• 2020-2021 School Year

    Distance Learning Frequently Asked Questions 

     

     

    August 6 Update

    On July 14th, the Governing Board determined to begin the AUHSD school year with a distance learning format due the regional public health conditions and limited capacity for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. Subsequently, Governor Newsom announced that all schools in counties on the California Department of Public Health COVID-19 Monitoring List cannot open the school year with in-person learning. Contra Costa County has been on the list since the Governor’s announcement.

     

    On August 5th, the Governing Board met to confirm the opening plan and a revised distance learning school day schedule.

     

    We anticipate our distance learning program will be more robust and rigorous, and have much higher accountability than our 4th quarter program last year. We learned from our experiences in the spring and expect improved lesson design given the time for further curricular development.  Frequently Asked Questions pertaining to our distance learning program follow. The questions (taken from questions submitted by parents and students this week) and answers will be updated as additional information becomes available and decisions are made and/or refined in the coming weeks. Many aspects of our distance learning are subject to negotiations with our employee groups, who have been great partners in our efforts to develop a high quality distance learning program.

     

     



Starting the School Year

  • When does the school year begin?

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    Students will begin the school year on August 11.

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  • How will students initially engage in distance learning?

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    The 1st week of school will focus on connecting students to school, orienting them to distance learning, teaching them how to navigate, utilize and be successful with Canvas (our new learning management system) and teaching curriculum to support social-emotional learning. Students and parents will receive emails on Monday, August 10, with information related to logging into Canvas and their first Zoom session. (Parents will also receive an account and lessons to help them navigate Canvas.) The first Zoom session for students will be on August 11 and will be with a pre-assigned Virtual Cohort Academy. The schedule during the first week will be announced at a later date and will appear very different from the distance learning schedule that will be used throughout the semester.

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  • Will 9th graders and transfer students receive an orientation?

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    Yes. The school sites are currently planning the orientations. They are rethinking the concepts and are dedicated to providing strong support for the transition to our high school. The orientation might be all virtual, but we are hoping to bring small groups of interested students on campus for short sessions (masked with physical distance).

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  • How will students get instructional materials and textbooks?

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    School sites are scheduling drop-off (for any of last year’s materials) and pick-up systems for students to come to school to obtain textbooks and other materials. The school will contact parents and students with instructions.

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  • Will technology be provided?

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    We are committed to provide a laptop devices (Chromebook) and wireless internet hot spots to all students who demonstrate the need and otherwise would not access the curriculum. School sites will be surveying needs in the coming weeks and will arrange for pickup of the devices. Students who held devices over the summer can continue to use the devices if the need persists.

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  • How long will we be in distance learning?

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    The Board and staff recognize that in-person learning is optimal for many reasons. However, student and staff health and safety must be the top priority.

     

    The first thing that would need to happen before consideration of movement to a hybrid model would be the County being off the CDPH COVID-19 Monitoring List for 14 consecutive days. (In the hybrid model students split their time between in-person and distance learning to reduce student density on campus.) The metrics for the Monitoring List include measures of testing volume, disease transmission, hospitalization rates and hospital capacity. We do not want to go back and forth between distance and hybrid learning frequently, so the local public health data would need to be in good status consistently before a hybrid model would be implemented. The secondary issues that need to improve are the timeframe for COVID-19 testing results and the ability for thorough contact tracing. Timely testing and contact tracing will be essential when there is a positive case on a campus. We are currently working as a County to develop some additional metrics beyond those that are part of the County Monitoring Data to assist in Board decision making regarding in-person instruction. The District would move back to in-person learning cautiously. It is quite possible that we will not be able to return to the in-person hybrid model this semester. Again, the health and safety of our students and staff will be our top priority.

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  • Will students be allowed on campus during Distance Learning?

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    Prior to the Governor’s order for no in-person learning for counties being monitored by CDPH, we hoped to bring some targeted groups on campus for additional academic and social emotional support. We are seeking clarification as to whether this can be done while Contra Costa County is on the watch list. Should Contra Costa County be removed from the monitoring list for 14 days, we would definitely bring small targeted groups on campus.

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  • If schools are able to open for in-person instruction, what if the County goes back on the list?

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    We have been informed that if a school is able to open for in-person learning and the County goes back on the CDPH watch list, whether to close or remain open will be a local decision made by a district in consultation with local public health officials.

