May 13, 2020
Dear PS 321 Families,
I’m thinking of all of you! I know what a challenging time this is, and once again I thank you for all that you are doing to help your children participate in remote learning—no easy task I know. Thank you so much for the absolutely magnificent staff appreciation video. I can’t begin to convey how much that meant to all of us. What a remarkable community this is!
I am working on setting up my virtual grade-by-grade parent meetings and will send links a couple of days before each meeting. I have scheduled them as follows: Kindergarten—Mon., 6/1, 4pm; 1st Grade—Tues., 5/19, 4pm; 2nd Grade—Thurs., 5/28, 4pm; 3rd Grade—Thurs., 5/21, 4pm; 4th Grade—Tues., 5/26, 4pm; 5th Grade—Wed., 5/27, 4pm. I will be holding these on Microsoft Teams. I will give a short presentation and then will open things up for questions, which you will be able to write in the chat. I will answer as many questions as I can and one of the assistant principals will help me review what is in the chat. We will record these meetings in case you cannot come to them at 4pm. I will answer questions I don’t get to in a follow up letter.
Thanks to those of you who have sent me questions in preparation for these meetings. Please feel free to continue to send them. Some of the questions you are asking I will not have answers to. In particular, no one yet knows what September holds. Whether we will be back in school, back in school with a modified schedule to be able to have social distancing, or whether we will continue with remote learning is still unknown. As soon as we know what is happening in September, we will let you know. But I think it is likely that it will be months before we have this information. I know how challenging this uncertainty is for all of us, staff, parents, and students. I assure you we will be planning for all possible eventualities.
You may recall that in June, we have traditionally held an “Open House” on the evening of our Pot Luck Supper where parents go into classrooms to see the work students have done. This is what we have done for the past few years for the DOE mandated spring parent engagement evening. Because we can no longer do this, and because you are well aware of the work your children are doing ☺ we have decided instead to offer parents the option of quick “check-ins” with the classroom teachers. If you have recently had a phone or video conference or IEP meeting with your child’s teacher, you do not need to sign up for one of these. However, teachers will reach out to parents giving you the option to sign up for a brief (10-minute) parent check-in over the next two weeks. As per the directive from the Department of Education, these check-ins will be part of the teachers’ school day and so may replace office hours on selected days. We want these conferences to focus on your child, on how he or she is doing emotionally and with remote learning. What have been the highlights and struggles? What kinds of supports do you and they need? This isn’t a time to talk about next year; questions about that are better left for my grade by grade parent meetings.
Although I will talk about this more in my grade-by-grade parent meetings, I do want to reassure you that we completely understand that children may not be making the same kind of progress they would have were they in actual school. They also will not necessarily behave in the same way with their parents as they do with their teachers! Learning at home under challenging conditions during a pandemic is very different from what we generally see at school. We understand that many children will need some extra emotional and academic support next year, whether we are learning in school or online or in a combination of the two.
As many of you have heard, the DOE has allowed us to now use Zoom on a special DOE Zoom platform. There are complications with this, including the fact that neither children nor staff will be able to log in using their Google Classroom Logins. We are spending this week testing the new system to see what it entails so that if teachers choose to use this platform, we will be able to give clear instructions to families about how to log on. Some teachers, who have managed to get Google Meets to work reasonably well, will stay with that platform. Others may decide to switch. We will get you this information as soon as we have it—hopefully by Monday.
I am thrilled that parents have organized a way for us to share the poems that children write this spring in a virtual “Pandamonium.” You will be getting detailed information on this from the PTA by Friday. Teachers will continue to teach children poetry and will give them some guidelines about submitting a poem for our virtual Pandamonium. Children, with guidance from teachers, will be asked to select one of the poems that they have written to submit and, with guidance from parents, will type this into a form you will be sent. Although older children should be able to handle this on their own, younger children will clearly need support from parents, and I thank you in advance for helping with this. We are asking that poems be submitted by May 29 so that our parent Pandamonium committee has time to review and organize the poems and get them online in the middle of June. Once this is all done, you will get information on how to find Pandamonium and you will be able to find poems by class and by grade.
I am looking forward to seeing many of you at my upcoming virtual meetings! Thanks for all you are doing to support your children and our school community!