On Friday, the Antioch Unified School District will hold a special meeting to approve the Thomas Gaines K-8 Virtual Learning Academy. The meeting will be held at 12:00 pm.
The District, which heard a presentation at Wednesdays meeting, plans to reopen the District this fall but will provide students with an option to continue in distance learning. (EDITORS NOTE – approved Friday in 5-0 vote. video at the bottom)
“The number one mode will be in-person learning but we will be offering options for those families who were successful in distance learning or prefer a different program,” said Superintendent Stephanie Anello.
Christine Ibarra, Associate Superintendent, shared that the first day of school will be August 5 and all schools will open with full in-person instruction. Instruction will be Monday-Friday with regular school hours and regular food services. The AUSD will adhere to California Department of Health Guidance and will continue to adapt as guidance may change.
The District plans to increase the following services:
- ACCELERATED LEARNING APPROACH TO INSTRUCTION
- EXTENDING INSTRUCTIONAL LEARNING TIME – TUTORING AND OTHER ACADEMIC SERVICES AFTER SCHOOL
- ADDITIONAL LEARNING SUPPORTS DURING THE INSTRUCTIONAL DAY
- UPDATED TEXTBOOKS AND CURRICULUM
- SOCIAL EMOTIONAL PROGRAMS AND SUPPORTS
- TECHNOLOGY DEVICES FOR EVERY STUDENT
- INCREASED BANDWIDTH AT SCHOOLS AND HOTSPOTS AVAILABLE FOR HOME USE
Virtual Academy Model
Ibarra highlighted why the AUSD was considering a virtual academy model as the District has received many calls for many reasons of families not ready to go back to in-person learning. Many families want to remain in distance learning.
“I was talking to a principal and she said several of her students are actually performing better in distance learning,” explained Ibarra. “We assumed a lot of our students were not getting the education at the same level, but quite a few of our students have done better. It’s worked well for them in a virtual environment.”
She reiterated many families want to remain in distance learning for another year as a safety precaution.
This prompted the District to look at alternative schools of choice which would fit three criteria which comes directly from the state.
- BASED ON THE PREMISE THAT “ONE SIZE DOESN’T FIT ALL” MEANING NOT ALL STUDENTS WILL THRIVE OR REACH THEIR FULL POTENTIAL IN THE TRADITIONAL COMPREHENSIVE SCHOOL
- CAN OFFER A DIFFERENT STRUCTURE, LEARNING PHILOSOPHY, OR ACADEMIC EMPHASIS TO ACCOMMODATE DIFFERENT STUDENT NEEDS, INTERESTS, AND LEARNING STYLE
- EDUCATION CODE 58500 ALLOWS THE GOVERNING BOARD OF ANY SCHOOL DISTRICT TO ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN ONE OR MORE ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS WITHIN THE DISTRICT
The goals of Alternative Schools of Choice:
- MAXIMIZE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR STUDENTS TO DEVELOP THE POSITIVE VALUES OF SELF-RELIANCE, INITIATIVE, KINDNESS, SPONTANEITY, RESOURCEFULNESS, COURAGE, CREATIVITY, RESPONSIBILITY, AND JOY
- RECOGNIZE THAT THE BEST LEARNING TAKES PLACE WHEN THE STUDENT LEARNS BECAUSE OF HIS OR HER DESIRE TO LEARN
- MAINTAIN A LEARNING SITUATION THAT ENCOURAGES STUDENT MOTIVATION, TIME-MANAGEMENT, AND THE ABILITY TO FOLLOW THEIR OWN INTERESTS
- MAXIMIZE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR TEACHERS, PARENTS, AND STUDENTS TO COOPERATIVELY DEVELOP THE LEARNING PROCESS AND ITS SUBJECT MATTER. THIS OPPORTUNITY MUST BE A CONTINUOUS, PERMANENT PROCESS
- MAXIMIZE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR STUDENTS, TEACHERS, AND PARENTS TO CONTINUOUSLY REACT TO THE CHANGING WORLD, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE COMMUNITY IN WHICH THE SCHOOL IS LOCATED
Thomas Gaines K-8 Virtual Learning Academy
Ibarra shared the District is proposing the Thomas Gains K-8 Virtual Learning Academy. The District aimed to name it after Gains because he was the first African American resident in Antioch and lived at the waterfront. In 2016, February 9th was declared Thomas Gaines Day.
