March 20, 2020
Dear Blacksmith Families:
I trust that you are all safe and adhering to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) recommendations. As in recent days, the coronavirus outbreak has thrust our nation and our community into truly uncharted territory. We are facing challenges that have been hardly imagined in the past. However, please know that your administration and faculty are working very diligently, albeit remotely and via video conferencing, to ensure continuity of instruction.
Governor Greg Abbott announced an executive order, effective at midnight Friday, March 20, through midnight Friday, April 3 (and subject to extension) that requires all Texas schools to temporarily close but offer online or other learning options to students. This includes all charter schools including Westlake Academy.
Next week, you will receive information from me about distance learning with specific details and an introduction to our WA distance learning website. That letter will be followed up with communication from your Programme Principal and child’s teacher about first steps. As our teachers have been trained to teach face to face, the first two weeks of distance learning will be monitored and processes will be adjusted as we go. Please know that we are building our distance learning airplane while flying it and your patience is appreciated.
This week our teachers have reached out via video and/or through email to students to make that first communication and set the scene for an effective access to our distant learning program that meets all student needs. The leadership team, in collaboration with our teachers, is finalizing our off-site learning programs that will commence Wednesday, March 25, with a soft start. This will allow us to set clear guidelines and learning expectations that will not overwhelm our students in these uncertain times.
One of our International Baccalaureate (IB) learner profile attributes is for students to develop balance in their lives. As such, teachers will strike a balance between online/digital learning experiences and off-line learning experiences such as reading, art projects, and math fact drills. An IB education requires that we deliver varied learning experiences that support the development of all five Approaches to Learning skills found in an IB education. We want to assure you that students will have time away from their devices. Balance will be reflective in the learning that will take place for your son or daughter in this unique time of learning at home.
In regard to school iPads, we know that many student’s iPads are at school. Please complete the Google form here by midnight, Sunday, March 22, to indicate if you require a school iPad. This information will assist our IT department with a measured deployment of iPads to students. Information on how and when iPads will be picked up at school will follow and will meet the social distancing requirements of Federal and State guidelines.
In addition, we are aware that some students may need to pick up other items such as art projects. In the Google form noted above, you will be provided an opportunity to indicate these needs.
We know that for some of our families, staying connected may be a concern. There are many providers offering special pricing and/or free services. Below is a list of these offers:
AT&T: Offering open hotspots, unlimited data to existing companies, and $10/month plans to low-income families.
Charter: Free internet offer for two months.
Comcast: Offering free WiFi for two months to low-income families, plus all Xfinity hotspots are free to the public during this time.
Spectrum: Offering 60 days of free internet service to new customers. Call 844-488-8395.
Sprint: Providing unlimited data to existing customers and allowing all handsets to enable hotspots for 60 days at no extra charge.
T-Mobile: Providing unlimited data to existing customers and allowing all handsets to enable hotspots for 60 days at no extra charge.
Verizon: No special offers but following FCC agreements waiving late fees and not disconnecting existing service.
We have put together a “Frequently Asked Questions” document that we hope addresses some of your questions and concerns. Please know that we will be updating this information often and it will be posted on our dedicated COVID-19 webpage.
We thank you in advance for your continued patience and watch for more information to follow in the coming days.
Mechelle Bryson, Ed.D.
Westlake Academy, IB World School