Simmons Elementary School

April 17, 2020

We're Better Together (Virtually)

We hope this finds you and your family safe and healthy. During these difficult times, we appreciate more than ever your partnership with the school to continue to provide educational opportunities to your children. The staff has been working tirelessly to build a new model of learning, collaborating with their teaching colleagues across the elementary schools. We know that distance learning is not the same as the instruction when we are in session, but we are learning and adapting quickly.


Please reach out to your child's teacher or guidance counselor if you have questions or if there are ways that we can support your family. Mrs. Gee and I miss everyone! You will begin to see us popping into class meetings so that we can say hello to our wonderful students.

Distance Learning Updates

As you are aware, we are continuing to provide new learning material for students at every grade level. We are working diligently to find the appropriate balance of learning activities and assignments being provided to ensure that all children can learn the critical content our teachers have identified in each content area, but not feel overwhelmed with what is being assigned. In addition, many of our K-2 families have inquired about the ability to obtain a device from the school for their children to use at home for online learning. The district has ordered devices for our youngest learners and will follow up with a distribution plan in the coming weeks.


Completion of Assignments

It is important that children engage in the activities the teachers are providing, as well as complete and submit those assignments that are designated to be turned in. Teachers will then be able to provide feedback to students and determine what, if any, adjustments need to be made in the planned content; which students might benefit from additional, small group assistance though some type of synchronous (real time) interaction; and what the next series of lessons and planned learning activities should include. Teachers will provide deadlines for assignments in each content area in order to assess students’ understanding of the intended learning goals.


Schedule for Synchronous Interactions and Connections

We are implementing the schedule for synchronous interaction that was part of our continuation of education plan in order to best meet the needs of all families. The schedule is included at the end of this communication. Although we know that the established schedule may conflict with things families already have in place, there was no way to devise synchronous learning opportunities that match individual schedules. Similar schedules have already been put in place at the middle and high school levels.


It is not the intent to have the full 45-minute block of time dedicated to the delivery of instruction by the teacher; rather, the block will provide time for large group instruction, small group follow-up or assistance. Having this schedule will also allow for small group support to be given to students from our Literacy Specialists, ESL teachers, Special Education teachers and Guidance Counselors. We understand individual families may have conflicts and challenges that may prevent their children from participating during the synchronous learning scheduled times. For students receiving special education services, individualized schedules will be coordinated through the case manager and members of the IEP team to support those student needs. We will do our very best to record any synchronous sessions that involve instruction and make them accessible to families when their schedules permit. Our teachers are learning and becoming more comfortable with the tools that allow them to provide instruction synchronously. We are sure you understand that this is a very different learning environment for all of us!


Office Hours for Teachers

In addition, teachers and professional staff will have blocks of time (office hours) during which they will be responding to families/students to clarify content and answer questions they may have through email, phone call or any other efficient communication method. Teachers will communicate those times to their families.


Recommended Instructional Time for Distance Learning

Finally, we would like to provide some information regarding the guidelines that have been shared regarding the amount of time students in different grades should be spending on academic tasks each day. Our determinations on the appropriate amounts of time for learning at various grade levels were based on research and guidance from various experts (e.g. National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, American Academy of Pediatrics, and various child psychiatrists). The information from them indicated that elementary students should spend from 1 – 2 total hours of instruction per day and that would increase with the age of the children, meaning more towards the hour for our youngest students and 2 hours for older elementary students. That total includes any academic work they would be expected to complete. For middle school age students, the time suggested is 2 – 3 hours, and for high school 3 – 4.


As always, we appreciate your continued partnership as we work together to meet the challenges of these unprecedented times.

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