The pillars include:
- Student voice & choice
- Student goal setting & monitoring
- Critical thinking Community & collaboration
She noted that “flexibility” could apply to those competitive athletes who have a travel schedule that prevents them from attending school in a normal way. This academy would allow them to not only be engaged but in a time frame that suites them.
The program would include:
- CORE CONTENT INSTRUCTION (ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS/ENGLISH LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT, MATH, SCIENCE, SOCIAL STUDIES, PHYSICAL EDUCATION)
- STANDARDS MASTERY BASED LEARNING
- PROJECT BASED LEARNING
- SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING
- DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP
“This program also gives our students opportunities and flexibility in how they demonstrate their mastery. So, there are given many ways they can demonstrate their mastery,” explained Ibarra. “In addition, they are recognized for mastering a standard without having to matter how long it takes. If they get there, they get there. Its not an averaging of scores. Its not I completed these 10 assignments, its two C’s, three B’s and that is what constitutes my grade. No, however long it took me to demonstrate I can master that standard then I have mastered it and I receive the grade I deserved.”
What Students Could Expect
- Live daily instruction
- Learning and social emotional supports
- Collaboration with peers
- Individual and group assignments
- Voluntary in-person activities
WHAT VIRTUAL LEARNING OPTION IS AVAILABLE FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS?
- ASSEMBLY BILL 86 WILL SUNSET ON JUNE 30, 2021
- STATE AND ASSEMBLY ARE NEGOTIATING WITH GOVERNOR NEWSOM EXPANDED PROVISIONS OF INDEPENDENT STUDY
- MAY REVISION PROPOSES A SERIES OF IMPROVEMENTS TO THE STATE’S EXISTING INDEPENDENT STUDY PROGRAMS. SPECIFICALLY, LOCAL EDUCATIONAL AGENCIES WILL PROVIDE NON-CLASSROOM BASED INSTRUCTION USING THE EXISTING TRADITIONAL AND COURSE-BASED INDEPENDENT STUDY MODELS, BUT WILL HAVE ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS TO: (1) PROVIDE ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY, INTERNET CONNECTIVITY, AND A DEDICATED AND RIGOROUS CURRICULUM; (2) DEVELOP AND IMPLEMENT A FRAMEWORK OF TIERED RE-ENGAGEMENT STRATEGIES FOR STUDENTS NOT MEANINGFULLY PARTICIPATING IN INSTRUCTION; AND (3) TRACK AND RECORD DAILY STUDENT PARTICIPATION AND INTERACTION WITH TEACHERS.
- CLARIFICATION ANTICIPATED BY JUNE 15, 2021
PROSPECTS INDEPENDENT STUDY PROGRAM PROVIDES
- 1:1 student-teacher ratio for weekly independent study appointment
- Virtual & in-person options for Math instruction
- Learning and social emotional supports
- District adopted common core curriculum
- Community partnership with Los Medanos Community College (dual enrollment courses, field trips, college counseling, etc.)
