Health Update 10
March 27, 2020
Dear Bangor Parents, Students, Faculty and Staff,
I want to begin by thanking everyone for your support and commitment to making remote learning a success. All are juggling numerous worries and responsibilities and we know it hasn’t been easy for anyone. Although remote learning is not an optimal situation, we know everyone is giving their best and we are getting through together. These are unprecedented times and we have to recognize the stress the uncertainty puts on all of us. The bright light in all of this is the overwhelming sense of community demonstrated through the challenges.
A special thank you to our faculty and staff for their incredible efforts to stay connected, planning for a different delivery of learning, planning for extended closure, and for preparing and delivering nearly 2,400 meals per day. On Friday, our Food Service Staff prepared and distributed 4,900 meals!
We wanted to share an update on the remote learning plans, packets, and next steps. This information reflects the thinking of the faculty, staff, and administration. We have been exploring opportunities and trying to learn from one another and other school systems across the country. We have had connections with our parents, students, professional associations, curriculum leaders, health officials, and city leadership. We listened and learned from colleagues who are parents themselves and experiencing what our families are experiencing.
We have worked to create plans that are manageable, sustainable, and designed with students, staff, and families in mind. Reports from health officials, Commissioner of Education Makin, and others seem to suggest it is unlikely we will return to school by the end of April or even this school year. We will keep you posted as we learn more. The CDC is recommending social distancing for eight to twenty weeks. We believe our plans will serve all well in the days, weeks, and months to come. We are thankful for the collaboration of all in this planning and for the collective thinking.
Please know our sincere appreciation of you, our incredible Bangor students and families. You are amazing and your kind messages have helped the Bangor School Department remain focused and ready to serve. We continue to be inspired and humbled by your emails, phone calls, photos, videos, and responses to your efforts during this time. It is not an easy time right now for anyone and it is heartwarming to see the values of generosity, compassion, kindness, and selflessness abound. We miss our employees, our students, and our families greatly and will continue to work to maintain close connections throughout.
Betsy M. Webb, Ed.D.
I. Plan for Long-Term School Closure
As we settle into a new way of life, we should prepare for an extended school building closure. Currently, our return to school date is April 27, 2020, but it is likely to be extended longer. If reports from epidemiologists, virologists, and other experts are any indication, it is unlikely we will return to school by the end of April, or even by the end of the school year. We hope to hear from State officials throughout this time and will keep you posted with alerts.
II. Remote Learning
The Purpose of Remote Learning
The purpose of remote learning is best expressed as opportunities for joy in learning, curiosity in life, and continued engagement with teachers and learners. In the days, weeks, and months ahead, we know our educators will continue to take this purpose to heart. They have simply gone above and beyond during this time.
Remote Learning Guidance
We recognize that the level of instruction for remote learning is not equivalent to what is taught in the traditional classroom setting. We need to be more sensitive than ever to the needs of our students and families. We recognize that parents and guardians are in charge of their children’s learning, and likely have less familiarity with content and pedagogical knowledge; thus, students have less explicit structure, support, and time for learning than they receive in a typical school day in our buildings. To that end, we share the following factors to keep in mind for this new model of education:
● Students are participating in self-directed learning in alternative educational settings with less structure, no teacher, and lots of other things happening in their lives.
● Parents/Guardians are not expected to take teachers places as instructors; parents may not know the content and even if they know the content, they may not know the pedagogy. For example, the elementary math we now teach is very different from the elementary math many of us learned.
● Parents/Guardians also may be juggling work or working from home, taking care of younger children or family members, or dealing with illnesses.
● Learning time will be significantly shorter, and we can expect that it will be reduced by at least half each day and week.
● We encourage educators to work together in teams and be mindful of the amount of work that is given to students and families.
● As educators plan and navigate the remote learning environment, we must keep in mind the most vulnerable populations. We are considering the needs of our students with disabilities, students for whom English is a second language, students who live outside of Bangor, students in single parent homes, students in families where both parents work outside the home, families with multiple siblings and limited or no devices, families with limited resources, etc. We have closely monitored our students’ situations and we know approximately 350 students do not have internet access and/or learning devices. Furthermore, we have not heard from a number of students and families since our buildings closed.
● If students become frustrated, please have them stop and take a break or move on to another activity. Wait until you have communication with the teacher, before having the student try the activity again.
Guidance for Remote Learning Activities:
● Learning activities should support reinforcement and practice of previously taught curriculum, and may also include enrichment activities.
● Activities should engage the independent learning level, and students should be able to work on those activities with minimal support from parents and caregivers.
● No summative assessments should be administered.
● Timewise, only plan for about half (at most) of what we would expect students to do if they were in class. Half a school day is the expectation.
● Parents should only be expected to provide the same level of support they would provide for homework and no more.
● Elaborate projects or materials (including devices, printers, apps, etc.) are not required.
● Assignments/activities should be given on a regular schedule, but new activities will not be given every day. Activities will most likely be sent once per week.
● Work will be graded and will count towards report cards. However, grading depending on the level will be: Pass with Distinction, Pass, Fail, or Incomplete or 4 Exceeds grade level expectations, 3 Meets grade level expectations, 2 Approaching grade level expectations, or 1 Not at grade level expectations at this time and Incomplete. More information will be sent next week about the specifics of grading for third and fourth quarter. The high school has created a comprehensive plan regarding graduation, class rank, and transcripts. This plan will be shared with high school students and parents next week.
● Regular communication with students helps maintain a sense of classroom community and is required daily. Communication may take many forms including group emails, written feedback on student work, or check-ins with students using a video chat platform or phone call.
The most important outcome is for students to feel cared for and supported by their teachers, and to be meaningfully engaged in learning activities for some portion of each day. We want teachers to continue to stay in touch with students and their families during this difficult time, providing guidance, support and encouragement along the way.
III. Technology Tools
Bangor educators have access to the entire suite of Google tools. Because these tools are regularly used with students when in our school buildings, many educators would like to use Google Classroom and other G Suite tools that are familiar. Additionally, for our younger students who may need families to share information with them, Google Sites or other website platforms are a great option to share activities and information for students and families. However, currently 350 students do not have internet access or devices. We are currently seeking funding and grants to purchase internet capable tablets to loan to these students. Once we have enough tablets for all students, we will move to implement online learning options. If you are or your company is able to donate to this effort, we would greatly appreciate your support. Please contact Emily at 992-4152 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
IV. Take Home Packets
We ask the two week take home packet work be returned in one of the following ways:
● Scan and email to the teacher.
● Take photos of the work and email to the teacher.
● Share with the teacher if you are unable to do one of these two options. Teachers will report numbers to principals and a plan will be shared with parents next week. Given what we know about surfaces and the danger of spreading COVID-19, we are researching best ways to handle the return of paper packets. This is also why we are moving away from packets to learning activities. We must keep all safe.