Preparing for Back to School: How to Use a Task Force to Drive Planning

back to school
(Image credit: Jill Gildea)

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Where: Park City School District, Park City, Utah

Who: Dr. Jill Gildea, Superintendent

As we plan the 2020-21 school year, we find crystal balls are in short supply; however, grit, resilience, creativity, and distributed leadership are not. 

Park City School District’s return to school plan process is based on evidence-based practice, guidance provided by the Utah State Board of Education, CDC recommendations, alignment with local health department public health orders, and information provided by stakeholders through task force participation. In framing our plan, two additional resources were accessed by work groups: EdElements’ “How to Design A Responsive Return Plan” publication and

The purpose of the PCSD task force is to plan and implement a safe, efficient, and equitable return to school. Through team participation, a leader for each topic cohort has single-point accountability to bring forward viable scenarios, include staff as part of a critical feedback loop, and articulate a vision in line with local community values and needs that will be broadly communicated with district stakeholders.

The task force work charge was introduced through an invitation-to-participate document, and a regular virtual meeting schedule was established by the teams. Teams meet virtually at least weekly for a month to co-create and co-design viable scenarios for return to a “new normal.” The teams will each assess where additional capacity and support may be needed to support our return to school in the Fall 2020.

These teams are charged with Scenario Plans for Pandemic Response:

  • As if school begins on time and remains open
  • As if school begins on time and closes due to a second wave of COVID-19 
  • As if school opening is delayed 

back to school

(Image credit: Jill Gildea)

Task force teams are designing: a comprehensive instructional continuity plan in the event of short or long-term closure; elementary grades return scenarios; secondary grades return scenarios; academic planning to support every learner; and structures to provide immediate wellness/social-emotional student support.  

With direction to prepare to be nimble as we adapt to risk levels in the coming weeks/months, teams will review options for: differentiated staffing models (looping, co-teaching, shared delivery); blended learning approaches; and consistent and clear communications systems to all stakeholders. 

As a district, through the closure and upon return, we will:

  1. Meet students where they are academically, socially, emotionally, and behaviorally. 
  2. Leverage learning skills students gained during time away from school. 
  3. Focus on relevance via discovery, purpose driven learning, and teacher/student/class discourse. 
  4. Permit perspective sharing, personalization of learning, and life-long skills in the context of continuous improvement for our system. 
  5. Provide opportunities for additional parent/stakeholder participation and partnership in future education planning. 

The teams maintain an agenda and minutes on a consistent template and document follow-up actions. Meeting protocols are facilitated, and teams seek to understand stakeholder expectations (teachers, administrators, BOE, parents) and review scenarios through an equity lens -- equitable access, opportunities, and participation by all.  

The return to school scenario planning provides us with the opportunity to include our educators as empowered owners of the Park City School District system. 

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Park City School District Planning Charge Timeline
Roadmap (Purpose statement, timeline, task force charge documents)April 27 - May 1, 2020Superintendent, Chief Academic Officer
Cabinet Review (Review task force charge documents, determine a facilitator/task force lead for each task force, determine task force composition, create expectations for task force facilitators)May 4, 2020Cabinet Members
Facilitation Plan (When/how will task force members be contacted for participation, timeline and agendas for task completion using charge documents)May 5 - May 15, 2020Facilitator/Task Force Leads
Task Force Work (Interim Guidance CDC, Utah guidelines, other planning resources)May 15 - June 19, 2020Facilitator/Task Force Leads, Task Force Members
Task Force Reports to CabinetJune 22 - June 26, 2020Facilitator/Task Force Leads
Action Planning and Task CompletionJune 29, 2020 & beyondCabinet Members

Dr. Jill Gildea is the Superintendent of Park City School District (UT). Having served as a classroom teacher, department lead, building principal, curriculum lead, assistant superintendent and now superintendent for the past 14 years, she continues to have a learner-centered and future-focused approach to her work. Gildea brings together her interests in strong equity policy and advocacy for public education with an “all in together” mindset. In 2015, Gildea was recognized as a Real. Strong. Woman of Distinction and in 2014 was a finalist for Superintendent of the Year by NASS. She is a frequent presenter in the areas of innovation, change and visioning for the future.