October Updates

Dear EVCS Families,

I hope everyone is doing well and getting used to the new routines in this unusual school year. A few brief announcements as we head into our week.

This Wednesday at our Parent Association meeting there will be an election for the two open seats on the School Leadership Team (SLT). Our SLT has twelve members – six parents and six staff. Each member serves a two-year term, and the terms are staggered so each year we welcome new parent and staff members to the team. We meet once a month for two hours to discuss a wide range of topics related to school – everything from academic and social-emotional learning to school culture and parent involvement. We look at our school data to identify trends and look for disproportionality, and we create surveys and evaluation tools to check in on how things are going. We also work together at the beginning of every school year to develop annual goals that make up the heart of an important document called the Comprehensive Education Plan (CEP). The School Leadership Team is one of the most important ways that parents are involved in the life of our school – I hope you will consider running!

Though it seems like we just got started, we are somehow approaching the end of the first quarter and so there will be an opportunity to switch learning preferences from fully remote to blended learning at some point next month. The DOE had originally scheduled the enrollment period for the second quarter to be the last week of October, and the first day of the new quarter to be November 16. Given that we had a delayed opening it seems likely that these dates will also be pushed back a bit, but I want to make sure it’s on everyone’s radar. Our numbers in the first quarter have supported a 2-cohort model for blended learning, where each student who comes to school in person is able to come on half the days. If our numbers swing dramatically in either direction in the next quarter we will adapt our model to accommodate the preferences in our school. It’s going to be a lot to reprogram the school each quarter – and for families to potentially have to adjust to new schedules – but being adaptive and flexible is clearly the name of the game this year. As I know more information about the timeline and process for switching learning preferences I will surely let everyone know.

Also, please don’t forget that next week we are having picture days for all of our students in the Tree of Knowing Garden. Cohort B students will have their photos taken on Monday October 26 and Cohort A students will have their photos taken on Tuesday October 27. Cohort D students will have appointment slots on both of those days. If your child is learning fully remotely you can sign up for an appointment here. And please note that on Election Day, November 3, everyone will be learning remotely! Please look out for information from your child’s teacher about schedules for Election Day.

Take care everyone, stay safe and be well.

Bradley

Covid-19 Testing Consent Form


Important information for all Blended Learners

Dear EVCS families,

Today I am writing about an important element of our health and safety work: testing our students and staff for COVID-19. Keeping school buildings open depends on helping us stay aware of and take immediate action to address COVID-19 concerns in our buildings.

The Department of Education has partnered with multiple city agencies to arrange for the testing of students and staff for COVID-19 infection. These partners will test a randomly selected group of staff and students in schools once per month – approximately 20% of our school building will be selected each month. The test is easy, quick, and safe. Instead of the “long swab” that goes in the back of the nose, this test is a short, small swab (like a Q-Tip) that goes just in the front of the nose. Whenever possible, students will self-administer the test. And later this school year, it is possible that tests will be administered by collecting a small amount of saliva (spit).

But in order for us to administer a COVID-19 test to your child, we need your consent. We strongly encourage you to return the consent form as soon as possible. All in-person students will bring home a paper consent form after their next day of in-school attendance. Please check your child’s backpack this week and then sign the form and return in your child’s backpack.

You may have further questions, so in the below letter from NYC, there is an attached Frequently Asked Questions document. Please review this with your child. Testing in schools will begin in October.

We deeply appreciate your partnership and your commitment to keeping our school community safe and healthy.

Please read the full letter here which includes FAQ from the Department of Education, the Department of Health, and the NYC Test & Trace Corps.

Best,

Liz Wanttaja
Assistant Principal
she/her/hers

Daily Health Screening/Some News

Dear EVCS Families,

We had a fantastic day today – our first day with students from every grade learning in the building in seven months. Everything went off without a hitch, and the excitement among our students to be back together in our classrooms was inspiring! I’m looking forward to another great day tomorrow, the first for our B Cohort students.

A quick note on how we can make the arrival routine go quickly and smoothly. Every student learning in-person needs to do the DOE Health Screening every day before coming to school. If you forget to do it at home I will ask you the questions at the gate, but it definitely saves lots of time if you can do it in advance. Pro tip: If you are able to do so, please bookmark the Health Screener on your phone, then you can just flash the green check mark on your screen at the gates. It’ll take a few days for us to get the new arrival routines down pat, but we’ll get there.

Also, I have some very good news to share, albeit tinged with a bit of frustration. Remember how I reported to you a little more than a week ago that a staff member tested positive for COVID-19? Well, it turns out that the test was a false positive (!). I know, unbelievable. There was definitely a lot of avoidable stress and aggravation that resulted from this erroneous lab report, but I am just so incredibly grateful that our staff is healthy and doing well. And if nothing else, it was a wakeup call that we need to be ever vigilant and a good rehearsal for what to do if we do have a confirmed case. And the fact that we have all of our staff present for these first couple of weeks of in-person leaning is the icing on the cake.

Thanks everyone for all of your support, patience and understanding as we, slowly but surely, get our school year off the ground.

Kind regards,

Bradley

Daily Health Screener & Attendance

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Dear EVCS families,

First, I want to thank you for all of your support this summer and fall as we launched the 2020-21 school year. We appreciate your flexibility and patience as we planned, and replanned, for our school community. Please be sure you are receiving emails from your child’s teacher and have been added as a guardian in their Google Classroom. If you need any help with connecting to your teacher or Google Classroom, please reach out! Below, please find information regarding attendance as well as some required forms to start off our year. As always, please reach out if you have any questions.

Daily Health Screener
In person learning will begin for Cohort A on Tuesday, September 29th. Cohort B will begin on Wednesday, September 30th. All students will have remote learning on the days they are not in person. You can check the in-person learning calendars here. On in-person days, you should check your child’s temperature before coming to school. We ask that you will then complete the Health Screening daily here: https://healthscreening.schools.nyc/ (online application) or using this questionnaire template found here. For the health of our entire community, if you answer “yes” to any of the questions – or you notice your child coughing, sneezing, or having a hard time breathing – please keep your child home and have them learn remotely that day. If a child comes to school with any of those symptoms, they will be sent home to learn remotely.

If your child is scheduled to come to school, they will be marked Present if they attend class that day. They will also be marked Present if they attend live, synchronous instruction remotely that day – even if they were scheduled to be in the building. If you know you are keeping your child home to participate remotely rather than come into the school building, please email the teacher and our team at attendance@evcs.me as soon as possible.

Remote Learning Attendance
Online learning will take place daily for the children who are not learning in person that day. Students are expected to log into their Google Classroom daily to see their schedule for the day, access links to live instruction, and complete assignments. Attendance will be taken at morning meetings and live instruction. If you are having a challenge accessing Google Classroom, Google Meet, or updating your device, check out this document.

Needed Documents
If you haven’t already done so, please fill out the Blue Card Emergency Form: HERE.

We are also asking all families to complete the Media Release Form: HERE.

We cannot wait to see you soon – whether in the yard or in the Google Classrooms!

Best,

Liz Wanttaja
she/her/hers

Assistant Principal
East Village Community School

Delayed Opening (part two)

Dear EVCS Families,

Thank you for your patience as we navigate the ever shifting sands of school reopening. You may have heard that this morning the mayor and chancellor announced that they would once again delay in-person learning for all K-5 students. Pre-K students will still have their first day in the building this Monday, but the first day of in-person learning for our K-5 students will now be on Tuesday September 29th. I know that these last minute changes are confusing and frustrating, to say the least, and I’m really sorry about that. Our teachers and staff have been working incredibly hard to get our school ready to open and we were really looking forward to opening our doors to our blended learning students this Monday. We’re disappointed that we’ll have to wait another week, but please note that even though in-person learning has been pushed back, the first official day of school will remain this Monday September 21. All students in grades K-5 will attend school remotely next week. Please look out for specific instructions from your child’s teacher for how this first week will roll out. You should have already received your child’s evcs.me account information and an invitation to their Google Classroom. Be sure to sign in and join the Classroom to ensure you are ready for the first day of school on Monday. Here are our school calendars for the first few months, adjusted for the new start dates.

A few other important announcements and reminders about school reopening for blended learning:

Our official school hours for in-person learning are:
8:30 – 1:45 for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd Grade
8:30 – 1:55 for 3rd, 4th and 5th Grade
8:50 – 2:00 for Pre-K.
Remote learning hours for students in all grades will be from 8:30 – 2:00.

