A Distant Welcoming: Back to School Preparations Brings in ‘Trust Visits’

Open Houses and shaking the new teachers hand – maybe chatting over coffee in the morning at the school building – have all been hallmarks for back to school in the Chelsea Public Schools to build relationships with parents, but COVID-19 has forced the district to think differently about such things.

Therein was born a new initiative called ‘Trust Visits,’ and teachers and administrators all over the district are carrying out these visits this week as the staff and teachers prepare to return to learning remotely on Wednesday, Sept. 16.

Clark Avenue Principal Mike Talbot on a trust visit this week with Assistant Principal Julie Shae – welcoming these two new Clark Avenue Cougars.

In other words – the teachers make house calls this year.

“We’re calling these trust visits because we’re starting off the year remote,” said Supt. Almi Abeyta. “It’s an opportunity to reach out to our families and introduce ourselves. The teachers will go out in and into the community to meet families, or they will contact them via Zoom, or even on the phone. We wanted to be able to build trust up front.”

Many of the teachers this week are conducting the trust visits across the city, and a good deal of them are in-person and socially distanced. Teachers and administrators talk to parents about how students learn, what their interests are, how they did during emergency remote learning, and if they have a ChromeBook/Wi-Fi.

“Our goal is we’ll have more kids plugged into remote learning and we’ll be more successful with it,” said Abeyta.

The visits will also extend into next week as well.

At the high school level, trust visits look a little different than the elementary visits – which are a little more personal. At the high school, trust visits are being conducted at the Stadium outside with teachers of various subjects.

The visits at all levels, though, are meant to do what would normally come naturally – learning who the students are and the students/families learning who the teachers are. One complication of remote learning is that without such visits, parents, students and teachers may have never actually met and may not really know one another.

Putting a face with the name is all about what the trust visits represent, Abeyta said.

“Our goal as long as we’re in remote learning is that every family is contacted and we know who our kids are and they all have a ChromeBook and we have made contact with them,” she said. “Part of it is also to make sure everyone is ready for digital learning. We want to improve digital learning for the fall because we know one thing we could do better on was simple engagement. This is an attempt to mitigate that up front before we start school.”

Remote classes for all students – except kindergarten that starts on Sept. 23 – will begin on Sept. 16. All students are to have ChromeBooks, and many already have them from last spring. New students and those that didn’t get ChromeBooks will be sought, and kindergartners will be given iPads.

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