Dear Parents and Caregivers:
It has been awhile since I communicated directly with all of you. Things change quickly and I want to make sure that you are all in the loop. First, on behalf of all the staff, I want to thank you for being patient during these very difficult times. We had about 24 hours to move to a remote system of contact with our children and families. We started a little early, but probably not early enough. We have had to work out some of the kinks as we go forward. But you cooperation and support has been incredible. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I also want to take a moment to thank our SU Tech Team that has done excellent work in preparation for this eventuality and their work since the schools shut down. Their ticket load has more than doubled in the last couple weeks but they have handled it like they always do, with professionalism & persistence to help our teachers, students, and families. So, thank you Larry, David, Ryan, Jonathan, and Mike.
We have been in a maintenance of learning situation since we left on Monday, March 16th. We are almost two weeks into this maintenance mode. The Agency of Education (AOE) has instructed us to consider this a pilot period for school and family communication around academic maintenance and check-in systems for other emotional and social support. I think our principals and staff are trying to do just that. In general, I think it is going well. During this period we gave teachers directions to provide a certain amount of time for academic and social interaction. Simply put, at the K-8 level we are asking for 2 hours a day (30 minutes per core subject per day in Social Studies, Math, Science, and Language Arts). In some of our middle schools there will be an additional 30 minutes a day for Foreign Language. In K-8 there should be another 30 minutes for one of the "Specials" to interact (PE, ART, Music etc.) but we have asked that this contact be limited to exploration and creativity. Trying to get the students to engage in an outdoor activity, paint, draw, reflect, and generally the use of "right brain" activities. I think our specials are doing well with this. So, on average, combining both instructional activities and work completion, you should count on about 3 hours a day. We need to realize that all children work at a different pace, so how a family organizes the day is completely up to the family - keeping in mind that we do want students to attend Hangouts Meets or Zoom connections as they are offered.
In grades 9-12 we are asking for 45-60 minutes a day for the content areas (Foreign Language is included). The specials will provide those same right brain activities at this level as well. So, on average, you can expect around 4 hours of combined lesson and work load. Again, pace this out as your family sees fit. We understand the difficulty of childcare, work, and homeschooling. Be patient and keep the expectations reasonable. We have told all staff that the work that is produced now is maintenance and there should be no connection to a student's grade. This maintenance period is about school and home connection. We want interaction, engagement, and communication. We are keeping logs. We will certainly be concerned if we have not had any contact. If we have that happen, we will use other means to reach the families. Check-ins are critical. It may seem like we are intrusive, but we need to keep in touch throughout this period.
Last night the Governor announced the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order for all non-essential workers. This is tentatively through April 15th. So, it does not take rocket science to see that we will be out of school at least through April break (April 20th). My decision is to stay in this maintenance mode until that date. We are told that the AOE will require what they are calling a "Continuity of Learning" mode after that. This should begin on April 20th if we are not back in school. We will send out more information about this as we get direction from the AOE. To be clear, April vacation (April 13-17) will be a "typical" vacation for students and teachers in atypical circumstances. So, do not expect check-ins or new assignments assigned during that week.
Food Service operation is running well. I want to thank all of our volunteers and our Essential Food Service workers for their heroic work. We are serving over 600 children a day in our communities. We will continue to serve as long as the Governor and the state allows. We are looking at some minor changes if we go past the 20th, but we will keep you posted. I know that some of our kiddos and parents have said that this delivery is the highlight of the day. It is heartwarming to say the least.
We have also been tasked with providing childcare for other Essential Workers. Angie Ladeau and Jenn Sprague have been working on this. Thankfully, most of our families have worked it out. But we do have some children that need care. The AOE has suggested that we partner with local childcare providers to offer this care. We are not required to set up our own childcare center at this point. I think the Governor and the AOE realized that school districts simply could not do that task and stay committed to Stay Home, Stay Safe order. Further, schools have not been tasked with childcare in the past. So let the experts in the community do what they do best. Over the next couple of days Angie and Jennifer will be placing students who need care. I thank them for taking on this enormous task and we thank our parents for being so cooperative in this area. If an Essential Worker can handle their own care that is best. It is safer and it does not tax the system. That being said, we know there are legitimate requests out there and we will make every attempt to honor those requests.
One final announcement - it should go without saying, but all Parent Conferences next week are cancelled. We know that you are keeping in touch with staff and we want that to continue during this period.
In closing, I just want to acknowledge that we are in uncharted waters. We have never seen a school shut down like this. It appears that, at the very least, we are out until April 20th. But, I think we should all get psychologically and mechanically ready for a longer period of time. We will be working tirelessly on the mechanical side. Our priority remains the safety and well-being of all our students and families. We miss our kids. We miss our families. You remain in our thoughts and prayers as we navigate these difficult times. I am proud to be serving in Windsor Southeast. These communities have gone well beyond the call of duty. Our school staff has stepped up. I am so proud of each and every one of them.
We will be in touch regularly and please follow the Governor's directive to Stay Home and Stay Safe.
Dr. David Baker
Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union
P.S. Here are some resources you may want to visit during this time: