Updates from Eli Cohen:
Good evening all. I hope you’re continuing to weather these unprecedented times as well as possible. It appears that we are now entering the next phase of spending more time at home so I hope you’re taking advantage of time with your loved ones, getting outdoors as much as you can, catching up on old projects, reading, making art, and many other good and sustaining activities.
In order to keep you up to date on all things FALA right now, we’ve put together a combined message from all of us in Admin. I know the first few messages I sent were pretty technical in terms of days off and all that, but as we now enter the longer phases that will start to include class work, projects, and so on, we decided to expand this. There is a lot of information here. Please read it all.
- The Governor and Superintendent of Public Instruction have ordered all schools physically closed until April 10th. In class instruction will now start no earlier than April 13th.
- Until at least April 13th, campus is closed. Staff are able to come pick up supplies and work if need be, but students are not allowed on campus.
- Next week continues to be instruction free. We will start instruction March 30th. Dean Jed’s message below has further details.
- Given that we will be attempting to do a bulk of the work online until reopening, we need to know who does and does not have tech access from home. Please complete the attached SURVEY if you have not yet done so.
- The U.S. Department of Education announced today that the federal requirement for testing is waived for all states. Arizona is working on submitting a waiver accordingly. If approved, there will be no State testing this year. AP and ACT testing details will be provided in future updates when solidified.
- The Arizona Department of Education is waiving seat minute requirements for 2019-20. This will give us flexibility in days of instruction needed and scheduling as the year end approaches.
- Admin will be holding a meeting with the Counseling Department Monday March 23rd. A series of links and information are being put together to share with you all to assist in helping your student learn at home along with Social and Emotional pieces of information to help navigate this difficult time.
Message from the Dean of Academy, Jed Hayes:
Dear FALA Students, Parents and Friends,
For me, this last week has been used exhaustively reaching out to educators all around the world. I have read or re-read all sorts of pedagogical, psychological and technical advice. I have consulted mentors, and engaged in my philosophical standards. In the world of curriculum and instruction, it’s not a new thing to shift various aspects of learning to a virtual environment. Doing so in such a short time, though, is – to say the least – a unique challenge. I can assure you, though, that the conversations I have had with the FALA team are nothing short of inspirational.
I know that in all of the uncertainty, you want to know what is next. You wonder about your current assignments, and I cannot imagine how stressful it is to not know what’s expected of you. Furthermore, to those Seniors reading this – I have been thinking a lot about you, and the ways this whole situation is like a wet blanket to what is supposed to be one of the best times of your lives. I am here for you if you want to vent. Reach out, and we can set up a Google Hangout.
That goes for all of you. I am available and willing to talk through what I am thinking. In the coming week (or so) I will be reaching out more about specific plans. But I want you to hear a couple of things right now that I hope will allow you to take a breath.
The state has given us incredible latitude to determine the best steps to take. This is not so in all states, and I am grateful. As a school, a few things are important:
I will be making a decision very soon about grades for this semester. This time is NOT going to negatively impact your grades.
- Any assignments that are pending (assigned but not yet turned in) are hereby waived. Focus your time on family and getting your loved ones through these difficult times. (Those of you in DE/AP courses will need to continue to do any assignments, as those curricula are not fully in our control.)
By the middle of next week, I will have some learning activities out to you that you can begin to look through. We are using snow days for March 23-27, which means you will have no actual assignments – but rather, some activities to keep your brain fresh.
The week of March 30-April 3 will be used for some “pre-learning” activities for an All-School Project that will begin the following week.
The week of April 6-10 we will begin something that few schools have tackled. We will start an expeditionary learning unit together, as an entire school. It will combine all of your classes, and have aspects of everything FALA is, and will be as we move forward. This is a time to come together as a community, and learn together. Details will be coming soon – but I want you to know that we will be there for you. Traditional roles of teacher/student are, by necessity, being stripped away. We are in an amazing new time, and we will be on a journey to educate each other.
Parents, I understand that you may have concerns about this time being “wasted” or that your students will back-slide in content. I am preparing a separate packet of links that you can use, should you choose to do so, that will help keep your students on a more traditional path. For example, ASU has made their entire online college prep curriculum free to anyone. You may ask why we don’t simply try to put our current curriculum into an online format. I think the reasoning is pretty simple. We simply have no real idea or expectation of how long this will last, and the time trying to get a reliable shell for our wide and considerable curricula would be ill-spent. Additionally, very few of our students have experience in such an environment, and the self-direction learning curve would make things far too uncertain. Smaller content requirements will allow us to go deeper in thought, and reflection, and synthesis.
We are here for you. We are here for you. We love you, and we are here for you. I will be instructing your teachers that communication with you is their number one priority. They will be available to you.
I wish we could say we knew exactly where this is all headed. Frankly, the idea that we can simply go on without addressing this as a potential paradigm shift is irresponsible. Educators serve to allow everyone the opportunity to better themselves through a constant effort of learning. This is, I believe, where we will show why the FALA way is the way forward.
I love you all. Being part of this team, this school, this community – I know – will be one of the greatest pieces of my life.
Take care of yourselves. More will be known soon.
Message from the Director of Special Education, Kim Khatibi:
Dear FALA Families:
I wanted to reach out and let all our students and families know that we are thinking of you and hope that you are all safe and taking care of yourself. We are taking next week (extended Spring Break) and the week after to plan and set up special education and related services to support students in the upcoming instruction that will take place starting the week of April 6th. Here are some of the possibilities that we are exploring: virtual Student Study Centers (specific days/times), scheduled appointment times with related service providers (Counselor, Speech Language Pathologist, and Occupational Therapist), and video/phone conferencing options. We realize that not all students have access to technology so we are also working on a plan to support via the telephone.
During the week of March 30th, Case Managers will be reaching out to students (via email and phone) to do a check in and communicate a schedule when services are available and problem solve any access issues. They will also be sharing appointment times for related services.
If you have an upcoming meeting: During the week of March 23rd, Jen will be reaching out to IEP/ MET teams (students, parents, teachers) to confirm upcoming meetings and give information for an online format and/or to reschedule meetings as needed.
We know they can be a very stressful time and we are here to help. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with your questions, suggestions, or concerns. The Sped team is working very closely with General education teachers and the School Counselors to be proactive in designing materials and provide resources that will support all students during this time and we appreciate all that you are doing at home to help your student.
From Eli Cohen:
That’s about all for tonight.
I hope you have had a chance to read all of this and see that we are using this time to design innovative and creative learning experiences for the coming weeks and perhaps longer. FALA is a unique institution and we are taking this opportunity to rethink many ideas about education in this new environment. We are also very cognizant of how this will impact you all individually and in groups, physically and mentally. We know these are strange days, but we are excited and hopeful for what this will bring us as a dynamic educational community.
As always, please stay safe (and distant). And please reach out to any of us with questions, concerns, comments, and the like.