March 27, 2020
Dear PS 321 Families,
I hope that you and your families are staying healthy and managing in this unprecedented time. It is hard to believe that it has been just a week since I last wrote you, as it feels like ages ago. So much has happened in this past week.
I want to acknowledge that we know how challenging it is for you to be confined to homes with young children, in many cases still expected to do your full-time job remotely. In addition, we’re all worried about the health and safety of ourselves and our loved ones, and some are worried about financial security as well.
We are trying our best to give some structure to your children’s days. All of our classroom teachers have posted daily schedules and are providing opportunities for their students to see them twice a day for about a half hour at a time (either in real time sessions via Zoom or Google Meet or in a video). In addition, our teachers have posted two hours of “office hours,” which are times they are interacting with students. These will vary class by class and could include time that teachers are answering questions on their Stream, giving feedback to students on work submitted on the Classwork part of the platform, holding one-on-one scheduled phone or Zoom conferences with children, or teaching small groups through Google Meet or Zoom. During the times that teachers are not interacting with students, they are answering parent emails, attending virtual IEP meetings and trainings, reading student submissions, and designing and posting new videos and assignments. Within these guidelines, there will be some variety from class to class, just as there is in “real” school.
I realize that some families would like more online time with teachers and some are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of time children are being asked to be sitting in front of a screen or doing work. We are doing our best to provide as much teaching, work, and feedback as we can while also respecting that, given very different family situations, not everyone will be able to do it. For families where you feel you cannot keep up with the work or the screen time, that is fine. We are in a crisis that is getting worse, and parents and children’s mental and physical health is a lot more important than any assignment we give. For many children, doing assignments and connecting with classmates and teachers is helpful and comforting, and we will continue to provide ways to do this. But, please do not feel that your child will be penalized if you cannot. If you are unable to do the work provided, I encourage you to make sure your child keeps reading, does some daily writing, and if possible, does some math work, Hopefully, they will also have time to play and interact on the phone or online with friends and family. Reading aloud to children and talking to them is also very valuable.
As I’m sure most of you understand, this transition to remote teaching and learning has been a monumental task for most teachers and administrators, particularly in a school where very few of us have ever used Google Classroom before. We are all learning it in a crash course at the same time that we are using it with students. Under normal conditions, this would be a months-long transition, but we know that these are not normal conditions. Even our most tech savvy teachers have reported feeling that this is the most challenging teaching they have ever done. Every teacher feels like a first-year teacher, since this is all so new. That said, we’re all learning how to do this more effectively. We’re trying to work out any glitches and also to share best practices among staff members. There is a tremendous amount of collaboration happening that we know will have a positive impact on remote learning as we move forward.
We also are recognizing that we need to do more explicit teaching to children about how to use some of the functions we want them to use, and, especially in the case of older children, to help them work more independently. We anticipate that the longer we do this, the better we will get at it. Our technology teacher, Sara Silver, has been providing fantastic support to teachers, and she is now spending time making some student-facing videos that teachers will link you to as they become available.
For parents who would like more resources for their children, we will be sending many supplemental links to families, as a huge number of educational companies are offering free access during this crisis. I would also highly recommend that for those who want more, you go to schools.nyc.gov/learnathome. Also remember to log into your child’s specialty teachers’ Google Classrooms (art, music, library, science, physical education, movement) as there will be lessons and suggested activities there as well.
For children with IEPs and English Language Learners, we are continuing to provide mandated services to the best of our abilities within the context of a virtual classroom. Children who get these services have been contacted by related service providers and intervention teachers to work out individualized programs. In addition, there are Google Classrooms for English as a New Language, Counseling, Occupational & Physical Therapy, and Intervention. And in ICT classes, the teachers will continue to provide modified support for children who need it. All families are welcome to access the PS 321 Counseling page for resources. The code is 46jpwqh.
Although many of our teachers are working very long hours, as I’m sure you know, they are not mandated to work after school hours or on weekends. So, if you reach out during those times, you may not hear back for a while. And, spring vacation is coming up, from April 9-17. Teachers will not be teaching during this time. Because we understand that it will be a challenge for families who will be home with children during vacation, I have asked one of our support teachers to prepare a list of suggested activities—ones you can do offline and online—and we will send that to you before vacation.
So many of you have reached out with supportive emails, and we so appreciate that. In cases where you have concerns, I would ask you to voice them respectfully, assuming good intentions on the part of all of us. We will assume the same of you! For technology issues, please contact Nuri Bey at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can always reach out to me at Lphilli@schools.nyc.gov. Other important contact information: parent coordinator Deb Orr, email@example.com; assistant principal Beth Handman, Bhandman@ps321.info; assistant principal Sara Despres, Sdespres@ps321.info; assistant principal Liz McCormack, Emcormack@schools.nyc.gov.
Hoping that you and your families are staying healthy. I miss all of you and wish you the best during this challenging time
P.S. Some important DOE Resources for Families:
If you continue to need a device for online learning, please call 718-935-5100 (option 5) to request a device from central DOE. You can also go to www.coronavirus.schools.nyc/remotelearningdevices and complete a form. You will need the school address and your child’s OSIS (student ID) number. Go HERE for more info. You can also email me as it may be possible to get you a device from PS 321, but we are not yet sure we will be able to do this, so please also contact the DOE.
If you are having difficulty with internet access, we will be posting information about this on our website (www.ps321.org) as there is a lot of detailed information on various companies offering free internet access.
If you believe you may be eligible to send your child to a Regional Enrichment Center, designed mainly for children of first responders and health care workers, go to https://www.schools.nyc.gov/enrollment/enrollment-help/regional-enrichment-centers.
And, all school-age children, PreK-grade 12, are eligible to pick up three grab and go meals per day from various sites from 7:30-1:30. To find the site nearest you, go to https://www.schools.nyc.gov/school-life/food/free-meals.