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Email Communication from Dr. Nickerson

April 3, 2020
 
 
Dear AUHSD Community,
 
In the three weeks since we transitioned from teaching students in classrooms to implementing distance learning, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every facet of our lives.  Despite the personal and professional challenges our teachers, staff, and administrators are facing as a result of COVID-19, we remain steadfast in our commitment to meeting the academic and social-emotional needs of our students.  National education leader Dr. Joshua Starr recently stated, "Kids are always learning; what they're learning now is how adults respond to a crisis." It is important to model for our students that when faced with adversity, we work through each obstacle collaboratively, creatively, and thoughtfully.
 
On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced and reiterated on Thursday that families and educators should operate "with the expectation now that schools will not reopen."  At this time, neither the Governor nor the State Superintendent of Public Instruction has issued a formal declaration extending school closures through the end of the school year.  However, the Governor's statements certainly indicate this outcome as an expected scenario for the AUHSD. Currently, our schools are closed through May 3, but we will continue to follow the guidance and orders of our public health officials. This is difficult news to share, but we must all prepare for our students' education to be delivered via distance learning through the last day of school, May 29.
 
School will continue to look and feel very different to everyone, and more so to teachers than to our new generation of technology-fluent students. Our resilient teachers have dedicated themselves to becoming experts on new or suddenly more important platforms like Google Classroom, ScreenCastify or Zoom.  Monday will be another professional development day for staff so we can be better equipped to provide engaging and powerful online learning experiences to our students. We are also refining our systematic support structures and intervention so that all students will be successful in the distance learning model. Distance learning will commence again on Tuesday, April 7.
 
Losing the 4th quarter of traditional school and classroom instruction and experience is a hardship for all, but we are particularly empathetic to the "loss" experienced by our seniors. Our principals, however, are determined to be flexible and creative to ensure not all is lost and we celebrate our seniors with meaningful events. As the close of the year on our campuses becomes less likely, we will be soliciting input from students, staff and parents and will develop alternative plans/dates for events such as graduation/commencement. We will provide more information by the end of the month or as it becomes available.
 
This is a really tough time for all, and our community has come together and developed creative solutions to unprecedented challenges. Surely, each family is experiencing different challenges and hardships, but I hope all are finding some quality family time and prioritizing student well-being and structure for routine. Please know that are school resources are here for your support.
 
Thank you for your continued partnership. We will provide more information on our distance learning, assessment and support structures through the week.
 
Take care.
 
John Nickerson
Superintendent
 
 


 
March 31, 2020
 
Dear AUHSD Community,
 
A letter from California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond was published this afternoon and included a statement:
 
"Due to the current safety concerns and needs for ongoing social distancing it currently appears that our students will not be able to return to school campuses before the end of the school year. This is in no way to suggest that school is over for the year, but rather we should put all efforts into strengthening our delivery of education through distance learning." 
 
The letter can be accessed HERE.  Superintendent Thurmond has stressed that his recommendation was not a directive; it is ultimately up to local school districts and/or health departments to decide whether school campuses should remain open or closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Some "headlines" suggest schools are now closed through the end of the year, which is not the case.  
 
We anticipate we will receive much more guidance from public health officials in the coming weeks. We are currently closed through May 1 (which is aligned to the County shelter-in-place order). We will not make a decision to extend the closure now; however, we continue to plan in case the closure is extended beyond May 1. The Governing Board will plan to address the potential extension of school closures at its April 15 Regular Governing Board Meeting and at subsequent meetings.
 
Take care and stay well.
 
Sincerely,
 
John Nickerson
Superintendent
 


 
March 25, 2020
 
Dear Acalanes Union High School District,
 
In a joint press release statement  issued earlier today, "Seven Bay Area county health officers, in collaboration with their six county superintendents of schools, have made a unified, regional decision to extend school closures and student dismissals from regular school attendance through May 1, 2020, to slow the spread of COVID-19 to the maximum extent possible. The safety and wellness of students, school personnel, and the community are the highest priorities of all schools and districts in these six counties."
 
In light of this new directive, the Acalanes Union High School District will remain closed through May 1. We will provide additional updates through this week and prior to spring break (March 30 - April 3).
 
Thank you for your patience as we continue to work through this ever-changing and unprecedented situation.
 
Take care and be well.
 
