Distance Learning in Elementary School

Parent Q&A

Distance Learning Resources for Advanced Learners Oct 22, 2020 (2 responses below)
Private schools offering online-only options? Oct 19, 2020 (2 responses below)
Private elementary school parents -- How is it going? Oct 16, 2020 (6 responses below)
Chromebooks, internet connection and online learning Oct 7, 2020 (3 responses below)
Resources to supplement distance learning Aug 16, 2020 (2 responses below)
How are you managing full time care for school age kids? Aug 12, 2020 (3 responses below)
Parents Decisions about Kindergarten during Quarantine Aug 6, 2020 (4 responses below)
Mills College Children's School COVID-19 response? Jun 8, 2020 (1 responses below)
School alternatives for 20-21 academic year? May 28, 2020 (5 responses below)
How are private elementary schools preparing for AY 20-21? May 23, 2020 (3 responses below)
Kindergarten at BUSD during COVID-19 May 13, 2020 (4 responses below)
Distance learning experiences in BUSD? May 12, 2020 (4 responses below)
Public school districts handling the online transition well? Apr 30, 2020 (9 responses below)
What is your school offering in terms of zoom/assignments? Apr 3, 2020 (14 responses below)
Private School Tuition During Covid-19 Closures Mar 29, 2020 (14 responses below)
Distance Learning for Kindergarten Mar 20, 2020 (2 responses below)
Blended/Online Learning & On-site School for K-8 Students Mar 14, 2020 (1 responses below)
  • Hi all,

    I’m seeking advice about online learning programs for gifted children. Our son (now in 5th grade) was GATE identified in all three assessment areas. We’re in a great public school, but distance learning has made it very apparent that their “regular class work + extra worksheets” enrichment approach isn’t meeting his needs as we had hoped. He’s starting to rebel against school in general, saying it’s “too boring,” and that he hates having to go the same speed as the rest of the class.  There’s not much available support-wise for advanced learners in our school district (and teachers and administrators at our school is stretched very thin right now!), so we’re hoping to find some online options that might better meet his needs - ideally courses aimed at advanced learners that use live instructors. Would also love any advice on folks (counselors, etc.) who might be able to help us navigate the process of finding resources for him, or any other ideas/experiences from other parents who have walked this path. Thanks so much. 

    My 2E student had a good class through CTY at Johns Hopkins a couple years ago, it was synchronous and asynchronous. They have their own assessment process, and it's pretty expensive, but may be worth checking out, as may be other schooling options.

    Our kids are advanced in math and have basically tested out of their grades in math. Khan Academy has been helpful as kids get to do more advanced materials. We have also been happy with Prodigy Math's tutoring program. The tutor provides math instruction at the kids' level, and kids say school is boring but tutor sessions are fun. They say it's not work time, it's fun play time. 

    Pandemic learning is so difficult. My kids are checked out during their regulat school time as well. 

  • We're very lucky that we're in a private school with high quality teachers who have managed teaching on zoom decently. We are also a high risk family, and will not be able to put our kids in in-person school now that schools are reopening. Some schools, like ours, are offering a hybrid model that I worry will work very poorly for the kids at home. Other schools, I hear, have surveyed parents and created separate in-person and all-online pods. Is anyone at a school that offers online-only sections for this year? Would you recommend your this?

    We are at Crestmont School, which is a co-op school in Richmond. The school leadership did do several surveys to determine the plan for each grade. We are a small school and they were able to come up with plans that worked for each family and teacher. We have a mixed grade of 2nd and 3rd graders that will remain online for the remainder of the year while some of the school returns to campus. There are spaces available in that class. My daughter is in a different class, so I can't speak to that class particularly, but I've heard nothing but positive things from all families at our school about the class experience. Teachers are doing a great job of making it a creative and connected experience. You don't mention what grade you are looking for, but if that might be a good fit, you can get more information by emailing admissions [at] crestmontschool.org

    It's such a logistical challenge for schools to figure this out. I have heard from other teacher friends and parent friends that the hybrid model (where there is simultaneous teaching of kids who are in-person and remote does not work well, especially for young kids). We made the switch to Ecole Bilingue earlier this year, having experienced home learning at another private school last spring, and at a Berkeley Public School for a few weeks this fall, and we are so happy with our decision and grateful we were able to make the switch.  Ecole Bilingue surveyed families at the start of the year and offered both home-based and in-person learning options. There are separate pods with separate teachers and the curriculum is coordinated so that when the kids are all eventually back to school together they won't have been learning different things, but the curriculum is not identical because the school realized the home-learning curriculum needed to be adjusted to the specific circumstances of home learning. Parents have to commit to home-based learning for a specific academic calendar cycle so as to maintain the integrity of the pods and then can opt to switch to in-person or continue to stay at home.  We've been very impressed with the home-based learning option and with the school on the whole. What we experienced at the other two schools was adequate, and I'm loathe to critique any school these days since it's such a challenging time and public schools especially are working miracles with limited resources, but our experience since making the switch has been really eye-opening in terms of what home-based learning can be. Before, we were underwhelmed and worried about how much our son was missing out on (and frankly we'd been underwhelmed pre-COVID). Now we can't believe how much he is learning and how effective and well-thought out the curriculum is. 

  • I am beginning to hear that private schools are opening up. Our friends at EBI just began in-person instruction. We would be particularly interested in learning more about how the following schools' in-person instruction is going. We are in OUSD and there's virtually no meaningful learning happening at school. I have no idea if private schools are accepting students right now. The cost is a big concern, but it's heart breaking knowing that my kids are falling behind their friends in private school and cousins in other countries that are managing the pandemic better and have opened schools up many months ago. American public school kids are falling behind and CA public school kids are in trouble. I cannot see how public schools will be able to open up safely until the pandemic is over, whenever that may be.  I have been a supporter of public schools and have kept my kids in public school, but I'm not sure anymore when I feel that online public school education is a big waste of time and the only thing my kids are learning is tricks to look like they're paying attention to combat boredom and how to do cool virtual background on zoom... Academically, all of my kids are ahead, so they're not learning new materials either and teachers are not able to provide differentiated learning.

