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REL Pacific

Staying Connected During the COVID-19 Crisis

REL Pacific
Christina Tydeman
April 20, 2020

 Puzzle pieces with gap inbetween

As I write this, most of the Pacific jurisdictions have isolated themselves to prevent the advance of COVID-19. I want to express my recognition of and commendations for the community-based collective actions undertaken by the Pacific entities to prevent the introduction of COVID-19 and to limit the spread of the virus once cases were confirmed. Communities across the Pacific are filled with caring and resilient people, who have demonstrated these attributes again and again through rounds of devastating typhoons and during the ongoing outbreaks of dengue and measles. My greatest hope is that at the time you read this blog, everyone is safe from the virus.

For people who thrive on community relationships—like those who call the Pacific their home—this physical isolation is particularly difficult. In the Pacific Region, an embrace in greeting or farewell is commonly and freely given, so the extreme social distancing methods deemed necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19 create a profound sense of loss and disruption in our lives. Because I cannot do so in person, I send many virtual hugs throughout the Pacific along with my wishes for everyone's wellbeing.

What resources are available?

Initially, the response from the education support community was intended to ensure that education entities had access to the evidence-based resources that could guide them through the decisions ahead. The volume of resources being shared and marketed from well-intended organizations has been substantial. Add to that the increased solicitations from scammers, and my inbox—and, I'm sure, many of yours also—was overwhelmed. To help you sort through all of the information coming your way, we've pulled together a consolidated list of resources from trusted sources.

National Resources

The national REL and Comprehensive Center (CC) programs are collaboratively striving to increase your ability to identify the best resources for your needs in the shortest amount of time. New webpages, lists, and resources are being published at a rapid pace to help you address the continually evolving situation. Here are some to consider:

For general resources, consider visiting the U.S. Department of Education's COVID-19 Information and Resources for Schools and School Personnel webpage at https://www.ed.gov/coronavirus.

Along with resources identified for elementary and secondary schools and higher education institutions, this webpage includes links to activities to support learners at home and strategies for everyday disease prevention.

Pacific Resources

For the Pacific region jurisdictions, REL Pacific and Comprehensive Center (CC) Regions 18 and 19 plan to host a community of practice (COP) to convene education leaders in a forum to share ideas and strategies and discuss which have the strongest attributes for success. Participants in the COP will serve as collegial thought partners as they consider how to ensure that the resources and supports they choose best fit their unique set of needs. The format and content of the COP will be responsive to the priorities of the participants. If you would like more information about this COP, please feel free to reach out to me or your CC director (Emerson Odango, CC Region 18 [Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, and Palau] director; Melly Wilson, CC Region 19 [American Samoa, Hawai'i, Republic of the Marshall Islands] director).

What does this mean for your projects with REL Pacific?

As your priorities shift—and with IES's support—REL Pacific will follow your lead to identify what adjustments are necessary to carry out our collective work. While REL Pacific staff are all working from home to limit the spread of COVID-19, we can still be reached through email and our office phone numbers. We greatly miss our face-to-face work with our partners, but we believe this is an opportunity to strengthen our relationships virtually and expand how we deliver content and support.

One of the big changes we face is transforming in-person training and coaching sessions into effective virtual sessions. Ideally, our virtual sessions will be ready to deliver, in a format that meets your needs, as soon as you're available to meet. However, we recognize that it isn't as simple as delivering the exact same materials originally planned for a full-day session, but through a video conference call. As we transform our sessions, we want to intentionally identify, develop, and implement the best practices for virtual sessions in the Pacific region. To that end, we are planning to pilot sessions delivered through online learning management systems platforms and video conference call applications. We realize that identifying and developing virtual learning resources that minimize or eliminate bandwidth requirements will be important for some locations. Because of the interest in developing effective virtual sessions for Pacific audiences, we are exploring how to scaffold the introduction of virtual learning for educators with the understanding that if they are comfortable with receiving virtual learning, then they will be more comfortable delivering virtual learning experiences.

While we look forward to the day we can again meet in person, we're working hard to ensure that we can continue to support you across the miles. It may be that we'll discover—together—some distance learning opportunities that can continue to serve the Pacific even after the current crisis has passed. Again, please feel free to reach out to any REL Pacific staff member at any time and know that you are all in our thoughts.

Additional Resources

Blog: What We're Learning from an Early Look at District COVID-19 Response Plans

Blog: COVID-19 Response from the Center of Reinventing Public Education

Website Database: Updated COVID-19 Response Page from the Center of Reinventing Public Education

Google Document by Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF): COVID-19 Information in Different Languages