Letter from Mr. Daubenspeck
Tue, Apr 7 12:07pm

Letter from Mr. Daubenspeck:                                                                                             

Hi Wonderful Thornhill Thunderbird Families, 

As we adjust to our new lives, I just first want to take a moment to recognize all of you for your flexibility and understanding. Thank you! We are sure you are realizing many new challenges and opportunities as well. As hard as this is, I hope you are finding time to reconnect with yourselves and your family in a way that maybe you have never been able to before. 

Who could have ever imagined we would find ourselves where we are today, in this new reality? The stress is real, the news changes constantly and imprints feelings of fear and worry, and everyone is scrambling to find what feels “right”. Our students most of all miss being with their friends, classmates, peers, buddies and teachers. Parents working from home are doing an amazing job trying to map uncharted waters while they figure out how to balance job duties and simultaneously help their children with academic work. Other parents work in essential positions that require them to continue going to work. While others are struggling to find financial stability after being laid off or furloughed. Our teachers, who were never trained or planned to be online instructors, are attempting to wrap their brains around the best ways to move forward, with little direction. This is not an easy time. We are here together. 

For all of us, we are living a first hand account with uncertainty. The not knowing and not having an exact timeline seems to be the hardest part. I sense that many of you feel anxious about your child’s academics, keeping them busy, and the announcement that this will continue through the end of the school year. As we help each other navigate this unknown territory I stand strongly in the belief of many educators and researchers; no child can learn if s/he does not feel safe, valued and loved. Our children, resilient as they may be, are feeling our concern, and our anxiety. Maybe you are even seeing an increase in behaviors at home - while not enjoyable - it is totally normal and expected given the current situation. More than completing any academic assignments, our children need to feel comforted and loved. To the extent that you are available, prioritize playing with them, snuggling with them, cooking together, watching movies, or being outside. 

Continuity of Learning Update: Thornhill Staff are creating something that has not existed previously, but I want to take a moment to assure you that they are deeply committed to providing a high quality meaningful experience to our students while school is closed. That being said, it is important to remember, we are not an independent school, we exist in a larger structure of the Oakland Unified School District, and need to adhere to their guidelines. Teachers have prepared approximately one hour of work per day, focused on both literacy and math. Teacher specialists have also provided activities to engage students when possible. Take a peak at these schedules to see if they might benefit your family.  We appreciate your personal suggestions regarding technology platforms, online resources, etc. Please understand that we have contracted licenses with certain platforms and have people who are leading the decision making around which platforms are allowable. At this time, the District has indicated the go ahead with “new content”. Teachers were notified of this announcement on Saturday, April 4th and therefore will be intentionally adding new content where they see appropriate as they receive more explicit directions from the district. Perhaps you may notice that Staff are “less” available on Monday & Tuesday (April 6th & 7th) as they have been given this time to prepare and collaborate. Trust that we have skilled and knowledgeable staff working to develop next steps. Typical day to day instruction with elementary students requires hands on materials, consumables, and much adult facilitation, as I am sure you are learning. While there is no way to replicate this remotely, we are working tirelessly to create an experience that is meaningful for your children. Our teachers and staff are collaborating daily to this end. Thank you for your patience and understanding. We are engaged in this work and like you, trying to balance new responsibilities, realities, fear and unforeseen challenges. Please extend our grace in taking the time we need to care for ourselves and find our footing so we can best support all of you. 

Please also help us by following the plans that teachers have developed and being understanding with them as they leap into uncharted territories and try out new ways of teaching. Thank you for helping us accomplish this. 

Technology use: We recognize students may be online more than they usually were in the past. Here are some suggested guidelines for technology use. First, supervise tech use. When kids are on devices they should be in common areas where an adult is present and aware. Avoid keeping and charging devices in bedrooms overnight to prevent unsupervised use. Two, set firm time limits and guidelines. An example of this, after you have read two traditional books you may read online books for 10 minutes OR we only do work on screens after we have gone for a walk as a family. Most importantly, stick to your words. If you set a guideline make sure you follow it. Next, model behaviors and set ground rules. For example, no one uses technology at the dinner table. 

Thornhill Strong! In conclusion, please take care of yourselves and your family as best as possible! Shoot your teachers an email when you are grateful for their work and do not hesitate to reach out to myself, Sherry, or Zettie at any time. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all that you are doing to make this work possible. 



Food & Other Necessities: OUSD is giving out breakfasts and lunches to any child who needs them every Monday and Thursday mornings at multiple sites throughout Oakland!  Families can go without children and just say how many meals you need. Food for 3-4 days will be provided so bring a grocery bag or two - please see the flyer about the "Grab and Go" food distribution for more information.

Tech Access: we want to make sure ALL Thornhill families have tech access during this time. Please know that we have enough chrome books on hand to provide one for any student who may need; we can also help families get free internet access. Teachers have been contacting families to assess individual needs and many of you have reached out to me directly.  If you are in need of a chrome book please let me know. 

Take good care,

Mr. Daubenspeck