UPDATE—April 4, 2020
In this letter:
- Guidelines for the next 10 weeks
- Weekly schedule
- Parent/Teacher Conferences
- Grading and report cards
- Dates for Virtual Coffees with the Head
- Questions for Carrie Berkley
- Item pickup (only if you really need to)
- A final note
- Reminders from previous updates
To our Emerson families,
Just a few days ago, Governor Whitmer directed all schools in the state to remain closed for on-campus instruction for the remainder of the school year. At Emerson, we’ve been anticipating that this would be the case, and we have spent time over the course of our Spring Break to plan for the remaining 10 weeks of school, determining how we may best provide remote and online instruction for our students.
Guidelines for the next 10 weeks
As we look ahead to these upcoming 10 weeks, I ask that you think about them not as one large block of the same structure, but as 10 iterations of our instructional model. Each week, we’ll be reflecting on what has worked best and what we might adjust in order to support your child’s needs. We’ll be making changes and adjustments as we go, and as new and innovative models are developed, we’ll be adding these into the mix. I fully expect that our methods of instruction will look different in June than they do in April.
Let’s also all take some time to recognize that this will be hard for all members of our community. First, our students are looking for stability and security in a time when we are grappling with global instability and insecurity. Our families are trying to balance both work and family needs, uncertain as to what will come in the months ahead. In particular, those parents who serve in the medical community are on the front lines of slowing the spread of this virus, and the additional challenge of managing their children’s remote learning may be too much at the present. Finally, our teachers are creating completely new methods of instruction, all the while supporting their own families and tending to their own health. None of this is easy.
If we’re going to succeed as a community, we will need to embrace Emerson’s core values, especially empathy and resilience. To that end, I put forth these guidelines, with the goal of ensuring we remain strong together in the face of uncertainty:
- As we seek to deliver on our mission, know that it will look and feel differently than it has in the past. Stay flexible and lean into any discomfort that you may feel, because this isn’t school the way we experienced it when we were growing up. It’s not even school the way we experienced it a month ago! Trust that our teachers are first and foremost seeking to do what’s best for our students. This also means giving time for our faculty to refine our methods of instruction over these coming months. It also means recognizing that a model that works in one grade will look different in another grade.
- The faculty have been examining their curriculum to consider what’s most important and what’s best achieved using remote and online learning. They will be monitoring current skills as well as introducing new ones as is appropriate for each child’s needs. Be assured that we will prepare each child for a successful transition to the following year’s grade. We will ensure that grade-to-grade continuity is well achieved.
- Our teachers will be laser-focused on meeting each child’s needs, but they also need the time to develop these new ways of teaching, as well as care for their own health and the health of their families. Do allow teachers the usual 24 hours to respond to emails sent outside of typical school hours. We want to ensure that remote and online learning is sustainable for everyone.
- In the span of a typical school year, concerns will come up as a matter of course, and typically we would encourage you to talk to the teacher first. However, as we try to get a global picture of how our new methods are working, the Division Directors and I would like you to redirect your communications. To the greatest extent possible, direct overarching questions or concerns you might have to Lower School Director Jen Kime, Middle School Director Andy Zimmer, and me. Please reserve emails to teachers to be student-focused questions. And when in doubt, please copy the Division Director on your email to the teacher.
I thank you in advance for your support in these areas, and I remain confident in our ability to pull together in uncertain times.
Our division directors will be communicating with you to provide details about the coming weeks’ plans for continuing to deliver remote and online learning. This will include expectations of how much time students will be online in a given day. As a school, we are planning for the following:
- All students in all grades will have daily two-way interactions with their teachers. This can include personalized check-ins (video, email, etc.), group instruction, etc. This will look different between grades and specials, but all students will have a direct connection with their Emerson teachers.
- Starting on Monday, April 13, we are planning for Mondays to be used for whole-child and community structured activities, including electives, specials, and engaging events. We are also investigating with ESPO the opportunity to hold parent-led “social hours” on Mondays. With this structure, homeroom and subject classroom teachers will have time for planning, grading, team meetings, and communications to families. Tuesdays through Fridays will be used for teacher/student time and planned student work time.
Again, as shared above, we’ll refine this weekly schedule to ensure that it is working well for students, families, and faculty alike.
In order for us to maintain attendance records over these weeks, we ask that families notify us if your child is sick or cannot take part in remote and online learning that day. Please email the classroom teacher (Lower School) or teacher/advisor (Middle School), as well as Lower School Office Manager Christy Loewen (Lower School) or Middle School Office Manager Beth Muszkiewicz (Middle School).
In Lower School, our homeroom teachers will be reaching out to you directly to schedule mutually agreeable times. Note that these times will vary teacher-to-teacher, as some may wish to hold them in the evenings or weekends, depending upon their family schedules. The goal will be that these take place in the next three weeks, concluding around April 26. These meetings should be roughly 20 minutes in length, and can take place either by phone or by Zoom video conference. Specials teachers will not be planning conferences with all families, but if you wish to request one, please contact the teacher directly to request one.
