Monday, 27 June 2022

Opinion

Becky Salato. Courtesy photo.

LOWER LAKE, Calif. — In the best of times, education is a team sport. Success requires students, families and educators to work together so students can develop academically, socially, and emotionally. 

This year was not the best of times, and everyone was forced to take on new challenges— some of which felt overwhelming.

At home, some students didn’t have time for their own studies because they had to care for younger siblings. Some students didn’t have good learning experiences because even though the school district provided Chromebooks and hot spots, internet access just isn’t available everywhere.

Some students had a hard time focusing on studies at home because they didn’t have a quiet place to concentrate without constant interruptions. Some students simply couldn’t get motivated with little supervision and so many online distractions.

Whatever the reason, we now have a lot of students who need to catch up, and it’s not the kind of work that can be done quickly or easily.

I share this not to be negative, but to be realistic. If we are to support our students, we must recognize where they are and create a plan to fill in the holes. In education, we call this learning-loss mitigation.

The school system cannot hold back all the students who did not become proficient in their grade-level curriculum this year.

We also cannot simply move forward with next year’s curriculum for those who are unprepared for it.

And expecting students to learn twice as much in a single school year isn’t fair. So, what do we do?

We embrace unconventional thinking.

Traditionally, we’ve had a nine-month school year, from late fall to early summer with a couple of months off. We’ve known for years that students who do not engage in any academic endeavors during the summer lose some of their learning.

Ask any teacher; they’ll tell you they start every year with review. Maybe we make summer school the norm for most students for the next several years. Or maybe we think about time and learning differently.

Time should not define learning. Time should be the variable and learning should be the constant. How do we use the time we have more effectively?

I’m talking about moving from traditional school to transformational education. In the new paradigm, all students still need to master certain concepts. But rather than marching through a book from page 1 to 350, we assess the group and pick the pages they need to master the concepts.

Our school system was created to prepare students for working in factories and farms after the Industrial Revolution. It’s time for a new revolution and the pandemic may be just the break we need to see things more clearly.

If we do nothing differently, nothing will change — yet, the world has changed.

In addition to designing a new approach to education, we also need to recognize the importance of flexibility when students are struggling (remember, everyone struggles sometimes).

School is a place where we want to teach important “soft” skills like taking responsibility for one’s actions and meeting deadlines, but when children are having a hard time holding it together, an all-or-nothing approach is counterproductive and harmful.

We need to think about the world students live in, one that is more complex than the one many of us grew up in.

The social and emotional pressures of social media have had a devastating effect on many students’ mental health. The pandemic has interrupted their social development as well as their academic learning.

I am in favor of high standards, but I am not in favor of setting expectations that are so high they practically guarantee students will fail.

I invite students, families, and fellow educators to work together to come up with new ways to support student learning.

Becky Salato is the Konocti Unified School District superintendent.

We have great firefighters in Lake County and we are all genuinely thankful and grateful for them and the people who provide support to them.

It is almost impossible to go anywhere in Lake County without seeing signs that say “Thank Our Firefighters.” And we mean it.

But there is another way to thank them. Actions speak louder than words. We can make sure they have a safe place to work when they have to come to our area. There are several ways to do this. Here are some suggestions:

1. Create defensible space around structures on our properties. Clear dead and dying brush, trees and plants. Also remove debris.

2. Fire safe landscaping. Make sure plants are not next to the house and do not create “fire ladders.”

3. Park vehicles where they won’t interfere with firefighting.

4. Make driveways and gates wide enough and high enough for fire trucks to enter the property, 14 feet wide and 14 feet high.

5. Help neighbors with their spaces. Making one place safer makes everyone safer.

6. And, most importantly, when we are told it's time to go, GO!

These are just a few ways we can let our fire people know we appreciate them. We want them to be able to do their job and go home safely. There are many other things that can be done as well. We are very fortunate to have lots of resources available to help with these ideas and others.

Readyforwildfire.org is one website that was prepared by Cal Fire. It has lots of information about making your home fire-safe, preparing for wildfires and what to do when one happens in your area.

