• Dear KCS Families,

    On our website you will now find posted two versions of our Distance Learning Plan. The first version is simply called ‘KCS Distance Learning Plan’ and covers over 30 specific questions in 14 categories that the Department of Education has directed us to address. My concern is that this would be both confusing and overwhelming to teachers, parents and students. As a result, you will also find a document labeled ‘KCS Distance Learning Quick View’. This document answers three basic questions in a very direct and simple format: What should we expect from teachers, What should we expect from students and What should we expect from parents/families. These are broken down by grade-level grouping: Primary (K-2), Intermediate (3-5), Middle School (6 & 7-8) and High School (9-12). You will also find a listing of some of the additional resources that those groups are expecting to access in order to facilitate high quality learning. I believe that these ‘Quick View’ descriptions of your learning plan will be better suited to what you want to know.

    Outside of the desire to know what our Distance Learning Plan will be for your child, I have received a lot of specific questions about the technical details on how we intend to provide instruction to children. While we have not tried to ignore these questions, they are difficult to answer until we actually begin implementation. When we first began this adventure, the administrative team met with each of our planning groups and stressed that our planning would need to be child focused, adaptive to student/family needs and resources and focused on learning. Our measurement about what would be a good plan asked this question: Is our plan Calm, Consistent, Collaborative, Highly Relational and Rigorous? Please know that was our goal in this design and that our designing of Distance Learning has not ended. Actually, March 30th will really just be the beginning of Phase 2 of our Distance Learning Planning. We fully intend to solicit feedback from students, teachers and families in order to regularly reflect, revise and improve our plan. From the advice we have received from those who have worked through this process ahead of us overseas, we will need about 6-8 week of implementation before we are able to settle into a more informed Distance Learning plan. Right now, we feel that we have a great first draft of a plan to address student learning needs.

    Outside of student learning, we do a lot at KCS. There are questions from individuals (and the State) about how we intend to address those other aspects of our school. You will find a lot of answers in our Distance Learning Plan document. We are also very aware that things like taking and monitoring attendance will be a ‘learn as you go’ approach. For now, attendance will be measured by teachers through monitoring students ‘engaging’ with the content. Our real goal is not to drive up anxiety and look for truancy reports, but rather to actively observe and seek out families that will need additional help. We know that this process will develop over time. You can really help us by communicating directly with your teacher about your family’s and child’s needs. Some students may need to complete all of their work on Saturdays and Sundays, others may have time at 6pm instead of the ‘school day’. We know that this will be true, and we want to help you find success.

    Another big question is TECHNOLOGY! While we will access technology as much as we can to Substitute, Augment, Modify and Redefine (S.A.M.R.) instruction, we are also aware that all students and families have different levels of access to devices and the internet. At KCS we have always appreciated and accessed technology, but felt that our focus was best spent on developing strong student-teacher relationships. This will remain true, despite the fact that our teachers and students won’t be face to face. Our teachers are working to develop  lessons that target ‘learning concept’ over ‘learning task’. Unfortunately, we do not have the volume or quality of technology that would allow us to provide devices for every student. We are also aware that due to the Shelter in Place order millions of Minnesotans will be working/learning from home and this will likely end up limiting all of our ability to access the internet. Our goal is to ensure that technology and the internet is not a barrier to quality education. So, when you see learning plans shared with your students that mention youtube.com or the live-stream of the San Diego Zoo, you will also notice that there are alternative ways to achieve the same learning goal, through a different learning process. If you need support or have questions about accessing content, please reach out to your child’s teacher. Also know that the KCS administration is also here to provide support.

    Finally, I wanted to say ‘thank you’ to our students and families. A two-week planning period was a very big thing to ask of you. We are thankful that our Department of Education and the Governor understood that to make a transition this big would likely take months. While that wasn’t possible, they did give us weeks. We appreciate the fact that they understood quality was worth a few weeks of an unexpected ‘spring break’. Many of our teachers and staff are also parents of kids who were at home this week without instruction. We know how challenging that can be, especially for those of you who are working extended hours as ‘essential workers’ in our battle against Covid-19. We stressed over these two weeks to our staff that we should avoid trying to make a ‘perfect’ plan and instead develop one that was ‘dynamic’. Our first week of instruction will begin on March 30th and will really be about learning. This will be true for our students learning their content, but also for families learning a new normal, teachers learning how to become distance educators and administration who will be learning how to help all of you on this journey. So, in the week ahead, if you find yourself confused, frustrated or needing support, please reach out. This will be a challenging journey and Monday marks the beginning and not the final destination. Thank you again, for working with us, being understanding and for choosing Kaleidoscope Charter School as the organization which you trust with your child’s education. 

     

    Travis Okerlund
    Executive Director
    Kaleidoscope Charter School
    tokerlund@kcsmn.org