The California School for the Deaf (CSD) was established in 1860 and is now well-known for its progressive educational programs that incorporate ASL/English bilingual and multicultural principles and best practices in a Deaf-centered environment. CSD is a fully accredited school serving Deaf students from 0-22. It provides direct academic and residential services to approximately 450 students. Including our rigorous academic and residential programming, there is a wide range of formal extracurricular activities including athletics, clubs, and organizations. We also serve Deaf infants/toddlers and their families in our Early Childhood Education program in conjunction with the Mission Valley and Tri-Valley Special Education Local Planning Agencies (SELPA). There are also outreach activities that allows us to reach out to LEAs and/or communities within the State.
Prior to March 2020
Prior to the physical closure that began on March 16th, the year went on as a typical school year with exciting events in the pipeline that would engage our school and the greater community with meaningful activities (e.g. CAL-ED Conference, International Studies, Hoy Tournament). CSD had never offered online courses until the COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone in our world. The school was following a traditional academic schedule in the Early Childhood Education and Elementary Grades. Grades 6-12 followed a block schedule. Students were fully engaged into their academic studies along with career relevant activities (e.g. job placements, presentations, training and the sort). We continued to communicate with our families and community via our CalNews publications, social media platforms and typical school-parent correspondences. There were frequent on-campus meetings that would also engage our stakeholders whether for an IEP, Community Advisory Committee, Association of Families, Teachers, and Counselors or any in-person meeting.
During March-June 2020
On March 13th came the 5:15 pm decision to close the school physically for three weeks. CSD had begun thinking ahead on how to serve our students during the three week closure. Every academic department came together and developed a new learning channel (https://sites.google.com/csdeagles.net/core-learning-channel/home) for the purpose of bringing resources together for our students to utilize while they remained at home. Immediately after the weekend, we created a ‘reach out’ strategy to connect with all of our students. Our student support services, academic and student life departments reached out to each student to do a well-being check-in and gather information on how they were dealing with the school closure.
Every LEAs were reached out to communicate our efforts to stay connected with every student/families. LEAs provided support as needed. Within the second week, we began deploying iPads to our students and continued to identify technological gaps. Upon finding any gaps, we collaborated with the students’ LEA and CDE (for hotspots provided by Google) to assure that they got online. We continued to communicate with our students and families through Zoom, Google Hangouts and classroom and avenues that we use regularly (VP, FaceTime, email, etc.). Our parent organization began to raise funds for those families in need by collecting donations from the community.
How the School Rose to the Challenge
CSD continued to provide related services virtually. We even did assessments and IEP meetings via Zoom as appropriate. Public works and facility upkeep continued to take place as essential workers part of the Business Services and Human Resources came to work regularly. The leadership/management team continued to communicate regularly and reviewed CDE, CDC, and County Office guidance that was sent out regularly. Still today, we are reviewing them and determining the best approach to reopen our school in the fall on or after September 7th. It has been clear that we will begin the school year with Distance Learning with transition into full opening of our school.
We had our families participate in a ‘Distance Learning’ survey and the responses from families were positive. We were able to engage 95% of our students/families during the physical closure of CSD. There are input and feedback on how we could improve our Distance Learning. Considering the immediate change in our operations between March 13 and April 13, we are proud to state that we were able to adapt to new approaches with a positive attitude. Kudos to the entire CSD team. On May 29th, we ended the school year without any traditional ceremonies that we usually celebrated in the past. Instead, we came up with a 4 day long virtual ceremony. There were multiple videos produced by our wonderful team to recognize student success that was exhibited throughout the school year.
Where the School is Now
The school administration is still meeting weekly internally and/or with representatives from CDE. We are planning the Distance Learning Extended School Year and have begun offering work to our staff that are interested in working this summer. We are also identifying Physical Protective Equipment that needs to be purchased for the upcoming school year. We are continuing with the upkeep of our facilities and planning the new year’s budget with possible reductions to the budget. Discussions on how to better utilize our staff as we reopen virtually are underway. We aim to produce results as we have done earlier this year with more concrete planning.
Academic departments are using the parental survey as a tool to make decisions on how each grade level will be approaching the Distance Learning requirement. Each academic department had developed 9 weeks worth of Distance Learning objectives prior to the end of the recent school year. We are continuing to communicate such developments with our students, families, staff and community members.
The reopening of our school will be challenging as we serve students that come from 42 different counties. We will have to evaluate all risks and begin producing PPEs and safety protocols for anyone that comes onto our campus. The technology learning curve is going to be flattened out. There is a prediction that there will be scheduling challenges when we decide on how to roll out the re-entry of each grade level. For our ECE and Elementary programs, it might be simpler because students do not rotate from class to class. With grades 6-12, it is going to be challenging, especially the residential programs. CSD will have to continue to be responsive to any challenges or risks that we will be encountering with positive attitude. We will come out of this together.
Superintendent: Clark Brooke