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  • Will all students and staff be tested prior to a return to a hybrid/blended learning model?

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    Testing all students and staff is currently not a recommendation of our local public health officials.

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  • If we transitioned to hybrid/blended, how would students be grouped?

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    We still plan to group into cohort by alpha (keeping family units with different last names in the same cohorts). While there have been suggestions for other methods, we still think this would method would work well and do not believe other methods have net benefits. We will use this method when we build the master schedule so we can transition to the hybrid should conditions allow.

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Distance Learning Structure

  • What is the distance learning schedule?

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    Here is the revised distance learning schedule approved at the August 5 Governing Board Meeting.

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  • What is the Virtual Cohort Academy?

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    The Virtual Cohort Academy will meet on Mondays and much more frequently the 1st week of school and on some Wednesdays and Fridays in the first few weeks of school. Students will be assigned to a cohort with two staff members who will support the students in distance learning. They will help the students orient to distance learning and Canvas and provide support and facilitate some social-emotional lessons and learning. The staff members will also work with the students to ensure their attendance and engagement in distance learning. Attendance to the Virtual Cohort Academy is required.

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  • What is the Virtual Academy?

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    The Virtual Academy will be structured very much like our regular academy period, but held virtually (until conditions might allow small groups of students on campus). Teachers will hold academy sessions through which extra support is offered. Virtual Academy is required and students will sign up for their session through the TeachMore app. Teachers will also “tag” students for attendance in their academy when they determine the need.  (Information on Virtual Academy and the TeachMore app will be provided through the cohort academy.)

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  • What is the Monday format?

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    Students will start the day in a required Virtual Cohort Academy. Monday’s 7 period schedule will be asynchronous learning, in which students do not engage in “live” teaching. (Teachers will be in staff and department meetings, collaboration sessions to align courses and professional development.) Students will complete structured distance learning activities. Students are encouraged to follow the schedule on Monday, but may deviate if other obligations require.  During four-day school weeks (Labor Day, Veterans Day, etc.), the Monday schedule will be skipped and the schedule will be adjusted according to when the day off falls.

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  • Will learning be synchronous?

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    There will be a synchronous (“live” teacher interaction) opportunity in each period or each day of the Tuesday through Friday schedule. Synchronous learning will typically not fill the entire 75 minute period as that structure would not be optimal for student learning, nor would four consecutive 75 minute Zoom meetings be healthy or most conducive for learning. Students can expect to spend about half of their overall instructional time during the Tuesday through Friday schedule in a synchronous environment.

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  • What is a learning management system and Canvas?

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    A learning management system (LMS) is a platform to manage the administration, posting, assessment and grading, and the asynchronous and synchronous learning activities in a course. Canvas is cloud-based LMS platform that we will begin using this year. It will replace or integrate the multitude of systems used last year. SchoolLoop will no longer be used.

     

    Students will have an account through which they access all courses. Parents will have an account through which they can monitor courses and support their student.

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  • Will there be “homework?”

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    There will be assignments given for learning activities outside of the synchronous and asynchronous learning activities of the school day schedule. The AUHSD Homework Policy and Administrative Regulation guidelines and parameters still apply to distance learning.

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  • Will students have too much screen time?

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    We share the concern with many of our parents regarding screen time. We hope the screen time with our distance learning program will have value and the school day will include time during which students are off their device. We encourage parents to monitor student non-academic screen time.

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  • Are there Zoom protocols?

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    Students will be expected to follow established “norms” for Zoom sessions and sign a teleconference acceptable use agreement. Students who fail to meet the expectations will be addressed by school administration.

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Supporting All Students

  • Will attendance be taken?

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    Attendance of students in all learning activities is required. Attendance will be taken during all synchronous learning activities and academy sessions, and completion of asynchronous learning will also be tracked. Engagement in learning will be monitored. Students who do not engage 60% of the time will trigger an intervention system of support.

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  • How will Special Education students be supported?

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    Special education students will receive communication regarding the distance learning support system and information specific to their Individualized Education Program. Accommodations will be reviewed in the context of the distance learning format. We are currently seeking a waiver to invite very small groups of special education students to take the option to come to campus for in-person support.  We are also seeking a waiver for permission for students to be on campus for educational evaluations and testing. We will communicate with families should on campus support become available. Specific questions should be directed to Director of Special Education and Auxiliary Services Karen Heilbronner.

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  • How will Section 504 students be supported?

