11/24/20 Community Update

Dear La Tierra Families,

First we would like to thank all of you who completed our family survey regarding distance learning. We had almost a 75% response rate which is amazing! Thank you! We spent many hours reviewing the data and disaggregating grade specific feedback for the teachers to have relevant and useful data to inform their classroom modifications going forward. We were happy to see that a majority of our families feel the distance learning work assigned feels appropriate in both time required and content. We encourage any family who feels their child is struggling with assigned work from either end of the spectrum (too challenging or too easy)to contact your students’ teacher. Our teachers are 100% invested in individualizing learning to make the distance learning format as successful as possible for each and every student at LTCS. One question we did want to address to the community was the amount of time spent each day actively learning and why it is not the same number of hours as in person instruction. This is a great question! Rest assured that our teachers and administrators have collaborated and built schedules to ensure state mandated instructional minutes are being met and comprehensive academic skills and state standards are being mastered by our students. The biggest trend we found in the survey regarding challenges faced were the social and emotional challenges faced by our students through distance learning. We all know the daunting statistics regarding childhood depression related to the prolonged isolation due to COVID. We are doing our best to try to help minimize these challenges creatively while still adhering to the restrictions placed upon us due to COVID. We are excited to introduce some of these new programs later in this email.

We know some of you have some questions about why we are remaining in distance learning when some other local schools have reopened. There are several reasons why. The first is our school size. We have one classroom per grade and therefore one teacher per grade level. Due to this it would be impossible for us to have an A/B hybrid model as used by most of the larger schools. Larger schools have the capability to utilize the A/B model using at least one teacher for in class instruction while there is a second teacher available to teach the students who choose to remain at home. We are in near constant contact with many other schools and have also heard that this model is extremely taxing on teachers even with some of them designated to the distance learners. Additionally, larger schools have the luxury of the added staff needed when a primary teacher is out sick or needs to quarantine. We have had several teachers who have needed to be out due to illness in the family or a quarantine situation and if we were in person there would be no one available to teach their class. As I am sure you can imagine, substitute teachers are nearly impossible to find right now even in the larger districts. If we were in a hybrid model, we would be forced to move immediately into a distance learning model without being able to give our families prior notice. We feel this flip flopping back and forth would be detrimental to students both academically as well as emotionally. Due to this we intentionally chose to have an in-person model and a distance learning model. We have followed the Roadmap for Reopening with fidelity since it’s creation.

All that being said, after much deliberation and careful planning we have decided to bring back our youngest learners (K&1) who are struggling the most with the distance learning model. Pending the benchmarks staying in the hybrid learning model we plan to have our kindergarten and 1st grade students on campus following winter break in January. Should the all three benchmarks be in the Substantial or red category after break we will delay this plan until benchmarks allow for a Hybrid Model again. The Kindergarten and First grade students will be in a combined classroom with both Ms. Tricia and Ms. Rachel which will allow the teachers to also have time with students who choose to stay home in the distance learning track. We understand that this might be disappointing news to some of our students in the other grades however see it as a first step in our progression to hopefully being able to extend beyond Kindergarten and 1st at some point. We would like to be clear that at this time we do not have any dates or scheduled times for any other grades to return and currently plan to watch the benchmarks for the time when they will return to green and allow full in-person instruction. We will be continuing to monitor the YCCHS and ADHS numbers and as always keeping you updated on any future plans.

In other exciting news we have a few new programs that we want to announce with the hope to fill some of our students social needs during this challenging time.

  • Starting after winter break we will be offering several​ Virtual Clubs​ for students who wish to attend. The teachers have begun planning several clubs and are really excited about being able to provide this for our students and to offer some extra curricular activities that cater to our students interests. Each club will be offered weekly and will occur in the afternoons. We will be sending home more information on the clubs topic and the days and times they will be meeting before winter break.
  • The second new program, ​Adventure MACS​, will be led by Mr. Dave with guest appearances and support from various staff. Adventure MACS will be in-person outdoor gatherings at various locations. We will be offering this program one time before winter break on ​TuesdayDecember15th​and then this program will meet twice a month after winter break. We anticipate most of these outings will last a few hours. Mr. Dave will choose an outdoor location such as Thumb Butte or Acker park. The kids who sign up will meet him at the location for drop off. He will lead them on an outdoor adventure including some learning activities and initiatives in the great outdoors. This program will require students to sign up ahead of time so we can plan for an appropriate amount of staff. Students will need to be dropped off at the designated time and place and picked up promptly at pick up time. Look for more information on the plans for the December 15th kick-off.
  • Finally our teachers have been reviewing grade specific survey results and have been hard at work to address grade specific requests or challenges faced by their students. I know of several changes that have already been implemented with more to come. Our teachers are continually adapting their offerings to meet the needs of their students. We cannot state enough that our teachers are here to help you and your student be successful while we navigate the everchanging world we find ourselves in at this time.

We want to wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving break. We appreciate your support and partnership with us as we face these challenges together. We are grateful that you are part of our community and look forward to the day we can come back together in-person as a community.

Warmest Wishes,
Julie & Rhette