PPS: Planning for Home-based Learning3/27/2020
Dear PPS Families and Staff,
After much urgent collaboration and planning, today leadership from Portland Public Schools and the Portland Association of Teachers shared with all of our PPS educators the outline for how teachers will begin working online next week. This outline represents our upcoming efforts to most effectively phase in supports for our students and teachers during the extended closure of our schools. We appreciate your patience while we, like other school districts, adapt our instructional delivery model virtually overnight. Next week we will share with you a detailed, multi-week plan for home-based learning for your students. Please stay tuned for that.
Phase I of this work focused on the provision of online resources for our students to engage. PPS posted a number of digital content and learning resources available to students and families. Because many of the resources on our website include learning applications many of our students and teachers are already familiar with, it provided an opportunity for students to go online for continuity of learning. During this phase, we also made learning packets available in hard copy for distribution at all of our meal distribution sites, in addition to being posted online; these include language arts and mathematics materials. Staff are presently preparing another set of learning materials, such as mathematics manipulatives, and arts and PE materials, so that students have hands-on resources available to them as well.
Phase II includes development of professional development, curriculum materials, and an action plan. A series of professional development modules will be available online next week to provide teachers a basic comfort level in facilitating home-based distance learning during the closure of our schools. Following educators’ professional development work, we are planning to provide online interaction with students and digital learning resources in core content areas and enrichment activities for pre-K through 12th grade. We will also regularly distribute learning materials in paper form.
There are a number of equity and access barriers and challenges to overcome in transitioning to a delivery model that relies on technology. These include having the necessary tools to communicate and access to digital-based content. This week we are retrieving devices from our campuses, ensuring they have been sanitized, and organizing the lending of these Chromebooks and devices for distribution and use by students who have been identified. Ensuring students have access to a device is only half of the equation - they also need to have Internet connection. We are also working with partners to make mobile wi-fi hotspots, with unlimited prepaid data plans, available to students who need connectivity. If you have wi-fi at home, you can help this effort by opening an additional home network “For Student Use” and without passwords necessary to give neighbors access during this crisis. We are also working to evaluate other technology tools to ensure they are supportive for students with disabilities.
These are unprecedented times and building a home-based distance learning program almost from scratch is not without its challenges. But after the last two weeks, we feel further along than we initially expected with regard to content and platforms, and we are aligned with our teacher representatives about professional development. There are barriers, no question. It will not be perfect; while every effort is being made to provide a rich learning opportunity to our students, we also recognize that remote, at-home learning does not replace the experience of a student engaging with the teacher and their peers in the classroom. We will do our best to create a thoughtful and meaningful experience for our students. This is all new to us, and quite frankly, the infrastructure is a challenge for what we are trying to achieve. But we believe that our talented educators and administrators are ready to give their very best effort. Our students deserve nothing less.
Shawn Bird, Ed.D.
Chief of Schools
Luis Valentino, Ed.D.
Chief Academic Officer