In order to bring educator voices into the planning for the return to in-person instruction, we collaboratively planned a process to elevate educator voice in the implementation of hybrid plans. Lindsay Ray, Lesly Muñoz and I had the privilege of attending and listening to the conversations and I wanted to share some of what was discussed, from my perspective.  There was a significant amount of input and feedback that was recorded in each group that will also be digested and shared with district leaders.

The first session was held last week, and the day was spent alternating between larger group informational presentations from Operations, Nutrition Services, Transportation and Instruction departments, and breakout groups. Topics of discussion in level breakout groups were centered around the following 3 questions:

  1. What do see as barriers to a successful implementation of the model?
  2. What student needs are not currently addressed that will be critical to success?
  3. Given what has transpired over this year, what do you see as the needs for staff wellness and community building?
Lots of barriers, questions, concerns, ideas, considerations and solutions were generated from these conversations. Groups discussed the details of safety protocols; teaching strategies; social and emotional needs; how to allow for the various needs of students to be met in short timeframes; addressing the needs of students of color, students with disabilities and students who have experienced significant trauma over the last year; the importance of clear and effective communication to families; honoring the expertise and hard work of staff; technology and resources that will be needed to implement a hybrid model and much more.

The second session, held today, was intended to focus on identifying solutions and solidifying plans. Leveled groups prioritized topics that needed to be addressed, then for each topic determined what information is needed from district leaders, and where guidance would be helpful to staff.  Issues that were discussed centered on topics like how decisions are made at the district level; commitments to equity and anti-racism; communication from the district; mental and behavioral health of students and staff; maintaining equitable learning opportunities for students who are learning in different instructional models; flexibility and autonomy so teachers can meet student needs; and technology and strategies for simulcast instruction.

It was clear from the discussion that there is a need for deep reflection on how we have collectively handled the past year in this pandemic, and what our district and community need as we move forward.  We can’t go “back to normal” and we need to take this opportunity to create a “better than normal.” These meetings were a good start to the process of collective healing and building a better future. Thank you to the participants of this group for lending your professional expertise, vulnerability, problem-solving and commitment to all our students.