Schools & Online Learning during SIP

Parent Q&A

Distance Learning and Homeschooling - Big Minds? Aug 7, 2020 (0 responses below)
Distance learning at Oakland Middle Schools Jun 9, 2020 (1 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)
Berkeley High Advice for incoming freshman May 25, 2020 (1 responses below)
How are private elementary schools preparing for AY 20-21? May 23, 2020 (3 responses below)
Start UC online in the fall or wait? May 16, 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)
14 year old struggling with academics during COVID19 Apr 13, 2020 (9 responses below)
What Does Remote Learning Look Like Now at Your Middle School? Apr 5, 2020 (11 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)
  • Good morning!  

    Our bright, quirky son is happy in our local public school but covid-sick, just as so many of us are.  I'm afraid that he'll be bored again this year with distance learning. 

    Regarding distance learning options, I've been curious and excited about the growing Big Minds schools especially during the pandemic.  I like that the schools grew out of their founder raising her own bright, quirky twins in Orinda and that her background in fine arts informs their evidence-based, creative/think-out-of-the-box pedagogy.  The progressive, whole child approach and empathetic, experienced faculty seem ideal.  It's impressive that they want to support families during this unusual time and even offer an affordable professional homeschooling option ($14,400/year or $1,200/month).  The last thing our family needs is for me to homeschool our son ;-)  What do you think of this and the private/public long distance, homeschooling options?  Any feedback is appreciated.  

  • My daughter will be starting 6th grade in Fall.  We've accepted a spot at Claremont (our neighborhood school) but are in the 20's on the waitlist for Edna Brewer (our first choice), so we may be offered a spot there.  I know the next school year is still up in the air, but since it seems likely to be at least partly distance learning, I would love to hear from parents at Claremont or Edna Brewer how distance learning went this school year?

    Some specific questions:

    How many hours a day did your kid(s) spend in Zoom classes?  Since they have multiple subjects with different teachers, did each class still meet on the same schedule they would in person, or was it modified so that students aren't spending all day on Zoom? Was the overall workload manageable, between Zoom classes and assignments?  How easy was it for your kid to get individual support from their teachers?  What did social/emotional support look like?  (My kids is pretty shy and I'm worried she won't really connect with new teachers and new classmates if school ends up being fully remote.)  How did the school handle classes that don't transition easily to an online format, like PE, art, and music?  I'm especially interested in hearing about the Edna Brewer music program--their amazing orchestra is one of the main things we like about that school.

    If you have any other experiences to share those would be very welcome too!

    Thanks!

    My son just graduated from Hillcrest MS, so I can only speak to this experience, although I have heard that both Claremont and EB are decent choices. I just wanted to flag for you that what teachers did in the spring may be quite different than how the program works this fall. Huge changes are happening at OUSD - they took a massive budget hit and most schools lost $40-$60,000 in funding. But - some MS are going to receive a generous grant from Salesforce that will offset that budget cut. Might be worth asking about. Distance learning looked different for each grade in our MS. 8th had about 3 hrs of instruction 3 days a week plus 1-2 hrs 2 days a week. This was more than enough screen time - Zooms are exhausting. They had loads of group projects and interesting assignments - they worked a full day and learned plenty. The teachers were outstanding. I do know that teachers are working most of this summer to design the next school year for distance learning - I anticipate a mix of distance and small group instruction. And substantial changes from the spring approach. 

  • 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!

  • Does anyone have advice on how to weather online teaching next year for incoming freshman. We are at a little bit of a loss about how to start Berkeley High with the new post-COVID world.

    My hard-working, high-GPA 9th grader somehow failed to turn in any work for several weeks, so we are scrambling to catch up enough now to pass.

    Problem one: technological issues are a challenge to our non-techie household.  Some of her work seems to have gotten lost via tech problems.

    Problem two: insufficient supervision by parents.  Distance learning requires skills (self-discipline, scheduling, etc.) that most 14-year-olds lack.

    Problem three: SIL-induced mental vagueness and brain-fog. I suspect our kid sincerely thought she had done some homework that she hadn't.

    Next year will have an added challenge, that the kids will never have met their teachers in person.. Our kid LOVES her BHS teachers, and that feeling is an important motivator.

    What we have instituted, which seems to help, includes

    -  a tighter daily schedule meant to mimic the school day, including breaks; 

    -  removal of cell phone during school hours (studies show that even the presence of a turned-off phone on the desk cuts into attention; the phone has to be completely unavailable)

    -  parents go over homework before it gets posted, to be sure it's completely done (otherwise there would be a lot of skipped answers).

  • 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.

  • Start UC online in the fall or wait?

    (3 replies)

    Many other families must be grappling with the question of whether offspring should go to college in the fall or defer admission / take leave of absence in light of college being all or mostly online. At our house, our youngest was going to start at a UC as a junior transfer from community college, he has been living at home and working very hard for this for the past year and a half after a bad start at a CSU, and was really looking forward to leaving home, living in a dorm with tons of other young people, and being at a large research university with a great department for his major. However, online learning has been very hard for him as he has ADHD (not diagnosed until college.) His doctor strongly recommends against his taking online classes, plus he is a biology major and online labs have been ridiculous. There's also the issue of paying UC tuition for online classes, for us it's going to be steep and it would be good if our kid stayed home an additional semester working and saving $. On the other hand, I know that they are greatly improving online teaching methods for this fall and it will be quite different than the current hastily improvised online classes that were switched over mid-semester, and that tons of students deferring will be even more economically disastrous for our public universities... What are others thinking?
     

    I think the answer for you is different since he is a junior transfer. 

    My train of thought for my teenagers goes to--this might be a great time to get accepted to a "reach" school that you have your heart set on because there will be less competition this year. For your son's set of unique circumstances, the answer is not as clear. If UC will let him defer, I'd strongly consider that. OR, it might not be a bad idea to just take a minimum number of classes/get rid of some core requirements (which he may already have done) just to get used to the idea/community. 

    As I always tell my kids--don't let the decision paralyze you. Make it, and then make sure it's the best decision for you--work hard to make it so!

    I’m curious about this too. My senior is planning to enroll this fall at a CSU even if it’s online. Here’s why:

    1. When campus does open, she can roll right in because she’ll already be enrolled.

    2. She doesn’t want to start at a community college and then have to reapply as a transfer student in two years because she’ll no longer be eligible as a freshman. 
     

    3.  All her units will be from the same university, and since she plans to double minor it will be easier to figure out which classes count toward graduation.
    4. if everything is online, we are exploring options of going to school from anywhere if there is a way to do so safely. We’ve looked at living in both New Zealand and in Spain while taking her classes online.  We have done the research and will just need to plan the details if either of those countries are open. 

    We have had many conversations about the fact that she is beginning her journey in a new world. I’ve really encouraged her to keep an open mind and figure out what new opportunities she has that weren’t there before. Yes, this sucks. And yes, her college experience is not going to be what she thought it was. But I don’t want her to chase something that doesn’t exist anymore. She can still have an amazing college experience. It will just be different from what she was expecting.  The uncertainty is difficult and she is so ready to start her life as a young adult. 
    I can’t wait to hear what other parents have come up with. Good luck to everyone!

    I like how the last responder, Lula, is making lemonade out of lemons. Yes, why not combine college with living abroad if you easily can!

    But back to the OP's question, speaking as someone who graduated from college not *that* long ago, when I think back on it, every memorable experience there was an in-person interaction. In my case it was a private school (Mills) and what I thought made that school worth the tuition were the cultural opportunities and resources available on campus -- and I didn't even live on campus! There were amazing speakers, events, and exhibits seemingly every week. Not to mention I took many classes in book arts that definitely could not be virtual (unless maybe you owned your own giant letterpress). I remember being in a "History of the Book" class with 8 students where we looked at rare books and manuscripts from Mills's collection in every class. I realize that's not what your child is studying, however you said online biology labs have been terrible, and I feel like an online version of that class *also* would have been terrible. So I can relate somewhat.

    Now as a parent paying school bills I absolutely would not want to pay UC tuition for online classes. And your child's difficulty with that kind of learning make it an even more bitter pill to swallow. I would urge deferring if at all possible and trying to find something for your student to do during the pause that makes it feel like less of a letdown. A work opportunity that involves travel and could give him/her a sense of independence while saving some money would be ideal, I think.

    I really sympathize with your situation and hope it works out for the best.

  • 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.

  • My son a 9th grader is resistant to engage in virtual learning during this pandemic . Prior to last day of school March 13 I suggested getting caught with all classes (and he did) in expectation the lack of structure is a challenge .  He is not 100% academic motivated , but will do the work if in the classroom setting.

    he doesn’t need to get up early and do the morning routine - so I assume virtual learning will be fun and easy- however is a challenge.

    he doesn’t get upset when his mom and I talk to him about it - I assume he is aware of his choice to not engage.

    few days ago told me it was annoyed by us telling him to get school work done, I don’t want to remove the cell because I am confident he can do the job with no consequences.

    how can he get motivated ?

    any similar experiences?