The South Lake Fire Safe Council has a website and Facebook page with lots of information. There is a home risk assessment tab on the website that is very helpful and lets you know what you can do to make your home less vulnerable to fire. The website is www.southlakefiresafecouncil.org. The Lake County Fire Safe Council also has a website, www.firesafelake.org.

Firefighters put on about 45 pounds of protective gear in sometimes 100-plus degree weather and rush into fires to protect our residences. That takes pretty special and unique people who are sincerely committed to our community. They deserve the best and safest environment that we can provide.

The bottom line here is that if we do our job to maintain our property, we reduce wildfire risks. This will enable our firefighters to respond more quickly and safely. They protect us and we can protect them. Please do your part and keep your properties defensible.

Thank you very much to all our firefighters and the people who support them in their efforts to keep all of us safe.

Marty Englander is secretary/treasurer for the South Lake Fire Safe Council, based in Middletown, California.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – This has been a very stressful time for nearly everyone. Our already busy and challenging lives have been tested to the limit. We are worn down from coping and the demands of trying to maintain some form of ‘normal’ life.

You may have experienced difficulties in any number of ways: in maintaining your health, or getting sick, or financially, or in relationships, family, and friends, or boredom or loneliness. All of this can take a cumulative toll on our health and well-being.

Stress can be very draining and demanding on our energy. Over time if the stress is not resolved it builds up and creates symptoms that show up in a variety of ways, at the physical, mental/emotional, or spirit level.

Stress affects each person’s energy differently, depending on their energetic make-up. It can bring up symptoms in the area where we are most vulnerable. If we have low back pain it can get worse. If we have headaches or anxiety, they can become more pronounced. It can also create a new and different symptom, as an organ’s energy becomes more depleted.

Stress is like any other symptom. It is a call for help, that something is out of balance and needs support. The most important thing about stress is that it is a real issue to acknowledge and address, however it shows up. Stress is often related to another issue or situation. When we only focus on that issue, the effects of stress may go unnoticed.

Stress can be very overwhelming. It’s hard to know where to start. The first step is to bring to consciousness everything you are thinking or feeling about it.

Take some time to identify the most major issue you are struggling with. Start to see all the aspects of it and how it is affecting you on different levels – for example on the practical, mental/emotional, physical level, and spirit level.

Write down everything that comes up for you. By writing them down, you are already moving your own energy and creating a healing space to understand and address the stress. There may be small practical steps you can take. You can begin to see what you really need to feel more balanced, more whole.

Things may be out of our control. Yet by getting in touch with how stress affects us we can begin to control how we respond to it. We can take steps to lessen its impact. And like any symptom, it can become a teacher for what we really need for our well-being.

Stress has an emotional component that relates to our energy flow.

Here are some ways that may help you to move your energy to release stress.

If you are feeling fear and anxiety, the energy is often building up in the head and not getting to the feet to ground you. Find a quiet place and do breathing exercises to quiet the mind. Give yourself a foot massage to bring the energy down to your feet.

If you are feeling angry or frustrated acknowledge that and forgive yourself for not being as productive as you’d like to be. Find something creative to do to engage your energy. Think of a small practical step you can take.

If you are feeling sad or lonely know you are not alone. Reach out to connect with a friend or loved one. They’ll be glad you did.

If you are feeling ungrounded or unsupported be sure you are eating well to nourish yourself. You don’t have to do it all yourself. Ask for support and receive the nourishment of those who love you.

If you are feeling lost and miss your friends and family, go outside in the fresh air, breathe deeply and take in the inspiration of nature. Acceptance is a way to release loss. Come up with new ways to connect to friends and family. If you are drained from many demands take time to yourself, to be alone to restore your tranquility and balance.

In these ways, we can stay in touch with Nature and our energy. Although we cannot control certain realities right now, we can learn what our internal energy needs, and take steps to feel more balanced.

My hope is that we all learn from this time and are able to live more connected to ourselves and each other, and to make the future a more meaningful one for all of us.

Wendy Weiss has been practicing acupuncture and Chinese Medicine for 29 years. She can be reached for more information on acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at 707-277-0891.

Kelseyville Unified School District Superintendent Dave McQueen. Courtesy photo.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – In all my years in education, I’ve never experienced a year like this last one.

