Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Focus for 2020-21

There is a lot of information from a lot of resources - online and otherwise - regarding how schools will reopen in the fall. I have been involved in several meetings and webinars, as well as visiting with colleagues, near and far, on how to best plan for the school year 2020-21. I feel the best advice I have received thus far is it is just too early to make a concrete plan for the start of school as things seem to change very quickly. However, what I do want the Lake community to know is that we are having significant conversations about how to best educate students when they come back to us on September 2. Outlined below are some of the areas that we are discussing in order to help us provide focus for 2020-21.

Health and Safety

At the forefront of every year is the health and safety of all Lake Panthers - staff and students alike. The health and safety of students has been my top priority every year, regardless of a pandemic. Obviously, we will continue with this focus in the fall. In order to create a healthier atmosphere, we have or are in the process of implementing several facility improvements: 

  • Not long after the school was closed in mid-March, we placed an order of an electrostatic sprayer that will allow us to decontaminate classrooms, furniture, and various classroom items more efficiently and effectively than before. 

  • We have replaced the carpet in the main building classrooms with epoxy flooring. Epoxy floors create a seamless surface that is easier to clean than carpets and will not harbor bacteria or mildew. It is our long-term plan to replace all carpeted classrooms. 

  • All classrooms will have sinks. 

In addition to physical improvements, we plan to hire an additional part-time custodian/maintenance person to ensure we remain vigilant on cleaning and maintaining the school facility - new and old. 


Social-Emotional Learning

I have been reading many articles and attending webinars regarding the concern the pandemic has on the social-emotional health of children. After several years of implementing our social-emotional program, Toolbox, we feel we are well-versed in meeting the psychological needs of all our students. In addition, we have made connections with resources in the county such as mental health counseling and school-based counseling. We will continue to rely on this network of support in order to meet the needs of all our students.


Addressing Learning Gaps

I addressed this in a previous post, you can review it here. Rest assured, we have already been discussing the academic needs students may have when they return to us in the fall. We feel that children are resilient and we will meet them where they are academically. Teaching is what we do best and we are excited to get back to the classroom to do it! 


Budget

You may have heard that the governor's budget cuts funding for schools. While it is still unclear how much we will be impacted, we are planning for a 10% cut to our revenues. This is not great news, however, we have done a good job over the past several years of not overspending and have resources in place to weather this storm. I meet with our CBO (Chief Business Officer), Dusty Thompson, on a weekly basis to continue to monitor the budget. 


Community Engagement

As the state continues to share information regarding school reopening recommendations, I will share these updates with our Lake community. Communication with Public Health as well as feedback from parents will help guide us in how to continue to uphold our Lake values and culture during this time. Lake is a community built on a foundation of close connections and family values with a deep passion for doing what is best for kids. This will never change. These characteristics that make us unique will always remain in the forefront of our approach to returning back to school this fall. 


Lake View Charter School

I believe it is safe to say that the last few months have taken us all by surprise. Parents suddenly found themselves teaching their children under the guidance of classroom teachers. While this certainly was not our preferred environment, we are extremely proud of our parents for providing the best learning environment despite the situation. I have heard from many of you that you will be glad when Distance Learning comes to an end and you can turn the teaching back over to the experts. At the same time, I know that Distance Learning has been a positive experience in which some may want to continue. After measures have been put in place to start the 2020-21 school year, and you feel the homeschool-like environment is a better fit for your family, Lake View Charter School may be an option for you. Did you know we authorized a charter school last year? Lake View Charter School is a K-12 personalized learning charter. You can check out the link here for more information


Parent Survey

Our Focus for 2020-21 is not complete without feedback from the Lake community, specifically our parents. Please take a moment to complete this survey in order for us to have a better understanding of your expectations of returning in the fall. 


The survey is divided into two parts: Part I is feedback regarding our implementation of Distance Learning. Should we be required to close our school in the future and return to Distance Learning, we want to make sure we meet the needs of our families the best we can. Part II is intended to garner information from our families of what your expectations are regarding coming back to school. This input will help us align the Public Health Department’s recommendations with our families' expectations. Thank you in advance for completing the survey. 


It is an understatement to say we are living in interesting times. I am honored to be part of a district that met our current challenges head on. Together, we remain and will always be a strong Lake Panther family. 


Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Spring Break

Spring Break is typically a time of rejuvenation. Families begin planning for summer vacations and activities. 4-H members busy themselves with finishing up fair projects while others earnestly work with their fair animals as the fair countdown begins. Teachers in grades 3-8 put the final touches on their curriculum as they prepare for end-of-year state testing, and primary teachers (grades K-2) continue their magic in helping students become the best readers and writers they can be.
Unfortunately, the current COVID-19 pandemic is limiting or canceling the aforementioned activities. Instead, teachers are busy planning what the rest of the year in Distance Learning looks like, and some parents are concerned about how all of this will impact their child's academic success next year.
Here's the good news. Our entire nation is in this together. And if there's one thing I can confidently say about educators, they will do what it takes to help one another out. Since the closing of school buildings began in March, we have seen a plethora of online resources be made available, for free in most cases, to entire school districts.
I have no doubt that there will be "bridge packs", "crossover curriculum", "gap curriculum", or whatever name will catch on, created to help us all bridge the "distance learning" gaps that may have developed by not having face-to-face teaching during the majority of Trimester 3.
While our Lake Staff continues to do a phenomenal job to keep every child on track for a solid standards-based education for the remainder of the year, we continue to rely heavily on parents to offer the support, guidance, and time needed at home to effectively get the work done.
We've heard from you and have seen the funny, and sometimes true, memes on social media. We know the task placed on you in a very short period of time has not been easy. Yet, to help put parents at ease, I want to paraphrase some information my good friend and principal, Teresa Lightle, shared on her school's Facebook page (Ophir Elementary).
At all grade levels, first and most important is to...
Have your child READ! or Read to them. Turn closed captioning on your TV. Read a recipe, a cereal box or magazine. If you are in need of books, email me and we will get you books.
For parents who've been with us for more than a year, you know about our Summer Reading Program. We support summer reading because it is one of the best things you can do for your child. But here's a little known secret, IT'S NOT JUST FOR SUMMER! If you find yourself overwhelmed with Distance Learning, at the very least take the advice from my friend, Teresa, and read with or to your child, no matter the age!
Wondering about math facts? Here's what your child should be able to do at the end of each grade level, quickly and consistently:
Kindergarten: adding and subtracting 1-10
First Grade: adding 1-20
Second Grade: adding and subtracting 1-20
Third Grade: multiplying 1-12 
Fourth Grade: multiplying and dividing 1-12
Fifth Grade: all of the above fluently, add and subtract fractions

For our students in grades 6-8, fluency in the above skills will help them become strong math students in junior high.
If your child starts school next year knowing all these basic math facts as outlined and reads consistently and fluently, they will be well on their way to a successful year.
Remember to be kind to yourself during this time. Take one day at a time, or even one moment at a time. Our children are precious and deserve our best right now. If there is ever anything you need, academically, behaviorally, or emotionally, please let us know.


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Panther Parent


As we continue to work out the kinks of transitioning to what has been titled, "Distance Learning," we are learning tips and tricks from one another as well as other schools on how to best support parents in the virtual learning environment. We understand you've been given a daunting task, but our Lake Staff is here to support you every step of the way. Together, we can make this new opportunity a great experience for all.

Your Role Now
Many of you are now working at home alongside your child(ren). Take a look at the list below that may provide ideas to set up both you and your child for success.
  • Manage Your Expectations
    • After three weeks of Distance Learning, you may just now be figuring out what your daily expectations are in regards to your own workload as well as the school work your child is doing. 
      • At our house, we made this great schedule early on that certainly seemed doable, but after just one day, we realized that the 8:30 a.m. - 2:55 p.m school schedule did not work at home. Once we realized that 1-4 hours of schoolwork per day (depending on grade level) was sufficient, it relieved a lot of pressure for all of us. 
  • Check Emails/Reminds from School
    • We are constantly in contact with parents via Remind. And when the message requires more detail, teachers are reaching out through email. Please remember to check your messages and emails regularly.
  • Create Dedicated Classrom Space
    • If you haven't already, it's a great idea to create a space that your child can use as a dedicated learning space. Make this space comfortable and personal by displaying your child's artwork or completed school assignments. 
  • Take Breaks Throughout the Day
    • Studies show that students have an attention span of about 3-5 minute per year of a child’s age. That means that if your child is 6 years old, he or she probably has about 18-30 minutes of concentration before shutting down or losing focus. That is why it is important to plan for breaks and/or short bursts of activity throughout the day.
  • Support Our "New" Classroom
    • As you know by now, we are taking advantage of the online video communication tool, Zoom. In order to ensure the best possible experience for your child, please consider the following:
      • Treat Zoom as a classroom. While we realize it may be difficult to provide a quiet space for your child to attend his/her Zoom meetings, please support your child in providing the best space possible. Time with your child’s classmates and teachers has been significantly reduced due to our current situation, so making best use of this precious time on Zoom is ideal. Some things we’d like parents to consider are:
        • Keep distractions (i.e. siblings, pets, television, side conversations, etc.) away from students while Zoom is taking place
        • Encourage your child to come ready to actively participate and do their personal best in discussions and the learning environment (i.e. dressed, focused, and thinking caps on)
        • Prioritize your daily/weekly schedule to allow your child to be on time and engaged during Zoom
Years ago, the African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child," became a common quote in the education community. That statement has never been truer than this moment. We are in this together for the well-being of every child. I wish you good health and happiness during this time.

Internet Connectivity

Area businesses are working on connectivity issues for families. Below are some resources families can contact.

