As a partner with TPS and a charter school serving hundreds of students who have siblings, parents, and guardians who attend and work at TPS schools, we will be following the TPS decision and will start the 2020-2021 school year in an online-only, distance learning format. To support the adjustment to this format, we will push the start date of the school year back to August 31st, which will also allow TSAS to align further. This decision means that all TSAS students will be doing distance learning for the first trimester of the school year with an opportunity to reassess at the end of the trimester.
This news will be a welcomed breath of relief to some and a point of frustration to others. Here are the reasons that we have decided to enter this year in this way:
- It is the safest option. With all of the information, debate, and hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic in what has now been almost 6 months since it came to the United States, the one fact that remains is that it is a dangerous and unpredictable virus. Many TSAS community members have been personally affected by the virus with some seeing it take the lives of family members. Because of its surging scope and the danger that comes with it, we enter into this distance-only format in order to ensure the highest level of physical safety for students, teachers, and staff.
- TPS and all other charter schools have opted for this format. As a partner with TPS and these other schools, it is in our best interest to be unified in as many ways as possible as we navigate the complexities of pandemic. While TSAS maintains autonomy and conducts school in many different ways than TPS and these other schools, we serve the same families they do. Neither TPS nor TSAS makes a historic decision like this lightly. While the TPS district is a much bigger organization than TSAS, we serve the same kids, and mirroring TPS’s processes in this situation presents the greatest chance that we can keep the TSAS family safe until this crisis passes.
- This format alleviates confusion and instability. TSAS spent months coming up with a rich and responsible reopening plan. That plan outlined what would happen if, while having in-person school, people started getting sick, local COVID-19 cases continued to surge, or absences became too numerous to overcome. Within this plan, all of these scenarios would cause us to close the building and go to distance-only learning. All guidance and conversations taken into consideration posited that frequent, disruptive school closures would be inevitable. This would result in a constant state of unpredictable fluctuation between in-person to distance learning. By going to an online-only format for the first trimester, we alleviate the strain of unpredictability for everyone in the TSAS community.
As mentioned above, this decision will come as good news to some and bad news to others. We recognize that it is virtually impossible to build a specific plan that meets all the nuanced needs of all TSAS stakeholders, but we vow to work tirelessly over the coming months to ensure every TSAS student has what they need to be successful in this format. We have had countless conversations with TSAS families in the past 6 months and those conversations continue to shape every decision we make.
To alleviate some concern, here is a list of tools and resources that will be honed and available by the time school starts to ensure safety and access to all TSAS families:
- Distance learning will be robust, engaging, rigorous, and accountable for grades and graduation plans, far different than the enrichment-only strategy implemented this past spring
- All TSAS students will get their own computers/chromebooks from TSAS this year
- TSAS can help provide high-speed internet for your family, if you do not have access
- Meals and nutrition assistance will be provided even though we are in a distance format
- Counseling, therapy, and mental health support will be available virtually and in-person this fall
- Special Education services will be available in person to students who need it this fall
- Enhanced community support and monitoring of students’ needs and engagement during distance learning will be implemented
These resources, and others still being ironed out, will help this fall be a far more robust and engaging distance learning experience than the spring was. With that curricular rigor will come an even more powerful and dynamic TSAS support system to care for the academic needs of students and to counteract the feelings of isolation and darkness many experienced in the spring.
Moving to a distance learning format for the first trimester is not an easy or happy decision for us, and we foresee challenges, learning opportunities, and obstacles to overcome in this new system. Keeping physical safety in the forefront of our minds, we will enter into this work bravely but in dire need of the continued, empowering care and compassion of TSAS students and families. As a unified school we can meet these obstacles and overcome them, so that when we are back together we will reflect on this time as one that made us stronger, more agile, and better able to meet the needs of our world.
Please look out for additional logistical items in the next week. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and please direct your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.