COVID19 School Resilience in Action » Don’t Panic: Pandemic Pedagogy (“We have a plan”) July 16, 2020 Update

Don’t Panic: Pandemic Pedagogy (“We have a plan”) July 16, 2020 Update

Don’t Panic: Pandemic Pedagogy (“We have a plan”)

July 16, 2020

In response to on-going federal, state, county and district guidance, Anahuacalmecac International University Preparatory of North America (Anahuacalmecac) will provide education for enrolled students exclusively online. All campuses will remain closed until federal and state governments provide all schools, including Anahuacalmecac, with adequate resources necessary to meet the stringent but critically important re-opening guidelines for schools. Anahuacalmecac will not risk the lives of students, staff or volunteers during this pandemic. Education is not a race and our students are not political pawns to be sacrificed by the mythologies of standardized government schooling. 

Anahuacalmecac remains committed to advocating for the transformation of the inequitable political-economic landscape of Los Angeles County by generating an educational eco-system that ensures historically disadvantaged youth of color and Indigenous Peoples the full implementation of internationally recognized rights of the child, people of color and Indigenous Peoples, towards a just economy, sustainable communities, and healthy environments. 

During the pandemic, our advocacy for the educational rights of our students and families have included engaging with other social advocacy groups including Reclaiming Our Communities in El Sereno advocating for housing for the homele

ss, the Advancement Project’s Race & COVID-19 Cross-sector Workgroup, the Indigenous Education Now Coalition, support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Latino Coalition of Los Angeles’ combined efforts to impact policy and budgetary decision-making at the local, state and national level as well as coordinated support for Nahua pueblos of origin in Mexico facing COVID 19 without government support. While our focus during the first stage of the COVID-19 Pandemic was centered squarely on the educational and socio-emotional needs of our students and communities working within our means as a small, community-based, autonomous school, our next stage must respond to a greater urgency for our vision of Indigenous education. 

On July 13, 2020, LAUSD Superintendent Beutner announced in a joint statement with San Diego Unified, that schools would remain closed for the beginning of the academic year 2020-21. On the same day, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) also released reopening protocols for K through 12 schools in Los Angeles County. Importantly, the Public Health protocols do not authorize schools to reopen for in-person classroom instruction. Re-opening schools will be guided by the state and by each school district’s decision on how to best meet learning requirements during the pandemic, considering the levels of community transmission and on-going risks. Schools that re-open their campuses, must adhere to the public health and safety requirements detailed in the protocol released by Public Health. Of course, these imply serious fiscal mandates currently unfunded by any regular source of funding.

The LAUSD Superintendent correctly highlighted that “The health and safety of all in the school community is not something we can compromise. The news about the spread of the virus continues to be of great concern. Last week was the worst yet in the Los Angeles area. Today, the Governor of California has again announced further guidance for school re-opening accounting for statewide spikes in COVID-19 cases. The rate of those who tested positive for the virus is approaching 10%, well above the level of 5% the World Health Organization guidelines say is appropriate for communities to reopen.”  

In Florida, it has been widely reported that over 30% of children tested across the state are positive for COVID-19, most likely due to that state’s lax policy towards the pandemic. In California, as of July 12, 2020, childcare centers that reopened reported almost 20% of children tested positive, as well as over 33% of parents and staff. Experts such as Marcy Whitebook, director emerita at the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) based at UC Berkeley, noted, “I was hoping to be proven wrong, that when we opened up more, we wouldn’t see an increase.” 

Across the country, the impacts of the pandemic on children of working-class families, particularly Indigenous, Black and Latino families are alarming. 

In Los Angeles County, Semillas’ Executive Director has learned more about the contexts of community transmission and contact tracing as a result of the Advancement Project’s Race & COVID-19 Cross-sector Workgroup which has developed tools for real-time mapping of COVID-19 hotspots across the county, many of which are areas our students live in. While more needs to be done to adequately resource and organize the community’s responses to the pandemic, core community-based changes to behavior and social organization can remain within community control in alignment with our values and priorities.

In March 2020, we shared our vision of the provision of “high-quality educational opportunities” through “distance learning” built around the principles of Life, Love, Learning and Liberation. We are proud to acknowledge the hard work of the students, parents, teachers and support staff who brought this vision to life. However, the expectations for meaningful engagement that the community of Anahuacalmecac made possible for students, teachers and parents were not commonplace among schools in Los Angeles or elsewhere. 

