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 Collaboration Key in Creating Distance Learning Plan for JCCS Students

Principals, instructional coaches, and more than 50 JCCS teachers teamed up to create the distance learning plan for JCCS students to use while schools are closed.

Starting with templates from SDCOE's Learning and Leadership Services and other resources, the group customized the plan to fit the unique needs of JCCS students. While the plan includes basics like English, math, science, and social studies, it also places strong emphasis on social-emotional learning.

Under normal circumstances, JCCS staff members are consistently reaching out to students and families to connect, keep them engaged, and make sure they can access the resources they need. While schools are closed, this work is more important than ever.

"The priority for my staff is the ability to maintain the connection with their kids, whether it's through check-ins or the curriculum, and take care of the kids' well-being," said Valentin Escanuela, East Region principal. "Our students and their families are going through a lot right now, and if we're connecting with them and developing lessons that are going to help them get through those things, that's our priority."

Distance learning started April 6 for JCCS students after returning from spring break. JCCS addressed initial issues of computer availability by getting Chromebooks for students with the help of SDCOE's Integrated Technology Services division, and continues to work on getting internet connectivity to those that need it. Hard copy enrichment packets are being provided to students who do not have online access or are located at one the San Diego SOAR Academy sites.

The distance learning plan utilizes the curriculum and learning platforms already in place to provide as much commonality throughout the county as possible, but also is flexible enough to allow pacing for the varying programs. Schools in the North County region continued the lessons they had been teaching before the closure, while those in East County reassessed and started lessons they thought were more appropriate and supportive for students during this time.

North Region Principal Oscar Felix said that they have delivered Chromebooks to many students and most are connecting with teachers on a daily basis.

"Most teachers are engaging students asynchronously. Teachers record the lesson, send them to their students to view via Google Classroom, then use the instructional time to dig deeper into the content," he said.

Just as the students are learning some new approaches to learning, teachers have also had to adapt to teaching online. Before starting distance learning, principals worked with the teachers to determine what types and what levels of training they needed and set up professional development opportunities based on those needs.

Felix said what has helped the JCCS administrative team during this time of uncertainty is utilizing a design-thinking philosophy. When they encounter a problem, they identify some solutions, prototype them, and keep growing.

"It's an opportunity to try new things, be creative, be innovative with our students. If it works, let's keep making it better. If it doesn't work, let's go back to the drawing board and figure out something that is going to work," Felix said. 

Many at JCCS are pleased with the collaborative effort across the organization - from teachers to staff to administrators and others throughout SDCOE as well as partner organizations like Probation and New Alternatives - to help make sure that students have what they need.

"People have really stepped up," said Tracy Thompson, JCCS executive director.

"Every day we wake up and ask, 'What can we do to support our families? What can we do to support our kids? What can we do make sure they are connecting online and accessing the educational content as well?" Felix said. "The curriculum lines up – the math, English, science, and social studies – side-by-side with the social-emotional learning piece, and because of that, it's giving us the opportunity to better connect with our students. Hopefully when this is all said and done, it gives us a better starting point and better foundation when we're back into a classroom."