Posted Date: 05/27/2021
This is the third in a series of commentaries on the Pampa ISD experience during the COVID-19 crisis. I would like to share some reflections and lessons learned as well as shed light on the many factors we as a school district and community are facing as we plan for the future.
As I write this, I have been reflecting on the past 11 weeks and how so many of the daily, even mundane tasks that we once did (like just sitting around a table together at a meeting) suddenly became risky and for some, even dangerous. Although the logical parts of my brain can understand the science behind our restrictions, I, like many others, am struggling with what has changed and how to best move forward. I have heard from many of our staff that the fist bumps, high fives, and synergy from a group of students working on a project together is what they miss the most. Regardless of how distancing has affected us, I think we can all agree that we have been forever changed and will never look at our daily, once mundane tasks the same.
Just as this is true for each of us as individuals, organizations and businesses are dealing with this same challenge on a larger scale: How do we plan for the unknown future? For the Pampa ISD, our questions involve planning for the 20-21 school year with the health and safety of our students and staff at the top of the list. Additionally, we must develop methods of instruction to ensure that our students receive the learning experiences they need and deserve so that they may continue to grow academically and social-emotionally.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced an entire human race to pause and reflect on how we do everything that we do-everyday. Reflection is a powerful tool for us to use if we approach it with a mindset focused on learning, growing, improving, and restoring moving forward. We must learn how to “do” school in such a way that all students are not just learning what they need to learn, but that they are doing so in an environment in which they feel cared for and safe. We must grow in our knowledge of how to provide each individual student and staff member with the support and appropriate challenges they need to reach their personal and professional goals. We must improve how we deliver instruction and services so that regardless of the conditions in which we are living (with or without social distancing) our students stay on course to reach their academic potential and ultimately leave our school system compassionate, competent, confident, and future-ready. And last, but not least, we must restore the peace of mind in ourselves and our stakeholders knowing that this storm will pass and that we will all be better, stronger, smarter, kinder, and more intentional than before.
When we learned from Governor Abbott and the Commissioner of Education that we might be allowed to conduct summer learning opportunities, the leadership and teachers at the PISD began to feel hopeful and could see a light at the end of the tunnel. We immediately began visioning what our summer school would and could look like all-the-while keeping the constraints of the covid-19 crisis at the forefront of our thinking. We began, like we most often do, by crafting our guiding questions and articulating our priority goals for summer learning. We knew that we did not just want to survive--which is what we have all been doing over the past 11 weeks. We wanted our students and staff to thrive! Hence our “Summer Thrive” initiative was born!
Summer School Plans
Summer Thrive is the name of our summer program initiative that has three primary goals. 1. We want to target our students who need us the most right now and provide them a safe, engaging, and meaningful experience to close academic gaps and restore physical, social-emotional, and intellectual wellness. 2. We want to provide students with supplemental opportunities with robotics, STEM, art, and even preparing for college entrance exams. 3. We want to develop health and wellness procedures and protocols that we can perfect over the summer to help us prepare for scaling up in the fall when school starts in August.
Developing the procedures with new social distancing has been challenging. However, we have gathered input from numerous stakeholders and are putting the final touches on our summer school protocols that include safe entrance into the buildings, hand-washing, distancing, sanitization, disinfecting, and building a culture of respect for the importance of keeping everyone healthy. We are also keenly aware that we must prepare for a continuum of environments ranging from face to face, blended, hybrid, to fully online/remote settings. With this in mind, we have developed the following summer programs:
LAUNCH: The goal of the Launch program is to improve student achievement through interventions that support skill and knowledge gaps that will set students up for success in the next grade level. This program will serve students entering 6th and 9th grade in the 20-21 school year. This program will be delivered primarily online using a learning management system known as Canvas.
LRN (Littles Reading NOW): The goal of the LRN program is to ensure incoming Kinder, 1st, and 2nd grade students gain literacy skills in reading/writing through balanced literacy opportunities in small group settings in a face-to-face classroom.
EDGE: The goal of the EDGE program is to provide accelerated learning opportunities that challenge already successful students in academic knowledge and skills to better prepare them for CCMR expectations including college entrance exams such as TSI and ACT. This program will be delivered using a blended/hybrid model with some online learning as well as some small group face-to-face instruction in a classroom at Pampa High School.
OnTrack: The goal of the OnTrack program is to provide opportunities for students to recover credits needed to graduate on time with their classmates in grades 10-12. This program will be delivered using a blended/hybrid model as well with both some online and some face-to-face instruction.
Special Education Extended School Year (ESY) and Compensatory Services These special education programs are provided for targeted students as identified by instructional staff and parents to be in need of additional services due to learning and situational barriers during COVID-19. These programs will vary, but will include some face to face, some online, and some blended formats.
Merit Gold: Merit Gold is a College Preparatory Academy designed to provide identified and committed students opportunities for access to rigorous academic experiences and college entrance exam preparation earlier than traditional programs. The Merit Gold program will provide unique opportunities for identified students in grade 7-8 to excel at a much faster rate and at higher levels. This program will include a hybrid delivery model with some face-to-face instruction as well as some online learning modules.
STEM/Robotics: The STEM/Robotics camps are provided to students in 1st-8th grade who have a desire to learn more about coding, programming, and tinkering with robotics. This program will be delivered in a hybrid/blended format with some online learning and some face-to-face, hands-on learning and creating. Supplies will be provided and space is limited to the first students who register.
ART-K-5 and 6-12: The ART camps are designed to provide students opportunities to learn basic art skills as well as a creative space for practicing and refining artistic methods and style. These programs will be a combination of face-to-face with some online learning. Supplies will be provided. Space will be limited to the first students who register.
Bilingual Classes: The goal of the Bilingual classes is to provide additional support with literacy for bilingual students in grades K-2, and give English learners opportunities for enrichment in grades 3-5 (reading, writing, science) to prepare for upcoming grade levels in the 20-21 school year. These courses will be face-to-face in small groups.
We will be sharing registration information about our limited summer school programs through social media and on our website this week. We hope our students take advantage of these wonderful, free, learning opportunities.
Our hope is to spend quality time with some of our students in a variety of learning environments this summer so we may be better prepared to serve all of our students in the fall. Our leadership teams along with several teachers are developing procedures, plans, and protocols along with learning numerous ways to provide quality instruction in the fall. No matter what school looks like in August, please know that we are eager to be with our students again and we will be communicating and working with our parents and community all summer long to ensure that we are ready!
In the coming articles, I will be sharing plans for re-opening our schools in August and how we can re-enter safely and with intentionality. Our goal is to provide meaningful learning and growing experiences for everyone in the safest environment possible.
As always, we thank you Pampa for your continued support and encouragement as we navigate these unchartered waters and prepare to sail into the unknown future. I am so thankful to be taking this voyage with our Pampa staff, teachers, leaders, parents, students, and community! We are blessed!
Published on 05/29/2020