Palisades High School Students Will Continue Education via Online/E-learning

The Palisades High School Board of Trustees listened as Monica Iannessa (right) explained the e-learning resolution.  Members include (left to right) Paula Anderson, Larry Wiener, Rick Steil, Principal Pam Magee, Leslie Woolley, Dara Williams, Brooke King.  Not pictured are Adam Glazer, Reeve Chud, Sara Margiotta, Emily Hirsch and Andy Paris.

At a special meeting on March 14, the Palisades High School board of trustees implemented a two-week (and possibly longer) plan for students to continue distance learning, while the campus is closed because of coronavirus.

“This is historic,” PaliHi Principal Pam Magee said. “It’s never happened before. Schools across the country are closing. We don’t have definite answers, but we can adjust. There is anxiety around it [coronavirus – school closing], but we’re working to keep people informed.”

On Friday, Los Angeles Unified School District closed all of its campuses for a minimum of two weeks. Although PaliHi is fiscally independent of LAUSD, it is a tenant of the campus.

“We need to remain fluid,” Magee said. “I feel confident we’re going to come up with solutions for the kids.”

Facilities manager Don Parcell said that everything had been cancelled on campus, including public access to the pool, and for permit holders, including the Farmers Market on the stadium parking lot.

As of Sunday, there have been no reports of students or staff affected with coronavirus.

California Governor Newsom recommended on March 11 that public events should be limited to no more than 250 people. Palisades High has close to 3,000 students plus more than 100 teachers and support staff.

Parcell said during the meeting that a number of smaller groups are affected, such as a SAT practice and the yearbook staff trying to make an April 3 deadline. “There are a number of things that have been asked and it will be re-evaulated,” he said.

A resolution for the proposed E-Learning Guidelines were passed during the meeting.

Students will stay at home, but still observe the relevant bell-schedule period for the day of the week. Teachers will know that students have checked in via Schoology.

Schoology is an internet learning management system that has been at PaliHi for about a decade. It provides a way of communicating grades and teacher concerns to parents and students. Many of the teachers are already using facets of the program to set up a calendar for students, as well as aligning what is covered on a certain day.

For example, if a teacher is providing a lesson about the Constitution, students can use a web-based document, instead of a hard copy. In responding to questions or regarding an assignment, students can use Keynote, PowerPoint, Prezi, Slides, or a similar program.

Student assignments can be graded on Schoology.

Board trustee and teacher Rick Steil (photography) said he tried an on-line assignment with his kids on Wednesday and they all responded. He was enthusiastic about using the techniques that Schoology offers.

Students without access to power or the internet can have parents contact the school (310-230-6629) and accommodations will be made.

The Tech staff will be available at the high school, in case there are issues.

According to the board’s resolution, “Teachers will be directly reachable for students and parents to facilitate and support instruction during class time and prep periods.”

Additionally, “Assuming there’s no campus medical reason why small numbers of people cannot be on campus, Faculty and Staff will be able to come to PCHS to pick up materials, or deliver their distance/E-Learning curriculum.” Those people coming onto the campus must have identification and the campus will be open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Trustee parent representative Sara Margiotta asked, “Are all the teachers comfortable with e-learning?”

Steil said, “No, but other teachers are trying to help them get up to speed.”

Trustee teacher representative Larry Weiner (math) said, “It has been a positive atmosphere and there has been collaboration between teachers.” He acknowledged there may be some glitches as the system is implemented.

Since a school receives its funding based on the number of students and daily attendance, does that mean the state will not fund the school during this time?

Director of Academic Achievement Monica Iannessa said that when students check in with Schoology, PaliHi will have a record of distance-learning attendance. As of now, the state has promised funds without schools taking attendance.

“This plan has not been presented to the students or parents,” Iannessa said, noting it needed board approval first. “We’re rolling it out on Monday and Tuesday (March 16 and 17).”

Assistant Principal Mary Bush (special education) said that a solution has not been worked out yet for special ed kids or those with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs). “We don’t want our students to experience regression,” Bush said. “I’ve emailed other schools to learn how they are doing it.”

Somebody asked about the students who receive breakfast and lunch at the campus because there will be no food service during this time.

“There will be 40 LAUSD centers that will be open,” Chief Business Officer Greg Wood said, noting that students could go to one close to his/her home. “The centers are open for kids who go to charter schools.”

Parent Rene Rodman, a former board member, attended the meeting and told Circling the News, “It was reassuring to hear that Dr. Magee and the Pali High team has come up with a variety of solutions for ensuring that our students continue to learn, albeit remotely. I especially appreciated the thought the teachers gave to maintaining the structure of the daily school schedule, as well as their personal connection with their students.”

Circling the News asked Magee via email on March 15 if teachers, administrators and classified staff would be paid during the two-week closure. She had not responded by posting time. As soon as there is a response, the story will be updated

The next board of trustees meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. March 24 and the agenda will be posted 72 hours in advance. (Visit: palihigh.org and go to governance.)

The Maggie Gilbert Aquatics Center at the high school, which is open to the public, was also closed when the campus shut down because of the coronavirus. Photo: Palisades High School

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