As soon as the pandemic hit, we put all of our energy into two things: 1. Keeping students and staff safe by following the constantly changing rules, and 2. Providing the best education we could by using technology and distance learning.

As you can imagine, even our best students struggled at times. For students who were already struggling, well, things didn’t get any easier.

At this point, we want to do everything we can to help students stay focused and on target academically.

That’s why I’m so pleased to share that we are now offering free, on-demand tutoring 24 hours a day, seven days a week for homework help, test prep (for everything from a class quiz to the SAT), essay revisions and concept explanations.

Spanish speakers can access bilingual tutors in math, science and social studies, as well as ESL/ELL support. I believe this resource will offer much-needed support to our students and families.

To provide this service, we’re partnering with Tutor.com, a service of The Princeton Review, a nationally recognized education company that is also well-known for its test prep resources.

To access the service, students log in to their ClassLink account and sign in with Google. Then, all they have to do is answer a few questions to identify the subject matter they’d like help with.

Students are quickly matched with a qualified tutor with whom they can speak, message back and forth, share files, and interact through a live whiteboard feature with special tools.

On average, students are connected with tutors within 60 seconds. Sessions are recorded so students can revisit and review the material. And students can identify favorite tutors so they can reconnect with them in other sessions.

Support is not limited to live interactions with on-demand tutors. Students can submit essays for feedback and receive comments within 12 hours. Students can also take practice quizzes in a variety of subjects to prepare for upcoming tests and connect live with tutors to go over any missed questions. Finally, students can take advantage of SAT and ACT college entry exam prep support.

If you have any questions, please contact your student’s teacher and or Paul McGuire, Kelseyville’s Tutor.com coordinator at 707-279-4232.

Please take advantage of this much-needed resource.

Dave McQueen is superintendent of Kelseyville Unified School District.

Kelseyville Unified School District Superintendent Dave McQueen. Courtesy photo.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

A year into the pandemic, it feels like we’ve walked about a thousand miles.

For most people, this year has been somewhere between inconvenient and devastating.

For our students and staff, it certainly hasn’t been the year we hoped for, but I truly believe things are on the verge of getting better.

We’ve just received word from Lake County Public Health Officer Dr. Gary Pace that our elementary schools are allowed to open using a hybrid model.

At Kelseyville Unified, we will welcome K-5 students back on school campuses the week of March 8 via the hybrid model. This means students will log in for online classes Monday, March 8, and will attend classes on campus Tuesday, March 9, according to each school’s hybrid schedule.

When Lake County reaches the red tier, we will be allowed to open our secondary schools, grades 6 to 12. The exact date will be determined once we hit the red tier.

In our county, the COVID case rate is dropping and the number of people getting vaccinated is rising, both of which help improve the health of our community and speed our progress toward fully reopening schools. You can review the details at www.covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy and www.health.co.lake.ca.us/Coronavirus/COVID-19_Data.htm.

I know some people are nervous about our bringing students back on campus, and I understand that, but I believe we can provide a high degree of safety.

Part of keeping students and staff safe includes vaccinating as many people as possible as quickly as possible. We were able to offer the vaccine to all Kelseyville Unified employees, most of whom opted in. They will get their second doses between Feb. 18 and March 3.

Even those who are vaccinated will continue to maintain social distancing and wear masks. We will also maintain rigorous cleaning and disinfecting for all Kelseyville Unified School District facilities, and we will require students to adhere to safety measures for their own protection and the protection of their peers and Kelseyville Unified staff.

Part of our goal in bringing students back to the classroom is related to their academic success. Although we’ve seen some truly excellent online teaching, we know the best place for students to learn is in the classroom with their teacher and peers.

Another reason we want to bring students back to campus is related to their social development and emotional health. At school, young people learn to interact with others their age; school is a place where students learn to give and receive social and emotional support.

They also have the opportunity to engage in sports, the arts, clubs, and other hobbies where they can connect with others who enjoy the same activities they do.

According to the California Interscholastic Federation and North Coast Sections, the organizations that govern school sports, as of Feb. 1, when we’re in the purple tier student-athletes at Kelseyville High School may begin practicing for the following spring sports: cross country, tennis, swimming, golf, track and field, plus cross country. Once we reach the red tier, we can start baseball and softball.