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    We will review 504 accommodations in the context of distance learning to provide the necessary support for the students.

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  • How will English Learners be supported?

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    English learners will receive special attention from their ELD and other teachers. Translation programs will be used as appropriate. We are currently seeking permission to provide an option for some English learners to come to school for in-person support and assessments of language fluency. We will communicate with families should on campus support become available.

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Grading and Assessment

  • Will students receive letter grades?

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    Yes. Whether in distance learning or a blended hybrid schedule, students will be graded this semester with letter grades. We have had the time to develop strategies and have systems through Canvas that will enable practices for more accuracy in grading that was not feasible during the school closure in March-May. We are also implementing additional strategies to support all learners and more equitable grading practices.

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  • How will students be tested and graded?

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    Assessments will likely look different as teachers measure student understanding. We anticipate more authentic assessment strategies and less multiple choice testing. Canvas and other integrated systems will provide tools for teachers to support academic honesty and prevent cheating behaviors. The Board adopted grading components will be used for the semester grade.

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  • Are you concerned that students will cheat?

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    Student commitment to academic honesty will be promoted and supported. There will certainly be more opportunity for cheating behavior, but the tools to identify the behaviors will be more sophisticated. We hope our parents will also partner in supporting academic honesty in our distance learning environment.

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Connection, Social-emotional Health and Extra-Curricular Activities

  • How will student mental health be supported?

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    Our Wellness Centers and other support staff will be designing programs to connect with students and support students in need through either individual or group virtual settings. It is our hope that when we can bring small groups of students on campus, students with emotional support needs can come to campus to engage in programs.

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  • Will extracurricular clubs meet during distance learning?

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    Yes. Faculty advisors will work with students to identify time for students to meet virtually to support the pursuit of common interests. Schools will facilitate a virtual “club day” for students to learn about and join clubs. When conditions allow, it is possible that small club groups would be allowed to meet on campus.

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  • Will sports happen this year?

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    Currently, the fall season for sports has been postponed by CIF and NCS. Here is a document showing the seasons of sport. This schedule will be revisited in the fall. Local public health officials have indicated that contact sports will be one of the last restricted activities to be allowed as conditions improve. So we can remain hopeful, but not overly optimistic, that sports will begin on December 14.

     

    NCS has determined that Summertime Rules are extended through the fall. So if health conditions permit, we can consider running afterschool sports camps like those permitted during the summer. Should in-person practice not be allowed, many teams will organize for virtual workouts. More information regarding these programs will come from the schools.

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  • How will you help my student get connected to school?

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    We hope our Virtual Cohort Academy structure will help with connection and inclusion and provide a mechanism to promote your student’s engagement with school academically and in non-academic ways. Our 9th grade orientation program will also be a mechanism to help connect our new students. And Leadership classes will be working hard to build school community within a distance learning environment.

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Elective Classes

  • Will all elective classes be offered?

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    Yes. All electives for which there is a full class of students will be offered. Certainly, some elective classes will be more challenging to execute in a distance learning format, but our teachers are committed to make it work.

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  • How will science classes with a lab component be taught?

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    Our teachers will do their best and are dedicated to provide the practical and problem solving experience inherent in labs. They will use virtual labs, share demonstration labs, design paper labs, and other modified labs that can be done at home. Clearly, these do not equate to the real experience. We hope that when students are allowed on campus, some labs might be able to be performed on our campuses.

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  • How will performing arts classes exist in a distance learning structure?

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    Performing arts classes will look very different, but will still meet virtually. Should public health conditions improve, it is possible for in-person teaching and learning in small groups. Obviously, wind instruments and singing can raiser particular risks, so teachers would secure very large outdoor spaces (weather permitting) as necessary to keep the activity safe. Any performance will likely be virtual through the fall, although there might be some creative live performance opportunities should public health conditions improve.

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  • Will CTE classes such as auto and wood technology be offered?

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    Yes. These courses will be offered with modified curriculum. Again, the hope is that conditions will allow small groups to have the option to come on campus for some practical experience.

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  • Will Advanced Placement classes be offered and will students be prepared for the AP Exams?

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    Our normal AP classes will be offered. While the courses will have some differences in a distance learning format and might require more independent learning, we are confident that our students will be very well prepared to excel on the AP Exams in May.

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  • Will PE-Athletics be offered?

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    Yes. We are currently working on the format for the course for those students who are eligible. More info will be shared for eligible students in the near future.