    I know very little about the below schools but they are geographically the closest to where we live. Mill College school is almost $10k cheaper than other schools, so it's a very attractive option even though it's far from our house. 

    - Aurora

    - Park Day

    - St. Paul

    - Bentley

    - Mills College Children's School

    We are a St. Paul's family and are pretty satisfied with how it's going. St. Paul's is definitely taking a slower path back to in-person than some of the other schools on your list, but I have deep appreciation for the fact that they are letting teacher and family comfort levels guide the pace, with frequent check-ins and a great deal of communication and transparency (and honesty/humility about how uncharted these waters are). We are happy with how the distance learning aspect is going--it's a lot more live time than our OUSD friends have (and sometimes flirts with too much) but the structure has worked well for our kids, and they are making steady academic progress and maintaining social-emotional connections, which is all I can ask for in this moment. Differentiation even in the remote environment has been good (and was strong pre-COVID as well). I will say that the in-person time, as it ramps up, is still very short relative to the good old days of aftercare until 6, so proximity to school matters more than ever. Reopening plans are posted on each school's website, so I'd take a look to see how their approaches to both in-person and distance learning vary. I'd also note, on the cost front, that most/all of these schools do offer flexible tuition/financial aid and it's absolutely worth asking about before assuming a school costs too much, especially if you have more than one child. Good luck--it is so tough to navigate all of this right now!

    We have a child at The Academy in Berkeley and have been happy with their remote learning program. Kindergarten is returning to school this week and then the other grades will slowly return. Kids must have a negative Covid test before returning.

    If you are looking for less expensive private schools, check out the catholic schools. St. Theresa School is a good option. 

    We were in the same boat as you, and after the difficult spring decided over the summer to switch our child from our well-regarded OUSD school to a small, non-religious private school in Lamorinda. At the time, many (but not all) of the private schools we spoke to in Oakland were accepting new students because there has been so much flux due to Covid. It's with mixed emotions that I say we have been thrilled with the switch, because we also very deliberately chose Oakland public schools when my child began elementary. But this situation is just bonkers, and it wasn't sustainable for our family to keep going the way we had been in the spring. We have been blown away by how organized and data-driven the new school has been. The online learning has been as good as it can be. My child was in online classes from 8:45 - 2:45 each day, with ample breaks of course, and which included many "extras" multiple times a week, such as Spanish, PE, Music and art, with dedicated, excellent teachers for each. They set the bar high academically, and it was an adjustment for all of us to help my child keep up with the schoolwork and to be accountable. The school just reopened for in-person instruction a week ago and it's all going well, my child loves being back, but obviously there may be a roller coaster ahead. There is a parent-driven Covid task force, close cooperation and ongoing communication with the Contra Costa Health Dept, and the school had the resources and the small size to swiftly meet all of the safety requirements, apply for the waiver, and reopen. However, we are fully aware of the risks involved in returning to in-person learning, and we're bracing for the notification someday that an exposure has occurred in my child's cohort. Unfortunately I think you just need to be prepared for that if you're going to send your kid to in-person instruction while we're in the middle of a pandemic. Anyway, I had to respond, because like you, I felt that the "handwriting was on the wall" for the upcoming year, and maybe even 2021-2022, given that children are unlikely to be allowed to get a Covid vaccine anytime soon. Anecdotally, 2 families from my child's class have moved away already during the school year, so I would imagine there may be spaces available at some of the schools you're interested in if you contact them.

  • My child's teachers told me that her Chromebook wasn't connecting well for online classes.  I tested the network connectivity in her room and it seemed to be fine.  She's been using my laptop since and that works well.   I need my laptop for work and so need to get a replacement for school.  Can anyone tell me what characteristics I should look for in a device to preclude this problem?
     

    Chromebooks are in the same price range as iPads.  I would check with the school and see if an iPad can be used and add a keyboard. There's a lot more functionality with an iPad and your daughter will be able to use it for other purposes other than school.

    I'd recommend getting a desktop computer from Best Buy and getting Geek Squad protection. We also got a Chromebook that zoom didn't work well on, then we tried a tablet. On the tablet zoom did work, but the tablet usability is not great for classroom purposes. You are limited to seeing only 4 people on your screen, which is especially difficult if there is more than one instructor or for back and forth dialogue. AND the camera shuts off when the chat function is used.

    A larger screen is helpful for attention and focus. Going from a tablet to a large computer screen has made a huge difference in my daughter's class engagement.

    Chromebooks definitely have trouble with video conferencing software, especially with Zoom.  Here's a website that has some tips: 

    https://www.schooledintech.com/best-practices-for-using-zoom-on-a-chrome...

    And here's a thread that may have some ideas as well: https://support.google.com/chromebook/thread/38575787?hl=en

  • Resources to supplement distance learning

    (2 replies)

    Hi, Our district (like many in California) is starting school year with distance learning which will likely continue for foreseeable future and then move to hybrid when possible.  I'm currently working from home (due to the pandemic) and planning to take some time during the day to help with distance learning and make up hours at night.  I figured my work will suffer due to work from home no matter what, so I might as well use the opportunity to invest in my kids' education.  My kids (elementary school aged) are pretty independent learners so I want to use my time with them to supplement distance learning (they can do the basic DL work themselves), cover more advanced topics, do hands on learning, and help them advance since our school is not very good at differentiating and my kids could really benefit from this.  Anyone knows of resources that will be good for this?  I signed up for Beast Academy for math as I heard great things.  Anything more for math, or any recommendations for science learning kids or curriculum I can use at home to supplement?  Anything good for working on improving reading comprehension besides just reading more books?  I'm good at teaching the old-style boring way, but am not very creative unfortunately so looking for resources/tools out there to make it fun and interesting for the kids while they learn.  I figured some others are in similar position and hopefully have some resources to recommend.  Thanks. 

    Hi there, I've been learning a lot about a philosophy called Unschooling that I think could supplement distance learning well. It gives kids time and space to develop interests, without a curriculum. You notice what they are showing an interest in and provide resources and experiences to help them explore that interest. Elementary aged kids learn so much through play and self directed exploration. This could be a great time to carve out some Unschooling time in their schedules and see how they blossom! :)

    Take a look at EduTube and YouTube channels.  There is a lot of excellent material out there that's for free.  And more is being added all of the time. 
    For more structured learning take a look at Kahn Academy.  They have daily scheduled learning for ages 2-18.  And it's also free.  Started by a Silicon Valley billionaire about a decade ago. 
    https://www.khanacademy.org/  

  • Hi everyone- I hope this is the correct forum, the childcare forum seemed to be focused on preschools. I'm approaching completion of my clearance to be a foster parent. I had arranged my home for 2 school age siblings between the ages of 5-13 yrs. Now that schools will be distance learning, and because I'm single and an essential worker, I'm scrambling to figure out if I can still foster or if I will have to wait indefinitely until the schools re-open. What are people that work doing for childcare for these ages? and what does this cost monthly? 

    Many preschools are allowing 5 year olds to enroll for kindergarten--I've talked to at least three in Berkeley that are willing to support the district's distance learning. I suspect that at-home daycares (with a wider age range) are doing the same. You can contact BANANAS for referrals to places with openings. I wonder if any of your colleagues with kids might know about childcare options for essential workers, too.

    Hi, inspired to hear about your fostering plans! I don't have great news, in that there is no support for working parents, it's quite shocking really. People are scrambling to find pods to share childcare/social groups, in a coop fashion or through hiring someone. I'm a kindergarten parent who works and am scrambling to figure this out. It will take some time or a super organized parent. It seems for pods, parents pay in $8- $20 /hour depending on the model.....right now, I have nothing and paying a babysitter for my 5 year old, as I struggle to form a pod. Would be happy to chat more if it helps you. It's all just a bit crazy as everyone tries to sort solutions to fit their different needs while also staying safe. I'm not sure of childcare options for 13 yr olds, but I know there are some camps that are turning into school day type things.....like East Bay dance center. 

    I hear you! I'm an essential worker too and it is very hard. I've enrolled my child to a preschool that has K-1 pods.

    They are supporting DL and manage homework. They do many different activities and my child is happy with that. I've heard they a few spots for part time but also full time supporting attendance to school. I will try that in October.

  • Hi Parents, 

    I have a 5 year old who is supposed to be starting Kindergarten this year. I have decided to send him to another year in preschool instead because I feel he will get very little out of online learning AND both my partner and I work. My initial plan was to enroll him in Kindergarten with BUSD as well and just not really show up until (if!) in-person learning begins. But I was honest about my plan with the district and they said I need to un-enroll him and only re-enroll once he's ready to attend (ie if in-person learning starts up). So I'm planning to do that but wanted to know if any of you are in a similar boat. Does anyone know what the risks of un-enrolling could be? I fear that we won't get the school we want once in-person learning begins or there will be a different hurdle that I'm not even considering now. I do know that if he misses all of K, he'll have to start next year in 1st grade, which would not be ideal but I think I'm willing to go that route if the full year is online. Open to any thoughts, advice, or personal experiences. 

    Thanks!
    Amanda

    This doesn't answer your question about un-enrolling. But, if you want to consider keeping your kid enrolled, you could ask the preschool if they'll support BUSD's distance learning program. We're in a similar boat, and I've spoken to two preschools/in-home day cares that are willing to support the morning online learning (which I feel will be enough to meet BUSD's expectations). There seems to be a high demand for this right now, and while the district isn't too flexible, I think the preschools are eager to keep parents happy.

    I have a first grader, but know other kindergarten families in this situation. I think you can't have both, either keep him in preschool the full year or have him in distance education kindergarten. You can't be enrolled in K at the local school and not participate, it takes up a spot someone else could have, and makes it difficult for funding- the school gets money based on contact hours. If your kid does not participate, that's less money for the school.

    I've been impressed with the distance learning plan our neighborhood public school is doing, and my kid liked the zoom kindergarten last year, we made a lot of academic progress with the live lessons, home learning, and the teacher's office hours. But I understand not every kid wants to see their friends and teacher on the screen, and I know 3 families who are staying in their in-person preschool and will just enroll in first grade next year. Other friends of ours are doing the online route for K and TK. Best of luck to your family.

    Even in normal times, I've known families that kept their kids in preschool for K.  It had to with school quality although I imagine that would also allow folks to hold younger kids back.  Note that some preschools have been operating successfully through the summer and it may qualify as a childcare expense for tax purposes.

  • With the state wide budget cut, we are reluctantly looking at private school options. How has MCCS has been with the pandemic response and remote learning? MCCS is attractive to us because I understand that they have a large outdoor space which can help with learning during the pandemic. 

    I just saw this.   I'm a MCCS parent in the early childhood program.  I'm feeling really calm and safe about the plan they have in place.  We have a big beautiful campus and they are capping classes at 12 students, staggering start times, cleaning schedules, etc.

    I really also appreciate that the administration has emphasizes that while they will be wanting the children to wear a face covering, they will not be punitive or discipline or shame. Staff will also be wearing face coverings.

  • Due to a variety of reasons I won't get into here, I have lost all faith in BUSD being able to provide any manageable school solution for my elementary school kids. There are some spectacular teachers doing a good job, but I've learned that when we don't get one of those, it's a total mess. As a result, I'm trying to find a sustainable solution for our family for the next academic year. I am willing to consider a range of options from private school to supplemental online instruction or tutoring to some sort of paid, in-person small group day camps that meet the COVID requirements to any other ideas out there.

    My primary goals are to keep my kids occupied and engaged in something - anything - during the school year so that my spouse and I can work during the day. We are not looking to fill 8 hrs per day -- our kids are pretty independent and can keep themselves occupied. Rather we are looking for 1-3 hrs per day to provide some sort of structure to the endless days at home. Right now we're either dealing with crying and giving up on school work because there is no instruction, or we are peppered with questions all day long because there is no teacher available to ask for help. I don't care if my kids "fall behind" in the traditional subjects as long as they're occupied with something interesting and somewhat educational that doesn't cause continuous strife in my house. 

    What is working is the project based "independent" experimentation type stuff. For example, my kids built a marble run out of cardboard & are expanding it into a very basic Rube Goldberg machine with dominos - this has consumed many many hours over a couple of weeks. My kids have also taken very engaging online lessons with outside organizations that they enjoy and where actual instruction happens and where they get feedback on their efforts. In an ideal world, we would find one organization / school / person / etc. who would put together these types of opportunities that are functional for working parents and provide regular daily engagement, teaching and feedback for our kids either in-person or on a videoconference. This could be a support for what BUSD sends out (and we would keep our kids enrolled), or it could be completely independent (and we would pull our kids out). Any recommendations?

    You might want to check out Berkwood Hedge School (www.berkwood.org) in downtown Berkeley. The school excels in project based learning and that seems like a good fit for what has been working for your kids. I have two kids there, an older child and and younger child who have enjoyed the abundant SIP distance learning that honestly pale in comparison to the rich curriculum offered in person. Right now my kids have a combination of 1 on 1 feedback meetings with their teachers, small group working meetings and live art, music, PE and dance class. The school already has a plan for what will happen in the fall. It is a small school that can be responsive to changing situations. Good luck!

    Hello fellow Parent,  Just today I was researching homeschool and independent study alternatives to placing my 10 yr old back in to public school.  Surprisingly, becoming a homeschool "teacher" to my child was not as difficult as I imagined. Rough at first but, once we got into a groove, it went well. Most importantly, I noticed that my ADHD child was actually was making greater progress with me at home than during her attendance at the school. A few of the reasons being, at home she had little to no physical distractions, no social emotional issues (academic level comparisons/ anxiety about who "likes" her..etc), and we had a schedule that was flexible. I decided to pursue the possibility of homeschooling my daughter through the next year (and beyond). However, I am uncertain how to continue without having to "work" nearly full time myself. I've been contemplating a variety of possibilities and one I would consider is to be a "Nanny" or "In-Home Parent's Helper". I've been a parent for 10 years. I have 4 years experience as a Personal Assistant which included Shopping, Cooking and Childcare, I have 5 years experience as Building Maintenance & Resident Manager, 20 yrs experience as a Bookkeeper. I have been a creative artist all my life and I have a plethora of other skills as well. I also have a college degree in Film Production. I have a lot more to offer a family than the average Nanny. Upon reading your post I thought that together we could figure out a way to support each other. I'm not seeking an income, only collaboration. Taking care of children is easier to do as a "tribe". If interested...please let me know. I live in North Berkeley on Josephine Street. 

    Please take a look at Aurora School, where we have a current 4th grader. Aurora is a progressive K-5 in Upper Rockridge, and although (pre-COVID) we had a little commute coming from Berkeley, it was always well worth it! The school is small and full of caring and thoughtful teachers, and they have a strong emphasis on socioemotional learning. In addition, they have adapted pretty brilliantly to all the changes wrought by the pandemic. Currently the teachers are offering academic classes via Zoom from 9am-noon, with specialist classes (art, music, Spanish, PE) in the afternoons. Families all differ, but my own child is pretty self-sufficient during school time, and my husband and I are both able to work without much interruption. Aurora is planning for on-site school in the fall, with many contingency plans in place (including the ability to switch to all-remote learning if need be). There are a few families asking for an all-remote experience in the fall, and the school is preparing to offer that as well.

    Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. Good luck in your search!

  • I know most (especially public) elementary schools aren't able to say what the school year will look like this upcoming year, but I was wondering if some of the private schools in the oakland/berkeley area have started to finalize plans?  The public schools are likely going to be hybrid this upcoming year, but didn't know if some of the private schools were going to be able to offer more on-site learning because of the inherent reduced teacher-student ratio.  If anyone has any insight, please let me know?  (and, if able, what school?).  Thank-you!!  

    We are planning to start at Shu Ren, a small immersion IB school in Berkeley. They are small enough to be able to do in person every day and we are hopeful it will stay that way. I know people are concerned about transmission in schools but the data hasn’t really shown that to be the case and we are worried about our child being away for too long, distance learning is way too hard on kindergarteners. It doesn’t seem to me that public schools will be opening in the fall for anything in person but i know it’s a moving target.

