August 5, 2020
Dear Diploma Programme families,
Welcome to the 2020-21 academic year. As our dedicated DP faculty and I plan for the new school year, we are united in our efforts to ensure three key factors:
- our students and teachers feel safe and cared for,
- we continue to provide an IB education of the highest quality, and
- we continue to foster assessment-capable learners who will excel in their DP assessments.
To this end, I would like to take this opportunity to outline the steps we are taking to ensure the above.
The safety of our students and teachers is paramount. Over the course of the summer we have established clear health and safety protocols, including preventative practices to help prevent the Covid-19 virus from entering the school and practices to mitigate the spread of the virus on campus. We are also working closely with our counselors to ensure support for the social and emotional well-being of our students as they start and continue the Diploma Programme.
As an IB world school, we are currently working hard to ensure we continue to provide an internationally-minded education of the highest quality, no matter what the platform of instructional delivery. From August 24 to September 18, learning will be fully remote, but we will continue on the A/B block schedule with school starting at 7:55am and finishing at 3:15pm. This being the case, when our DP teachers return to campus on August 12, we will spend a great deal of time planning and collaborating so our DP students can hit the ground running when learning begins on August 24. We will collaborate to ensure a set of best practices for online synchronous learning, using the IB Learner Profile as our guide, so our students are communicating effectively, inquiring analytically, and thinking evaluatively. We will also collaborate to ensure a set of best practices for when our DP students are working remotely. Here we will embrace the Approaches To Learning skill of self-management, developing our students’ ability to plan and execute independent work and collaborate remotely with their peers. This strong start will help us establish and maintain high standards of instructional delivery whenever the learning is taking place remotely.
Starting on Monday, September 21, the DP will be using a hybrid system of instructional delivery, whereby students will be divided into two cohorts, Navy and Maroon, with one cohort having two days of face-to-face instruction on campus (using the A/B block schedule), while the other cohort learns remotely from home. After two days the cohorts swap the method of instructional delivery. The decision to offer a hybrid system was taken following TEA guidelines published on July 17th that stated that in grades 9-12, school systems may offer a less than daily on-campus instructional experience if there is a need to reduce the total count of people on campus at any one time to maintain social distancing. A traditional 85-minute class in the DP often combines lectures, whole-class discussion, small-group collaboration, and independent work. DP teachers will therefore be designing their lessons strategically so that discussion-based learning takes place during the in-person time, and independent work takes place during the remote time. As the hybrid model will reduce class sizes, this will allow for small-group seminars in the DP, with greater in-depth discussion, along with individualized support and feedback from teachers. Students may still select a fully remote option, and opportunities will be available for synchronous, remote learning with their teacher and remote collaboration with their peers following the hybrid model.
In the Diploma Programme at Westlake Academy, we are fortunate to have highly experienced and dedicated teachers with a track record of success in fostering both life-long learners and assessment-capable learners who excel at the cumulative DP exams taken at the end of Senior year and the AP exams that many of our students elect to take at the end of their Junior year. To continue to successfully prepare our students for these assessments, the DP teachers will carry out a range of formative assessments, both formal and informal, to carefully monitor student progress and appropriate course pacing, so necessary adjustments in course design can be made.
For our Juniors, we will be focusing on providing targeted support and feedback as they enter the Diploma Programme. Our remote learning schedule for the first four weeks includes “flex” time every day between 2:40pm and 3:15pm, and we encourage students to use this time to check in with their teachers if they need more support or check in with me if they have any questions about their new programme.
For our Seniors, we will be focusing on a strong transition from the Junior year, with teachers strategically planning their instructional delivery to ensure that the practical aspects of the Internal Assessments can be done in class with the writing up done remotely. We will also be prioritizing the completion of the Extended Essay.
As Principal of our Diploma Programme, I am honored to have the opportunity to support our wonderful students and staff and serve the Westlake Academy community. Please join me for our Facebook Live event tomorrow at 5pm, where I will be happy to respond to any questions or concerns. I also invite you to the Secondary Back to School Night Facebook Live Event on Thursday, August 20th at 5pm.
Dr. James Owen
Diploma Programme Principal