Q: Please explain why [the current student day] should not resemble a daily school schedule. Many kids need the structure or they become unproductive.
A: We generally agree with the statement that structure is helpful to many students. When in school, the student day is structured in terms of how students move from one subject or class to another. And to the extent practical, we encourage students (with whatever support parents are able to provide) to structure their days so they are focused on different subjects at different times. For reasons explained below, it’s not effective for teachers to attempt to structure the day remotely for their students.
Whether in school or at home, we believe that students should be active in their learning. They must practice skills and receive regular feedback from teachers. When school is in session, we don’t want our students to be listening to their teachers for large chunks of the school day. Whole class, direct instruction is purposeful, targeted, and leaves extended time for practice and feedback.
While schools all around the country (and the world) are learning through this imposed distance learning experience, there is growing agreement that direct instruction is often better offered through asynchronous methods (meaning they are accessible whenever students need them rather than at a single, pre-determined time) than through synchronous methods (such as live videoconferencing). Recorded video or narrated PowerPoints, as just two examples, allow a student to watch the instruction repeatedly and to return to it while practicing the skills. Live videoconferencing is more effective for one-to-one or small group feedback and/or Q & A sessions, and for the important maintaining of social/emotional connections. Of course, best practices also vary by grade level and by discipline.
We also believe (and there’s growing research to support this) that to require students to be on their computers and on videoconferencing software for extended hours each day is both educationally ineffective and potentially harmful to mental health.
In addition to the above, there are practical matters such as the very varied access to computer resources (and even WI-FI capabilities) in different households that make the idea of daily class schedules at home unlikely. These are just some of the reasons that we have chosen not to attempt to run a remote school day schedule that resembles the in-school schedule. Having said that, we do expect our instructional strategies to continue evolving with time.
We hope families are taking advantage of the resources on our website (They are continually evolving). The site already includes resources for parents on how to use and navigate some of the digital tools our teachers and students are using.
Q: Can parents be reimbursed for school supplied we purchase at home?
A: The short answer to this one is “No.” The use of public school funds is governed by various, audited State and Federal regulations that do not allow us to reimburse parents for these expenses. Even in these extraordinary times, we’re not aware of any relaxing of these regulations that might allow for such reimbursement. We do hope, however, to be able to open schools in the future so that students can retrieve (and use in the future) any supplies they or their families may have previously purchased for use in school.
Q: Why are there so many different software platforms being used by teachers and can their use be streamlined to make life easier for students and parents?
A: We acknowledge that there are a variety of platforms and that, in terms of ease-of-use in the current situation, this is not ideal for students or parents. This is a reflection of where we were and of some of our values prior to the closing. With intention, we were not a 1 to 1 district (meaning we had not committed to providing individual computers for every student to carry with them throughout the school day and to home). Districts that had made that commitment were more likely to have universal platforms (known as Learning Management Systems – LMS’s) that are proving to have some ease-of-use benefits during this crisis.
When it became clear that we would be closing, we focused our professional learning on the various platforms we already owned. Many of our teachers were already using these platforms to varying degrees, and given the short time frame, increasing their skill and comfort level with these known and vetted platforms seemed the best way to go.
Transitioning to a new LMS for an entire district is a major undertaking requiring research, financial commitment, technological implementation, and staff training that this recent transition did not allow. We are, however, already considering such a transition for the future, anticipating that this may not be the last school year in which we find ourselves needing to provide distance learning.
Q: Is it OK if my child isn’t focused on schoolwork throughout the hours of the regular school day?
A: Yes. Please remember that while children are in school, socializing, playing, and eating are vital parts of each and every day. The same is true at home, particularly during stressful times. Please encourage your child to spend some time outside each day, safely of course. Breaks, exercise, and food are all incredibly important. I hope your children are finding ways to socialize with their friends, remotely.
Q: Why Pass/Fail? This seems to me unnecessary and, more importantly, problematic for students who are striving for their best grades for college applications.
A: We have not yet announced how we will handle final grades for the year, and it is only final grades that colleges see. We have, however, announced that grades for 3rd trimester at JJMS and 4th quarter at JJHS will be Pass/Fail. Our decision is in line with schools in our region and nationally. It is also in line with recommendations from various groups that focus on the mental health of students. There are multiple factors behind the decision, including the following: 1) There is no way for us to know the circumstances in each individual household in which students are attempting to learn (the playing field is not level), 2) The instruction we’re offering is not and cannot be equivalent to the instruction offered when school is open, so why would the grading scale remain the same, 3) We have no desire to add to the stress many students are already feeling due to the global pandemic, and 4) Many (if not most) colleges have already indicated their understanding of K-12 schools needing to revise their grading systems at this time and many (if not most) of those colleges have revised their own grading systems, many switching to pass/fail or some version thereof.
In the meantime, I ask all our families to keep encouraging your children to take their schoolwork as seriously as the situation at home allows. Students should be doing their best to keep up with assignments and doing them to the best of their ability. At the same time, let’s help them maintain a healthy balance and perspective. They should be getting plenty of rest, eating well, taking breaks, and enjoying time with their families.
scheduling, next year
Q: When will schools reopen for students?
A: We don’t know. Most recently, Governor Cuomo has extended the closing of all schools in NYS until at least May 15. He further announced that he will reassess again before that date to determine if a longer closing is necessary. Our teachers are prepared to continue distance learning for as long as necessary. We miss our students and hope to see them again soon.
Q: Will new material be re-taught when students return to school?
A: Whenever we return to school, whether that’s later this spring or next fall, our first priority will be to assess the current status of student knowledge and learning. There will be no assumption that classes can simply begin where they normally would. Student’s skills and levels of understanding will be assessed, curriculum will be modified, and instruction will move forward to best support all students from wherever they are at the point of return.
School meals, Childcare for Healthcare workers, Facilities, Board of Education,
Q: Is the School District providing meals for students while closed?
A: Yes. Grab and Go lunches and snacks are distributed on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays at the entrance to John Jay High School from 11:30 to 1:30. On those days, enough meals are provided to last for the period between each distribution day. Please contact Andy Waild at the Katonah-Lewisboro Food and Nutrition Office at 914-763-7308 with any questions. Please check our website for changes and updates.
Q: Are Board of Education meetings happening while school is closed?
A: Yes, our Board still needs to conduct business important to the running of our District. Meetings are happening remotely and are still being publicly advertised in the same manner as our traditional meetings. Community members are welcome to watch our meetings via Zoom and will have the ability to submit questions to our BOE. More information can be found here on our Board of Education website.
Q: Is the District providing childcare to the children of essential workers (such as health care workers and first responders).
A: The District is working to make this childcare available and expects to have its program up and running soon. If you think you may be eligible for this program, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. In the email, please provide your name, the names and ages of the children you plan to register, the days and hours you anticipate needing childcare, your employer, and a way for us to verify your employment.
Q: Are the school’s outdoor facilities open while school is closed?
A: We have tried hard to stress the importance of social distancing in light of the current health crisis. As a result, our fields, tracks, playgrounds, and courts are closed for as long as our schools remain closed.
State tests, SAT and Act
Q: What is happening with State Tests this year?
A: All NYS State tests, including Regents Exams, have been cancelled for this year.
Q: What is happening with AP exams and SATs this year?
A: The College Board is maintaining a comprehensive website with information regarding all the necessary changes for this year. It can be found here.
Q: What about ACT exams?