    This is a question on everyone's mind.  My kids are at Aurora School (independent/private in Oakland).  They organized a task force of various experts from the school and families to work on planning with the Head of School.  They have also been surveying families on needs/desires for the return to school.  They have also been doing a lot of innovative remote learning in the interim (which will likely be helpful later in the Fall/Winter if more shelter-in-place orders are issued).  You can learn more about that here: https://auroraschool.org/remote-learning

    While they are still waiting for some more data from public health experts, and feedback from community, I predict a blended model (see Option C on the link below).  Fortunately, preliminary data shows that transmission amongst kids is very rare, so it is more about adults as vectors, which is somewhat easier to try and mitigate.

    https://auroraschool.org/blog/planning-for-the-2020-21-school-year

    We shall see and plans will be firmed up soon.  One nice thing about Aurora is it is relatively small school and can be nimble and coordinated in plans.  Fingers crossed.
    Curious to see what other plans schools come up with.  Best of luck to all.

    My daughter goes to Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley. Right now they are planning to open next year. They are applying for permits to increase the number of classrooms (mobile classrooms etc) as well as breaking up the gyms and multi-purpose rooms into multiple classrooms in order to maintain the social distancing requirements. If those fall through they are planning to prioritize the preschool thru 2nd grade to on campus 100% of the time with 3rd thru 8th doing a hybrid in-class/distance learning. From what I understand from friends in the public school system they've been told that the distance learning will likely go into the fall and as late as January 2021.

  • Kindergarten at BUSD during COVID-19

    (4 replies)

    My child will be heading to Emerson in the Fall, and there is so much uncertainty going on right now, and I am planning for the many eventualities. One of the most trying would be to do several months of remote Kinder. And, my heart goes out to those of you that just had to do that, have a job while helping your child extensively with the new distance learning. My question is, how was distance learning for Kinder at Emerson? How many hours a day of work did you and your child have? My friends in other districts report 3 to 5 hours a day spent in Kinder education, including navigating the computer. That seems like a lot. Also, answers from other schools in BUSD for Kindergarten would be helpful too, to get an idea of how many hours to expect. 

    My son is in kindergarten at MX and has an amazing teacher. This year there is really no requirement on the amount of work you do or turn in. It is up to your family. Not sure if that will change. She provides enough work that you could theoretically spend 3-5 hours a day if you wanted to, but she recommends about 2 hours a day. She gives you a matrix for each week with lots of options to choose from: individual Zoom, small group Zoom, class-wide Zoom, videos she made, videos made by other MX teachers, videos made by other sources, worksheets and paper based activities, reading, Flipgrid, and some apps (RAZ kids and Freckle etc.). It is up to you how much you and your family want to engage in. 

    We are in K at John Muir. We haven’t had anywhere near 3-5 hours a day of Kindergarten work. That sounds like too much, for both kid and parents. Our child has three times a week Zoom class for about thirty minutes, plus daily activities and journal entries. The activities and journal entries maybe add up to an hour per day (we spread them out over the day rather than do them all at once). We could never do 3-5 hours of work with our kindergartener since we both work full time and are also caring for a younger, preschool age child. I wouldn’t stress about this. One advantage of having a younger child in this pandemic is less academic pressure. (The disadvantage is that they’re not yet very independent.) You don’t have to be a full substitute for school and probably couldn’t even if you wanted to try. 

    No way do I spend 3-5 hours a day on Kinder education. I have a 2-yo to entertain and we both have full time jobs.
    But even if I had the time, in our case (Kinder at Rosa Parks) this is absolutely not the expectation.
    There is a 30-minute morning meeting with all kids Mon-Thu, and once a week a 10-min checkin with the teacher.
    Then every day, try to do some form of reading, writing, math and arts. There are learning plans and tons of apps, but we try to limit screen time and just go with what the day brings. Seriously, it's Kindergarten. No stress.

  • Distance learning experiences in BUSD?

    (4 replies)

    Before the pandemic hit us, we had already planned on switching our first grade son from a private school to BUSD. He was assigned to Rosa Parks and he's on the waitlist at Jefferson.  I have heard not great reports about the distance learning at Thousand Oaks, so I started to wonder if Rosa Parks and Jefferson are doing a better job (in case this continues next fall).  Can people let me know their experiences at either of those schools (in particular, second grade)? 

    Thanks in advance.

    The quality of distance learning differs even from teacher to teacher. I have two boys at Cragmont. Our TK teacher rocks, our 3rd grade teacher not so much. Actually for TK it works out even better than face to face. The virtual class has 5 children and is 30 minutes per day. They cover "reading" and math. For the 3rd grader, we get 17 pages of assignments per week and two hours of virtual classroom. Half of that time they talk about their feelings and the other half about the assignments they failed to complete. Not a word on fractions yet-this is obviously parents' responsibility not teacher's.

    Greetings, and I I understand your concern...but it is nearly impossible to measure one school to another. Since this is BUSD first time ever to do Distsnce learning, much of it has been to teacher discretion with general guidance from district. This means that every teacher teaching will be different; classwork and load will vary quite a bit too. Currently there is not a definitive plan as to what hybrid learning program will be in place. Both Rosa Park and Jefferson are great schools, but the overall district curriculum and number of websites district approved telling teachers to use have significantly overloaded both teachers and parents.(too many login and passwords/classcode). There is not way to objective measure anything at the moment...everything is a russian roulette when it comes to school choice right now. Personally, I would reccomend determine your interaction with other parents and how well the principal communicates. Best of luck!!!

    I have a second grader (and Kindergartner) at Rosa Parks.  The Second grade teachers are a really strong group of teachers who are creative and fun. Distance learning is never going to capture the magic of great teachers, but the three 2nd grade teachers have worked together to  adapt the curriculum and use google class room quickly and well.  They cover the basics and I would say its a manageable amount of work for a working parent with two kids who are not ready to work totally independently.  Also, our teacher does a morning meeting with the class and also meets once a week individually with each student. she seems to be particularly interested in supporting them emotionally which I know is a huge benefit to the kids.   Both my kids and I miss our community, our after care program and the Rhythm of school, but I have been impressed with the teachers' inventiveness, adaptability, receptiveness and all out effort in a really uncertain an new situation. 

