BY KURT STEINHAUS
Los Alamos Public Schools
Dear LAPS Parents and Families,
Welcome to the 2020-21 school year! I am excited about the new year and confident that, with your help, we can provide a high-quality education for your children. As you know, this school year will be very different.
“Back-to-school energy” coupled with extensive safety measures can be found in every corner of the Los Alamos Public Schools. Staff are following guidelines from the state. Specifically, LAPS employees (especially those working at school) are implementing the following safety measures:
- Taking steps to care for themselves and to help protect others at home and in the community. Click here for more information.
- Performing self-checks every morning before work. Anyone experiencing COVID symptoms will call their supervisor and stay home.
- Washing their hands upon arrival, frequently re-washing and using disinfectant wipes on surfaces during the work day.
- Wearing a multi-layered mask, except when they are alone in their classroom or office with the door closed.
- Ensuring a minimum of 6 feet of distance between themselves and any other person.
- Displaying graphics and signs about COVID-19 in their work spaces. Click here
- Assuring that HVAC systems for every LAPS building are adjusted to maximize outdoor air flow.
In addition, districtwide COVID testing was conducted last week by the NM Department of Health.
LAPS has received full approval of our restart plan from the Public Education Department. School starts on Thursday, August 13 and I am pleased to announce that our teacher recruitment and retention plan has been successful. Every classroom will be led by a qualified, licensed teacher. In addition, every school has an experienced Principal who serves as the instructional leader, full-time nurse, school counselor, and a team of custodians trained in new safety measures.
Teachers and Instructional Assistants are looking forward to welcoming students. Our nurses have trained staff on a range of COVID-related safety measures along with clear screening procedures. Our Healthy Schools Director has introduced new student check-in tools and social emotional learning strategies to support the well-being of students and staff. Our school counselors are available to work with students when they are struggling. In preparation for the new school year, LAPS teachers, Instructional Assistants, Principals and staff have participated in extensive training and Professional Development (PD) sessions. One area of focus was on developing new skills for successful online learning. Here is a brief summary of 22 different classes held during June, 50 different classes held in July, and teachers-teaching-teachers sessions during the first two weeks of August:
- Remote learning strategies
- Social emotional learning
- Technology tools
- Whole child education
- Techniques for using our new math curriculum
- Reading, writing and English Language Arts
- Hands-on science kits and social studies
- Project-based learning
- And many more topics
Teachers have been trained to provide a variety of learning experiences, online and off, and will support you by modifying or adapting activities to meet student needs. Since schooling from a distance is new for many students and parents, we will communicate regularly and make adjustments, as needed. Getting feedback from you about what is working and where you need additional support is essential.
This is a lot to digest. Please try to hang in there. With a focus on what is best for students, we can do this and do it well. With that in mind, please find below eight tips to help you and your child maintain focus and stay engaged during remote learning:
- Review info sheets and schedules from teachers and Principals. Work to understand the expectation about attending live sessions with the teacher and self directed work at home.
- Document the types of remote learning activities that your child prefers and share that with the teacher. The answers to these questions can be valuable for you and your child’s teacher to help plan for learning experiences that work best for your child.
- Become familiar with the LAPS technology tools. Click here for the LAPS Remote Learning Handbook with information about using Clever, Powerschool, Seesaw, Google Classroom & Google Meet
- Encourage movement. Kids need to move their bodies frequently throughout the day. Allow time for exercise before your child is expected to focus on a distance learning task.
- Reduce distractions. Where possible, reduce distractions when your child is completing schoolwork. This includes noise as well as visual noise or clutter. A designated workspace that is comfortable for your child will be helpful.
- Use a checklist for focus. For some children who really struggle with focusing, a basic visual checklist of tasks needed for a particular activity will be helpful. For example, if the child is asked to watch a lesson, read a prompt, and then provide a written response to the prompt, the checklist would have keywords for each of these required activities: watch, read, write. The child would check off each task with you as it is completed, and receive some positive praise or another reward when finished.
- Give your child (and yourself) a break. Your teacher does not want your child to be frustrated with or miserable about learning. In fact, our teachers spend time trying to make lessons interesting, and to tailor instruction to provide the right level of challenge for students. If something is too challenging, or your child has hit a frustration level, it’s okay to pause and contact the teacher. We may need to change the pace, which means giving your child time to think and process information.
- Provide immediate positive feedback. Each time your child completes remote learning instruction, provide immediate and positive feedback! Something as simple as putting a check mark, star, or sticker on the work assignment can go a long way in helping to motivate your child. And don’t forget to celebrate yourself, as you are playing such an important role to help your child learn and grow.
Remember that we are in a very fluid situation with the virus, and things change every day. We are following developments closely, and are adjusting to whatever the conditions require.
With creative thinking and a strong partnership among teachers and families, children will not only continue to build their knowledge and skills, but also build confidence and a love for learning. We look forward to this new and exciting school year.