AHS Community Meeting Q & A - July 30, 2020
Q&A Goes Live on August 3, 2020
Opening Question re: Plans for Reopening School
Question: What are some important questions or concerns you have for the AHS Administration as we plan to return to school next month?
We surveyed all parents, staff, and students with this question through the crowd-sourcing application Thougthexchange. The questions that follow this one are the top 14 questions posed and agreed upon by those who participated in the question collection process.
 If we are going virtual, will teachers commit to teaching as much as they do in class teaching?
The short, blunt answer: no. Teachers will need to refine their curriculum and will not be able to address all of the content or activities that they usually include in a 'normal' school year.
First, we must acknowledge and recognize that there is no amazing online substitute for the magic that happens in a master-teacher's classroom. On any given 'normal' school day, students are engaged not only in learning the subject matter and attached skills that are the focus of the classroom experience, but they are also able to engage in a variety of activities with their classmates that can be difficult to replicate with mastery in our distance learning environment. Many of our teachers have been refining their teaching practice over the course of years - and this new environment does bring some speedbumps to that practice.
With that said, we are fortunate to have the depth of knowledge and commitment to learning that has been demonstrated by the staff of Aragon High School. While students in classes this year may not have the same experience as students in years past, they will still benefit from the strong teaching practice of the professional educators here at Aragon High School.
 What training has AHS staff had this summer to improve the distance learning experience?
First, we must note that summer trainings for teachers are voluntary - by contract, educators have time off in the summer to rest and recuperate and, in many cases, to learn more and refine our practice in preparation for the upcoming year.
Considering that summer professional learning is not a requirement, it should be noted that over 70% of the AHS teaching staff has participated in outside professional learning opportunities and/or the Professional Development offered by the SMUHSD Professional Development Coordinator. This work has been structured for site-based course alike groups (i.e. all English 1 teachers working together) and focused on refining curriculum for Distance Learning in a collaborative manner.
Teachers used the VOCAL protocol as a guide to this refinement, which stands for: Visible, Organized, Caring, Analytical, and Leading by Example.
Additionally, many AHS teachers participated in a Distance Learning Workshop hosted by Stanford University.
In the week prior to school beginning, when teachers return to campus officially, we are hosting additional trainings for teachers on the use of Canvas and Zoom tools to support Distance Learning.
 Please provide parents with a list of all online resources (i.e. schedule, teacher contact info)
We are currently compiling all of this information for parents and will link them to the 'AHS Return to School Planning' section of our website. Please check other questions in this section for immediate information like the bell schedule and a list of the applications that are available immediately for teacher use.
 What has been done to provide the quality of education & engagement we expect at AHS?
Much of what makes Aragon High School the amazing school that it is comes down to the people that work here. We are very lucky that, even in these days of job and housing insecurity, the vast majority of the AHS staff is returning. The hiring we have done this summer has been minimal and the teachers we have been able to hire to fill the few positions we had open are all credentialed and experienced in their assigned curricular areas.
Regarding access to curriculum and technologies that support learning and engagement, we are fortunate to work in a district and have the support of families that make the acquisition of such items both possible - and easy. Teachers will continue to have access to all of the curricular items they have accessed in the past, along with new technologies like NearPod, Remind, and Zoom Pro, along with access to subject specific apps like Labster and Gizmos to support the sciences. We have also been able to purchase additional supplies that are usually checked out through our library, like scientific calculators, along with ensuring that EVERY STUDENT will have the technology - and support - they need to access their distance learning classes.
We know that technology alone will not support the learning of all students. Again - thanks to the incredibly generous support of the Aragon Excellence Fund and the PTSO, we have been able to purchase materials for distribution to students in August and September, including safe in-home lab kits for students in Biology and Chemistry, protractors and patty paper for students in Geometry, individual novels for students in some of our support classes, art supplies for students in Art and Ceramics, and a variety of general classroom supplies for students that might need a little help with accessing materials like pens, colored pencils, notebooks, and highlighters, and graphing paper.
While we are currently ramping up for materials distribution to all students during the week of August 10, 2020, we know that we will need to bring students on campus for additional materials over time. We have become adept at the drive-through process at AHS and will implement this distribution procedure whenever needed to get new materials to our students.
 Will there be a consistent bell schedule so kids are participating before noon and done by 5?
Yes - we will have a consistent bell schedule. The SMUHSD Board has been presented with multiple drafts over the course of the summer, and we have finally landed on one that will meet many of the needs of our stakeholders.
The bell schedule we have will allow time for all classes to meet three times per week, includes FlexTime for students to get more focused and individualized assistance from their teachers, club time for students to engage with each other, PLC and PD time for teachers to continue to meet and work with each other on establishing best practices for instruction in a distance environment, and one shortened day to allow the campus time to provide enrichment opportunities for students (assemblies, rallies, or time to focus on asynchronous learning activities).
A copy of the draft bell schedule is linked here - and is subject to change between the date of this initial posting and the beginning of the school year.
