Back to School
Buildings are closed, but we are here for you, every day.
All about REMOTE LEARNING during this closure.
April 2, 2020
Highlights of this newsletter
- Hear from Superintendent Steven Cook
- How we will serve students while the closure continues
- What you need to know about Remote Learning after Spring Break
- Assessments and grades
- Students with special needs
- Supporting students and families in need
- An appreciation of our employees
- A cute puppy!
We hope you are well during this troubling time. As all of us remain home to blunt the impact of this pandemic and protect the most vulnerable among us, we want you to know how much we miss your students and look forward to having them back in our schools.
These past two weeks have been difficult for all of us. And yet we are heartened by the efforts to stay connected with one another and encourage continued learning during this crisis. Thank you for your support and understanding as we navigate entirely new ways to serve our students, our employees and our community.
Our focus over the past few weeks
We have concentrated on taking actions that protect the health of our school communities, support those who work in healthcare and emergency services, and continue providing weekday meals for children who rely on the school lunch program.
Another priority has been to create and share at-home learning resources for our families. We hope you have explored what’s available there for kids of all ages. In addition, our focus is on ensuring that students have access to the technology they will need to continue learning while our school buildings remain closed. We also want you to be aware of community resources available to help families struggling during this time.
You have a lot of questions about the ongoing closure of our school buildings, and we are providing answers to those questions here (click on the button above). Please check back regularly as we update that FAQ page and add more answers.
What's next for students
Whether this closure lasts a few more weeks or longer, we are committed to continuing with our educational mission through the end of the school year. This begins immediately after Spring Break, when our schools will move to a more formal remote learning structure.
In this newsletter we outline what you and your students can expect, and we ask for your patience as we adjust to this new approach. It may be a little bumpy at first, as we’ve never before attempted anything on this scale and in such a short period of time. In partnership with you, we can smooth out the road ahead and do our best to meet the needs of our students.
We will be flexible and adaptable while keeping realistic expectations. Let’s not lose sight of how our lives have been immensely disrupted. Even young children are aware of what is happening, and students may feel stressed, confused or scared. Academics are important but are not the only consideration right now. It’s important to devote time to our physical, social and emotional needs as well.
This is our approach to Remote Learning
We want students to have a quality experience that is worthy of their time and effort. Finding the right balance is important. We know if we try to push too much at once, students (and you) will be overwhelmed.
- Each week teachers will provide tasks and activities for their students and be available to answer questions and provide help. Teachers will let you know the best way to stay in touch with them.
- The emphasis will be on essential standards and skills that students need to learn this spring.
- We will do our best to make sure lessons are reasonable in scope and available to all students.
- This is learning that can be done online or off. Ideally, it will be a healthy mix of both. We do not want students in front of a screen all day or buried in homework for hours on end.
- Teachers will use assessments to ensure students are learning, but not to assign letter grades. (More on that below.)
- You may see multiple courses blended into one experience, giving students a more meaningful approach to learning.
- Not everyone will be working on the same material at the same time, although there will be opportunities to meet virtually.
- Let us know where there are problems and how we can address them.
What you and your students can expect
We are asking that students, with the support of their families, be engaged with their learning as much as they are able during this period. Our hope is that each student is inspired and empowered to participate in what their teachers offer. And we understand that not every family will be able to be fully engaged all the time through the coming weeks.
MONDAYS: Students will turn in their work from the previous week. This may vary by grade level. For example, our Kindergarten students might have very little to “turn in,” while our high school students might be encouraged to share their learning through Google Classroom.
TUESDAYS: Teachers will provide new learning experiences/assignments for the week, with most using Google Classroom.
FIND A PACE THAT WORKS FOR YOU: It might feel overwhelming at first to receive each students’ learning for the week at one time. Our hope is that providing learning for the entire week will empower families to create their own weekly schedules, recognizing that each family has different numbers and ages of children, and different numbers and types of technology devices. Find a schedule and pace that works best for your family and your children, and let us know how we can best assist you.
STAY IN TOUCH: Teachers will check in with students during the week, and we encourage students to communicate with instructors and classmates, especially if they have questions or are struggling with a problem. Some teachers will provide video lessons or schedule office hours online, or may be available by phone; these are opportunities to connect, but are not mandatory. If the entirety of the week’s work feels overwhelming or your family is unable to participate, please stay in contact with teachers so we can make sure we do all we can to support your family at this time.