John Nickerson
Superintendent
 
 


 
March 16, 2020
 
Dear Acalanes Union High School District Community,
 
The rapidly changing conditions and public health guidance and orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic present an ever-changing and dynamic planning process. That said, the District has direction and next steps that we want to share with our parents and students. Today's shelter-in-place order through April 7th provides some limitations, but we are still moving forward with District services.
The most important thing we must do right now is to come together as a community and accept responsibility for the role that each one of us plays in ensuring that we are doing what we can to slow the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing is essential during this time of school closure and we encourage all members of the AUHSD community to do their best to comply with the shelter-in-place order. This Stay Home Except for Essential Needs document adds clarification to the County health order. To be clear, school distance learning and food service are considered essential. Going to school to pick up in support of these functions would not be a violation of the order.
Educational Services
School site principals and coordinators will be providing more information to our parents and students regarding how we will initiate our distance learning program and support for all our students. Our primary objective this week will be for teachers and students to connect, initiate online learning engagement, and plan to support students. Principals will also provide instructions regarding picking up any instructional materials from school. Special Education Director Karen Heilbronner will communicate with select parents tomorrow providing more information regarding IEP support. We will provide updates in the coming days regarding scheduled Advanced Placement exams and college entrance tests (SAT/ACT).
 
Student Services
We will be providing information soon regarding our student services in support of student wellness, academic support and counseling. We know this is a particularly challenging time for our students given the massive interruption to their normal routine and social connection, particularly given the inherent isolation with social distancing and the shelter-in-place order. We believe our resources can provide invaluable support during these challenging times.
 
Food Services
AUHSD is committed to providing healthy meals for those in need during school closure.  Beginning Wednesday, March 18, AUHSD will provide free lunch to all children 18 and younger at 2 pick-up sites listed below. Schools will be open Monday through Friday 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. to pick-up lunch from our snack windows to take home.  No identification or proof of school enrollment is required, but a child must be present. 
Campolindo High School
300 Moraga Road, Moraga, CA
 
Las Lomas High School
1460 South Main St., Walnut Creek, CA
Families will not need to enter the school building for pick-up.  We kindly ask that you please adhere to all social distancing guidance.  Please note, lunch may not be consumed on school grounds. As of now, the free meals for students will be available through Friday, March 27.  We will provide updates regarding the program and extension of the program should there be a need.  
 
General Operations
All school offices and the District Office will be closed during this period. Should you have inquiries, please email the appropriate site or district administrator. Emails can be obtained through the school site or District web site directories. Currently, all District schools are closed through April 6. Keep in mind, there are strong indicators that the closure could be extended significantly longer.
 
We will be providing updates via email and through posting on the District website. If you are not receiving emails, please email yrichmond@auhsdschools.org to be added to the distribution list.
 
Please take care and we wish you and your family wellness.
 
Sincerely,
 
John Nickerson
Superintendent
 
 


 
March 13, 2020
 
Dear AUHSD Parents and Guardians:
 
The AUHSD Governing Board held an emergency meeting this afternoon to discuss the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on school operations, student safety and well being, and general community public health. After lengthy discussion and significant community input through email and public comment, the Governing Board voted for the closure of the AUHSD schools effective Monday, March 16, 2020 through Friday, April 3, 2020 with implementation of distance learning that provides support for all students. The Board and staff understands how immensely disappointing this is to our students as their school, activities and social world has been completely disrupted. For that, we are profoundly sorry.
 
While we have been planning for this possibility for several weeks, and teachers spent the professional development day planning and learning new technologies today anticipating the possibility of school closure, the closure happened very quickly and distance learning supporting all students will still take some time to implement. Parents and students should anticipate announcements coming from the District and schools on Monday regarding the initiation of the program, with learning opportunities beginning as soon as Tuesday morning. There will likely also be instructions regarding how students can pick up or retrieve instructional materials and/or tech equipment as well.
 
At this time, AUHSD is scheduled to reopen to students on Monday, April 6. The Governing Board will meet prior to the reopen date to discuss whether the schools will be reopened or the closure will be extended. Public health officials warn that a school closure this early in the pandemic should typically be much longer than three weeks. You can visit the AUHSD website for updates. We will certainly be emailing our parent and student community directly with important updates and instructions as well.
 
We recognize the very significant impacts the school closure can have on families and everyone across the District. The Board struggled with this decision understanding that there is not a perfect decision. Thank you for your continued support. Together, as a community, we will get through this.
 
Lastly, public health officials share with us that a school closure at this juncture can have a negative impact on public health and certainly not "flatten the curve" if students do not stay home and practice social distancing. Students should not have normal social interaction with peers and community. Please do your part so our school closure contributes to our community health and efforts with the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
More information will be shared on Monday.
 
Be well.
 
Sincerely,
 
John Nickerson
 
While many of the following resources are designed for younger children, they might be useful when you talk with your student about COVID-19 and the closure. Confusion, anger, sadness, anxiety, fear...all common emotions. These resources can help you navigate. Our Wellness Centers and Counseling Departments will continue to be a virtual resource center for our students when school are closed. More announcements will be coming on these and other school services.