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Covid-19 Update 5.2.20

Dear Marshfield Families, Students & Staff,

 

Good afternoon.  I hope this finds you healthy and well.

 

As we wrap up another week of remote learning, I want to thank you, your children and our staff for embracing the remote learning plan we have had in place over the past seven weeks.  You have done so with a positive attitude and have worked collaboratively to meet the challenges that addressing a pandemic has had on our learning environment.

 

With the recent news that school closures would continue through the remainder of the school year, we, in conjunction with the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE), are looking at this next segment of remote learning as Phase 3 of the process.  

 

In Phase 1, DESE asked districts across the state to “prioritize the health, safety, and wellness of students, families, educators, and staff.”  With that being said, the focus of those initial weeks was on working to keep students engaged in the learning process  through a variety of online resources and activities that were more enrichment in nature.

 

As school closures were extended, Phase 2 commenced. In that phase, the Commissioner of Education asked that “districts support students to engage in meaningful and productive learning for approximately half the length of a regular school day.” They expected “this learning to take place via a combination of educator-directed learning and student self-directed learning.”  In addition, they (DESE) “strongly recommended that districts and schools focus on reinforcing skills already taught this school year and applying and deepening these skills.” 

 

In this next phase, the Commissioner has shared expectations that promote a more aggressive approach to teaching and learning where we are asked to:

 

  1. Further define the recommended elements of a quality remote learning program, including a focus on teaching the content standards most critical for student success in the next grade level.

  2. Encourage districts to move all students towards successful engagement in remote learning with a focus on addressing fundamental needs.

 

While this does not mean that all grade level standards will be able to be covered in this truncated school year, districts are being asked “to go further than they have before as we attempt to focus on prerequisite standards most critical to student success in the next school year.”

 

Another focus of this next phase is for districts to “continue to listen and learn from stakeholders’ experience(s) with remote learning.”  To that point, the district administered a family survey as well as a staff survey over the past few days.  That information will serve to be extremely beneficial as we continue to enhance our current remote learning plan.  Below is some early analysis from these surveys:


 

  • We had 1,221 family responses 

  • A majority of family responses indicated that students spend 1-2 hours per day on remote learning work (37%), followed by 2-3 hours per day (28%)

  • More than half of respondents felt that the amount of work being assigned was “just right” (a 3 on the 5 point scale)

  • Overall, half of the respondents felt that the amount of communication with teachers through bi-weekly check ins was “just right.”

  • With regards to the impact school closures are having on the emotional well-being of our students, we see that families have a consistent level of concern for their children’s social emotional health during the pandemic, with 71% of  respondents indicated their level of concern at a 3 or higher (where a 5 represents “very concerned” and 1 is “not concerned.).

 

  • When given the opportunity to express their thoughts about the hardest things about remote learning so far, families often used words like “juggle” and “balance.” Lack of accountability/structure as well as technology challenges and lack of “live” interaction with teachers were also mentioned by many families.

    • Motivating my child and balancing her needs with my other children's needs along with my own job responsibilities. 

    • A little bit of connection, a bit of normalcy is critical.  The lessons on Canvas are fine but they are missing that social aspect of learning. 

 

  • It was nice to see that when given the opportunity to express their thoughts about the best things about remote learning so far, many families mentioned teachers.

    • The best thing about it, is that teachers, families and students are still able to connect and communicate.

    • The teachers have been great about communication. We really appreciate their efforts to reach out to their students.

    • I’ve never felt closer to any of my son’s teachers.

    • The bi-weekly check ins - seeing the teacher makes my child light up and it means the world to him to feel like he is with her.

 

With regards to the staff survey, we learned that:

  • We had 400 responses- ~50% of total staff, approximately 87% of teachers (classroom, specialist, or special education) responded to the survey.

  • Staff was generally confident (average 3.8 out of 5) that students can complete the remote learning work that is being assigned.

  • More than half the respondents (57%) felt that the biweekly check-in provides just the right amount of communication with students.

  • Due to the separation from their traditional classroom environment, staff felt slightly less connected with their students (average of 3.0 out of 5, where a 5 is “strongly agree” than with their colleagues (average of 3.6 out of 5). 

  • Staff felt very supported overall by their administrators (average of 4.1 out of 5). 

  • More than half the respondents (58%) felt that they were receiving just the right amount of communication from the district.

 

  • When given the opportunity to express their thoughts about the hardest things about remote learning so far, staff also expressed the challenge of balancing work and family. Many teachers mentioned how much they miss their students and expressed a desire to have an opportunity for “live” interaction. Many teachers also discussed technology challenges.

    • The hardest part of remote learning is missing the daily interaction with my kids.

