Letter from Mr. Daubenspeck
Sat, Jul 25 1:50pm

                                                                                                                                                            July 24th, 2020

Dear Thornhill Families,

I hope everyone is doing well and that you are enjoying the last few weeks of Summer.   I am aware that you are needing to know information as soon as possible.   While I was not expected to learn any news on OUSD's plan until next week, I did receive some information about how we will be entering school from my colleagues.   I am expected to hear officially from the district next week.   In the meantime this is what I know so far:

Please know that all plans depend on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between OUSD and our teachers’ union, OEA; this MOU is still being negotiated.  Although there are still a lot of unknowns, I want to share the most up-to-date information that I have received today.  Please note I will have more solid information next week when I meet with OUSD Leadership.  Please look for a letter by next weekend.


Online learning this fall will have a very different feel than the Spring.   While we feel we did our best with Distance Learning last Spring, the expectations will be different as we move toward online instruction that is aligned by grade levels with common platforms and software.  Many educators throughout OUSD have been working all summer to build on what we learned from last Spring’s abrupt move to the online world.  OUSD spent a lot of time analyzing the surveys you completed around your experience with online instruction and, although none of us feel that online instruction is nearly as effective as face to face, we are confident that we will be able to implement a meaningful educational program for all of our students throughout 2020-21.

The primary Thornhill school structure TK - 5 will remain the same.  Students have been assigned to balanced, diverse classes with one main teacher with a range of 24 - 31 students.  Our staff put a lot of thought into creating class lists.   Many details, specific schedules, etc. will not be available until after teachers and staff return to work August 5th, because teachers and staff are important stakeholders whom I want to involve in the process. Nevertheless, I want to share some general ways in which distance learning will be different from what you experienced last spring.

Daily Video Meetings: Per state law AB-77, all students will meet with school staff and peers daily. Teachers will be required to take daily attendance of Zoom meetings, and we will follow up with families whose children miss classes to see how we can support them. To read the sections of AB-77 relevant to K-12 education, click here. We acknowledge that Zoom meetings can be challenging for some students, and also want to assure the community that we will support families with limited access to technology.

Combination of Whole Group and Small Group Zoom Meetings: It is clear to teachers and parents that kids learn best—and video meet-ups work best—when there are fewer people in a group. At the same time, it is also important for the whole class to be together to develop community. That's why both types of meetings/sessions will be held.  When we say “small groups”, we are referring to an educational construct of deliberately placing students in flexible, temporary groups based on student needs at any given moment.  Sometimes the groups are heterogeneous, other times they are homogeneous. 

Combination of Synchronous and Asynchronous Instruction: Many lessons will be available asynchronously, through pre-recorded videos, slide shows and other formats.  Students may be asked to watch a lesson and/or prepare before meetings with the teacher.  This will allow teachers to use the face-to-face time to check for understanding, push to go deeper, synthesize information, and ensure learning.

Required AssignmentsStudents will be required to complete assignments, and teachers will provide feedback. It will be a combination of digital and on-paper work, with less time on computers and tablets for our younger kids than their older counterparts.

Assessing Student Learning: OUSD will be implementing a NEW assessment system.  At the beginning of the year and multiple times throughout, all students will take benchmark assessments so teachers can see how kids are doing in reading and math and share that information with families. The younger students will take these assessments in small groups on Zoom, and older students will be able to complete them online independently.  Teachers will provide frequent feedback to both students and families.  Report cards will include standards-based grades.

Streamlining & Consistency:  Teachers are collaborating across each grade to ensure that all students receive similar instruction and content.   We will have clear content expectations by grade level, adjusted for a distance learning context and consistent with Common Core State Standards. Teachers will communicate to families the learning goals on a regular basis.

The First 4 Weeks: The tentative plan throughout OUSD is for the first couple of weeks to be orientations for students and parents, as well as getting to know each child and family individually. Teachers will also spend time attending Professional Development sessions geared towards Distance Learning.   As you can imagine, teachers have a lot of technology to learn and be up to speed..The third week would be devoted to teachers assessing students in math and reading, which will inform their planning. The fourth week would be when core instruction is launched.  During these 3-4 weeks, the majority of instruction will be asynchronous.

Schedule: By the fourth week of school, all of Thornhill will be operating on a clear, predictable daily schedule that is consistent throughout each grade level.  Once we have an agreement between OUSD and OEA, I will be able to share more details.

Communication: We recognize that strong communication is paramount in this time.  In addition to all of the regular written correspondence, we will be building in time for more virtual face-to-faces.  Teachers will have regular slots for parents to drop in and hear what is going on and what the weekly learning expectations are. 

All classroom teachers will be meeting with all families individually,virtually, during the first few weeks of school.  Additionally, case managers will be reaching out to families of students with IEPs or 504s during this time.




BELOW are other Frequently Asked Questions:

Q:    Will we be returning to school or continuing with Distance Learning?
A:    PER OUSD -  Starting August 10th, we will be back to school in DISTANCE LEARNING mode for the first 4 WEEKS of school.  Please be flexible as things keep changing.
Q:    When will I know which class my child is in?
A:    IF your registration is complete, you will be informed no later than August 7th or sooner by your new teacher.
Q:     Do you take requests for classroom placements?
A:     Per OUSD, we are sorry but we cannot honor requests for specific teachers.  And do note that each class is balanced and  teachers and staff have put a lot of thought and effort into  balancing these classes. 
Q:     Will classes be aligned/taught similar content with the same platforms and software?
A:      YES!  Thornhill endeavors to have all teachers aligned by grade level.  Therefore similar content and experiences will occur across each grade level.   Our Teachers have been working through the spring and summer to plan instruction this way so that each Thornhill child will have a quality experience.  
Q:     Will there be chromebooks for families that need them?
A:      Yes!   We are working on this and will know more before school starts.  Thornhill will be providing technology as it becomes available to support families that need it.    Chromebook Requests Form 
Q:  What's the Governor's  message?
Message from Alameda County Superintendent of Schools
Thank you for your patience during these challenging and uncertain times. I look forward to seeing all of you when the time comes..
Be safe and take good care!

Mr. Daubenspeck