Anahuacalmecac’s impassioned focus on the needs of our students was challenged by the LAUSD’s demands for bureaucratic oversight. The LAUSD Charter School Division’s treatment of Anahuacalmecac, even in critical periods of distance learning, in addition to the recently adopted charter policy, make it clear that the District’s hostility as a charter authorizer will only make it inequitably challenging for our small school to adequately meet the conditions required by county and state health agencies for school re-opening. In other words, re-opening Anahaucalmecac for site-based education is not only a question of what all schools will rightfully be expected to do but how our school specifically will be expected to perform under duress, without adequate resources and under threat of charter revocation by LAUSD. In order to balance the needs of our students and confront the precarity of the moment, we must ensure that the school as an autonomous community-based institution is protected under conditions of tremendous government chaos.

So, what’s the plan?

Building from our distance learning plan and success, we are working to recognize opportunities to improve our students’ access to and meaningful engagement with their education at Anahuacalmecac. The Governor’s new requirements are straightforward. The five elements of the state's school pandemic plan:

  1. Safe in-person school based on local health data
  2. Mask requirements
  3. Physical distancing + other adaptations
  4. Regular testing + dedicated contact tracing
  5. Rigorous distance learning

However, in the context of our school’s tenuous relationship with the District, and given the current guidance for school closures, Anahuacalmecac will focus upon providing a high-quality education entirely online through what we are calling the Kalmekak Virtual. 

Our plan is to develop the Kalmekak Virtual by focusing on improving how students, parents and teachers continue to cultivate community with each other and through the curriculum building around the following areas:

1. Online Education Culture: The virtual classroom setting is best enhanced by personalized and direct relationship building between students and teachers and among students as peers. Anahuacalmecac teachers will be trained this summer to deepen their understandings of the unique skills and qualities which can improve student engagement through the online medium.

2. Review Course Design: Moving from the surprise retooling for distance learning in March, we now have an opportunity to modify and design our units and courses for the virtual classroom online. Together our staff will work towards a unified look and feel of all of our courses and platforms beginning with the recently adopted online platform called ToddleApp. In addition to the full platform PYP and MYP capabilities, Toddle offers a suite of tools for remote learning with a one-day setup option that can significantly enhance online classes by allowing teachers to collaborate in real-time on creating unit plans, designing assessments, and assigning work to students. Students will be able to independently access assignments, ask questions through a private chat, submit their work for feedback, and use assessment tools for self-reflection and evaluation. Toddle will advance our ability to engage students, staff, and families while enhancing the capabilities available in Google Classroom, currently used to deliver synchronous remote lessons. To maximize ToddleApp’s capabilities to meet our mission, Anahuacalmecac will hire a dedicated Project Coordinator. Working as a part-time coordinator and “ToddleApp Champion”, the Project Coordinator will work with staff to optimize our transition to the platform; coordinate and lead all-school virtual convenings and information sessions; and design inclusive multi-lingual training and co-learning opportunities for teachers, students, and parents.

3. Reimagine Student Support Services: Just as during the first phase of school closure, student support services (advising, the library, counseling services, student life and tutoring services) will continue to be available remotely to create a comprehensive virtual campus. Additionally, student clubs, enrichment and leadership opportunities for advocacy will be expanded to continue to promote meaningful engagement for students and teachers alike. Connecting our students and parents with on-going online events for youth, parents and community will be encouraged and organized regularly.

4. Technology Investment: No one likes computers that keep breaking down or software that is difficult to learn and navigate. Improving the consistency of our “learning management system” or platform for the Kalmekak Virtual via ToddleApp, Google for Education and other useful tools uplifting practicality for students and teachers. For example, the multi-media classroom engagement features of ToddleApp allow students to have creative discussions with each other based on assigned discussion prompts, while teachers can use the platform to send class-wide, whole school, or 1:1 messages to parents, including shares of student projects and portfolios to deepen parent engagement with student work.  Improving universal access to high-quality computers or tablets will also help our students and teachers access the curriculum with minimal technical challenges. The school will also help support universal access to Wifi for all students and parents in order to avoid inequalities by funding this access.

5. Prepare Students for Learning Online: Anahuacalmecac will further prepare our students at all grade levels for the online learning virtual environment. Beginning over the summer, we will loop in our students to introduce them to a revamped and dynamic online experience.

6. Success Depends on Adaptability: Leaning on our community for the flexibility needed, the Kalmekak Virtual will continue to evolve as we all strive to improve and adapt to the conditions of the online environment. Should conditions and resources allow for gatherings in the school campus or in other in-person settings over the course of the year, the school will retain its core mode of instruction online due to the likelihood of disruption at any point in time for the near future. 

7. Community is in the home: Our community is our home, and now more than ever we need to support each other as we support our children and youth. Finding and organizing community-wide support and resources for our families will continue to be a central element of our organizational mission. The Kalmekak Virtual literally means the uniting of our houses, each autonomous from each other, yet bound together for the benefit of our children and the next seven generations.