We’re holding off on sports at Mountain Vista Middle School until we move from the hybrid model to regular school, which may not happen until next year.

I recognize that not everyone is ready to send students back to the classroom, so we will continue to offer a distance learning option for families who prefer to wait.

If you would like to learn more about how Kelseyville Unified is preparing to welcome students back to the classroom, visit our website at www.kvusd.org.

Dave McQueen is superintendent of Kelseyville Unified School District.

Kelseyville Unified School District Superintendent Dave McQueen. Courtesy photo.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – With COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out locally, nationally and globally, I think we’re seeing a light at the end of this very long pandemic tunnel.

Ironically, when the end is in sight it can be even harder to hold on, to keep wearing masks and social distancing, but we need to for however long it takes until it is safe.

I know a lot of folks really want their kids back in school, both because that’s where students learn best and because when kids are in school, parents can return to work.

Every educator I know agrees that students would be better served with in-person instruction, but we have to do so safely.

To that end, the California Department of Public Health, or CDPH, released updated guidance to let schools know when and how we can reopen on Jan. 14.

Visit the California Safe Schools for All website and download the “COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California,
2020-2021 School Year” here.

Otherwise, here’s what you need to know for Kelseyville schools.

Adjusted case rate

You may be familiar with the COVID risk tiers (yellow, orange, red and purple), but now there’s another threshold. When counties have an adjusted case rate (a rolling seven-day average) of more than 25 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, schools are not allowed to reopen, even with a waiver.

Lake County has been sitting around 46 cases per 100,000, so we’ve got work to do if we want to reopen our schools.

You can track Lake County’s adjusted case rate online at www.covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy, then scroll down to the map and click on our county to see where we stand.

Safety

When the pandemic first hit, we didn’t know how the virus spread. Schools disinfected high-touch areas several times a day, hoping to decrease the risk of infection.

Overuse of disinfection can pose a health risk to children due to the chemicals used and has proven to have limited to no impact on COVID19 transmission, so the state recommends we focus on the following safety measures:

– Face coverings;
– Stable groups;
– Physical distancing;
– Adequate ventilation;
– Hand hygiene.

Symptom and close contact exposure screening, with exclusion from school for staff or students with symptoms or with confirmed close contact

Surveillance or screening testing

When we return to in-person instruction, we’ll use a phased or “hybrid” approach at the beginning, so we have fewer students on campus at any given time. Distance learning will be available to all students who want to continue in that educational model.

COVID vaccines and testing

Two important ways to get us back into the classroom and to keep us safe once we’re there are vaccination and testing.

At Kelseyville Unified, we continue to work closely with the Lake County Public Health Department to provide the vaccine to all school staff who want it, prioritizing those who work directly with students and those who are at higher risk for serious complications from a COVID-19 infection.

All Kelseyville Unified employees who elected to receive the vaccine will be vaccinated within the next four weeks.

Once we’re back in the classroom, COVID testing for staff will take place based on Lake County’s COVID tier.

When we first return to in-person instruction, if we have an adjusted case rate higher than 14 cases per 100,000, the governor wants us to do weekly surveillance testing in addition to symptomatic and response testing.

Otherwise, when we’re in the purple and red tiers, the governor recommends surveillance testing every two weeks in addition to symptomatic and response testing.

Once we’re in the orange and yellow tiers, we’d move to only symptomatic and response testing.

Reopening

According to CDPH and the governor’s guidelines, the first hurdle to reopening schools is submitting our COVID-19 safety plans to the state and county Public Health departments.

Then, once Lake County drops below a COVID positivity rate of 25 cases per 100,000 and our safety plans are approved, the first schools to be allowed to open will be our elementary schools in a hybrid model.

Once the county reaches the red tier, we will move to reopen schools for all grades in a hybrid model. Hopefully, through staff vaccinations, low positivity rates in the county, and following our safety plans, we will be able to open soon.

Some good news

As you can imagine, reopening schools safely is expensive. President Biden and Gov. Newsom have proposed additional funding for education that could help us a lot.

All in all, I think things are finally moving in the right direction.

Dave McQueen is superintendent of Kelseyville Unified School District.

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