  • We are in OUSD, and understand that both our district and BUSD are really struggling with the online transition. Some (but not all) private schools are doing a lot better, it seems. Are any public school districts managing the transition to online learning well? Piedmont? Albany? Orinda? Or specific schools or teachers within OUSD/BUSD?

    It looks like we'll be in a different world, at least for one more academic year, and perhaps for longer, so any and all information would be very useful.

    We are at OUSD and it has been thoroughly chaotic, insufficient, ineffective and disappointing. 
     

    At the beginning, there was a message that the district will provide kids with a chrome book which turned out to be an empty promise as the demand surpassed supplies. They quickly changed the message and asked if parents who had access to any device could give up the device. (We have devices for our work. We needed a device for the kid which we ended up buying on our own.)
     

    For over a month, there was nothing from the teacher other than a “how are you doing?” Email. At about 5 week mark, we received a few links to YouTube videos for kids to watch and a few projects that require active adult participation (ie adults end up finishing it).

    1 hour zoom calls per week with a class of 24 kids are excruciating. What kids really need is small group online instruction which is not happening much at our award winning OUSD school. I am so saddened when I hear about my friends whose kids are at private schools whose teachers got their act together so quickly and are doing much more engaged and involved online instruction and interaction and providing a sense of community and structure. Small group work. Short community gathering. Break out sessions and reasonable assignments with recognition that none is mandatory but encouraged. Daily touch points even if it’s brief and enrichment opportunities that are not at lunch time. Our school is attempting to provide enrichment at noon or 12:30 (that’s lunch time.) Some may say that for the price they pay, Private school folks should get stellar education. But what about the rest of us? We pay close to a private tuition on property tax. Seriously considering moving or alternate schooling... 

    A silver lining is that we are discovering our inadequate OUSD has been for our kids. We were busy and the teacher never really raised an issue so we didn’t realize how our kids were held back by OUSD. With us being more actively involved, our kids flew through their grade level proficiency and are now working on  next grade materials. (It’s heck of a lot of work and we are exhausted beyond belief, but when we saw what the teachers were sending as instructional plan, we could not ignore how terribly unfit they were for our kids.)

    We are in Belmont-Redwood Shores school district and the transition to online learning at least for my kids has been seamless.  They have done an amazing job.  I also heard very good things from my friends in Palo Alto.  We have several required zoom meetings plus several more small group and office hour type zoom meetings for kids who want it - as some kids love zoom while others don't.  We get assignments online through google classroom and it is a good mix of videos posted of the teachers teaching, access to online school programs. worksheets that get emailed to parents for printing weekly, and assignments in the kids' workbooks which were sent home when all this started.  My elementary aged kids spend about 4 hours a day on school work and there are always more optional assignments available if the kids (or their parents) want them to do more.  I'm very with my district and my kids' teachers. 

    My son is at North Oakland Community Charter School (NOCCS) and the teachers are doing an amazing job. Our school did provide chrome books and has daily activities for the kids, small groups and one on ones. I think this is all a big stress test for teachers and schools and some are going to succeed and some are going to fail.  

  • Hi,

    I am very unhappy with my son's response to "distance learning" and do not feel it is age appropriate. I am thinking of withdrawing him from school, and homeschooling him for the rest of the year. Does anyone know what the law is regarding withdrawing a child at this point in the school year?  My son attends a private school.  Any advice is appreciated!

    You can certainly withdraw him and go through the steps of setting up homeschooling (in some areas, you can set up independent study through your local district, which is likely to be the simplest; there are also charter schools set up to facilitate this). However, you will almost certainly need to pay tuition to your child's current school for the balance of the year anyway--your contract will specify this, but almost all become binding at the start of the school year. Given that there is only a month left of school, I'm not sure there's a huge amount to gain here. I would focus on working with his current teacher to get through to the end of the school year, and then withdraw him for next year and look for other options for the fall.

    You should review the contract you signed. My daughter goes to a private school and the contract we signed basically says we're responsible for the full tuition if we withdraw her. If you have the tuition refund insurance you might be able to use that but I think you would still be on the hook for a portion of the remaining tuition.

    We were considering doing the same, although to help support teachers, we are paying for the rest of the year and using supplemental material for each of our kids (grades 2, 4 and 7). It has worked out very well for us. Our kid’s school froze their grades and all work is just for learning. I will say, for us, this model has worked very well. 

    Also, we are talking to the school to see if they’d do a hybrid model next year. We do not plan on allowing our kids to attend school (frontline workers so we have a “unique” lens). It would make sense to charge students less in tuition for this model but it still ensures that tuition money is coming in.

  • As online instruction is new to most of us, I wonder what your school is offering. Our daughter goes to a private K-8 school, Ecole Bilingue, and is in K. She gets 2 30-minute zoom sessions with her whole K class daily, plus another 2 20-minute zoom sessions with fewer kids weekly, for a total of just under 6 hours of zoom time per week. She also gets a lot of assignments. Our local Oakland public school offers 1 30-minute zoom session daily, for a total of 2.5 hours of zoom per week.

    For us, more zoom time and fewer assignments would be very valuable. Assignments take up parent time; zoom frees it up. And we're very short on parent time. The assignments are pedagogically useful, to some extent, but there's also some value to zoom time, I think. This is especially because we're paying Ecole Bilingue tuition so that our daughter learns a foreign language that we don't speak at home. 

