The last few days I have been thinking quite a bit about our school motto: "Glory to God Alone, Always Faithful, So Others May Live." This social distancing is literally in order that others may live. My prayer for our school and each of our families is that God may be glorified through us as we navigate these challenging times. I'll admit, knowing how to be faithful as a school right now has been an exceptional challenge, but I have been thoroughly blessed by our teachers, pastors, and board members as we all work out how to approach distance education.
I apologize in advance for the length of this email, there is just so much to communicate! You may want to flag this or print it out for reference. I am also hoping to create some video tutorials to explain how to use the technology I'll be referencing below.
Guiding Philosophy We recognize that your family has suddenly been thrust into a new lifestyle and are each dealing with unique stressors that this pandemic has created. We want the items we roll out for distance education to be attainable for each of our students, not an additional source of anxiety for you as parents or for the students. At the same time, we want to ensure that students do not lose the knowledge and skills they have already obtained this year and even to (hopefully!) continue to gain new ones. Striking this right balance will be a challenge, but one we are committed to achieving. I have this vision of us in a bit of a marathon. Monday is our day to put on our running shoes, do a few stretches, and and get a mental sketch of the course. The rest of next week we are just starting a slow jog, getting a feel for the run and how it all is going to work. Perhaps in the weeks ahead, we will be able to pick up the pace or perhaps we will continue this whole season in a slow trot. Through regular check-ins, open communication, and patience with each other, we will prayerfully be guided by the Lord's wisdom as we improve and make further decisions.
Recognizing Math and Language Arts as the core subjects where regular practice is needed, these will be the first areas we focus on. We are aiming for three lessons a week in math for each grade and two to three Language Arts lessons (depending upon the grade). Additionally, very manageable Bible memory work will continue as well, to keep us firmly rooted together in God's Word. Finally, even though we don't currently have a formal PE or Art distance education plan, I hope you each make time throughout your days at home to be moving in the fresh air as well as time for drawing, coloring, or other artistic endeavors.
Practicalities Student Materials: Miss Ilic will be making deliveries Thursday or Friday of student materials. (As teachers have handled these items, they have taken abundant precautions by wearing gloves & masks.) Please don't be overwhelmed by the number of materials you receive. Some of the teachers have taken the approach to send home more than we are initially using, just in case we are able to add it in down the road. When you get these materials, just set them aside and wait further instruction from your teacher on Monday. :)
Assignments & Instruction: Each grade will have 3-5 video classes next week (15-40 minutes long) as well as some form of beginning week overview document/email from the teachers outlining the expectations for the week. These video classes are being scheduled in such a way that only one sibling in each family is having a video class at a time. The first video class on Monday is purely for the sake of testing the technology, reconnecting as classes, and touching base about everything. The staff will have daily "Office Hours" in which they will be available for phone calls, video chats, responding to questions on Slack (see below), in addition to being available for emails throughout the day/evening. Schedules of classes and "office hours" for next week will be provided to you by end of day tomorrow.
By first thing in the morning, you will receive an invite from me for two different programs: Slack and Zoom. Please create accounts in these. The teachers and I have been learning these programs ourselves and as I said, I am hoping a video tutorial will be coming very soon. But here are a few details:
Slack: This will be our primary platform--Zoom, the video conferencing software, integrates with it. In addition to being able to login from a standard web-browser, there is an app for your tablet or phone. Each family will share one account on Slack, regardless of the number of siblings.
Please set your Display name to your child's name or names, such as "Gwen" in a single child family or for siblings, "Abigail/Timothy."
On the left column, you will see "Channels." These are by class as well as grade. When you select one, think of this as sitting in your child's classroom. Everything that is typed is visible by all other classmate, the teacher, and myself. I am posting a calendar of scheduled video classes here and this will also be where you receive the invite for the video class.
Submitting Student Work: Students will continue to do work with paper and pencil (workbooks are coming in the materials being sent home). We are asking these to be submitted through the "direct message" feature on Slack as a PDF. I will send further instructions on how to do this as I am researching the best apps for using your phone as a scanner. The teachers will mark these PDF's and send them back to you through Slack.
Childcare for Essential Service Workers (ESW): Like all schools, ours will continue to provide childcare for children of Essential Service Workers. Essential Service Workers during this time are considered: health care workers, emergency responders, workers supporting vulnerable populations (e.g. social workers, income assistance workers), utilities workers, workers supporting key supply chain functions (e.g. grocery store workers, warehouse workers), teachers and childcare workers who do not have access to childcare and who are providing care or instruction to children of ESWs. If you fall into this category and are in need of supervision for your child during what would be regular school hours, please respond to this email with the days and times needed.
Please Note: Our standard sick policy for both children and adult supervisors is now amended to the official BC CDC guidelines. If anyone has any of the following symptoms: fever, sore throat, sneezing, or cough, they must self-isolate for 10 days or until the symptoms subside, whichever is later. Likewise, anyone who has traveled outside of Canada or been in close contact with a person with Covid-19 (probable or confirmed), must self-isolate for 14 days. A person in self-isolation is not allowed to come to school.
Given our need to have two adults present, and our small staff, I am also putting out a call for volunteers to assist in supervision of ESW's children in the event that two of the staff are not able to be present on any given day. Volunteers are allowed to bring their children, as they would then be considered an ESW. :) Mandated social distancing and increased cleaning and hygiene measures will be in place at all times individuals are in the school.
Concluding Comments: I know you probably still have a lot of questions. Feel free to send them to me...you may hear a lot of "I don't know yet..." sort of answers from me. But knowing what your questions are will help us to know aspects that need further consideration or better communication from us.
There is a concept in Classical Education known as "Schole" or "Restful" Learning. This is education that is more restful and contemplative, emphasizing deep, lasting learning. It is my prayer that this will be a season for all of our families to hit a stride in discovering how to do this well.
For now, let me leave you with this summary of what needs to be done in the upcoming days:
Action Points For You:
TODAY email firstname.lastname@example.org with your address for delivery of materials (I can't access your student records to get these as I am under my own self-isolation for mild symptoms);
When you receive the emails from me, set up Zoom & Slack accounts;
Review your children's schedule of video classes for next week;
Respond to this email if you are an essential worker or if you are willing to volunteer to provide childcare for essential workers' children;
Last but not least, seek to rest and enjoy family time as this is still Spring Break! :)