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Lucerne Valley Elementary Receives California Pivotal Practice Award

Lucerne Valley Elementary School and the Lucerne Valley USD were both recognized earlier this week for the 2022 California Pivotal Practice Award.  
The California Pivotal Practice Award Program was designed in partnership with our education associations to celebrate districts and schools that have completed an online application highlighting an innovative practice that was implemented during the 2020–21 school year, when California required schools to offer distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
As an 2022 CAPP Award Program winner the school and district will receive a certificate from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. Also the winners will receive a 2022 California Pivotal Practice Award Program flag.
Prior to receiving the awards, school and district administrators submitted nomination and informational letters. The following is the letter from LVES school admins:

School Overview

Lucerne Valley Elementary School is the only elementary school located in the high desert community of Lucerne Valley. The town has 5,811 people and is a tight-knit community of generational families. The school is one of the hallmarks of the community, with a history that dates back to the one-room schoolhouse. The elementary school, built in 1952, is a TK-6th grade campus and currently has 600 students. The school site also houses a preschool program and a specialized county class. The school has increased enrollment for the past couple of years and had a spike in English Learners (EL). Currently, 87% of the students are socioeconomically disadvantaged, 13% are EL, and 12.9% are students in special education or Specialized Academic Instruction (SAI). 
During the 2020-2021 academic year, the school was the first in San Bernardino County to reopen under a waiver. The site provided instruction under a hybrid model for most of the school year. The school prides itself as a Professional Learning Community (PLC) and adopted the frameworks for Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to focus on school safety. Teachers use research-based strategies and focus on using Thinking Maps and incorporating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to meet the needs of all learners. Currently, the school provides extracurricular activities such as drama club, electives, Destination Imagination and has merged with the Middle/High School to provide 6th-grade athletics. 
Lucerne Valley Elementary is working alongside the district in its mission to prepare students to be equipped academically, socially, and ethically as life-long learners to become responsible, productive citizens. 

School Pivotal Practice Overview 

The 2020-2021 school year was filled with uncertainty. California schools were closed for distance learning forcing many students to learn online. There was one opportunity for elementary schools to reopen; however, if they applied for a waiver and met their county guidelines to reopen. Lucerne Valley Elementary School was one of the elementary schools that applied for the waiver and the first in San Bernardino County to reopen. The site would open up under a hybrid model, where students were put in two cohorts and rotated days learning virtually and in person. Students got to be in person for two days and learned virtually for three days in this model. 
A huge concern for educational supports for students in Special Education and EL arose as these populations were not doing well with online learning, and concerns for their academic progress began to mount. The school decided develop a pivotal practice or plan to develop Special Education and EL learning pods that would allow these students to come to school 4-days a week to assist in academic progress and limit learning loss. Under this plan, the school site would take their identified students from Special Education and those identified as EL from the district’s Student Identification Systems (SIS) and have them come to school on both Cohort days (4- days a week). Students in EL were provided Orton-Gillingham for reading instruction. Under the Orton-Gillingham approach, struggling readers are explicitly taught the connections between letters and sounds. 
This action was a huge step forward into getting students on a regular schedule and allowed them to be in a cohort together to ensure safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. This practice allowed the subgroups with the greatest need to receive more in-person instructional time and get the essential academic support they desperately needed. 

School Pivotal Practice Program During Distance Learning 

Special Education and EL learning pods were developed by selection from the SIS Aeries data system and students’ previous scores from local area benchmarks. Lucerne Valley Elementary used STAR Reading and Math data from the Renaissance Learning platform. Once the students were selected based on academic progress and technology needs, those students were offered to come on the two cohort days (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday). Students came to school for five hours and were provided instruction. The instruction included all of the curricular content along with social-emotional support.
Parents who wished not to send students to in-person learning due to the contagiousness of COVID-19 were allowed to learn at home virtually. A special education teacher at the site incorporated a HiFlex model assisting with these learners. In the HiFlex model, students learn synchronously in real-time, with some students in class and others learning digitally. 
This pivotal practice worked hand-in-hand with the district’s pivotal practice of distributing technology. If the district did not provide the essential technology and upgrade online software, none of the HiFlex learning and the effectiveness of the learning pods would have happened. Another thing the site had to develop for these unique students was tracking documents to ensure that students were participating and engaged in school and virtually at home. These tracking documents created on Google Apps for Education allowed educators to monitor progress and inform administration if students needed a home visit for additional support or technology assistance. 
The school is currently using some of the strategies used in the learning labs from the 2019-2020 school year. Some SAI students continue to work in a HiFlex environment when they are put in isolation or are quarantined from being a close contact with COVID. This strategy still allows students exposure to content and not miss assignments. 
The pivotal practice of learning labs has continued impact on our Special Education and EL students at Lucerne Valley Elementary School. Since students were allowed to come on campus for the additional four days most of the 2020-2021 school year, we have not seen too much learning loss. 
During the 2020-2021 school year, these students sustained or made gains on local assessments. The school site was quite fortunate to be granted a waiver and provide the necessary academic and social-emotional supports for the important subgroups. 
The following is the nomination letter for the Lucerne Valley USD:

District Overview

The Lucerne Valley Unified School District, established in 1987, is a TK-12
school district located in the rural, desert town of Lucerne Valley, California. The town has 5,811 people and is a tight-knit community of generational families. Many times school events are the hub of town activities. Currently, there are 992 students in the district, and it is one of the few districts in San Bernardino County with growing enrollment. The district features an Elementary School, a Middle/High School, Mountain Valley High School and recently added a virtual academy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state preschool serves eligible students on the elementary campus.
The elementary school, built in 1952, is a TK-6th grade campus and currently has 600 students. During the 2020-2021 academic year, the school was the first in San Bernardino County to reopen under a waiver. The school uses Thinking Maps and is currently introducing Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to meet the needs of all learners. The site has a state-of-the-art Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) lab and offers electives and other activities to support learning and provide an outlet for pupils.
The Middle/High School has come a long way. Lucerne Valley Middle School was built in 1986, and the high school was built in 1992. Both sites merged in 1998. Recently, the site implemented the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program and became AVID certified in 2018-2019. The school expanded its middle school sports program and continues to offer and compete in C.I.F athletics. The site provides many outlets and activities for students such as band, art, Cadet Corp, auto shop, and other career-focused classes. Additionally, the site has an award-winning Future Farmers of America (FFA) program that teaches students leadership and skills that make them successful.
Lucerne Valley Unified School District is committed to maintaining our status as a model district in California. The district and its partners strive to prepare all students to be equipped academically, socially, and ethically as life-long learners to become responsible, productive citizens. The district embraces its status as a small district and prides itself that each student has a name and is not just a number.

District Pivotal Practice Overview

At the start of the summer of the 2019-2020 school year, Lucerne Valley Unified
School District came up with a Technology Connection/ Distribution Plan. The plan had several goals:
— Providing Chromebooks and the best possible internet to students.
— Expanding the geofence.
— Adding thermal cameras for the elementary site in their reopening plan under the waiver.
— Purchasing live-stream cameras to help facilitate classroom instruction at all locations.
The Chromebooks gave students and teachers the online capabilities to do Google
Classroom, Zoom, Renaissance Learning platforms, and other digital tools necessary for student learning. Teachers and the IT department installed the classroom screen monitoring system, Blocksi, on teacher and admin computers. The software allowed teachers and the IT department to monitor content and ensure student safety through analytics. Additionally, the district was aware of the poor internet connection. They provided T-Mobile hotspots for those students living in Lucerne Valley with the worst internet capabilities and those households with multiple school-aged children that required many devices to be online. These families were identified through the school’s Student Identification System (SIS) called Aeries. Parents came to all three schools to pick up their hotspots once identified. If parents could not pick them up, the school administration delivered them on home visits or wellness checks.
Another critical solution was expanding the geofence of the district. Before the pandemic, online capabilities were only available at the school site. At the start of the 2020-2021 school year, the IT department put all sites in one group and expanded the borders for all online capabilities. This action increased the range to 500 square miles and allowed the district to be web-based for all school curricula and applications. Wifi capabilities were also available in the school parking lot, which was much stronger. Some parents used these areas to let their students do their school work.
When the elementary school reopened in August of 2020 under the hybrid learning model, the district purchased thermal cameras by Hikvision. These cameras were similar to those used in airports and casinos. The cameras were necessary to check students’ temperatures who may have symptoms of the infectious coronavirus. These cameras were positioned in areas that students had to pass by before entering school grounds. If students were exhibiting a high temperature, they would be further checked by the school nurse. The cameras ensured the safety of all students and allowed them to learn in class in a safe environment.
The other part of the plan was to provide live-stream cameras for teachers wanting to improve their instruction on Zoom or incorporate a HiFlex model in their classroom. These cameras were designed by Polycam and had several features, such as 360-degree capabilities and high definition in real-time. At the elementary site, a few classes, including a Specialized Academic Instruction (SAI) class, provided this type of model in their classroom. In the HiFlex model, students learn synchronously in real- time, with some students in class and others learning digitally. These actions were critical in meeting the needs of our special education students, English Language Learners, and those participating in the regular general education program.

District Pivotal Practice Program During Distance Learning

During the time of the 2020-2021 school year, when a majority of the schools in California were still on distance learning, the teachers at all sites connected with their students via Zoom to check in with them to see how they were socially and to provide them with the curricular content for that day. Teachers used the Google Classroom platform and other digital tools like Flipgrid, Screencastify, Peardeck, and others to make the content engaging and allow students to experience learning through different modalities. Each site did various things virtually to boost the morale of the students and recognize their achievements. Over at Lucerne Valley Middle/High School, they had video recognition ceremonies for Students of the Month. At the elementary site, the administration made recorded Zoom videos recognizing students exhibiting school-wide behavior expectations both on-campus and virtually.
The Technology Connection/Distribution Plan was impactful for the 2020-2021 school year. It taught the district the importance of maintaining all digital hardware and upgrading the software to improve online learning. It was a reflective experience about how prepared we need to be if schools are ever again put in that situation. The pivotal practice also allowed our site to upgrade technology and improve online teaching for students. When students enter the district, they are issued a Chromebook for all of their classwork. If a child lives in an area with a poor internet connection, they provide a hotspot to assist their learning. Currently, students still enrolled in the virtual academy are still using the district’s hotspots because most of their work is online.
Lucerne Valley Unified School District continues to provide 1 to 1 Chromebooks for all students. Students continue to use online platforms and digital tools taught and developed during the 2020-2021 school year. The digital live-stream cameras are still used in classrooms and the virtual academy. The digital thermal cameras are no longer necessary; however, they will be saved and used in emergencies like earthquakes if search and rescue need to detect if there is someone in a building. District leaders saw the need for online learning, and the parent requests to keep that option available to all students to further their education under the current state of the pandemic.
The 2020-2021 school year was one for the record books. It taught us to be brave, resilient, and flexible when things didn’t go as planned. The biggest takeaway from the monumental school year was that our teachers did a fantastic job under the circumstances, but nothing compares to the impactful practice of in-school learning.
Lucerne Valley Elementary
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