Monday, March 30th
Welcome to Distance Learning
Our New Normal
For those of us who are working from home and juggling the responsibilities of our jobs while also trying to take care of our children, and oversee their school work, the "new normal" is much harder then we might have predicted it would be. I am not sure how you are managing it all, but when we can finally put our devices down and declare an "end" to the school day, we try to get outside for a little while or squeeze in a game of cards and then we look up and it's dinner time.
So what is my point? I guess it is to say that our daily routine is still evolving and we need to give ourselves permission to veer from our dream of what we think it "should be" and embrace and accept "what it is." Love your kids and follow your instincts as parents. If your child needs more rest, let her sleep in. If your child is frustrated by an assignment, have him take a break or call a friend for some help. if your child is asking to take out the chemistry set or the snap circuits game during "school time"? Go for it.
We will get through this and we will be better for it. As I have said before - your child takes their cues from you. If your children see that you are anxious and untethered, they will become anxious and afraid. If you are calm, positive and see this experience as a new adventure with new opportunities, your child will learn patience, optimism and resilience. Traits that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
We are in this together
That is, until the day that a mother of one of the first grade students shared a remarkable story with me. Her family was having dinner one evening, the mother, father, their first grade son and their third grade son. The father was trying to encourage his younger son to show more effort on the soccer field and urged him to try and be more like his older brother. In response, the 6-year-old retorted, "Dad, comparison is the thief of joy." Needless to say, the parents were stunned and asked where on earth he had heard those words - and of course, he said it was from his teacher.
I share this story for two reasons.
Teaching Is An Art And A Science
Teaching famous quotes is not in the curriculum of first grade - but it was something that the teacher knew her students would be interested in and capable of learning. This is the art - where teachers use their knowledge about their students to find creative ways to inspire and motivate them. Distance learning has required our teachers to translate the art and science of what they do instinctively and creatively - into words on a page. The lesson plans you receive are our teachers' best efforts to take all that they know about your children, combined with their expert knowledge of the curriculum and design lessons that are meaningful, do-able and motivating to your children. Is it exactly what they would do if they were seated next to your child? Maybe or maybe not. But they are doing the best that they can - under the most challenging of circumstances - and I could not be prouder of the work they are doing!
Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy
Over the last two weeks, I have had conversations via email, phone calls and virtual chat with lots of parents in our community. I have found most of our parents to be extremely grateful and appreciative of the lesson planning and instructional activities that our teachers have planned for our students. They report that their families are starting to develop a routine and that they and their children are better able to interpret the lesson plans and maneuver the technology they are using. They have told me that teachers are going out of their way to connect with their children and have been supportive and responsive in answering their questions or concerns.
But I have also heard a few parents comparing teacher A to teacher B. I have read online statements deriding some of our staff and the assignments they have created. I have had a couple of parents start questions to me with, " I have been texting in a group chat with a group of mothers from my child's class and..."
I cannot express to you how profoundly upsetting and demoralizing these kinds of statements are to our teachers and staff who are truly working night and day to do their jobs well - while also trying to care for themselves and their families. In spite of the challenges, I must tell you that I have been incredibly impressed by the professionalism and commitment of our teachers, who are researching lessons, collaborating with their colleagues, and experimenting with new technology - to teach in a way that they never have before. Does it look the same from class to class or grade to grade? No. Is that ok? Yes!
There is no precedent for teaching during a pandemic. We are literally "building the airplane on the runway". So as we start Day 10 of Distance Learning today, I ask you that you believe in us, the way that we believe in your children - with unyielding faith, commitment and compassion. These are hard times, but by working together and taking care of each other - we will get through this!
Together we are Parkway strong!
From Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Toni Jones
Parent Update - Friday, March 27, 2020
We hope today’s “Flex Day” for distance learning was useful to you and your children. I want to say thank you for the support that you are giving GPS as we navigate this new way of teaching. We are learning every day how to make this the best experience for all. We have video, screencasting, small group live sessions, and a variety of tools which have been utilized in these first 9 days. We will continue to modify and adjust, especially if this emergency closure is extended in Connecticut.
Modified Calendar: Spring Break Dates Changed
At last evening’s Board of Education Meeting, the BOE voted to amend our 2019-2020 school calendar to modify our Spring Break. Thank you to the 3,750 people who completed the survey. 80% of those surveyed said that they wanted to have Friday, April 10th off, Monday, April 13th off, and then continue with distance learning for the remainder of the week: Tuesday, April 14th - Friday, April 17th.
