"In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity." - Anonymous
Congratulations! You made it through the first week of campus closure and our Distance Learning program at Palm Valley School! I think we all deserve a medal for bravery. We know that this change has impacted families and our community in many ways, some that we have not even yet begun to recognize. Thank you all for your communication, feedback, and questions about the Distance Learning program. It has helped us to ensure that we are providing you with the information, structures, and resources that you need to help students stay on track with their studies from home.
The news and social media have a lot of information right now, and I want to help you clear up some questions. As such, on Monday, March 23, I will be hosting a series of Coffee Talk webinars where I will answer questions that you submit beforehand. Preschool and Lower School Division Coffee at 12 noon, Middle and Upper School at 2 pm. Chances are, if you have a question about the coming weeks of Distance Learning, or other things continuing to happen at the school - others do as well! It's imperative that we work together to solve these challenges in the best interest of children and for our incredible school. In an effort to track communications and see who is out there asking, we will need your RSVP to send you the link to attend the webinar. You can RSVP and ask your questions in advance here for Preschool/Lower School and/or for Middle/Upper School both of which are also on our Facebook page under "events." A link to the actual event will be sent out Monday morning for anyone who RSVP'd. Thank you for your patience and consideration, I look forward to "seeing" you there!
If you are a Preschool family, please be sure to log on to your ClassDojo account where you will see sample schedules, videos, lessons, activities, and more that you can do at home with your children. Distance Learning in the younger grades relies more heavily on parents and families to implement at home, but consistency in schedule helps to create normalcy and routine for our littlest scholars. We will also be holding a Virtual Spirit Week for Preschool families next week that can be shared by sending photos to Ms. Beach via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by posting yourself on social media, tagging the school, and using the hashtag #PVSDistanceLearning. Each day is a different theme or activity to do and document and we want to see what you are doing while you are away. We miss our students, teachers, and families, so this is a fun, safe, and "virtual" way to stay connected!
In Lower School, we have begun to extend the use of Google Hangouts/Meet to more grade levels every day. We made the push to ensure that students as young as grade 2 had a school issued Chromebook at home for the duration of our closure. We will be providing more opportunities for "live" instruction and face to face check-ins with Faculty. One of the inherent challenges in Distance Learning is ensuring that students who aren't in our physical presence, are still adhering to the AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) agreement for technology usage that parents and students signed in the fall. Please refer to the information that Mr. Kisling sent out this week for troubleshooting devices, and parents please go over rules and appropriate use of both hardware and software, and good behavior for online interactions with students. Please read all the communications that come home and keep teachers apprised of any challenges or questions that arise. We are your partners in the education of your children and your voice is critical to that process. Thank you!
In Middle School, we have rolled out the Google Hangouts/Meet access and Faculty began holding some classes live with teachers this week. The proposed schedule (below) will be for all Middle and Upper School students to have consistent opportunities for live instruction/check-in throughout the week, assessments, and additional opportunities for personalized one on one sessions or small group meetings to supplement - depending on need and availability. Middle School students have been very responsive and positive about the opportunity to connect with one another and with their teachers in this way. Again, it's imperative that families are supporting the policies for appropriate usage at home, so please review with your students. If there are Chromebooks that have any issues, like defective cameras, etc. please reach out to Mr. Kisling at email@example.com as soon as possible for a swap.
In Upper School, we were able to successfully hold two full days of live/synchronous meetings using our regular unblocked days schedule this week. Students did an excellent job, but we came to quickly realize that the virtual schedule needs some adjustments, which you will see with the new schedule (below) that we are starting on Monday of next week. We are still continuing to celebrate college acceptances and scholarship winners on our social media channels and through emails, and we are on target for our students to finish the semester with full credits, graduate on time, and stay on top of their academic studies through our Distance Learning program. We are hoping to return to campus in May, but I want to reassure all families that no one at Palm Valley School is in danger of not being promoted to the next grade, losing credits, or not graduating due to Distance Learning and COVID-19 restrictions. We are still working with the College Board regarding SAT/ACT testing protocols, and the AP exams in May, so stay tuned for more information coming soon. Please know that we are here to support students and families and ensure that academics are impacted as little as possible given the current situation. Lastly, the Upper School ASB will be holding a Hangouts Meet next week to discuss moving our previously planned Spirit Week to a virtual one, because we are still FIREBIRDS and don't want you to forget it! Thank you for your continued patience, trust, and support.
The schedule for Middle and Upper School that we will employ for the remainder of the Distance Learning program will be as follows. Please note that students and faculty should not be using Video Conferencing applications outside of Google Hangouts/Meet. There have been concerns expressed in other schools with other applications not originally designed for minors to use or for education based platforms in schools. They often expose, or worse - collect, students' personal information or that stored on their devices. Google Hangouts/Meet used in this context is designed for use in schools, keeps a digital record of all invitations and appointments, and logs all chats the same way our email system does. It's fully integrated with the other Google suite applications that we use regularly. Students and teachers have the option to record every Google Hangout/Meet for use with absent students, study review, or reference at a later time. Additionally, we have administrators invited to all meetings to facilitate drop-ins and supervision. I loved seeing this in action and enjoyed hearing surprised kids say "oh hey - it's Mrs. Rice" when I popped in to observe. We want to encourage students to make appointments using this software with teachers as needed, and to consider ways to leverage this technology for collaborations (Hangouts/Meet) amongst friends and classmates to work in small groups independently.
In many ways, this model will actually provide more opportunities to build autonomy and support for independent learning that colleges ask students for. Finding the silver lining in all of this is difficult, but I continue to be grateful for faculty and students who not only rise to the occasion each day, but who see these opportunities for learning new things and in different ways. We will get through this together and be stronger as a result. Thank you for all you do.
Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns, and we hope to "see" you at the Head's Coffee Talk session on Monday!
Head of School