A Message from the Principal

by Lucia Sullivan on 04/20/2020

Dear Community,
It is hard to believe that we are entering the sixth week of Sheltering in Place and our fifth week of distance learning.  I miss all of you! It was a delight to see some of your faces over zoom this past week. I’d like to share with you discussion items from last week’s board meeting and share reflections on this process with you.

Board Meeting Discussions:
First of all thank you to Molly, Lisa and Cassie for attending our zoom public meeting.  In preparation for budget season, most of our discussion vetered on Monica’s CBO report. We unfortunately had to furlough most of our hourly staff, as we rely on CEF contributions to fund their positions.  We are all hopeful that the stimulus package Unemployment benefits will be a successful short term substitute.

I sent Monica’s detailed overview last week. The budget development preparation begins with looking at the forecast for the next two years.  Right now the budget forecast is quite grim. It is hard to imagine that states and schools will not receive additional aid in the coming months.  Unfortunately, we must build a budget with the information currently available. Right now we are expecting a zero Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) from the state.  Should we be faced with the worst possible scenario, we will freeze salaries, ask CATSS to fund Spanish, run our academic program with the leanest possible staff, reduce hours for administration, etc.  CEf has assured us that it can give us the $98,682 we will need to close out this year. And we will still need CEF contributions of $90,648 and $97,009 in the two years moving forward. Hopefully there will be additional funding for schools allocated for next year.

Distance Learning:
Some of the challenges faced in the first 4 weeks include: technological glitches, tech for K12 given that kids are all using different devices, optimizing curriculum for distance learning, managing workload, managing screen time, wifi access and determining the right balance of work and play.
The greatest success if that kids are showing up to online meetings, participating and completing work.

I summarized survey data in the screencast sent last week, but simply put, this transition is easiest for kids in 678 who are most accustomed to working independently and using online tools.  Parents in 345 are varied in their wishes, but most reported the workload was more than they could manage. Parents in K12 want either no tech or all tech:) We are working to meet everyone’s needs.  We will offer another survey in the next week or so as we continue to refine our distance learning program.

Action steps as a result of feedback:
I am working on getting more chromebooks for K12 families who are now realizing they need a device for their child to access resources.Teachers are working to shift academic demands to fewer hours sitting in front of a computer and decreasing the workload to make it more manageable for kids and their adults.We are also leveraging more organic opportunities for kids in older grades to focus their attention on a choice-based passion project.

What about graduation and moving on ceremonies?
As a staff we have begun to talk about ways to make a meaningful online experience for kids and their families.  This is a work in process, but we have many ideas.
What about State Testing?
The State of California has suspended all testing for this school year.  There will be no state testing.
What about the plays?
The teachers have many creative ideas for ways that children could produce the plays remotely and film them.  We are working on this and one way or another there will be spring performances!
What about Costa Rica?
This is so disappointing!  I really don’t yet know at this point what can be done.
What about camp and the summer?
At this point, I have not yet heard anything about summer.  I am proceeding as if there can be Canyon Camp this summer. As soon as I know anything I will let you know.
What about next year?
It sounds as if there will be some physical distancing measures in place until we have a vaccine.  We do not yet know what this will look like in the fall. I imagine that given our small size we may be in a good position compared to larger schools, but I am speculating.
What if my kid just can’t deal?
We get it!  Please just let your child’s teacher know.  I know many of you have needed mental health days.  We completely understand! I know many of you have reported that it was too much work and too much stress.  We have attempted to reduce the stress. But if the workload is still too much for your child, please just let your child’s teacher know.

Finally, State Senator Steve Glazer has been hosting town hall meetings via teleconference.  Last week he hosted Denise Pope of Palo Alto based Project Success. She talks reassuringly about the value of chores and how much learning happens during playtime, downtime and family time. https://sd07.senate.ca.gov/covid19/telephone-town-hall
If you or your family are struggling, please let me know so I can connect you with any available resources.