted the wild and wacky rabbit hole that the entire world would be sucked into on that week in March. Remember we started the week with a time change, a full moon, and a Friday the 13th all in the same week. None of us predicted that Friday the 13th would put the entire world on "time out."
Now that the world is settling in for the long haul on what is safe for the coming school year, where does your family fit in the level of comfort for how you will care for your students come this fall? There is so much uncertainty, how can a family prepare when the world has been brought to it's knees by an enemy that no one can see?
At Encore High School, the preparations started way before the global pandemic took over. Before Zoom classes were a thing and before the minority of independent study became the majority, Encore was poising itself for the future of an educational world in a rapidly evolving technological world. Now at a crossroads and barring the CDC shutting down the state once again, parents and students will make decisions that are right for them for how they will be educated this fall.
SCHOOL IN A DIGITAL AGE
One to one Technology - Encore High School (serving grades 7 - 12 in the Inland Empire and the High Desert in a Hesperia based regional school) issues all students their own laptop computer so students have online access to all of their curriculum. This was initially rolled out for Encore's senior class four years ago, then high school three years ago, then all grades two years ago. When the pandemic hit, this put Encore ahead of the curve.
Online Based Curriculum - Encore High School uses a variety of online curricula to educate their students. Starting three years ago, the implementation and training for both teachers and students has taken a bit of time. When veteran teachers are not up to date on the latest technology, training that teacher to exchange their overhead projector for a computer can be tricky. Encore has been working with teachers for the last three years in training them how to become technologically savvy while also teaching students how to learn from their computer in conjunction with their teachers. This has been an ongoing process for the past four years with a crash course on online streaming classes taking place during spring break of 2020.
Online Teacher Accessibility - Since Encore was ahead of the game (one to one technology and online based curriculum in place) when the global pandemic hit, Encore was able to focus on how to put the "human teacher" into online teaching. Using Zoom technology, Encore was able to offer live classes, recorded classes, and real time tutoring to the students engaging from their homes. This fall, this help will continue for the students choosing to stay on an independent study or hybrid study pathway for their education. In the fall, a new "TV Guide" style website will be developed for the independent & hybrid study students. They will be able to take the course in real time from their house while the teacher is teaching in the classroom. If they miss the class, they will be able to watch a recorded version of classes so they don't miss the teacher and class discussions. Teachers will have online tutoring available in the mornings and students can also communicate with their teachers directly through Remind and Email.
PARENT AND STUDENT CHOICE - How Comfortable Are You?
1. Most Conservative Level of Comfort - As schools and the CDC prepare for the fall with a vaccine still a ways away, what is your families' tailored response to the global pandemic? Early results in Encore School's regions show that about 25% of the families are not comfortable with returning to school in the fall and are opting for Home School / Independent Study Options. Encore has an independent study option for these students and is implementing a weekly Zoom meeting for testing with their coordinators so students will not have to come on campus, but will be held accountable for academic progress. Students on Independent Study will have full access to teachers and classes via Zoom. They will be assigned a coordinator that will also set up peer tutoring sessions and teacher tutoring sessions when needed and will coordinate testing, grading, and parent communication. You will only need to come on campus to check out/turn in the computer until the "all clear" signal has been made for COVID-19. We respect and understand your concerns. If this program interests you, you should be enrolling in Encore's Independent Study Program for next school year.
2. Fairly Comfortable, but not jumping into the deep end just yet - Encore understands the need for limiting the days out in the world during this global pandemic. We also understand that since the implementation of Distance Learning some students have found that they like studying at home rather than at school, but miss their friends. Encore's Hybrid program will call for students to be on campus two to three days per week to fulfill half of their school schedule. The other half of their school schedule will be online at home. Encore offers students up to 4 classes on a single day for students that are opting for a hybrid program. It is recommended that students choose their most difficult subject (like Chemistry and Pre Calculus) to take on campus and then take two arts classes for socialization and arts training. The block schedule is set on days, so an example of a student attendance schedule would be Mondays, Wednesdays, and every other Friday on site then the other days would be completed at home via online school. At home, you would be working on one to two academic classes at a time. If this program interests you, you should be enrolling in Encore's Hybrid Study Program for next school year.
3. Completely Comfortable, we need to get back to school - Although everyone feels this way deep down, not everyone is ready to venture out into the world and put it into practics. For the students and families that are ready to return to a regular schedule, Encore will be offering traditional seat based programming this fall, starting September 14. (Of course, all of Encore's plans for education are pending CDC Guidance an up to date changes that may be made over the course of the summer and as other schools start to open.) Students enrolled in traditional seat based programs will come to school Monday through Friday and take on every school day like normal, with whatever guidelines are put into place by the CDC. If you want to get back to work as normal pre-pandemic, then Encore suggests enrolling in their traditional program. As the CDC allows, students enrolled in the traditional program will experience traditional school.
Of course (with all programs) CDC guidelines that will likely include the wearing of facial coverings, temperature checks upon entry onto the facility, heightened sanitation, and social distancing will be put recognized and followed to help do our part to slow the transmission of this virus. Encore has endorsed, put into place, all county guidelines for Covid-19 and has applied for certification as a Covid-19 compliant business in San Bernardino County.
NO ONE HAS A CRYSTAL BALL
As the year continues and people begin to interact again, there are predictions for another spike in Covid-19 cases. Encore is watching the news daily and are receiving updates daily from the CDE on what will be required for this fall. The CDE released a 64 page document that Encore is using to develop the Covid-19 plan for the fall should restrictions loosen or get more stringent. The best thing that Encore can offer to our parents is that what is happening in the world right now is a great way to teach your children to be flexible. The best laid plans can be changed by an enemy that you cannot see.
Encore's suggestion to families that are deciding what to do for their junior high and high school children for the fall of 2020 is to enroll them in one of Encore's programs based on your families' current level of comfort of the situation. Then, as the summer unfolds, Encore will continue to guide you with what is coming and what changes or updates Encore will be making to make sure that our students, staff, and families are as safe as we can make them. We will continue to monitor and adapt to the situation as it unfolds.
OUR THOUGHTS ARE WITH YOU
For those of you that have been affected by the virus or have family members that have been affected by the virus, our thoughts and our hearts are with you. We will wear our masks and wash our hands and stay a safe distance apart in dedication to keeping your family respected.
Denise Griffin, CEO is the author of this blog for Encore Education Corporation. Part of Encore Education Corporation is Encore High School, a free public performing arts regional high school in Southern California grades 7 - 12. Encore's program is currently taking applications for the fall 2020 enrollment. Encore offers full time, hybrid time, and independent study programs. Encore offers transporation from the Inland Empire and the high desert. www.encorehighschool.com. Where arts and academics grow together. WASC Accredited. Copyright 2020.