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Stronger Together: Instructional Scheduling Models

Part of Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California's Public Schools. Created through the Reopening Schools Task Force that fostered a collaborative process for educators and stakeholders to lend their important voices.

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As schools plan to reopen, the instructional schedule model chosen will become the foundation of a student’s and family’s future experience in their school community. There are many considerations and decision-making points LEAs will need to consider in their planning. First and foremost, LEAs planning for their instructional schedule model need to focus on ensuring student learning and competency development while also considering a student’s social–emotional well-being.

We understand there are needed statutory changes to accommodate the instructional schedule model examples identified in this document. These instructional schedule model examples do not contemplate California’s current instructional time, attendance for apportionment rules, and audit guidelines.

As schools reopen and considerations are made to meet the health and safety guidelines, the following are some instructional schedule model options and essential planning questions and action steps for LEAs to consider. LEAs should enter into their planning with a flexible approach, understanding that they may start the school year with one instructional schedule model and, as new information becomes available about health and safety, they may transition to a different model. Guidance on standards for quality distance learning is being developed and will be available on the CDE website.

No matter the instructional schedule model, please continue to work to eliminate the barriers to student success that existed before the closure. We have an unprecedented opportunity to improve how we care for and educate each child. Let’s work to enhance the public good of our public schools as we implement more student-centered designs. These suggestions are only a few of the options that may be considered, so please work closely with your community to develop the list of essential planning questions that build on your assets and address your local needs.

Instructional Scheduling Model Options

Example A: Two-Day Rotation Blended Learning Model

Students report to school on two designated days based on grade level for in-person instruction (example: Monday/Wednesday for grade levels K–3, Tuesday/Thursday for grade levels 4–6). On the other days, students are engaged in enrichment opportunities aligned with academic goals established by the school through various programs, either on site or with community partners, that are coordinated by school instructional staff. This could mean small group instruction for certain student groups, such as English learners receiving designated English language development. Physical education, health, administrators, teachers on special assignment, and other content area teachers could be included to reduce student–teacher ratios. On Fridays, all students would be engaged in distance learning opportunities and teachers in collaborative planning and/or professional learning opportunities. An important consideration is maximizing pre-existing student–teacher relationships. This could include students returning to teachers they had before the closure, creating advisory groups that build on positive relationships, or instituting looping to ensure students know who they will be working with for the next two or more years.

Example B: A/B Week Blended Learning Model

Half of the student population attends in-person learning opportunities four full days per week while the other half is engaged in distance learning opportunities. The students would alternate each week. All grade bands would be included. The instructional program would be sequenced to accommodate both asynchronous and synchronous learning opportunities for students. One day a week, all students would be engaged in distance learning while teachers would use the time for collaborative planning and professional learning. LEAs may also decide to have certain grade levels attend only in-person instruction while other grade levels engage in only distance learning instruction.

Example C: Looping Structure

For schools serving grade levels TK–8, there is an opportunity for students to stay with the same teacher in cohorts for multiple grade levels. Looping provides opportunities for improved relationships between students and teachers, more targeted and efficient instruction, and a higher attendance rate. For example, a teacher and student cohort would stay together for first and second grade, increasing the opportunity for literacy rates on or above grade level. Teachers and students staying together over multiple grade levels can build a better understanding of health and safety, decreasing risks to students and staff.

Example D: Early/Late Staggered Schedules

Grade level bands would have staggered start and dismissal times, such as AM/PM rotations (for example, TK–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–10,11–12). The bell schedule would accommodate multiple recesses and lunch periods and multiple meal distribution points, along with time for students to engage in handwashing before entering classrooms. Students could be in a homeroom with teachers rotating to decrease student congregation in hallways.

Essential Planning Questions/Action Steps for LEAs

  • How will the LEA engage with their education partners and staff in collaboratively making the decision of choosing an instructional schedule model?

  • How will the LEA create a process for evaluating and adapting models throughout the year with all educational partners and staff?

  • As an LEA is contemplating different instructional schedule models, a review of the LEA’s infrastructure and resources should be considered in the decision-making process. For example:
    • What technology access and resources are available for students and families?
    • What technology support resources are available for students and families?
    • What technology policies are in place to protect private and sensitive student information? Are policies current and compliant with California data privacy laws?
    • How does a survey of physical buildings and space inform the instructional schedule model decision?
    • How will the LEA survey needs of staff and provide aligned professional learning?
    • How will all students’ needs be addressed within the instructional schedule model?
    • What instructional and social–emotional supports will students and families need?
    • How will you measure success and effectiveness of the model?
    • What model are other schools in the area choosing to help with consistent and coherent approaches to support families?

  • Conduct a survey or review on current teacher/staff, student, and family needs. Review data and determine LEA strengths, barriers, and capacity to support identified needs.

  • What is the communication plan for reopening with a new instructional schedule model?
    • LEAs should consider communication for different audiences and critical messages, including
      • how messages will be delivered and
      • how to improve the efficacy of communication by identifying and addressing potential language barriers, cultural barriers, and disability accommodations or supports necessary for communicating to families and other audiences.

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Questions:   California Department of Education | COVID19@cde.ca.gov
Last Reviewed: Monday, June 8, 2020
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