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    West Seattle Elementary Staff Support Learning at Home
    Posted on 05/05/2020

    West Seattle Elementary Staff Support Learning at Home

    When the West Seattle Elementary School building closed in March, teachers sprang into action to support each and every one of the school's 430 students. With almost 90 percent of the students eligible for free and reduced lunch, the staff worked hard to support student’s basic needs and provide learning materials for students without regular access to technology or internet.

    Principal Pam McCowan-Conyers said that her staff immediately stood up as a united front to advocate for student’s needs. When educators started providing online, live classes, new teachers emerged as leaders to provide peer-to-peer teaching and share best practices. When some students were unable to access live, online lessons, the school's instructional assistants mobilized to deliver printed learning packets directly to students' homes. When students needed them, staff checked in on their well-being at a safe social distance, sometimes just waving hello from across the street. When Amazon generously donated laptops for elementary students, staff mobilized to advocate for devices for their community in the absence of a school PTA.

    Principal McCowan-Conyers stressed the importance of her staff's teamwork and the strong connections staff have made within the West Seattle community. In addition to continuous learning supports, staff have distributed gift cards to families thanks to donations to the Right Now Needs Fund and Fauntleroy Church in West Seattle. These gift cards ensure families can purchase needed items like food and clothing during this uncertain time.

    In addition, staff called all families to survey food, housing, and technology needs, and Kyle Tunstall, Abdi Ali, Don Noble and Betty Holland led the effort in connecting families with access to their immediate needs.

    As a result of these efforts, an overwhelming majority of West Seattle Elementary students are participating in continuous learning and getting the support they need. Ninety-eight percent of 5th graders are participating in remote classes and staff is amplifying student voice to increase participation across all grade levels. The school’s student leadership group is working to encourage younger students and siblings to participate in continuous learning opportunities and connect them to resources.

    With laptop distribution wrapping up, the school expects higher participation across grade levels. Staff called every family to survey technology needs and were able to procure 300 laptops for students. But, with barriers to internet access and varying needs and schedules, not all students will be able to participate in live, online classes.

    That’s why teachers are continuing to provide specialized support based on an individual student's needs. Educators Katie Hanger and Taylor Boccaccio provided online training to every staff member on using internet tools to connect with students. West Seattle Elementary Head Teacher Ritchie Garcia has been working with teachers to coordinate content for printed packets based on teacher's instructional goals.

    The school's Literacy Specialist Hanna Ory and educator Don Noble created a map of student's homes, and a group of 18 staff and community members delivered more than 150 learning packets to student homes. Another group is being formed to deliver devices. This is in addition to the daily communications each family receives daily from staff, with many families receiving daily phone calls.

    These efforts support continuous learning for students, as recommended by OSPI, the state education agency. OSPI recommends 45 minutes of daily student learning for grades K-1, 60 minutes for grades 2-3, and 90 minutes for grades 4-5. We understand that for some, this may not seem sufficient and that some families have asked why the district has not required teachers to provide more live, online instruction.

    The work of West Seattle Elementary teachers illustrates why it is so important to empower teachers to make the best decisions for their communities and classrooms. While their students can’t be in one classroom together right now, teachers are going the extra mile maintain connections. Thank you to West Seattle Elementary staff and all our amazing SPS educators for your work to support students.