While making this decision, the Board of Education discussed the importance of continuing the current routine that we have in place with students, especially while we are being asked to continue social distancing and refrain from traveling. Please update your personal calendars with this change.
School days in June will be determined once the Governor provides more direction about our status. We already know that the Presidential Primary was moved from April 28th to June 2nd, which means that should schools be physically reopened we would be out of school that day. If we are still doing distance learning at that time, we can continue.
Next Week’s Flex Friday
We look forward to Day #10 of Distance Learning on Monday, March 30th. Next Friday, April 3rd, will be another “Flex Day” as we continue to try and make distance learning manageable for all parents, students, and teachers.
Grading and Graduation Requirements
The Commissioner of Education shared on a conference call today that he expects to have guidance on grading and graduation requirements by the second week in April. The Connecticut State Department of Education is studying how these issues have been dealt with across the United States. For instance, providing pass/fail options for all students and waiving particular graduation requirements as necessary. Once we have guidance, we will adjust as necessary and work with our families and students. This guidance is more about waivers than anything else.
Length of School Closure
This week on the radio the Governor made a statement that school closures could extend into the Fall. There has been no emergency order in this regard, but we will let you know if we hear anything official in the coming days or weeks. As of today, the emergency closure runs through April 20th.
Modified Elementary Distance Learning Template
Some K-5 families will notice the template next week has been slightly modified to provide more choice in how the day is working for your children. The core subjects are still at the top of the template, with the electives grouped together underneath. Students may choose to do all of them, or just one or two each day as we work to help find more flexibility for families with multiple children in the early grades. For children who were happy with the set routine, keep doing what you have been doing.
We will be sending out information soon to pre-register digitally for Kindergarten. Many of you already had packets before the closure, and you are on the Kindergarten registration list right now.
Elementary Report Cards
As a reminder, elementary report cards will be available early next week. Families will receive an email with directions on how to log in and look at the report on Aspen. Please keep in mind that some report cards were completed before distance learning, and some were completed after school was closed. There will be some report cards with no comments depending on the timing of completion.
Note to 5th grade families whose students currently take Spanish or French
Many of the World Language teachers have already sent out a google form or emails to families in their buildings, asking parents to select their language choice for middle school language, which include:
Spanish 1 Continuing
Spanish Native Language Arts 6 (option for native/heritage students only)
If you have yet to respond with a 6th grade language choice for your child who will enter 6th grade in the fall, please complete the google form sent by your FLES teacher or email your FLES (current 5th grade Spanish or French teacher). If you returned the language choice letter that was sent home before schools closed, there is no need to complete the School Based Language Choice Google Form.
Google Hangouts Meet
Google Hangouts Meet is activated for Greenwich Public Schools, and has been in use for the past two weeks across the District for small groups. Students/teachers must set-up an invitation to do a Google Hangout Meets session, and their recipient must click the link at the time/date of the meeting to join the session.
It is important to note that this feature makes meetings available to all students. Students should only accept Google Hangout Meet invitations from their teachers and ignore/block everyone else unless directed differently from the teacher. This will help ensure that this feature is used appropriately and safely by our students with an adult present. GPS is on Google for Education which keeps the features only within our GPS network.
GPS protocols for Live Video Discussions
Appropriate Clothing (The attire should be school-appropriate; This is to avoid a secondary student chatting in their pajamas)
Appropriate Place (The student should chat while at a table, desk, or learning space)
When online, mute the microphone until it’s time to speak. This eliminates background noise for all.
If the teacher utilizes a chat feature, a question can be asked while somebody is speaking through the chat.
If not using the camera, both students and teachers should block their cameras.
Distance Learning and Special Education
We received additional guidance from the State Department of Education for special education students regarding PPTs, services and more. We shared this information directly with families of special education students earlier this week and we’re sharing it again in case a parent missed the information. Please reach out to the teacher, assistant principal, principal, or PPS staff if GPS can help in any way.
Last evening our Board of Education voted to support the formation of a Special Education Advisory Council. While a little more challenging to do right now with a school closure, we are excited to provide this new opportunity to hear from our families. Stay tuned for more information!
Additional Resources for Parents as Partners in Distance Learning
As a reminder, we have our Distance Learning Resources page on the GPS website. It includes helpful technical information and resources for parents as partners in distance learning.
Incoming Kindergarten Registration
Liz and Nurse Julie had schedule Registration appointments with our new and existing parents for the week of 3/16, but these meetings needed to be postponed due to our closure. The district will be sending out information soon to pre-register digitally for Kindergarten. For those families who already have hard copies of the Registration packets, please hold on to them and we will let you know how we will go forward with registration, as we receive guidance from the district.
