State assessments may also be suspended, according to a joint letter by the California departments of education and health and human services issued March 17.
"Given the impact of COVID-19 on students and school communities, we want to let you know that we will prioritize the mental and socioemotional health of students, and are examining all options for suspending state assessments," the letter says.
Amidst constantly-changing mandates, in a matter of days school districts around the region have been tasked with switching their primary mode of learning for thousands of students, instructing teachers in how to use new platforms and ironing out plans to continue to serve their neediest students breakfast and lunch each weekday.
Here's what we know about what online learning will look like for students in Mountain View and Los Altos.
Mountain View Los Altos High School District
The Mountain View Los Altos High School District is starting online learning on Monday, March 23, a full week after schools closed March 16.
The district is developing short- and long-term plans, said Superintendent Nellie Meyer when asked how the district might adapt to mandated closures through the end of the school year. "As we received this information just last night, we are working to assess what this means for MVLA," Meyer said in a March 18 email.
"We are in the process of creating expectations for students and staff at this time," said Dave Grissom, principal at Mountain View High School. "We are going through uncharted territory right now."
This week, Meyer said, "We hope that families have taken the time to rest, and take care of themselves and other loved ones. It's a very challenging time in our community and it's important to support each other as we navigate alternative learning methods and the restrictions imposed by the shelter in place mandates."
Meanwhile, teachers and administrators are busy developing flexible learning plans. Many teachers, she added, are parents themselves and must also keep their own children busy and engaged. "It's not easy but they are pulling it off and sharing tips with each other for telecommuting."
One Mountain View High School parent is sheltering in place with her son, who is currently a senior at the school.
Minako Walther, who teaches Japanese, said in an email Tuesday that she was planning her own online coursework because she hadn't seen specific instruction from the superintendent or principal about what would be required. Not all teachers at the school are trained in distance learning, but she added, "I believe that we can adapt."
One challenge is that some students do need extra assistance and reminders to do their work, she said. At this point, she's not certain whether to implement assessments and quizzes, and is planning to mainly teach through Google Classroom. Students will be able to submit handwriting and speaking assignments, as well as slides for research projects, but she expects students to lose out on the listening and conversational exercises that took place in her classroom.
The physical separation from her classroom and the students she works with will be hard. "In general, I love my job, (and) being able to meet with my students and classes. School is my happy place to be," she said. She's also worried that last week might have been the last chance to see some of her students who will be moving out of state at the end of the school year.
Her son, Jiro, is dealing with his own set of uncertainties.
He said he wasn't surprised that his school closed, which seemed overdue after the county banned large gatherings.
"I had always thought of finishing my last semester of high school like any other year does (doing senior events, being on campus and whatnot) but now everything seems up in the air," he said in an email. "While I am sad that my senior year basically came to a pause, I understand the severity of this issue and am glad that such measures have been taken."
Events he's looked forward to have now been canceled or are at risk of cancellation. Battle of the Classes, rallies and musicals are canceled; he's not sure if his last season on the badminton team will resume or not. Prom and graduation are up in the air, as is a senior trip to Montreal.
College and university closures are also raising uncertainty for Jiro about his future. He has been admitted to Stanford University, but its annual weekend for admitted students, an event that helps many prospective students decide where to attend college, has been called off. "With admit days/weekends being cancelled at institutions across the nation, it seems that this year students will have to make decisions through virtual tours and internet research instead," he said.
Los Altos School District
The Los Altos School District had been preparing for several weeks for potential school closures, and was set to start on its distance learning program Wednesday, March 18, according to Superintendent Jeff Baier.
Distance learning for students may have a different cadence, he said.
The district will be using Google Classroom as the backbone for its distance learning offerings, along with Google Meet, a business service the company is offering to schools that allows group videos to be recorded for later use.
Younger students will be expected to spend two or three hours per day watching videos and doing independent work, while older students will have class from four to six hours per day, according to Sandra McGonagle, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
Case managers for students who have individualized education plans will be in contact with families to monitor student progress toward their goals and will work with general education teachers to work through accommodations needed for distance learning.
The district has surveyed families to see which don't have Wi-Fi at home, and the district has ordered hotspots that it expected to be delivered this week.
As for who's on campus, some functions still need to be completed at the district offices, but "it's more of a skeleton crew," Baier said.
"We are met with this crisis. We recognize that it's bigger than us — that it's a county, state, national and international crisis," said Baier. "We still believe strongly that we have a duty to educate the kids entrusted to us."
Bullis Charter School
Distance learning started March 17 at Bullis Charter School and seems to be going smoothly, according to Principal Cynthia Brictson. Students in kindergarten through second grade are using the Seesaw platform, while older students are using Google Classroom.
The school is using Zoom to have small group video conferencing and some one-on-one check-ins between students and teachers. The plan is for teachers in English language arts and math to each set up small group check-ins at least twice a week, so students get four check-ins weekly. For students in grades six and up, the district is running its regular schedule, having students join a different Zoom video conference classroom roughly every hour to take their core classes as well as drama, music, Mandarin, art and physical education.
The first day required working through some technical issues, but Brictson said students so far are engaged and families are grateful.
"The only response I have from parents is how well it's going," she said.
Mountain View Whisman School District
The Mountain View Whisman School District started distance learning Wednesday, March 18.
The district has put together grade-level packets for students accessible through the school website, which include reading logs, writing prompts, and information on how to access online instructional materials through Clever.com, i-Ready, Khan Academy or Zearn.
Paper copies of the grade-level packets were distributed Wednesday at schools from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at the food truck that is distributing to-go lunches and breakfasts to children under 18 at Gabriela Mistral Elementary (505 Escuela Ave.) from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. For families without internet access, the district will provide Chromebooks with connection to Xfinity Wi-Fi, with priority for students at Castro, Mistral and Monta Loma schools.
In addition, the district posted a shared Google Drive with music and PE instruction, as well as "brain break" videos broken into several categories based on the student's grade level.
Go to tinyurl.com/mvwsd-covid for more information and the grade-level packets.
This story contains 1490 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a member, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Membership start at $12 per month and may be cancelled at any time.