  • Xfinity - Xfinity wifi hotspots in out-of-home locations will be available for free to anyone who needs them, including non-Xfinity internet customers. Click here for more information
  • AT&T - Public wifi hotspots will remain open for anyone who needs them. Unlimited AT&T home internet for all AT&T consumer home internet wireline customers, as well as fixed wireless internet. Additionally, they will continue to offer internet access for qualifying limited income households at $10/month. Click here for more information
In addition to the above services, our local county office of education, along with the California Department of Education and Google, are working to get internet and devices to rural areas. Based on the survey we took on Friday, March 20, many of our families indicated they had adequate internet access. If that has changed or the access does not meet the demand of Distance Learning as we now know it, please contact me. This will help us identify access points for better internet access. 


Construction Update for April 7

I keep thinking I don't have time for a blog....but communication seems different right now, so I'm going to get back on here and utilize it as a communication tool during this time of shelter-in-place.

This is a copy of an email sent to parents on April 7 that followed a video I shared regarding our current construction project.

It was requested to provide the construction update video that was posted to the school's website on Monday, April 6, in text form as well. So for those who missed the video, here's the update: (note, this is not a transcript of the video, just a summary)

Since we have moved to shelter-in-place, a few parents have reached out to me asking how this is having an impact on our school construction project. Fortunately, it is having little impact. We continue to move forward with the bidding process regarding sub-contract work. 

Once that is finalized, dirt work and the like can begin. Because of the move to distance learning with no students on campus, there is a chance that the construction project can move forward sooner than anticipated as the bulk of the work was scheduled to begin after the last day of school on June 10. 

It is important to note that the current environment does allow construction to occur, but things change quickly in response to COVID-19 and that can change any day. It's certainly not a guarantee that construction can begin while no students are on campus, but it is a possibility. 

Should that occur, I will be working with the Board early this summer to revisit our currently adopted 2020-21 school calendar, based on the progress of the construction project. (The 2020-21 school calendar was approved at the March Board Meeting with a September 2 start day for students. It is attached in draft form as presented to the Board at the March meeting.)

The silver lining in distance learning and shelter-in-place is that our construction project could start ahead of schedule, which could lead us to revisit the approved 2020-21 school calendar. 

There are so many variables that could impact construction, it's difficult to say at this time if it will change our start date for 2020-21. I just wanted parents to know that it is a possibility, should the construction project be allowed to start sooner than originally planned. 

Please let me know if you have further questions about this moving target of school construction! 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

August 2019

I'm embarrassed that it's been over a year since I've posted on this blog. I have good intentions and then I get sidetracked. Getting sidetracked at a school site is not uncommon, so I don't feel guilty about it. However, keeping this blog current was a goal of mine last year that I obviously failed at miserably. Yet that is the great thing about goals and having perseverance. I'm setting some new goals this year and revisiting ones I didn't get to last year, this blog being one of them.

What are my goals for this year? Well, let's see:

  • Initiate a "Student Voices" project here at school. We have 180 days with students and our student population is about 185. I plan to interview one student EVERY DAY of the year (some days will have to be two) and ask them various questions about Lake School. The only instruction is that they have to keep their answer under 30 seconds. I'm excited to hear their answers, their honesty about being a Lake Panther. My purpose of this project is to make sure every student is heard because every student has a voice. 
  • Visit two classrooms per week for at least 30 minutes. (Sadly, a repeat goal from 2018-19.)
  • Leave school by 4:30 p.m. I love my job, yet I am also a wife and mother. If I don't take care of my personal life, my professional life suffers. (Oh my, another goal from 2018-19.)
  • Update the Lake Panther Blog at least monthly.
I won't be alone in setting goals for this year. During one of our staff days, I will be asking all staff members to write one or two goals for themselves. We started doing this last year and I'm excited to implement it again. 

Why is this important to me? A few years ago, the teachers and I began looking at research in which students who had developed and monitored goals saw gains in academics and/or behavior, dependent on their goal. We began to dabble in the idea of students setting goals and have seen increased student performance based on their goals. We intend on continuing guiding students in identifying and setting goals, and more importantly, achieving them. You might consider talking with your children about goals you have set in your life, when you were successful and when you weren't, because a goal without a plan is just a wish. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

July 20

The start of a new school year is right around the corner and I am as excited about it as I was my first year of teaching over 20 years ago! I often reflect on my first job in education. I was hired as a high school business teacher in Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona, at Blue Ridge High School.

I didn't realize then how lucky I was to begin my career in education at that wonderful school. I was surrounded by optimistic, positive, and fun-loving people who wanted to do what was best for students every single day. My principal, Mr. Bortin, was not only my boss, but my mentor and coach, and in later years, I'm happy to say my friend. 

When I first applied to Lake as an administrator, I emailed Mr. Bortin and asked him what he thought about my new endeavor. He said I was crazy to go into administration, but that he saw leadership skills in me so many years ago and knew I would do a great job. His confidence in me allowed me to believe in myself because as a classroom teacher of 11 years and a program administrator for seven, making the move to a school administrator can be daunting. 

So now here I sit in my office, ready to begin my seventh year at Lake Elementary, with as much enthusiasm, eagerness, and energy as I had on my first day of teaching. 

Welcome back to our returning students and welcome to our new kindergartners. May you have a wonderful year and come to school every day with enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. I can't wait to see you all on August 8!