Dear Cougar Families:
I was listening to the radio the other day and heard the results of a survey question: “What superpower would you like to have?”
The top answer was the ability to go back in the past. This is not surprising. We all would like the power to relive special moments or to act with hindsight, now and again. Right now, though, I wish I had the superpower to transport us all to the future, to that day on which we can all be back together in our school once again.
I wish I could personally welcome all of our new freshmen to the building and see the excitement on their faces on their first day of high school. I’d like to be able to talk to everyone in the hallways and at lunch, and hear what they’ve been up to this summer. Most of all, I’d like students and staff again to experience the energy, enthusiasm, and school pride that fills our school when we’re all together and that fuels learning and student achievement.
With the current COVID case counts in Anchorage, that can’t happen yet. It’s a disappointment for everyone at Service, and I know it is for students and families, as well, who have been balancing work, childcare, and online schooling since the spring. I hope that the community at large will work together to “flatten the curve,” so we can get students back inside our schools.
In the meantime, our work at Service will continue—learning will continue—just like it has continued throughout this pandemic. Service Cougars don’t sit by and wait for better days to arrive but keep pushing forward until they do.
The first way we’re going to do that is by registering for school. Everyone in ASD is going to be starting school online, but there are two different pathways if you want to stay at Service. The first of these pathways is going to start online and end up back in the classroom at Service when we’re able to do so. The second of these pathways will remain online. You’ll only be able to change pathways at the end of each quarter, so I want to walk you through each option.
After that, we’ll take a closer look at the in-school option and at the new safety procedures we’ll be putting in place at Service before the building reopens. First up, though, are the registration options. Again, these are the two options that allow you to remain at Service or to keep your spot in one of our special programs. If you’re interested in PAIDEIA, Family Partnership, or Frontier Charter homeschools, see the “What Do I Do Now?” section at the end, but if you enroll in one of these three schools, you will no longer be a Service student, and you’ll lose your spot in our choice programs.
Option One to stay at Service, the “ASD in School” option:
You’ll register for this option if you want to return to Service, in person, when the building reopens. If you register for this option, you’ll start with your Service teachers online, and you’ll be back in those same teachers’ classrooms at Service when the building reopens.
What’s the curriculum going to be like in this option? Is it the same as last spring?
No, it’s not the same curriculum as last spring. Approximately 400 of our own ASD teachers have been working throughout the summer to optimize our face-to-face curriculum for distance delivery, so, in most cases, students will now have ASD-teacher-developed curriculum when they start online in this option. You’ll recognize the delivery platform, Canvas, but the curriculum behind it is different. Also new this year, there will be opportunities for live online instruction (synchronous), in addition to recorded online instruction (asynchronous).
There will be a smooth transition when we move from online to back in school because the teachers and curriculum will be the same. Only the location will change, from your home to Service.
What’s it going to be like in Service when we return to the building?
We’ll have many new safety protocols and practices in place, which are detailed at length later in the email. But first, let’s learn about Option Two for registration, which will keep your spot in choice programs at Service.
Option Two to stay at Service, the “ASD Virtual” program:
You’ll register for this option if you don’t want to return to Service, in person, when the building reopens. If you register for this option, you’ll be assigned ASD virtual teachers for your courses, which will start online and stay online.
Many of you have asked whether you will have only Service teachers in this option. The answer is no. You might have teachers from East, West, South, or other high schools in the district among your virtual teachers in this option.
Under this option, you’ll have opportunities to participate in Service activities (when available again), receive communications from Service, and have access to academic planning and graduation support. However, the classes offered in the “ASD Virtual” program will consist of courses from the APEX and eDynamics course catalogues.
What’s the curriculum going to be like in this option?
You can read here about APEX and eDynamics. The district describes the “ASD Virtual” curriculum this way: the curriculum “will be tied to educational standards, not the teacher’s classroom.” You can read more about the “ASD Virtual” program on the ASD website: https://www.asdk12.org/Page/15639.
I want to stay at Service but need more information about what school will be like when we return to the building before I decide between Options One and Two
Down the road, when case counts drop significantly and we get the green light to begin holding in-person classes again at Service, we’re not simply going to fling the doors open and start back with a pre-pandemic mindset or school day. Far from it. We’re going to start slowly and carefully.
We had approximately 1,000 people, students and families, come safely through our Service auditorium over three days in May for our graduation celebration. We’re going to implement the same successful strategies, only on a larger scale, when our school reopens.
First, we at Service are a community that respects and honors each other, and that includes respecting and honoring each other’s health. We’re going to stay home if we’re sick or think we might have been exposed to the virus, and we’re going to follow Dr. Zink’s advice: “Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Watch your distance.” You know when it’s cold out, and your breath freezes into a cloud around your face? That cloud of breath is what we’re not going to share with others right now.
We have a great deal of power to reduce the spread of this virus by the decisions we make as individuals. We’re going to harness all of that power as a community, working together, to keep each other safe and keep our school open. That’s step one.
Step two relates to our building and sanitization. We have new hand sanitizing stations at entry points and throughout the building. You’ll see my friendly face or another staff members’ when you arrive and throughout the day, reminding you to keep your hands and our building clean. The district has new sanitization protocols and equipment, too, including those electrostatic sprayers you might have seen recently.
The other large piece of the reopening strategy at Service involves an efficient, creative use of building space and scheduling to maintain that all-important personal space and ensure good traffic flow and ventilation. Measures like the following are going to help us to do that (not an exhaustive list):
• Small “cohort” groups of students
• Smaller class sizes (The quarter system helps with this)
• Shorter school day (three classes)
• One-way traffic in hallways
• Increased desk spacing and desk reorganization
• Plexiglass dividers in some areas
• Some staggered passing times
• Changes to backpack policy and locker usage
• Communal areas closed and/or repurposed as classroom spaces
• Lots of fresh air (We can thank the California architect who designed our building for the interior courtyards and the many windows that will help with this)
• Opportunities for classes outside, including in our courtyards (teacher choice and weather permitting, of course)
Before the building reopens, I will walk you through it with a video, so you can see exactly what safety measures are in place and what we’ve done. We’ll make it easy for everyone to navigate the building and have lots of signs to help out.
You’ll know, in advance, exactly what to expect when we’re back in the building—whether you’re a parent, an incoming freshman, or a senior—and students will be able to return to classrooms confident, ready to learn, and without any break from the online curriculum.
What do I need to do now?
If you want to stay at Service, decide which option is right for you and your family—“ASD in School” (Option One) or “ASD Virtual” program (Option Two)—and register for school here: https://www.asdk12.org/Page/3298.
If you’re interested in PAIDEIA, Family Partnership, and Frontier Charter homeschools, you can find more information about those schools here: https://www.asdk12.org/Page/15633. Please note, these are separate schools, so if you enroll in one of these three schools, you will no longer be a Service student, and you’ll lose your spot in our choice programs.
If I register for one option at Service, can I change my mind later and switch to the other one?
You can change between Option One and Option Two through the first week of school. After that, you can change between these two options at Service at the end of each quarter.
If I can answer any other questions, provide any additional information, or help in any way, please let me know. I’m becoming nostalgic for the days when we talked to each other in person or on the phone, so don’t hesitate to give me a call at the number below. It’s my direct line; I receive all messages myself and return all calls. I’m happy to schedule a time to meet in person, too.
I’ll be in touch again soon or if anything changes.
I hope that you and your families are well. Let me know how I can help.
Principal, Robert Service High School