In Middle School, instead of the usual rotation of core classroom teachers, we will first be asking our advisors to gather information from their colleagues. Once that is done, advisors will reach out to families to arrange mutually agreeable times. As with Lower School, these times will vary, and some may hold them on evenings or weekends. Advisors will reach out to parents starting Monday, April 13, and the goal will be to complete these by April 26.
We are also planning to offer additional parent/teacher conferences later in the school year for those who would like to take part.
Grading and report cards
In the Lower School, our teachers will continue to use the same skill sets as before. If a teacher does not feel that they can accurately assess a particular skill, they will use the label “N/A”, short for either “not applicable” or “not assessed.” We will also have a final trimester narrative in the report card.
In the Middle School, we will be using “credit” or “no credit” for each class as a default assessment. Students will continue to receive rich feedback and comments on their completed work, and teachers will continue to evaluate for comprehension and mastery. At the conclusion of the trimester, if a student or family wishes to know what letter grade would be received for a course, they may request this instead. It will be offered on an A/B/C/D/F system (no plusses or minuses), and the student or family may select as desired for each class (e.g., letter grade in science, credit/no credit in Latin, etc.). More information about our grading structure can be found in Mr. Zimmer’s Middle School update.
Dates for Virtual Coffees
Please mark your calendars for the following Virtual Coffees with the Head and Division Director:
- Monday, April 6
○ 2 pm-3pm Kindergarten parents
○ 3 pm-4 pm 1st grade parents
- Tuesday, April 7
○ 2 pm-3 pm 2nd grade parents
○ 3 pm-4 pm 3rd grade parents
- Wednesday, April 8
○ 2 pm-3 pm 4th grade parents
○ 3 pm-4 pm 5th grade parents
- Thursday, April 9
○ 2 pm-3 pm 6th grade parents
○ 3 pm-4 pm 7th grade parents
- Friday, April 10
○ 2 pm-3 pm 8th grade parents
These will be held via Zoom video conferencing. All participants are asked to use video for these. Invitations and instructions will be sent out to each grade tomorrow.
Questions for Carrie Berkley
School Counselor Carrie Berkley will be taking questions about how to support your child and your families in these emotionally turbulent times. Please complete the attached form to submit your question. She’ll stream two talks for interested families:
- Monday, April 13
○ 2 pm-3 pm Lower School parents
○ 3 pm-4 pm Middle School parents
Item pickup (only if you need to)
Given the severity of this virus as well as the Governor’s stay-at-home orders, we want to discourage anyone from venturing out if it’s not critical. Additionally, we are not welcoming visitors onto campus, so that we may keep it clean and disinfected. That said, should you have a crucial need to pick up an item that cannot easily be replaced in these upcoming months (such as a musical instrument or athletic equipment), please email Buildings & Grounds Manager Ted Steinbach at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a time for pickup outside of the building. Otherwise, we will hold off on gathering desk and locker contents until later in the calendar year.
A final note
The strength of the Emerson community is what will best ensure our students’ growth and success. Although the conditions have changed dramatically, we are fortunate to have outstanding resources in our faculty and our families, thus allowing us not just to persevere, but to thrive. We are well-positioned to do right by our children, and we will do right by them.
Head of School
Reminders (summarized from prior communications):
Students, please write to Mr. Huber
Please encourage your children to write to me directly and send their notes and drawings. Please send them to the address shared earlier, or look me up in the RenWeb family directory.
Extension of disenrollment deadline.
We are offering the option to extend your disenrollment deadline to Monday, June 1st @ 3 pm. For families planning to return, no action is required. For those who wish to extend their disenrollment deadline, please email me directly by Friday, April 10.
Health updates and notifications
At the time of this writing, the Emerson community has not received any information of a student, family member, or employee who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Should anyone in your household receive a positive diagnosis of COVID-19, I ask that you share this information with me directly. The community member’s name will not be shared publicly, unless the individual wishes me to share it. Your privacy and confidentiality will be respected. In the event that I receive news of any community member (employee, student, family member) who has been positively diagnosed, I will notify the community with a general alert, providing qualifications that may help your family determine potential contact, but not providing the person’s identity (unless otherwise permitted by the individual).
Families in need
Counselor Carrie Berkley is serving as point person to help direct attention to those in need. If you, or someone you know, needs help, please email Carrie at email@example.com .
Please email Technology Coordinator Renee Durrant at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, you can leave a voicemail with Renee at 734-665-5662, ext. 346.
Internet connectivity issues
You can leave a voicemail with Lower School Office Manager Christy Loewen at 734-665-5662, ext. 307, or Middle School Office Manager Beth Muszkiewicz at ext. 301.
Faculty illness or connectivity communication
Our faculty have been advised to contact the appropriate Division Director, who will then seek to let families know. Should we have broader internet access difficulties, I will use the RenWeb alert system.
Teacher-led meetings or practices outside of school
We will not be leading, holding, or scheduling student group practices of any sort.
8th grade graduation
We will have a graduation for our 8th graders. We may need to change the date or the format, but all of our 8th graders should plan for graduation.