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  • Will work experience be an option for students?

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    We anticipate that work experience will continue to be an option in the distance learning environment.

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  • Can students be a TA while distance learning?

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    We anticipate that there will be a role for some TAs during distance learning. It will most likely depend on whether the teachers feel they can make proper use of a TA.

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  • Will Jazz Ensemble be taught during a “zero” period?

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    Yes, Jazz will be taught in an early period prior to 9am three times a week.

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Alternative Online Option

  • Is there an option for students who do not wish to attend school in person should conditions allow?

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    Yes, if the student or student’s family member has a health condition creating an “at risk” situation. We will run a parallel program through the FuelEd platform (and possibly UC Scout) within each school.

     

    However, given the conditions and that all schools will start in a distance learning format, all students will begin in distance learning in the same system with the same teachers. Should conditions allow movement to a hybrid/blended format with students coming on campus 2 days a week, we will work with the families to determine alternative online paths to course completion.

     

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  • What is the commitment to FuelEd?

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    We will ask for a commitment to the alternative online program (FuelEd). We will postpone this commitment as long as possible, and all students will start the school year in our regular Distance Learning program. The commitment would then run through the semester.

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  • Will the FuelEd program be taught by AUHSD teachers?

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    The FuelEd program will be taught by a combination of AUHSD and FuelEd teachers with AUHSD oversight.

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  • Will the FuelEd program grades go on the school transcript?

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    Yes, but they will be marked as an online course. The student would remain a student at the school while taking the alternative online option. 

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  • Will the FuelEd courses be identical to our courses?

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    In some cases, the courses will look very similar, but will be taught on a different platform. In other cases, the courses will be structured quite differently, but will address the same essential content standards.

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  • What if we open for hybrid very late in the semester?

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    We will evaluate the situation and determine whether to move students who wish to remain in distance learning to FuelEd or provide an alternative through our own systems.

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  • Will all elective courses be offered through Fuel Ed?

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    Most courses will be offered including most Advanced Placement courses.

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  • If students return to the regular school program at the semester, will they get their same courses?

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    We will be able to transfer students into the basic core classes and will make every effort to enroll students in the same elective courses.

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  • Will students on the alternative online option have any connection to the school?

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    Yes. Students will have a virtual cohort academy with one of our teachers that will make all efforts to connect them to school, support their distance learning efforts, and teach the social-emotional learning curriculum. Students could also join clubs that are meeting virtually, engage in Leadership class activities, or participate with sports teams that are virtually connected.

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  • What if I submitted the survey indicating interest in the alternative online option?

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    You should have been contacted with more information. Given that all students are starting in the same distance learning program and structure, there is nothing you need to do at this point.

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Other Frequent Questions

  • Will there be walk-through registration, which is currently scheduled for August 10?

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    School sites are currently planning alternatives to the traditional walkthrough registration. You will receive information from your school.

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  • Will the libraries be open?

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    The Library Media Centers and staff will be open to support students virtually with research and other aspects of distance learning. If conditions improve, we hope to allow small groups of students to come to the library for the high speed internet access and other learning support.

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  • Will the cafeterias be open?

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    Our food services department will be providing grab-and-go meals for students, especially those that qualify for free or reduced lunches. We will provide more information in the coming days regarding the scope of the food services available.

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  • Will the SAT be offered at AUHSD schools?

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    We hope the late August SAT will be offered, but think the testing is unlikely unless local health conditions improve. The College Board has indicated that they will wait until closer to the SAT test date to determine whether to cancel. The College Board has added many additional testing dates to the calendar, which you can see at the College Board SAT website. We will make efforts to add dates and give priority to AUHSD students.

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  • Will the College/Career Center be available during distance learning?

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    Yes. We understand the complexity of the college application process, particularly for the Class of 2021 given the cancellation of so many ACT/SAT sessions and the tests being optional for most applications. Our College and Career Centers and the College and Career Advisors will be putting together many virtual programs and will be available to meet to discuss the college application landscape.

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  • What will happen if a teacher is out sick?

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    It is likely that the learning for that day will become asynchronous. If there is a longer term absence, we would secure a long-term substitute or temporary teacher to fulfill the teacher duties.

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  • Will synchronous lessons be recorded and posted in Canvas?

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    There are several legal barriers to recorded and posted lessons. We will continue to work on the issue. More information will be available later.

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