Getting ready for next week
MONDAY, APRIL 6 - This is a day today to make sure you and your kids are prepared:
Are you are connected with teachers in Google Classroom? If you need help locating it or logging in, ask your teacher or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Create a learning space for each student in your family, as well as a schedule if your students are sharing devices. Try to minimize distractions.
If you have students in need of a device or Internet access, let us know. Please fill out this form. This includes students who don’t have regular access to a device at home, or homes with multiple students sharing one device.
Community partners are offering discounts or limited free access to Internet service. Details can be found here.
We understand that access to Google Classroom or other ways of connecting virtually will vary from family to family. Families looking for another way to connect with teachers are asked to contact the school for assistance. Please call the main number and leave a detailed message describing your needs as well as the best way to contact you.
TUESDAY, APRIL 7 - Teachers will share the first week’s materials through Google Classroom or another program they have established and shared with you.
What about assessments and grades?
Students will not lose credit or be held back from advancing to the next grade level due to the impact of the pandemic on the school year. Our intent is to cushion students from any harm caused by this disruption to the school year.
We know that students grow most when they receive constructive feedback from their teachers and their peers, and when they evaluate their own work and learning progress. In our period of remote learning, we want to emphasize feedback as a primary way for students to understand where their learning is in relation to their goals.
For grades K-8, teachers will not give grades for the work students turn in at this time. However, based on the completed work students turn in, teachers will provide feedback to help them grow and learn.
Students in grades 9-12 will be given a pass or fail grade, rather than a letter grade, for spring courses in which they are currently enrolled. This will allow students who pass their courses to still receive credit for the semester. High school students will finish this year with the GPA they earned at the completion of fall semester. Grading for the Idaho Digital Learning Academy and Dual Credit courses is up to the sponsoring institution.
For the latest on standardized testing and college-entrance exams, check our Closure FAQ here.
If your student has an IEP or 504 Plan
Our Special Education staff members will be utilizing different avenues of delivering services to our students with special needs, while keeping the health and safety of our students and staff a priority. This will include everything from paper packets to remote learning.
We will continue to place a strong importance on collaboration and communication between school and home and will continue to do our very best to develop innovative solutions. We understand that services may not look the same as they would in the classroom. What is important is that everything we provide as a district is accessible, reasonable, and shows a good faith effort when trying to maintain and grow student skills.
As we begin to offer remote learning opportunities, 504 Plan accommodations will be followed in a good faith effort under these unusual conditions. Teachers are committed to providing accommodations as applicable in this new format, and we anticipate that remote learning as we have designed it will create a lot of space for students to take advantage of their accommodations. Three-year evaluations can wait until school buildings reopen. Expired 504s will still be valid during this time. If you have any concerns, please reach out to your child's teacher or school counselor.
Dr. Cook on The Community Experiment Podcast
You can listen to the podcast episode now: GO HERE.
For episodes of Dr. Cook's own podcast, The Sup is On, GO HERE.
How you can support your student
Teachers will provide support for students, but this is no substitute for the interaction we see in the classroom. This is learning that’s far more independent than students have known, and they will need you to provide structure and support.
Parents and guardians should provide guidance and offer encouragement. Set aside time to read together, explore together, and ask your children questions about their learning. Older siblings also can help younger students. Also, please reach out to teachers with questions on behalf of your kids.
It’s important to remember how these circumstances are a source of stress for our children as well as the adults. We encourage families to pay attention to the needs of each child and your family as a whole. Remote learning should be positive and beneficial, and should not contribute to the stress your family may be experiencing.
We also will focus on social and emotional learning, which helps students understand and manage their emotions, build positive relationships, make responsible decisions, set and achieve goals, and feel and show empathy for others. Now, during this time of change and stress, it is particularly important that we address the social and emotional needs of our children.
Let us help! Check out our 9 TIPS FOR SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL LEARNING AT HOME.
School District Support Line
Next week our school counselors will be back at work, ready and willing to offer support. If your student needs advice, support or just an ear to listen, please reach out to your school. In addition, the District has a support line established to help answer questions, solve problems and link to community resources to access food, housing, counseling or other supports.
If you have questions or needs for yourself or your student, email us at email@example.com and give details. In addition you can call:
- Keith Orchard, Mental Health Specialist, (208) 664-8241 x10055
- Andi West, Mental Health Coordinator, (208) 644-8241 x10057