The 34 member Working Advisory Group, made up of teachers, school principals, district administrators and parents was charged with exploring ways to safely return students to in-person learning as soon as possible. They’ve taken that mission to heart. Working at a feverish pace, the group is already ready to make a handful of recommendations, backed by the Boulder Valley Education Association, to the Board of Education on Tuesday, September 8, nearly a month ahead of schedule.
At a Glance
The Working Advisory Group is focused on how BVSD can give all students at least some access to in-person learning. They will be making the following recommendations at the Board of Education Meeting on September 8 at 6 p.m.
Tune in on BV22 (Comcast Channel 22 and www.bvsd.org/bv22).
Outdoor Learning Opportunities - Beginning September 29
K-2 Return to the Classroom - Beginning September 29
Learners with the most intensive needs - Beginning September 29
We sat down with two members of the Working Advisory Group, University Hill Elementary School Principal Ina Rodriguez-Myer and District Accountability Committee (DAC) Vice Chair Nicole Rajpal. They shared some insight into the group and its first batch of recommendations.
“It is very clear that everyone who is part of this committee, at every level, cares about kids. They are really trying to do what is best for them,” said Rodriguez-Myer.
As they have attended the many meetings over the past few weeks, both feel that they have been carrying the perspective and stories of the many families that they represent.
“I show up every day representing the thoughts that I am hearing from stakeholders across BVSD and in the DAC (District Accountability Committee). I am amplifying the voice of others, not my own,” explained Rajpal.
She feels strongly that more parents should have been on the committee, but does her best to carry the diverse viewpoints of those she represents from DAC, as well as other parents and students that she speaks to.
For Principal Rodriguez-Myer, it is the faces of her most-impacted families that always come to mind. We spoke to her between Back to School meetings with parents and directly after a call with a University Hill Elementary parent who is unable to read in her native Spanish, let alone English.
“There are so many things already against them AND now this,” Rodriguez-Myer said. “Anything we can do to support them would be just so great for them and their parents would be so grateful and thankful for that.”
Everyone involved believes that educators and schools are going above and beyond to get families connected remotely, to improve Home Learning and to make the experience as fun and engaging as possible.
“The teachers are working so hard,” said Rodriguez-Myer. “I can’t say enough about what the teachers are doing. From learning new programs to new platforms to trying to be more engaging, to working with the different demographics that we have. It is unbelievable.”
Regardless of their tireless efforts, remote learning just cannot compare to the in-person learning and support that typically happens at BVSD schools.
“We want our kids back. Technology has its place as a tool, but it is not great for everything we teach,” said Rodriguez-Myer.
While classes haven’t resumed at the building, she says that University Hill is bustling with activity, with teachers in their classrooms providing instruction and school staff providing one-on-one technology support for parents.
“We have them come outside of the school and we’d meet them and walk them through,” Rodriguez-Myer added. “Some of the kids, however, are hardly getting on. I think about those kids, more so than anyone.”
It is examples like this that have been driving the Working Advisory Group to take action quickly, especially for the most impacted groups. As a result, about a month before they were scheduled to present recommendations to the Board of Education, they are ready to present part of their plan, which will provide all students with the opportunity to begin receiving some form of in-person instruction if they are willing and medically able, but focuses the district’s efforts around our youngest learners.
“We realized that our PK-2 students are vulnerable, and many are struggling with virtual learning,” Rajpal said. “At that age level, we are laying that foundation for the next 10 years of their education. If they don’t get a solid start at the beginning, and if they don’t develop a love for learning, they run the risk of needing many more supports to catch up and stay engaged.”
“If you look at the research, our youngest students benefit from learning in tactile, physical and personal ways that improve social and emotional skills, along with academic skills. They are learning how to work collaboratively with others in addition to learning how to read, write and build early math skills” she added.
Another factor in the decision was understanding the tremendous amount of support required of families during Home Learning.
“This is the group of students that needs adult supervision and assistance, someone to help navigate SeeSaw and make sure they log in to Google Meet on time so they can participate in synchronous learning. It takes a ton of support from the parent or caregiver or whoever is home and not everyone has access to that,” Rajpal said.
Rajpal and Rodriguez-Myer say that the committee’s work isn’t done. They will continue to work towards the goal of getting all students access to in-person learning. In the meantime, they are asking for the district to come together to support the needs of our most vulnerable students first.
“The current system is creating inequities that is exacerbating the opportunity and achievement gaps” Rajpal explained. “Sometimes equity and social justice require us to prioritize those with the greatest need and deploy resources in ways that might feel unequal at first glance. Our k-2 students, families and teachers need our support right now.”