    What have your experiences been? Is your school offering too much or too little? (I have heard through the grapevine that some schools have tried zoom all day and found it exhausting for the students, but don't know if this is true). Any and all advice welcome as we navigate this new world

    Our bilingual preschool, Colibri, is providing one 30ish minute Zoom call per day. They had been doing it all the classes together, but as of today switched to having the 2 year olds, 3 year olds and 4s seperated by class so that they could have smaller groups and interact more with their maestras. Today also they for the first time provided materials we could pick up for each child from the school parking lot during a particular window of time for the whole week. Before that they were just sending out lesson plans and activity suggestions via email. The parents also created a shared spreadsheet of educational resources, including bilingual and Spanish-language ones, that we're sharing to support our kids in their language learning.

    Our children are younger than yours, but our experience is that Zoom doesn't actually free up parent time, as we have to sit with our kids and encourage them to participate and pay attention. I think this is mostly their age and our kids being on the more high-energy end of the spectrum and not the maestras being uninteresting. I'd be interested in hear what others experience is of young kids and Zoom.

    Hi there! Our kids are in elementary and middle school at the East Bay German International School (EBGIS) in Emeryville. When the schools all started closing EBGIS moved right away to a really impressive online learning program. It’s been amazing for our kids and I hope other schools follow their example!

    For my middle schooler, the daily class schedule hasn’t changed since they went online. Pretty much every class session starts with a video meeting (they don’t use zoom, but another platform called Microsoft Teams which is integrated with their school calendar and has all their assignments and teacher feedback on it). At the video meetings the teachers give instruction and an assignment and answer questions and sometimes also have group discussion. Then usually after maybe 20-30 minutes the whole-group session will end and the kids will do video calls with small groups of their classmates or will work on their individual assignments for the rest of the class time. Then the next class starts with that class’s teacher doing a video call with all the students, and so on.

    That format has worked great for my kid and the couple others whose parents I’ve talked to. Having video classes like clockwork at the usual class times keeps the kids in the rhythm of the school day and keeps them from feeling isolated. And then having some interspersed offline time keeps the kids from being glued to the screen the whole day.

    For the elementary school students, the faculty decided that it’s healthier to have less online time. So they have about three out of six class periods per day plus a one-on-one meeting with their homeroom teacher, plus their teacher is on call for an hour or two every day so kids can do a video call if they have questions. Every morning each kid receives a “daily plan,” which is a chart showing exactly what assignments they need to do in every subject by the end of the day. The kids submit all their assignments to their teacher -- they usually send a photo or use a scanner if they have one. The teacher gives feedback on the work at the one-on-one video call the same day or the next day.

    That approach has worked really well for my elementary school kid, it’s enough video class time so he feels connected to his teacher and classmates and can stay pretty well on task. I’ve been super impressed with how the teachers have adapted to teaching online. The P.E. teacher is especially amazing, I keep finding my kid doing sprints up and down the stairs or ball games using rolled up socks or moving in other creative ways under the constraints we’re all under. My kid is making the usual progress in all his school subjects and is just as excited about school as he was before shelter in place.

    I don’t know how much can be replicated in other schools because the teachers at EBGIS are pretty extraordinary plus the class sizes are really small, probably around ten kids per class on average. But it goes to show that school online can work! I hope some of these methods are helpful! Best of luck to you!

    Great post/question! We have two very different experiences at home because of the age difference of our kids. My daughter is in 1st gr and my son in 6th grade at the East Bay German International School. My son's school day is basically the same with all his classes online and he is able to work independently and keep up with all of the 6th grade curriculum and the language (which is so important because we don't speak much German at home). So we have been thrilled with that. It is much more challenging with my daughter, just because of her age and strong will. I feel like the school has done an amazing job....they have a regular homeroom meeting every morning (I can get some work done!) and after that have a mix of online classes and independent work time (meaning assignments she can do with us at home) and then at the end of the school day they have another group meeting to reconnect, read a story etc. One thing I appreciate is that they have divided her class into small groups so that the kids who need to work more on their German can get small group help with that, and for the kids who are here from Germany and need more help with their English, they can get that. I also appreciate that they offer daily one on one help for any kids who need it and we have been doing that and it's been a big help (because I don't know any German and my husband, who knows German, is even more busy than I am with his work). All in all the teachers have put so much into it and really done an amazing job. I've learned when I can get my work done while she is doing her various online classes. The challenging part is that I think it's hard for her to be on the computer so much. Mostly she does fine with it but we are on spring break this week and they offered a  free online camp  for elementary students which I really wanted her to do, mostly to keep up with her German and because it looks fun, but she is super resistant and I can tell just needs a break from all the online teaching time......one more thing I'll add is that I appreciate that the teachers give us alot of structure and offer a decent amount of online classes, but sometimes I just have to let go of "school" and take breaks from it because it can be too much for my daughter (not just the school but everything!).  So I really appreciate that it's all there for when we need it but fine if we don't do it all.  take care, Melissa

  • I am curious if any of the bay area private schools currently shuttered due to the Covid-19 Shelter in Place order will be making any attempts to lower tuition now that the closure will definitely go into May -- and possibly longer. Or, if they are trying to make up some lost time in the summer. Would you be willing to share (anonymously) for the sake of other private school parents trying to navigate this? I'll start. My child is enrolled in The Renaissance International School. Thus far we've received some letters from the administration about an attempt to "lower costs," but the latest seems to be that tuition will remain the same so the teachers will be retained and the school will be able to reopen. They are willing to do different payment schedules on a case by case basis. Nothing has been said about making up time in the summer, though that would be complicated for our school anyway since it already has a summer program that not all students opt into. Anyway, I'd love to hear what other people's experiences have been at their schools, just to share information. I certainly don't have an opinion on what *should* be done -- it's a terrible situation all around! None of this was the fault of private schools, and of course they want to retain their staff. However so many parents are dealing with sudden job loss/income reduction, also through no fault of their own, while having their kids home all day and being in charge of their education. My child isn't really at an age where distance learning is possible without all day participation by a parent, even if the staff are doing their best to provide lessons. What else can I say? I'm sure fellow parents reading this are all having the same issues! Hope we can discuss.

