By JENNIFER OSBORN
After much discussion, and using guidance from the state and the county, Helix Charter High School will start the 2020-2021 school year on Aug 17, and in a distance-learning format.
On June 17, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that all schools in counties on the state watch list would be required to open in a distance learning format only — as of this date, San Diego is one of those counties. Just two days prior, Helix’s Charter Board had come to the same conclusion.
The decision by the Board was not made lightly. Over the past two months, the Helix administrative team and a team of teachers worked tirelessly on options for the 2020-2021 school year, with the goal of providing a rigorous, structured, and quality educational experience, while keeping the health and safety of staff, students, and families in the forefront.
Members of the Helix community were invited to attend a town hall meeting (held via webinar) in late June to learn about the proposed schedules. Following that meeting, more than 1,000 students, parents, and staff members participated in a survey to express their opinions. Using that information, the options were revised and ultimately presented to the Helix Charter Board.
The Charter Board approved the distance learning model, as well as a hybrid model (using both online methods, and modified on-campus instruction) to implement as allowed by state and local guidelines. The distance learning includes synchronous activities, where students will be required to attend virtual class meetings in a real-time setting, as well as asynchronous activities in which students will complete assignments and access additional educational materials on their own schedule. Attendance will be taken for the live online classes, and participation in the asynchronous assignments and classwork will be assessed. Teachers and Academic Coaches will provide academic support to students needing additional assistance, and teachers will hold additional small group meetings online when needed.
The Charter Board also approved a delayed start date, moving the first day of school from Aug 10 to Aug 17. The additional time will be used for staff to complete training, develop strong health and safety protocols, train staff and students, then implement and refine the protocols throughout the first semester to maximize the safe return to campus, which hopefully will occur at some point during the school year. Teachers are also required to complete a 30-hour training, which will result in all Helix teachers being certified in distance learning.
Students continuing their education at Helix already have school-issued Chromebooks, which they keep for their Helix career. New students, most notably the incoming freshman class, will be issued their Chromebook at a date and in a manner that will be determined soon.
In addition, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), the governing body for high school sports in California, announced on June 20 that all sports that traditionally take place during the fall will be delayed and moved to the winter/spring season. This means that games and practices for cross country, girls’ golf, field hockey, football, girls’ tennis, girls’ volleyball, and boys’ water polo are currently scheduled to begin in mid- to late-December.
These changes and circumstances can pose challenges and hardships for many families, and the Helix community will work to support students and families as they navigate these somewhat uncharted waters. There are ongoing efforts to develop plans to consider all aspects of the school experience — academics, as well as social and emotional well-being.
As always, Helix will continue to work toward its mission of providing a comprehensive education that prepares all students to graduate college-ready and equipped to reach their personal and academic potential.
— Jennifer Osborn writes on behalf of Helix Charter High School.