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Superintendent's Message (3.23.20)

Dear DSISD Families and Staff,

I want to welcome you back from spring break and provide you with an update on how we will be moving forward as a district.  As we stated in previous communications, all schools will remain closed until at least April 6. We recognize the COVID-19 pandemic continues to progress and will have an impact on these plans.  Our buildings will be closed to the public and only a limited number of identified staff members will be allowed to work to perform key essential functions. This will also limit our ability to provide the same depth of service to our stakeholders as we would during normal operations.

Practice C.A.R.E. - Collaboration, Adaptability, Resiliency & Empathy
During these unmatched times, I ask that we partner together practicing CARE with each other as we create and build new systems to meet the academic, social-emotional and health needs of our students.  I have received a lot of feedback about what teaching and learning will look like moving forward.  I want to acknowledge upfront that we will not be able to replicate the same level of learning experiences for our students that we do when school is in session.  The richness of the learning experience, the teacher-to-student and student-to-student interaction that happens on a daily basis cannot be fully realized through a remote/virtual learning system.  However, I do believe that we can provide learning experiences/resources that will enable students to continue to learn and build critical skills. 

Remote/Virtual Learning
As we begin to shift to remote/virtual learning this week, I want to be transparent with you.  We are getting ready to launch a new instructional delivery model and in doing so, I expect that we will experience some challenges along the way.  I know that our teachers and staff are committed to providing the best possible learning experiences to our students. We will work through this process, learning and adapting each week.  Knowing this will be a new experience for both our students and our teachers, we ask that we all practice CARE during this transition time.                                                                                                      

Guidelines and Key Dates
In our PreK-12 educational system, we have considerable differences in the academic expectations/needs of our students based on their ages, academic abilities, individual educational plans, types of courses being taken, and the support systems needed for our students.  As we have in the past, we trust our teachers to make these decisions in this new learning environment, utilizing their expertise and knowledge of their students.

Below is an overview of the general guidelines we have provided to our teachers.

·         Beginning on Monday, March 23, through Wednesday, March 25, our teachers are/will be collaborating to prepare resources and design processes for this new delivery model.

·         Each level (Elementary, Middle and High School) has been given guidance on the length/frequency of assignments and the flexibility to provide windows of time for students to access and complete these assignments.

·         By Wednesday, March 25, students and parents will hear from teachers about their classroom plans for remote/virtual learning.

·         Remote learning will officially begin for most students in all Grades K-12 on Thursday, March 26 – unless there are extenuating circumstances for a particular staff member.

·         Students and teachers will need time to adjust to the new online format.  We recognize there will need to be flexibility with how students will be graded/assessed by their teachers.

·         Families of students who receive Special Education services will receive a separate communication from that Department and/or their teachers.

·         The need and format for remote learning will be assessed on a weekly basis, based on the restrictions that may remain in place at the local, state and national levels.

Please watch for additional details from your child’s teachers and principal as we ease into this new way of teaching and learning.

Additional Information

I want to thank you all for your overwhelming participation in our Instructional Needs Survey last week (over 75% of our students represented).  Based on that information, we have contacted families who need devices and will be deploying them next week. If you have not responded to the survey and need a device, please email or call us at 512.858.3035.

On Monday, we will begin providing our students who qualify for the daily free and reduced lunch program, breakfast and lunch.  We have reached out to our qualifying families to inform them of the process for picking up these meals.  If you have not received this notification, please email or call us at 512.858.3048.

Now more than ever, we all recognize the magnitude of this health pandemic, the impact it is having on daily schedules and routines, and the stress that it can create.  We want to continue to support and encourage you to practice self-care and cultivate your family’s social-emotional wellness.  We will continue to update our website with resources to assist you in this area. I will continue to provide you with information and updates as this situation continues to evolve.   I believe that as we forge ahead through this unchartered time, we will see our teachers and students rise to the occasion and make the most of this situation.  Thank you again for your patience, empathy and partnership.

Take care,
Todd Washburn
Superintendent of Schools