From our Parkway PTA...
We hope this message finds you all well. Our thoughts are with you during this challenging time. This email is sent with care and concern. Please know, we do not wish to add to your "to-do" list but hope to offer resources and activities to fill a void should you experience one.
In this email please find virtual enrichment activities, advice on talking with your child(ren) about the coronavirus and other online resources.
Of special note, Math Superstars is continuing for students enrolled and anyone who wishes to join.
Take Good Care,
Math Superstars is still running. Here's how your child can join the fun...
1) Go to Parkway PTA Programs page: https://www.greenwichschools.org/parkway-school/pta/programs
2) Go to "Math Superstars"
3) Download the right assignments for your child. There are 25, you can start at the beginning or at week 12 (# of weeks left in the school year.)
4) Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get the grading pages so you can check your child's work.
5) Email email@example.com with child's name, grade and assignment # when your child completes an assignment and I will keep track of the progress and update the board when we return to school! I don't need a score - just the completed assignment #.
6) All students who participate receive a certificate and for those who do at least half (or in this case 12) will receive a trophy!
One note: For those parents who want to go move ahead to next year, you can - but save the sheets to hand in the fall! We are only keeping track of the 2019-20 grade participation email Parkwaymathsuperstars@gmail.com with any questions. -
Looking for some online enrichment activities for your families?
Check out the following links with resources and online classes. Many are free or ask for a nominal donation. Activities range from photography, coding, yoga, song writing... and so much more. Please note that these resources are being provided toParkway parents as a courtesy and the Parkway PTA does not endorse nor guarantee these resources
and providers though several are providers of our "Afters" programs.
Girls Rock: Weekly Bulletin Board of Zoom classes for all genders.
Dance, Yoga, Garage Band, Song Writing, ASL, Instruments, Foreign Languages and Many More! "We ask for donations between $5-$10 per class/per kid to try and help provide income for these amazing teachers around the globe. No one will be turned away for lack of funds however". https://www.girlsrocksb.org/bulletin-board
PBS Kids: PBS channel 13 has AMAZING & FREE EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW
Subscribe to their free daily kids eNewsletter which maps out all of their offerings in a super easy-read way. https://www.pbs.org/parents/pbskidsdaily
BUDDING BUDDHAS KIDS YOGA
"Our Livestream Virtual Kids Yoga & Mindfulness classes seem to help them cultivate peace and calm as well as keeping their bodies strong and minds happy. We have found that the ability for children to interact with us as teachers and each other as a community brings great joy to them during this time." Below is a link to Livestream Virtual Classes we are offering this week through Tovami Yoga Studio (classes $10 each)". https://www.tovamiyoga.com/kids
MacInspires Online Learning
- GAME DESIGN W SCRATCH AND MAKECODEGAME DESIGN W UNITYCODING
- HTML CODING
- Arduino & C++3D DESIGN
- TinkerCAD 3D DESIGN
- Blender: IT'S ROCKET SCIENCE
- Kerbal Space Program - ROBLOX STUDIO
- Creating Video Games with Roblox
Group, 90 Minutes, Ages 7-12: Students meet with MacInspires Instructor online via GoToMeeting!
- SCRATCH AND MAKECODE LAB, Monday, Wednesday & Friday 10-11:30am
- 3D DESIGN, MEASUREMENTS & MATH, Tuesday & Thursday 12:30-2:00pm
- HANDS ON SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS, Tuesdays & Thursdays 2-3:30 (Option for us to drop off the materials to your home!)
- ENTREPRENEURSHIP, MAKE A PRODUCT, Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays 2:30-4:00pm
As we have done for over 100 years, the YMCA of Greenwich will continue to respond to the evolving needs of our community. While our community environment has radically changed in recent weeks, the YMCA team is developing innovative ways to continue our mission to support the health and wellness of each and every individual. Our community is at the heart of everything that we do. Y@Home will equip you with a consistent stream of resources to help you stay active, healthy, and connected in your own home. http://www.greenwichymca.org/yhome-resources/
Artistree Performing Arts
Keep performing through live stream classes at Artistree! NEW! Spring Break Virtual Camp April 6-10! Preschool - 9th Grade. Click here to register!
Click here for this week’s live stream DROP-IN CLASSES for dance and musical theater!
Preschool - High School. https://artistreearts.com/event-category/live-streaming/