Students in SDCOE's Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) began the school year via distance learning Aug. 5 with a strong emphasis on both traditional academics and social and emotional learning.
Students are taking three classes per quarter, receiving approximately four hours of synchronous (live instruction) or asynchronous instruction (content students can access on-demand) each day. Math and ELA are being offered year-round while social studies, science, and visual and performing arts rotate. The curriculum, which is standard across JCCS programs, is created collaboratively by instructional coaches, teachers, and administrators, and is similar to comprehensive schools.
In addition to instruction, JCCS staff continues to provide students and their families with additional support while schools are closed, including help with obtaining food, Chromebook distribution and replacement, and delivery of paper packets if online learning is not possible.
“I need to give credit to the teachers and how they are definitely stepping up and making sure that our students are getting what they need,” said North Region Principal Oscar Felix. “Not only are they getting the academic things that they need, they are getting the food or the shelter or whatever comes up, because every situation is different right now.”
Felix said that his teachers are better prepared for distance learning as a result of additional professional development around technology provided by SDCOE’s Innovation division. He said that 100% of the teachers in North County use Google classroom to engage their students and are able to use breakout rooms for small group instruction. Most teachers also hold virtual office hours each day to provide additional assistance.
The use of technology is having some positive results with students.
“These tools have helped us keep our students organized, help them show up to class on time, and are helping them complete their assignments on time. In the north, we’re seeing a lot of success and seeing more students turn in work now than they did when we were in person. And a lot of it is because the topics we’re covering, the curriculum that is being pushed out to the students is relevant to them,” Felix said.
South County Technical Academy recently had its first student representative, Angel, recognized at the County Board of Education meeting. South County Principal Roberto Carrillo said Angel is doing well in the distance learning environment.
“He expressed some of the challenges he had, but this has really motivated him to start thinking about post-secondary education from a technology perspective, because he sees the value in developing systems that are going to help with computer engineering and gaming, but also helping students learn better through these platforms,” Carrillo said.
While distance learning does present challenges, campuses continue to do lessons and activities they did prior to COVID-19, including student-led conferences. These conferences allow students to present to their teacher and parents, and often other SDCOE employees. This quarter’s conferences were related to a lesson on social and emotional learning with additional components that allowed students to evaluate their credits and do a career interest inventory.
Schools are also hosting virtual Coffee with the Principal events each month to engage parents and update them on school news and events. These events supplement the twice-weekly outreach to parents that help schools maintain connections with students and families.
Along with the schools’ efforts to create more equitable systems of learning and access for all students, both principals said they’re really focusing on building connections and being flexible.
“We’re not only building connections with our students, but also building connections with each other because not only do our students need social and emotional support, we as a collaborative group of SDCOE employees are also in need of social and emotional support,” Felix explained.
That support starts at the top, Carrillo said, adding that from the top down, SDCOE and JCCS leadership are helping administrators do what they need to ensure that our students, families, and staff members are supported.