Dear SDFAS Community,
This week’s Sunday noon update is presented as a Q&A in response to inquiries we’ve received from the SDFAS community over the past few weeks.
When will campus re-open?
We know everyone wants to get back to school life on campus as soon as possible. The reality is that we do not know when that will be yet. For now, we expect we’ll be away from campus and in distance learning mode until at least Monday, April 27, following Spring Break. According to the media and public health experts, the stay-at-home order and physical distancing requirement could last longer. The school will, as always, prioritize health and safety over everything else.
What if my child has left something essential to their learning at school?
Why is the distance learning program structured differently than school on campus?
Best practices in distance learning call for an educational model that:
(1) is structured in a way that has less “live” face time with students than in a classroom environment;
(2) has periods of live classwork and periods of self-study, where students are expected to work on their own or with peers on assigned tasks. The length and frequency of each varies according to grade;
(3) does demand more autonomy and time management from students, supported with oversight by parents.
We recognize that it takes some time for students, faculty and parents to adapt to new learning habits and routines. And we know that all of this feels different and involves patience and significant adjustments.
How did the first week go?
From the faculty and administrative perspective, it was a huge effort to move an entire school, rapidly and with little notice, to distance learning. We are all continuing to learn, adapt and improve based on feedback. Teachers are working to simultaneously plan and design lessons as they build experience in remote teaching. I am proud of all of the teachers, students and parents for what everyone has been able to accomplish in the context of the school’s rapid transition to distance learning. The overall satisfaction level indicated by the first survey, based on a 48% response rate, was an admirable 3.7 out of 5 overall. The divisional satisfaction levels came in right around “4” in Middle School and Elementary School and just shy of 3 in the Pre-Elementary. We will continue to work on improving the distance program and satisfaction levels.
What were the key learnings from the first distance learning survey?
Feedback from the first survey was very helpful. As a result, in PreK and K we’ve added short live Zoom sessions, integrated more pre-recorded audio and video and worked as much as possible using Seesaw. All this while allowing flexibility for parents or caretakers to choose the best times to engage their children in activities at home. In Elementary, we learned that distance learning will improve in effectiveness as students, parents and teachers become more proficient with the new digital tools, and as we at school work to refine teacher – student and teacher – parent communication. More consistent routines will also bring added clarity and comfort to students as concerns the work online and tasks to they are expected to complete on their own. In Middle School, we learned that whilst different timetables and structures are possible, students benefit most when there is a stable process and we make incremental improvements.
How often will SDFAS survey the community?
We will conduct a short community survey each week to understand our overall progress. Please click here for this week’s quick 2-question survey, now open until 12 noon tomorrow Monday, March 30. Division Directors and the Head of School also continue to be available by email or Zoom to hear feedback you would like to share. The school will continue to integrate your feedback into refinements and enhancements of the distancing learning program.
Who will monitor online etiquette?
All of us… Please, everyone, students, parents, teachers and staff, an important reminder to us all to uphold the value of proper etiquette online. This is a time to highlight the role of integrity in our distance learning lives. The words we choose to speak and write matter. And in a digital format they are recorded forever and impossible to truly delete. Let us each do our part to uphold for our children and ourselves a high behavioral standard. A community-wide priority must be ongoing attention at home and in “class” to the safe and appropriate academic use of digital tools. We each must contribute, and especially during this period of distance learning, to using digital tools and spaces online to create and sustain a welcoming, inclusive and supportive school community. At this time more than ever, sustaining a positive learning culture is everyone’s responsibility.
Is there a place online for Parent-to-Parent support?
Yes. From the school’s dedicated SDFAS Covid-19 webpage, click on SDFAS Parent Connect. We encourage people to post in the parent connect forum to view resources, participate in conversations, and support and help each other.
How are the teachers coping in these exceptional circumstances?
It is a huge change and the teachers have risen tirelessly to the challenge. The school recognizes the extra strain on the teachers and teaching assistants. Certainly Friday’s “rest day” was very welcome. For teacher workload to remain manageable, we do need healthy parameters for teacher availability as teachers obviously need some personal time. Our expectations are that teachers are available to students and parents from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm and that emails will receive a response within twenty-four hours. They are fully invested in making distance learning successful in these extraordinary circumstances.
Will faculty and staff continue to be paid during the crisis?
Yes, absolutely. We want to acknowledge the extra efforts the faculty are making at this time. Preparation and delivery of an enriching daily distance learning education is in many ways more work and more tiring than on-campus teaching and learning. Our teachers are up early and staying up late all the while, like everyone, juggling their own family responsibilities. At SDFAS, we have an “all-hands-on-deck” approach. In addition to the faculty, all staff and employees are supporting the effort, hosting live Zoom sessions in PreK and K starting this week, providing distance learning center support, taking on new roles assisting teachers and administrators, and pitching all the time as needed.
We wish all of our families the very best during these most unusual of circumstances.
Be well everyone, be in touch,
Mark Rosenblum, Head of School and the SDFAS Covid-19 Emergency Response Team