SOBOBA SCHOOLS KEEP STUDENTS ON TRACK

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(Keep Students On Track)

To combat lack of in-person classroom time due to school closures during the coronavirus crisis, teachers and administrators at Noli Indian School and Soboba Preschool are continuing to keep students on track through creative distance learning techniques. Noli’s principal, Donovan Post, said his school was ahead of the curve without even realizing it and has benefited greatly during the transition to not having classes on campus. The closure that began on March 16 is expected to last through April. “The school switched this year to a different model – instead of trying to outfit every classroom with a set of computers, we gave each student a Chrome book to use full time,” Post said.

“The teaching staff started using Google Classroom for homework assignments at the start of the school year. The staff was also incorporating things like EPIC reading, Dream Box learning, and Khan Academy as online resources that students could use for homework, or extra practice as needed. In a sense we were preloading the idea of distance learning from the start.” Once it became clear that the campus closure was evident, staff prepared even further by creating individual classes on Google Classroom for each course offered at Noli. The staff also prepared anything that would be needed for lessons and put that online.

“We even mailed out art supplies to the art class students so they can do their projects as well,” Post said. “Students who needed books were given those or they were mailed out and others were able to access online books for their classes.” Being federally funded, Noli Indian School does not fall under the state’s guidelines, so any waiver given to traditional school districts regarding making up lost instructional hours does not apply to the approximately 135 students at the Soboba Reservation school. “We must reach 970 instruction hours every year and at the time of our closure we were at 725 and on pace to reach our yearly total,” Post said.

The Soboba Preschool playground may be empty, but its young students are encouraged to continue having fun and stay active at home during the temporary campus shutdown.

“In order for the BIE (Bureau of Indian Education) to accept our distance learning model, we must have face-to-face meetings with the students whenever a new subject or lesson is started. We are accomplishing this through Google Hangouts and every teacher has set times that they are online for each class they teach. This allows us to see all of our students and try to give them a sense of normalcy as we switch to this new style of education.” Every single class is being offered and the culture classes and beading classes are still in place, with students working with their teacher and getting things done. Despite the changes, administrators are trying to keep as much the same as possible.

“We are able to keep all of our Special Education students up to date as our special education department is online and working with the students,” Post said. “We are even able to offer speech therapy services online through the company that we use for the students that need it.” He said the biggest challenge has been making sure students keep a good schedule. While realizing that there is more responsibility being put on parents at this time, he encourages them to make sure their child is doing their work and asking for help when needed. “We also understand that many parents are not used to online distance education and we are doing all we can to make the transition easier for them. Teachers are in contact through phone calls, emails and online and have spoken to parents through video hangouts,” Post said.

Noli Indian School bus drivers continue to transport lunches and homework packets to students who attend either of the schools on the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians Reservation.

“There is nothing better than face-to-face instruction, but this is a good second.” Post facilitates a campus Comic Book Club and said this one and some others will be available to students online in the very near future. He said it is a way to help students have some fun again. Richard Alicea, Noli’s newest PE teacher is coming up with some unique ways for students to stay active and in shape physically while they continue to stretch their minds with schoolwork from home. Soboba Tribal Administrator Michael Castello wanted to ensure that students were receiving a healthy lunch so that has been offered daily since the closure.

“Many of our students come from off the reservation (about 40 percent) so for those students who have requested, our bus drivers are delivering the food daily,” Post said. “It is wonderful how our team has pulled together to not only feed our students but to just let them know how much we miss and care about them. The tribe is also feeding the elders and the preschool children.” Dianne King, director of the Soboba Preschool, said Noli bus drivers are also delivering homework packets when they deliver lunches to her kids. She said her teachers quickly prepared packets for the 83 preschool and kindergarten students when a possible shutdown was discussed.

Noli Indian School has taken distance learning to a new level with culture classes, electives and even school clubs staying connected during the campus closure that began March 16.

“Our preschool Facebook page, along with the Soboba app, became our best communication support for the parents to inform them of the supplemental learning activities,” she said. “Kindergarten teacher Cindy Lee set up Class Dojo for her students. Parents were notified and quickly jumped on board.” She said the schools have developed a great team to meet the needs of all the students. “Michael Castello has been extremely supportive of the preschool teachers,” King said. “He stops by daily to stay updated on our students and families. Our distance learning program has been a collaborative effort. I think we all feel an emptiness during this time and feel a need to stay connected with the students.”

She explained that part of Lee’s Kindergarten Class Dojo program is to follow each student’s progress. Parents can message the teacher directly if their child needs assistance. For the preschool children, each teacher records their circle time on a video for the parents to use each day at home in addition to sending homework and art activities home. “We have had excellent feedback from parents,” King said. “I think that they feel the support. We held Spirit Week this past week with fun activities for the kids each day. The parents posted pictures of their kids dressed up on our Facebook page. The best thing I have noticed is that our families are enjoying time together. Many have cut back on electronics and found fun ways to spend time with each other.” Information: https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=soboba%20preschool

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