 

  • When given the opportunity to express their thoughts about the best things about remote learning so far, many teachers mentioned the support they have been given as we move into uncharted territory, and the opportunity to collaborate with their colleagues across the district. Teachers also expressed how happy they are when they are able to connect with students, and being impressed with how students are rising to the challenge.

    • My technology skills have improved somewhat , and it has also been nice to collaborate and get to know other elementary teachers in the district. 

    • Seeing how some students are more participatory and are performing better in an at-home learning scenario. It was surprising how many students who were struggling to keep pace with the curriculum took advantage of the fresh start with digital learning. 

 

The information gathered through these surveys, along with the recommendations passed down by the Commissioner of Education, puts the district in a better position to best revise our current Remote Learning Plan so as to be better coordinated with DESE’s expectations for the final six weeks of the school year.  

 

One area in particular that we have heard about revolves around live video chat.  While, for a variety of reasons, we have been hesitant to roll out live video communication, we fully understand that this is a strategy that can be beneficial when trying to engage our students.  We have spent time assessing what other districts have done with video chats and feel comfortable rolling out a version of it that will allow students and staff to communicate face-to-face and hopefully address some of the areas of social emotional well-being that were highlighted by both parents and staff.  

 

This synchronous form of communication will involve students and the educator interacting together in real-time using Canvas and Google Meet. The live, video chats also allow students to view and hear the same information from the educator at the same time, despite their physical separation. Likewise, synchronous practices will allow educators to physically see their students (albeit on the screen); to hear their questions, thoughts, and perspectives; to share their Marshfield Public Schools Remote Learning Plan; instructional expertise; and to assist students with misunderstandings or challenges.  While we add this synchronous form of communication to the weekly schedule, instructional lessons will continue to be presented and completed in an asynchronous fashion.

 

Information on how this form of communication will work is enclosed in the following link, Live Video Chat.  The document outlines directions on how to access Live Video Chat with your child’s teachers(s).  In addition, it contains expectations for student behavior in the Live Video Chat environment.  This plan will slowly roll out starting next week with some teachers delving into live video chats by Monday, May 4th.  The remainder will be up and running by May 11th. 

 

Specific information regarding how synchronous video will be implemented to augment supports for students with disabilities will be communicated to families in a separate correspondence early next week.  

 

If you agree to provide consent for your child to take part in these synchronous (live) video chats, you do not need to do anything further.  If you do not consent to your child taking part in this setting, please email your classroom teacher or your building principal so they can make note of your request.  

 

With regards to the curricular piece in Phase 3 of remote learning, our grade-level and department specific teams of educators and administrators have been working over the past week to review and identify the key standards for each grade level and discipline that will need to be addressed over the final two months of the school year.  Teachers and support staff will update lessons based on these standards and the pace of activities and lessons will increase slightly as we move forward.  This will ensure that we are better meeting the goals set forth by DESE.

 

With that being said, the basic structure for remote learning will remain the same at each level.  Lessons, materials and learning resources will be uploaded and accessed through Canvas in an asynchronous fashion.  In addition to the live video chats that will be added, the twice-weekly check-ins will continue to be part of the student/teacher communications.

 

As a reminder, the last day of remote classes is still June 17th.   MHS seniors will remain in session through May 22nd.  And while MHS families received a separate email concerning graduation plans, it is exciting to announce that the high school is planning on having their graduation ceremony on Friday, July 24th.  All end of the year dates are obviously subject to any directives from the Governor, but we are excited to have a “save the date” so we can aim for a proper celebration of our Senior Class.

 

In addition, the elementary conferences that were scheduled to take place on May 7th, have been moved to May 21st.  Parents will get an invite to sign up online as they did in March.  After a parent/guardian signs up for a specific time to “meet” with their teacher, they will in fact get a phone call from their teacher at the allotted time.  The FBMS will also have their conferences on May 14th, utilizing the same format.

 

I realize this is a rather lengthy communication but there was a great deal of information we wanted to share with our stakeholders.  As I noted at the beginning, I truly appreciate everyone’s willingness to embrace the district’s remote learning plans to date.  I understand the plan may not meet everyone’s expectations 100% of the time, but it has been rolled out in a way that attempts to meet the expectations from DESE while also meeting the needs of the whole child.  The teachers have worked hard to implement the current plan and we, as a team, will work even harder over the next six weeks to make sure this next phase has a positive impact on our students.

 

Thank you again for your patience and understanding.   Most importantly, as the stark reality of this pandemic continues to impact our community, I hope you all remain healthy and well.  

 

Sincerely,

 

Jeffrey W. Granatino

Superintendent

 
 
 
 
 
 
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