    The private schools I'm aware of all keep their tuition the same and do online classes.  The teachers for the most part are still working the days to prepare the online program and provide it and are getting paid, so payment is still due as usual.  My childcare program went to 50% payment, though I get zero value for it now except retaining my spot for when school goes back in session, which I'm a little upset about since they used to have activities and lessons and are offering nothing virtually.  I'm still paying but I'm much happier to keep paying when the programs are at least attempting to provide replacement instruction/enrichment virtually, esp since my kids really like it and enjoy school and all of their activities that moved online.

    Most of the K-12 independent schools, including our K-8, are providing daily lessons and content from what I hear, so therefore no, not reducing tuition (since staff are still being paid). That said, I know our school is absolutely working with families who have lost jobs to help them through incredibly tough times. The impact of the crisis varies widely by family, though--within our school community, I know of a family where both parents are now out of work, and of multiple families (including our own) where both parents are still being paid full salaries and able to work from home or in essential fields out of the home. Many families are somewhere in between. My expectation is that families like ours that have not yet suffered an income loss will pay as usual for as long as the school continues to pay employees as usual, and those who have lost jobs will be helped as much as the school is able through the tuition assistance program. (Fortunately at our school, most families have already finished paying tuition for the current year given the payment schedule for that, so it's largely about next year.) It also sounds like your child is preschool-aged, and that is another story entirely as far as how well the school can provide instruction and content--I think the more relevant reference there is other preschools vs. other independent schools. The remote learning isn't ideal for early elementary, but it's working decently for our kids. Our kindergartener does need adult help transitioning between activities, but our school has done a great job providing supports for this (including lots of videos from teachers demonstrating each lesson or activity). If/when the school does need to start laying off staff, I would expect that there might be some reduction in costs passed onto families, but I very much hope we won't get to that point, and that "real" school will be able to resume in the fall. Fingers crossed!

    I think school by school the situation is a bit different, but here goes how I see it.  If you are making the same income, just working from home and taking care of your kid, you absolutely positively should continue paying full tuition.  It is essential for the survival of the school, and the economy of our community and the nation.  All of us have to give something.  We are in this together.  Now, if you are making less income because you are on unemployment or lost a job or whatever, that is a different situation.  Hopefully your school has a strong financial aid program.  If your tuition is paid for the year I wouldn't bring it up but for next year hopefully they can accommodate your situation.  But keep in mind they are accommodating everyone else's situation as well.  You didn't mention whether your school is continuing to provide learning in some form to your child.  My kid goes to Oakland Hebrew Day School.  They have put in enormous effort to create an online forum in a very short period of time.  My kids even have art and P.E.  Yes of course it is not the same as in the classroom.  But it requires more, not less for the teachers, administrators and staff to put together and they need to get paid.  I think any of us who are still being paid, or are financially able to should continue to pay all the same schools, camps, nannies, housecleaners, tutors, gardeners, etc etc as long as we are able to.  It's not their fault they can't work the way they used to.  But again, if your income has taken a hit, that also needs to be taken into account as you can't pay what you don't have.

  • Distance Learning for Kindergarten

    (2 replies)

    BPN community - can you tell me a little bit about the distance learning that your child’s school is offering for kindergarteners? What does it look like? Am thinking about our child’s school and am trying to get a sense of what’s normal/best practices in this area. Would also be helpful to know if your child’s school is independent or public. Thank you!! 

    Honestly, we are in such uncharted waters that I don't think there is a "normal" in this scenario--schools are adapting as best they can. Here's what ours (at an independent school) looks like, though: a daily virtual class meeting (live); some pre-recorded videos of teachers demonstrating lessons, reading books, and otherwise preserving parts of the pre-pandemic school routine; pencil-and-paper lessons and activities off-screen, some self-directed and some with parent support needed; some on-screen leveled reading time; and connection time for parents to talk with teachers and ask questions about learning. Most of the lessons are 15 minutes long, which is challenging if you're also trying to work from home, but age-appropriate for kindergarteners. School's suggested schedule is flexible and includes a lot of free play and outdoor exploration (also age-appropriate). During "normal" school, the kids also go to a range of specialists (music, art, PE, etc.) so there are activities and lessons from each of those as well. It isn't perfect--what could be in these crazy times!--but it is more than enough to fill the day. Our major challenge is just being available/present enough to facilitate it as we also attempt to work full-time remotely. Each day we appreciate how much amazing teachers everywhere do even more!

    My daughter is in kindergarten and her school is using zoom to have two circle times in the morning (plus ‘office hours’). For schoolwork the teachers are posting activities on seesaw where the students have to post pictures/videos/audio of their work.

  • Hi BPN,

    Does anyone know of a school that offers a blended learning model? I'm looking for a program  that offers a combination of independent study or online/distance learning classes along with on-site classes for elementary age children?

    I found a great program in Southern California that's offered by the Tustin School District (https://www.tustinconnect.org/k-8.html) where children go to school on-site once or twice a week and study from home the rest of the week. However, it's too far away. I'm not finding any similar program or schools here in the Bay Area. If you have any leads or resources, I'd appreciate it.  I'm open to similar schools in the East Bay and San Mateo County or Santa Clara County.

    Thanks.

    We're trying out Zearn for our 3rd grader for math: https://www.zearn.org/  IXL also seems good: https://www.ixl.com/  They can watch stories being read out loud to them on Storyline Online / YouTube. ST Math is great as well. Good luck!