A California district guide for teachers and students in the world of distance learning – ABOUT MAG 2020

Photo: Julie Leopo

An Alpaugh Unified student checks out of a Chromebook at the beginning of the school day.

School districts across California are making deals with teachers’ unions on distance learning as the state moves to remote jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The wake up between the West Contra Costa Unified School District in Richmond and the teachers’ union offer insight into what districts will look like performing distance learning for the rest of the school year, although significant variations from district to district are expected. The deal highlights the complexity and challenges of providing online learning to an extent never before attempted in California.

As of April 8, the district of 32,000 students had distributed more than 23,000 Chromebooks for distance learning – 1,500 of which were distributed between March 30 and April 3. This week, when students return from spring break, district officials will focus on finding out how many students still need Chromebooks and ensuring that parents have enough information to help their students use them.

Superintendent Matthew Duffy said the district will continue to work on getting enough Chromebooks for all students who need them.

In the 32,000 student district, West Contra Costa elementary students can count on online instruction for teachers from 3 to 3.5 hours a day and high and high school students for two to three hours a day. Pre-school teachers must interact with students for 100 minutes a week, through a digital platform and communicate with each family at least once a week.

Total teaching time does not include the time students spend on their own courses at home, said Gracie Guerrero, academic director at West Contra Costa.

West Contra Costa Unified teachers have the flexibility to start and finish their instructions at any time they think is best for the class, and to collaborate with other teachers as long as the school day ends at 4pm.

Transitional kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade students are expected to read, be read by parents or by others at home, or listen to audiobooks for 30 minutes a day on their own, in addition to participating in some type of daily physical activity.

Elementary school teachers must teach writing, reading, math and physical education twice a week, for at least 30 minutes per class, as well as social studies and science once a week.

Teachers from the seventh to the 12th year will instruct at least 30 minutes per class, per period, every day, totaling two to three hours of work per day. The contract does not specify how many periods each teacher would teach, as schools have different schedules.

“I would say that most teachers are above and beyond these minimum expectations and remain committed to students much longer than the prescribed time,” said Guerrero.

California Teachers Association spokeswoman Claudia Briggs told EdSource that all districts across the state are working on similar agreements on distance education with their local unions, as any changes in instructions or working conditions falls within the scope of previously negotiated collective bargaining agreements. Some districts and unions forged their distance learning plans at the beginning of the shutdown, while others are still planning this, she said.

Although CTA has provided negotiating guidance, it is up to the local district authorities and teachers to decide which system works best for them.

“You can’t take a unique approach to what district learning plans look like,” said Briggs.

Nearby Oakland Unified School District also reached an agreement with its teachers union last week, as well as Los Angeles Unified, the largest district in the state.

Now that the West Contra Coast Unified’s spring break is over, the district’s top priority is to ensure that students, teachers and parents can access the material needed for distance learning, said Professor Guerrero. After that, the district will begin to analyze the effectiveness of the plan.

“Let’s see how we deal with ensuring that students have not only busy work to do, but work that will lead them to master the (academic) standards they should be mastering in the classroom,” said the district Guerrero last week. .

The memorandum of understanding between the West Contra Costa district and the 1700-member United Teachers of Richmond union ensures that teachers are paid for the rest of the year and also provides additional sick leave.

Richmond United Teachers President Demetrio Gonzalez said the union’s agreement is based on best distance learning practices and agreements in at least 40 state districts. He said the union and district will likely revisit the plan in the first few weeks of implementation, based on feedback from teachers, parents and students. He said the agreement deliberately includes flexibility for teachers.

The district guerrero said he lists expectations, but not requirements.

Teachers will use online tools like Google Meet and Zoom to interact with students, said Tracey Logan, technology director at West Contra Costa Unified, at the school board meeting on April 8 – the second virtual school board meeting carried out by the district since the campuses closed.

“It allows teachers to look students in the eyes, see themselves, and provide information and instructions directly to students and be present as support in a way that tools published in real time do not allow, Logan said.

West Contra Costa school board members and superintendent Matthew Duffy first discussed the district’s distance learning plan at a virtual school board meeting on April 1. It also appeared at the April 8 meeting.

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Transition kindergarten teachers – classes for 4 year olds who turn 5 between September 2 and December 2 – as well as kindergarten and first grade will use a combination of digital platforms like Google Classroom or SeeSaw to obtain learning materials for students. Since not all students have access to computers at home and the district has not distributed Chromebooks to all students of that age, teachers issue paper packages to some students.

For younger students who do not have access to the computer, it is up to the teacher to decide whether to create task packages – which usually consist of spreadsheets with lessons and instructions for parents to administer them – to send weekly, biweekly or monthly and how to deliver them. them to families, Gonzalez told teachers on March 30 during a live broadcast on Facebook. The district is working on a plan to deliver packages to families who cannot receive them digitally and will likely send them out by teachers, he said.

Teachers working with students who learn English will continue to work with small groups of students, teaching live online to small groups or recommending online resources, according to the wake up.

Teachers also need to record their lessons online, so they can share them with students who are sick or who miss classes for any reason.

“It is a matter of equity, since many of our students are now working during the day, taking care of your brothers, or you may not be able to enter when the teacher can do that, ”said Gonzalez.

Editor’s note: As a special project, EdSource is tracking developments in the unified school districts of Oakland and West Contra Costa as a way to illustrate some of the challenges facing other urban districts in California. West Contra Costa Unified includes Richmond, El Cerrito and several other East Bay communities.

EdSource reporter Theresa Harrington contributed to this report.

Paula Fonseca