 Will there be standard class and grading practices to avoid confusion and chaos?
We are working with our teachers and district-wide committees to create agreements regarding the use of Canvas in classes. It is strongly suggested that teachers are consistent with their use of Canvas - and walk students through how they will use different elements of Canvas - to support student learning.
Grading practices are at the discretion of the teacher of record for each course. This means that teachers are allowed to determine their own fair grading policies, which are included in their course syllabi at the beginning of the year.
To be clear: we will be back to using LETTER GRADES this semester.
 The safety of staff, students, teachers, and others who are working at school.
We have two primary charges in education: to support the learning of all students and to support the health and safety of all students, staff, and teachers, who are on our campus.
The AHS Administration is working closely with the SMUHSD District Office to identify best safety practices for all on campus AND for ways to manage the ways we support students in learning when they return to campus.
At present, teachers have the option to work from home or on campus, students have the option to learn in our site-based synchronous model OR in the district independent study program (assigned to an AHS teacher), and the administration is looking at ways to support the needs of our classified staff, including the potential reassignment of duties to support the health and safety (and student engagement in learning!) of those on campus.
 Interactive learning is important for emotional support, connection, and to learn from others.
We couldn't agree with this statement more. We now that a good education is about more than a teacher talking and a student listening - successful teaching and learning comes down to the relationships and connections we make, the stories we hear from each other, and the space to explore possibilities.
Our teachers are working with their course-alike partners to determine the best ways to engage students in multiple modalities in our current distance learning model. For many teachers, this will start with the use of Google Suite applications, Canvas (our learning management system), and Zoom, (our digital meeting system). Within Zoom, teachers are learning to use breakout rooms and polling features long with the application of all of the tried-and-true teaching strategies that lead to successful learning.
Teachers also have access to learning how to use a variety of other software applications to increase the level of engagement and interaction amongst students, including the following: Edpuzzle, Flipgrid, Flocabulary, Nearpod, Newsela Pro, Pear Deck, Quizlet, Screencastify, and TurnItIn. We are also in the process of securing access to Gizmos and Labster to support our science students with virtual lab experiences.
In addition to these interactive applications, we are fortunate to have the support of the Aragon Excellence Fund and the PTSO, which has allowed us to purchase lab kits for our students in science classes, art kits for students including drawing and ceramics, geometry kits, and perishable items for our culinary arts and foods courses.
 Will staff be available to support seniors through graduation and the college app process?
Absolutely! Just as we will be providing learning experiences for students at a distance, we will also be providing students (and parents!) with the support they need to successfully navigate the senior year of high school and the college application process.
Please watch for email and dialer announcements regarding School Counselor meetings and workshops provided through our College and Career Center. We will also have an appointment system for students and their families to check in with counselors and advisors.
 Orientation: will students come to AHS for books and orientation events?
We are in the end stages of planning our Materials Distribution and 9th Grade & New Student Orientation Events.
Materials Distribution: Our goal is to get the majority of learning materials to our students during the week of August 10th. This will include textbooks for most classes, kits for some classes, and technology for students who need it (chromebooks and wifi hotspots). We will do this in a drive-through manner by appointment (about 70 students per hour), beginning with a health check, face-covering requirement, and social distancing markings on the ground.
Orientation: Our 9th grade students will be linked to Link Crew Leaders for a virtual orientation during the week of August 10th as well. Our goal is to connect our new students to veteran AHS students who can assist them in acclimating to high school life. Activities will include learning how to login to a Zoom meeting and how to use our Canvas Learning Management System, along with fun activities to connect new students with each other.
 Are there plans for sports that support social distance learning like non-contact sports?
Aragon High School and the entire San Mateo Union HSD is part of the Peninsula Athletic League (PAL) - which is part of the Central Coast Section (CCS) of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF). As part of a larger community of athletics leagues, we are working together to create safe seasons for our student athletes and the coaches who support them.
We currently have plans for two seasons of athletics, but we know that this can all change depending upon state and local health conditions. These plans include the continuation of summer conditioning rules through most of the Fall 2020 semester. If all goes well and we are able to host athletics later in the year, we are prepared to offer athletics in line with the current CCS plan.
 Will after school clubs and groups still be meeting (following health guidelines)?
Our first priority is to get classes up and running; our second priority is to get students connected to campus in as many ways as possible!
There is time in our new bell schedule for clubs and student groups to meet and we anticipate that we will be able to host student clubs in some manner.
 Will wellness and counseling services be available?
Yes! Our School Counselors and Wellness Counselors will be available to support students as they have been it the past - just through Zoom! Please check our website in the coming weeks for information on how to access these services.
 How will music classes be conducted safely? (includes answers for Drama as well)
All visual and performing arts classes will begin with distance learning, just like our academic classes. As we are able to, we will work with teachers to bring students to campus to participate 'in person', as we know that these courses are highly collaborative and our young artists thrive when they are able to work together.
Until we are able to host students in classes on campus, we will plan to host them online and provide them with performance opportunities in that medium.