April 3, 2020 Distance Learning Update
Dear T/E Families,
Good evening. First, I hope that you are home and healthy as we conclude our third full week of school closures. With the announcement from Governor Wolf that schools will remain closed indefinitely, I would like to take the opportunity to provide an update on our distance learning plan and several other topics.
This week, our teachers and staff came together for a virtual inservice day to develop the next phase of our distance learning program. Teachers were trained on software programs to provide enhanced video and audio instruction and our administrative staff developed schedules and procedures to ensure students are ready to advance to the next grade level at the close of the school year. Our support staff members remain busy assisting families and supporting school district operations. I continue to be overwhelmed by the level of dedication our entire staff has demonstrated during this time.
Updates to Distance Learning
Our enhanced distance learning plan will include several new elements beginning April 13. As I referenced before, we have received varied feedback from families, with some indicating our current plan is too challenging and others who are asking for more. We have attempted to provide options for families with diverse needs. We have created a guide for families that includes greater detail about this next phase of our distance learning plan. Please take a few moments to read through the guide before April 13.
- Elementary Schedules – New instruction will be fully implemented in a schedule that includes alternating subject area instruction and application/practice activities as well as rotating special area subjects.
- Secondary Schedules - High school and middle school students will receive daily instruction and assignments posted in Schoology and will have access to teacher office hours throughout the day.
- Schoology for Elementary Students - Elementary teachers will now be using Schoology to share instructional materials and assignments with students and families. Additional details, including login information, will be shared next week.
- “Work Well Wednesdays” - On these days there will be no new instruction. Work Well Wednesdays will provide a weekly opportunity for students to continue to work on assignments, focus on special areas/elective courses, communicate with teachers, engage in schoolwide activities, and take time for activities related to wellness and community building.
- Cycle Days – At the high school and middle school levels, cycle days will continue but will not advance on Wednesdays. At the elementary level, cycle days will be discontinued for the duration of the school closure.
- Teacher-Generated Video – Teachers at all levels will increase the use of video to introduce, explain and model new skills and strategies.
- Virtual Office Hours – High school and middle school teachers will offer optional virtual office hours on a rotating-basis to answer student questions or to provide clarification on assigned material. These live sessions will provide opportunities for real-time interactions among teachers and students. The office hours schedule is provided in the distance learning plan. Teachers will use either Schoology Conferences or Microsoft Teams to conduct these sessions. Elementary teachers will continue to be available by email.
High School and Middle School Grading
Due to the interruption of face-to-face instruction and the shift to distance learning, the District has modified the method for calculating final grades this year. Our goal is to maintain the integrity of our grades, minimize negative implications and benefit students to the greatest extent possible.
The fourth marking period will begin April 13. Each course will have identified “Essential Assessments,” which will be graded and counted toward the fourth marking period. As long as students achieve a passing grade for the fourth marking period, their final grade for the course will not be negatively impacted by distance learning. We will provide supports necessary to ensure all students have the opportunity to succeed regardless of challenges that may occur due to the current crisis. The intention of the final grade calculations outlined below is to be as beneficial to students as possible:
- If a student’s fourth marking period grade is a passing grade and increases their average for the year, it will count toward the final grade calculation.
- If a student’s fourth marking period grade is a passing grade but decreases their average for the year, it will not count toward the final grade calculation.
- If a student’s fourth marking period grade is a failing grade, it will be entered as their fourth marking period grade and will count toward the final grade calculation.
High School Only: Final exams will not be administered in any course. As a reminder, individual marking period grades are not included on the Conestoga transcript. Only final grades appear. Additional information about final grade calculations is available on the CHS website.
All elementary distance learning work will be ungraded, but feedback will be provided as appropriate. The impact of distance learning on year-end progress reports will be evaluated over the coming weeks. Any changes will be communicated to families.
Expectations for Digital Citizenship and Intellectual Property
This enhanced level of distance learning will provide even more opportunities for electronic communication between all members of our school community. Please join us in reminding students that distance learning is an extension of the classroom and subject to the same rules of respect and courtesy we expect in school. Most importantly, neither students nor their family members are permitted to record or distribute live sessions or any uploaded distance learning content. We feel strongly about strict adherence in order to protect the privacy of all students and staff members. Detailed guidelines from our digital citizenship curriculum as well as important expectations about intellectual property are included in the new distance learning plan. An additional reminder will be sent to students and families next week.
Impact of Extended Stay at Home Order
Due to the school closures and stay-at-home orders issued by Governor Wolf, we are evaluating cancellations and postponements of upcoming events on a weekly basis. Information on specific school events will be communicated through your child’s school. As a reminder, all T/E School District grounds are closed, including the tracks at the middle schools and high school. Security personnel are on site at all District facilities and they will be enforcing the closure. We look forward to the day when we can once again share our playgrounds, athletic fields and other facilities with our school community.
Support for Families
Some families have inquired about wellness activities students can engage in over next week’s spring break. While there will be no instruction from teachers during spring break, we are sharing some resources for those families who may be interested.
Our school community continues to look out for one another during this time of crisis, and I would like to provide an update on these incredible efforts:
- Over 5,200 meals were delivered by T/E staff members this week to students in need.
- TESD families and organizations continue to provide generous contributions to support local families. More than $8,000 in gift cards and financial donations to support families in need have been received by the District. This does not include the many donations that have been made by individuals and organizations to T&E Care.
- Over 130 iPads have been provided to students in need to use for distance learning activities during the school closure period.
- The District’s Family Help Desk continues to provide technical assistance with distance learning and has answered nearly 800 family and staff inquiries.
We know each person has their own set of circumstances that is impacting their way of life right now. During the past few weeks, I have regularly felt like a novice with these new tools. I have struggled with learning new software, been kicked out of virtual meetings due to technical glitches, required reminders to mute or unmute myself while online, and tried to master an entirely different set of platforms professionally and personally to assist my son with his school assignments. I know this can be frustrating.
We continue to receive and respond to communications from students and parents on a daily basis. If your family is experiencing issues that affect your child’s participation in online learning, please do not worry. Our teachers understand and our school counselors are available to provide support. Our staff is working hard to mitigate student stress while advancing required learning. Please reach out should you have questions or concerns about any aspect of the distance learning program. Your patience and messages of support have been tremendous.
I wish you peace, good health and happiness during this coming break.
Dr. Richard Gusick
Superintendent of Schools