    I imagine that you've already asked your son for his input about why it's hard to get into online learning. But if you haven't, just using some curiosity WITHOUT responding with advice is a good place to start. Sometimes just our kids just want to be heard without immediately being given a parent opinion. So, starting with "What is it about distance learning that's not working for you as well as being in class?" (Again, you've  probably already asked this.) Then just validate how he feels. "Yeah, that makes sense. If I had to do 9th grade online, I wouldn't like it either." A few hours later, you can tell him: "I was thinking about what you were saying about how this method of learning sucks. Your mom and I get that. AND right now, that's all that is available until school ends. Our expectation is that you're going to do your school work on time every day. We're looking for you to manage that yourself. If that doesn't happen, we'll have to step in. We would hate to put away your cell phone (or other devices) until your work is complete. So what do you think? How are you going to motivate yourself to get your work done on time? We're happy support you if you have any ideas--like earning tech time or whatever you think might get you going. We all struggle with motivation at times." I hope that helps. Good luck with your son. Sarah

    Both my 14yr old and my 9yr old are struggling.. I’ve come to a similar conclusion that they need the classroom and accountability to a teacher to be motivated. Even w the accountability - they both tend to exaggerate how much they’ve completed and often “forget” to turn things in online. It’s discouraging when I hear about other families whose kids are engaged. I’m exhausted from fighting w them about it.. I’m super busy w my own work and trying to balance the two is really hard. 

    Hi there,

    What you are seeing with your kid is not surprising!  He no longer has the social element to keep him motivated to do work that he did not design.  This is actually a great opportunity to take a page from what homeschoolers know about developing intrinsic motivation and self-direction. Check out the Alameda Oakland Home Learners website... we are offering free support for families during Shelter in Place.  

    Aohl.net

  • Hello.  I'm curious what other private middle schools are offering currently for their remote learning plans.  Our top-rated private school is not offering (or planning) much in the way of virtually taught classes.  I'd like to get a sense of other middle schools and what the school day looks like for your kids at this point.  Are teachers actually teaching classes during part or all of the school day?  How long and how much of the day is interactive?  Are teachers able to conduct classes to middle schoolers by video?  Is there a coherent online system for students to track their assignments?

    Thanks. Liz

    Hi - I have a sixth grader in the WCCUSD. They are currently on spring break. Starting Monday 4/13, the district is rolling out the official distance learning curriculum/standards. The three weeks prior to this, the classroom teacher and the prep teacher were doing daily assignments via Google Classroom and a half-hour zoom session to check in - so no, no live instruction. I am wondering if this will change. (Note at our school 6th graders are still in elementary school not on a junior high campus.) I would check what standards your specific school district has put out for middle school or junior high, as a way to calibrate what your private school is doing; with the caveat that some public schools aren't launching the official learning until next week. I've been satisfied with what the 6th grade teacher has done so far, but we'll see what next week brings.

    Hi Liz,

    I thought I'd share our experience at the East Bay German International School. Our son is in 6th grade there. He basically does his usual class day online, with his teachers teaching their regular classes, they follow the same schedule that they did before the SIP.  The teachers have done an amazing job creatively making most of the curriculum work. Things like art, music and sports are more modified, though they still get assignments, have online discussions and check in. The academic subjects seem to be pretty much the same, with teachers giving class information, kids breaking into small groups to work on assignments, or working individually, submitting assignments online and doing presentations online. I think part of why this works is that it is a small school, the teachers know the kids really well and they sent out a strict list of rules for online conduct. We have been really impressed and relieved that our son isn't missing out on 6th grade content and is able to keep up with his German (since we don't speak much of it at home, I was worried he would fall behind). Please feel free to ask me any more specific questions. 

    take care, Melissa

    Redwood Day Middle School has been hitting it out of the park since just after SiP took effect (they were up and running by Thursday March 19th. Fri the 13th and Mon the 16th had long ago been planned as Parent/Teacher conference days, so the kids last official day on campus was Thursday the 12th).

    Since March 19th, our 6th grader has had the following schedule: 9 - 9:30 he, his advisor and fellow advisees meet via Zoom. 9:30 - 10:25 is Class 1. 10:30 - 11:25 is Class 2. Lunch is an hour. 12:30 - 1:25 is Class 3, and Class 4 is 1:30 - 2:25. Office hours, which are encouraged as a way to ask questions, confirm what was learned, etc (via Zoom) are from 2:30 - 3 each day. Each day he has 3 core classes (Eng, Math, Sci, Spanish or History) plus 1 of the following: art, drama, music, PE or Design In Technology. Classes are a combo of in-person Zoom sessions, recorded Zooms and self-directed projects. They head of school, head of middle school and our child's advisor have been *fantastic* about keeping us informed, but not in a way that feels (to us) overwhelming. We are incredibly impressed by how the entire school has handled this transition, how smoothly they did so, how they have kept our kids forefront in the process is fantastic as well. I can't think of a single fault or even slight bobble in this process. They are phenomenal and it is reason #492 why we are so happy we chose Redwood Day. 

  • 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!