The Santa Fe Public Schools is blowing up the concept of how teachers teach and students learn.
On Monday, March 30, we will launch an ambitious remote learning initiative in response to school closures. To our families and students: Hang on to your hats! The educational journey will be bumpy. To our community: We are setting in motion unparalleled change in how we do business.
We must do everything we can to put students at the forefront, addressing their education, hunger and socio-emotional needs.
To be clear, SFPS is not designed as a distance learning district; however, because of the public’s support of the Educational Technology Note – funded by property taxes – we have long invested in technology that is used in the classroom every day. As we launch a new system of education whereby students access remote learning, we will see the fruits of taxpayers’ investments and our work.
The system, which adheres to all state and federal regulations, moves forward strong best teaching practices in a different learning environment, requiring that we keep an open mind and remain flexible. My request is for everyone’s patience and willingness to be adaptable as we begin this new educational journey. Adaptability is a skill that all students need to succeed. As adults, we have a responsibility to model this for them.
In preparation for our launch, we have provided devices to students and assessed internet accessibility. Since not all students will have access to broadband or internet services, we are working to provide hot spots, and creating learning packets and content that can be downloaded where there is WiFi (such as at grab-and-go meal sites) and using conference calls to connect with our students.
All principals and teachers have been trained on how to access a range of resources to support students, and how to instruct and stay in touch with students on a regular basis.
The guidance we’ve received is to not focus on replicating the regular school year. Rather, we will adhere to time limits for students at various grade levels to participate in quality remote learning. In particular, we are laser focused on ensuring that seniors meet graduation requirements.
Learning times are structured so as not to conflict with SFPS’ daily meal distribution from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or any behavioral health support being provided to students. Teachers will instruct in a manner that is most comfortable to them, using creative ways to interact with students.
Right now, we do not have all the answers and expect, along the way, to make course corrections. We are starting with a very basic program that will be expanded as teachers and students adjust to a new way of teaching and learning.
Throughout, we will be steadfast in upholding equity and equal access for all students.
Beyond meeting the immediate needs of students, parents and families, this new system will support SFPS in the long term by developing distance learning best practice teaching skills and providing options to address future challenges.
As always, SFPS is fully committed to providing the best learning and support we can offer, maintaining academic progress and ensuring that resources are in place.
I am so proud of our administrators and teachers. They have the critical expertise needed to keep learning happening across the district.
We as a community, state and nation are dealing with enormous change and stressors, but I assure you that, together as a community, we are standing strong in the face of this adversity. We will come out of this stronger by making the best of lessons learned.
Veronica García is superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools.