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Chula Vista Elementary School District
Special Edition COVID-19 Newsletter Issue #2
Message from the Superintendent

The Importance of Devices and Connectivity at Home

A national study of the digital challenges that are faced by low- and moderate-income families showed that the vast majority are connected to the Internet (94 percent), but many relied on mobile-only access. In addition, more than half (52 percent) of those with home Internet access said it was too slow. One-quarter (26 percent) said too many people share the same computer. These were among the findings of a 2016 research study. The co-author, Vikki S. Katz, associate professor of communication at Rutgers University, went on to share that being “under connected” reflected the evolution of the Digital Divide. Many families were hardware rich but broadband poor.

Today, four years later and amid national social distancing directives, the study’s findings reverberate across income levels and communities. Connectivity at home is as important as the laptops or devices that some parents clamor for. The Chula Vista Elementary School District and educational systems across the country are implementing Distance Learning Plans while also ensuring “no child is under-connected.” And there’s the rub. What comes first, connectivity or the device? Both are important. It is very similar to the Chicken vs. Egg conundrum.

Like many of you, I am also working from home. I had the same problem many of the families in Katz’ studied encountered: Internet access was too slow and it often dropped my video/teleconferencing calls. I had to upgrade my Internet plan recently like many of you. My home office became my work office. Members of my own leadership team reported similar issues, racing to upgrade their home workspaces and Internet plans as they plunged into distance working. They encountered glitches, too.

Imagine then, what many of our families would have experienced if our District had rushed headfirst into Distance Learning? I would rather be the Tortoise than the Hare, to borrow from the classic tale. Across the country, parents report challenges from Internet safety concerns to bandwidth issues to the need for parent “help centers” or hotlines to access online learning programs. Many school districts jumped headfirst into issuing devices without adequate preparation. Many also learned that the lowest cost Internet access plans didn’t provide sufficient bandwidth to adequately accommodate the education software programs schools rely upon.

That’s why, during the next two weeks, our staff will be communicating with our students and families to determine both the need for laptops and Internet access. There is a huge difference between issuing a device, and then being able to use it at home. Creating an equitable learning environment is critical in order for our students to learn. With that goal in mind, CVESD is working in partnership with the City of Chula Vista and the Classroom of the Future Foundation for possible broadband expansion, such as incorporating hotspots in our neediest neighborhoods. This possibility portends far greater long-term benefits. We are cautiously optimistic an announcement will be forthcoming. For now, please take a moment to review the following Questions and Answers regarding devices and Internet connectivity.

Q: Will the District issue laptops or devices for students to take home, like some other school districts?

A: The California Department of Education has defined Distance Learning as the following: “Distance learning” means instruction in which the student and instructor are in different locations. This may include interacting through the use of computer and/or telecommunications technology, as well as delivering instruction and check-in time with their teacher. Distance learning may include video or audio instruction in which the primary mode of communication between the student and instructor is on-line interaction, instructional television, or other instruction that relies on the use of print materials.

During the next two weeks, we are communicating with our students to determine the need for laptops and internet access. While a vast majority of our students and families may have a form of hardware, such as a tablet, cell phone, laptop, gaming console or desktop, there are great disparities in broadband strength. To conduct adequate video conferencing, especially if there are multiple wifi users in the home, a higher level of bandwidth is recommended. And the cost of upgrades to home internet plans is beyond the means for many of our neediest families. Once we determine how many families need a computer and have the means for broadband access, our next steps will include how to implement potential solutions to support student learning at home. Any possible plan to deploy devices would need to abide by recommended public health directives. We will closely monitor the growth of COVID-19 in our community, especially in the next two weeks. Click on the link that follows to also keep abreast of public health updates:

Q: How are you addressing distance learning? What is your plan for this rollout?

A: CVESD’s Distance Learning Plan will also include professional learning and grade level collaboration for our teachers to ensure they have access to strategies and resources that promote high-quality learning opportunities for our students. The first week back from Spring Break (April 6-10) will be reserved for teacher planning, preparation, and professional development. Teachers will also be reaching out to students to check in and will primarily be focusing on connecting and building positive teacher/student relationships. Distance learning for students will commence, to the extent possible, on April 13. In our District, we will be depending in a multi-faceted approach to meeting student needs in distance learning, from paper/pencil, television, telephone and online teleconferencing platforms. Keep in mind that with many of our youngest learners, such as TK-2 graders, we would not recommend laptops.

Distance learning may include student-instructor interaction through the use of a computer and/or telecommunications technology to deliver instruction and check-in time. This may include video or audio instruction in which the primary mode of communication between the student and instructor is on-line interaction, instructional television, video, or other instruction that relies on printed materials (“packets”). Yes, it's true. Packets of printed materials might be the best option for some families. The goal is to incorporate learning opportunities aligned to the core content areas of each grade level.

Q: What are the possibilities of educational television?

A: There are a number of educational programs currently available on public television. A partnership between the San Diego County Office of Education, KPBS and a local school district is already providing educational content for students on their home televisions. The At-Home Learning: Where Children Matter initiative provides 12 hours of state standards-aligned television programming scheduled by grade level, and free access to a digital library of educational resources. KPBS programming and PBS Learning Media are free to families, educators, and the community. With schools in San Diego County closed, the initiative aims to ensure students and families have access to robust learning materials while schools are closed. The initiative has two components:  

  • Broadcast: KPBS 2 will broadcast 12 hours of programming selected to meet the TK-12 California educational standards. The programming will be from 6 a.m. - 6 p.m. in blocks by grade level TK-3; 4-8 and 9-12. 
  • Digital: California students and educators have immediate access to an online library of free educational resources from PBS Learning Media, including videos, associated lesson plans, hosted training sessions and self-guided how-to resources for teachers, that accompany PBS’s trusted programs and align with current classroom standards.

Q: What is the District working on to increase broadband access for our learning community?

A: As mentioned, CVESD is working in partnership with the City of Chula Vista and the Classroom of the Future Foundation for possible broadband expansion, such as incorporating hotspots in our neediest neighborhoods. There are a number of service providers. Click here for a list of providers. For example, effective Monday, March 16, Cox Communications began providing:

  • Limited-time, first two months free of Connect2Compete service, $9.95/month thereafter. Cox also has increased Connect2Compete speeds to 50 mbps.
  • Until May 15, 2020, we are providing phone and remote desktop support through Cox Complete Care at no charge to provide peace of mind and ease for technology needs
  • Resources for discounted, refurbished equipment through its association with PCs for People. Click here to view informational flyer in English and Spanish.
  • A Learn from Home toolkit for schools, including instructions on how to fast-track eligible students without internet access:

Download toolkit - English

We plan to continue to advocate for plan upgrades (increased bandwidth) to support the needs of students at home during this unprecedented crisis.

Chula Vista Elementary School District
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