- Access to A-G coursework via Edgenuity
- Elective opportunities (Art, Music, & Leadership
STUDENTS WHO MIGHT CONSIDER A VIRTUAL LEARNING OPTION:
- THRIVE IN A VIRTUAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
- NEED A FLEXIBLE LEARNING OPTION
- ARE INDEPENDENT AND SELF-MOTIVATED
- WOULD LIKE TO ACCELERATE THEIR LEARNING
AUSD TIMELINE FOR PARENTS INTERESTED IN THE VIRTUAL LEARNING ACADEMIES
- June 14th: Virtual Academy information posted To AUSD website
- By July 2nd: Submit an Enrollment Request form to Centralized Enrollment
- By July 16th: Parent notified if request was approved
- By August 5th: Attend parent orientation
AN ADDITIONAL OPTION AVAILABLE TO STUDENTS: ENCORE HOMESCHOOL
- SERVING K-8 STUDENTS IN AUSD
- DESIGNED FOR PARENTS WHO WISH TO TEACH THEIR CHILDREN AT HOME
- ASSISTANCE AND SUPPORT FROM CREDENTIALED AUSD TEACHERS
- HELP WITH DESIGNING EDUCATIONAL GOALS
- OPPORTUNITIES FOR WORKSHOPS, CLASSES, AND FIELD TRIP
After receiving the report, Board President Ellie Householder liked the proposed model.
“As a Prospects graduate, like, I can get emotional thinking about how great this option this is for K-8 students and just reflecting how great it would be for me to have that option when I was in middle school, but I am so thankful to have the experience at Prospects,” stated Householder. “I am living proof these models do work.”
She did express concerns over the announcement by Bay Area County Superintendents regarding the support for reopening school campus in the fall. She said she believe there were some “misnomers” about reopening.
“I think what people were concerned that was that they saw us as a District as not wanting to reopen or depending on their position, two sides of the coin, I think there is some misconception of where the decision actually lies,” stated Householder. “So this presentation is part of that decision process. What are our requirements and where does the decision actually lie because I think people think we are keeping our schools closed unreasonably.”
Superintendent Anello stated the decision lies in the options in the education code and comes down to local governing body.
“The board will be the deciding body on whether to approve the alternate school,” stated Anello. “Program itself, lies with staff… I think through this pandemic, people have thought what they are going to think and people had very strong views about things.”
Ibarra added the District is getting calls on both sides of reopen versus distance learning which they hope to create a long-term option with the Thomas Gaines School.
Vice President Clyde Lewis Jr called the presentation “phenomenal” and confirmed families can self select, but was curious on the cap and how will that be determined. Ibarra said they had to find space for those who request it. They can voluntarily enter and leave.
Ibarra also highlighted that if a student is not excelling, it could be recommended they be moved into an in person environment—which is supported by ed code.
Lewis also had concerns of possibly parents peaking over a students shoulder and helping them with answers.
Ibarra said they admit they saw some inflated scores early on with IReady so they drove it home to tell parents not to assist and it doesn’t help to have parents inflate scores while they have worked to proctor measures to limit help. She further highlighted through the standards mastery approach, they would be giving students multiple opportunities and its not a paper driven test—but creative ways to demonstrate mastery.
Trustee Antonio Hernandez asked if there were pathways and resources for English learners. Ibarra said there were along with those with special needs—its open to all students.
Approved in a 5- vote.
The District is seeking approval to form and establish the Thomas Gaines Virtual Learning Academy as an Alternative School of Choice (ASOC) to open in the fall of 2021. The Thomas Gains Virtual Learning Academy will provide a virtual learning option for students and families who would benefit from such an instructional model. The Thomas Gaines Virtual Learning Academy will serve students in grades K-8. Enrollment is entirely voluntary. The school will be virtual in instructional delivery but will include opportunities for in-person experiences as well. The Thomas Gaines Virtual Learning Academy will be housed in a currently existing school location. Enrollment will open on June 14, 2021, and staffing will be assigned based on enrollment numbers. All families who wish to enroll their student(s) in the Thomas Gains Virtual Learning Academy will be able to do so.
Alternative schools of choice (ASOC) were established under California Education Code (EC) sections 58500—58512. Each ASOC must meet all the requirements of the law, including:
- All students and teachers are selected entirely from volunteers (EC Section 58503).
- The school is maintained and funded by the school district at the same level of support as other educational programs for the same age level operated by the district (EC Section 58507).
- The district annually evaluates the school and forwards the evaluations to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (EC Section 58510).
To watch the meeting: click here.