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RISD expects Monday release for learning plan

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RISD Interim
Superintendent Mike Gottlieb

Administrators and teachers with Roswell Independent School District are meeting virtually to have a Continuous Learning Plan released to parents by Monday.

“There’s a lot of people and moving parts that’s happening right now in order for us to roll this out effectively on Monday,” Jennifer Cole, interim assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said in a phone interview Tuesday morning. Joining her on the call was Interim Superintendent Mike Gottlieb.

School officials have been having back-to-back online meetings with principals and teachers since Friday, when the governor’s office announced an extension of the school closure.

While RISD officials are creating plans for each grade level, high school seniors are getting a special focus, Cole said.

“First of all, our seniors are our No. 1 priority. We know that we still have to meet graduation requirements for our seniors by state statute and federal statute, so it looks different for seniors than it does for everyone else,” Cole said.

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For all other students, pre-kindergarten through 11th grade, Cole said the CLP will focus on two areas, one of which is essential learning.

“We have to outline what are those most essential and important learning standards that our students need to know so that they can be successful if they move into the next grade next year,” Cole said.

“We want to make sure that as we finish the rest of the year, we’re working on those essential one or two things per week, per subject, that we’re hitting all those areas,” Gottlieb said.

“We want to be very thoughtful about what we do. You don’t want students doing busy work,” Cole said. “We want some good, meaningful and authentic learning to be happening.”

That might be exercises like having students learn geometry by measuring the angles in a doorway at home, she said.

“That’s really the work that’s happening. It’s hard work and it takes time and we have a short timeline to do that,” she said.

The social-emotional well-being of students is also a focus of the plan.

“We want to make make sure that we’re supporting our families because this is a difficult time for all of us, but it’s especially difficult for families who might be struggling with things,” she said.

“We know that in New Mexico and in Roswell, we have high rates of poverty and we have families with extenuating circumstances,” she said.

That includes children who are identified as homeless and in foster care, she said.

“That social-emotional component is just as important as the academic essential learning,” she said.

Providing learning access for students who do not have computers and internet access is also part of the plan.

“We want to make sure that our students that might not have access are able to access something that is comparable to that learning,” she said.

Those lessons will be made available in packets that will be distributed.

Principals met Tuesday with teacher team leaders to outline the essential learning requirements, and the RISD website will be updated with information for families who might need a counselor or other support, Cole said. Through Wednesday, teacher teams will individualize the plans for their schools.

“Then Thursday, we’ll come back together as an administrative team, and we’re going to be looking at everything that we’re doing with the lens on equity and access for students,” Cole said.

The plan will then be finalized and sent to the state Public Education Department.

“We’ll message that plan out to the community, what that plan will look like once it’s finalized,” she said.

Teachers will be allowed into their classrooms to gather materials they might need, but the district will have to follow the state and federal orders limiting public gatherings to five people at one time. Principals will schedule times with teachers for them to enter the schools, Cole said.

Gottlieb said his No. 1 promise to the board of education was to keep students and staff safe.

During spring break and the following two weeks during the initial shutdown ordered by the governor in mid-March, the district thoroughly cleaned all its buildings, Gottlieb said.

“I didn’t want to have a staff member or a student walk into a building that we had not ensured that we have done all our cleaning,” he said.

“We’re trying to make sure that everything we do, we limit the exposure of students and staff, to the point if we touch a copier, we clean the copier, we have gloves on when we make the student packets. Everything is self-contained,” he said.

Following those guidelines will make it difficult to allow parents or students into classrooms to retrieve personal items, however, Gottlieb said. For essential items such as medications or musical instruments, parents should have already been contacted.

It will likely be May before students or parents would be allowed to clean out lockers or desks, he said.

Overall, Gottlieb and Cole said patrons of the district have been supportive, and principals have been working long hours at home to create the CLP.

“They’re starting early in the morning. I was on the phone and emailing back and forth with principals until 10:30 last night, and teachers are doing the same,” Cole said.

“This is new for all of us, and they’re working hard,” Cole said.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.