We will use the schoolyard for our arrival and dismissal, but our protocols will function a little bit differently this year. We will not open the schoolyard to welcome students in until 8:20, and we ask that you try to come as close to your child’s start time as possible. Unfortunately, there will not be free play time in the schoolyard before the school day starts. When students arrive in the morning they will enter through the schoolyard gate closest to the school building. Students will say goodbye to their caregivers at the gate, we will quickly take their temperature with an infrared, contactless thermometer, and then students will be welcomed in. Parents are also asked to take students’ temperatures and do a wellness check before leaving home. If you would like a digital oral thermometer to take home for this purpose, I will have plenty to distribute at arrival and dismissal this month. K-5 parents will not be permitted in the schoolyard at arrival time so we can ensure that there is enough space for physical distancing while students wait for their teachers in designated areas. At 8:30 teachers will meet their class in the yard and walk them upstairs, one class at a time. Pre-K students and parents will enter the schoolyard together beginning at 8:45, and join their teachers in the Tree of Knowing Garden, where they will start every day.

Dismissal will follow a staggered schedule beginning at 1:45 in the schoolyard. Very important – we ask that parents and caregivers please leave with their kids immediately after picking up from school. Our goal is to have a quick, safe dismissal this year and that we avoid gathering in the schoolyard after the school day.

All students and staff will be expected to wear a mask or face covering while at school at all times, other than when they are eating or drinking. We recognize that this will take some getting used to for some of our students and our teachers are prepared to support students in developing these habits, but we ask for your help in this effort. Please try to find masks that fit your child’s face relatively comfortably, and plan for your child to practice wearing them for extended periods of time. Any type of face covering is acceptable, as long as it covers the mouth and nose, fits securely and does not have a valve. If your child ever comes to school without a mask, or needs a fresh one during the school day, we have plenty of child sized disposable masks on hand.

Thanks again for your flexibility and understanding. Despite the confusion and uncertainty at the system level, we are getting closer every day to having all of the many moving parts in place and ready to go for our kids. We’re almost there! If you have any questions about school reopening, please reach out any time.

Yours,
Bradley

School Reopening – Latest Updates

Dear EVCS Families,

By now you’ve surely heard the very good news. The Mayor and Chancellor listened to the messages of so many educators, parents, students, elected officials and concerned citizens, and have agreed to push the start date for students back in order to give schools necessary time to prepare for our most complicated reopening ever. The first day of school for all of our students – those learning fully remotely as well as in-person – will now be Monday September 21. This delayed opening allows our teachers and staff 6 full days for training in new health and safety protocols, professional learning in trauma-informed practices, priority learning standards and new remote learning technologies, and time to collaborate and coordinate with grade team colleagues to develop plans for remote and in-person teaching and learning. We will also have 3 days from September 16-18 for student and family orientation, and for students to test out equipment and software for remote learning. This extra time to prepare will enable us to get everything lined up so we can hit the ground running on September 21.

We know that having as much information as possible about our plans for safety and instruction is essential to our families, which is why we have been holding biweekly town halls all summer and have been sharing resources and updates as they have come out. We want to make sure that our families have easy access to all of this information in one place, so we are putting together an updated family handbook which will be ready for distribution before the first day of school. In the meantime, here are a few important updates since our last meeting:

We have received shipments of PPE, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, special cleaning supplies including an electrostatic sprayer, decals for the floor and signs for walls to promote social distancing and traffic flow, plexiglass barriers for our school safety desk and main office, and various other sundries to support health and safety in our building. Our school custodian is expecting to maintain a 30-day supply of these materials and resources on hand.
We have received contactless thermometers and have developed an arrival protocol that will involve every student and adult having their temperature taken before entering the building every day. This is above and beyond the DOE’s standard protocol, but we understand that this is an important measure for many of our families to feel safe.
We have applied to the city for access to multiple locations around the neighborhood for outdoor learning, including parks, community gardens as well as possible street closures. We are still waiting for official approval on the sites we applied for, but we are committed to maximizing time outdoors for our students, knowing that this is the lowest risk scenario for everyone.
We have been clearing space in our Tree of Knowing Garden to create more opportunities for students to use this area for eating lunch and outdoor learning. (Thank you James!)
The DOE has announced that every month there will be mandatory COVID testing in schools, comprised of a random sample of 10-20% of a school’s student and staff population. Testing will be done on-site and will of course be free of charge.
While many schools are concerned about issues related to ventilation, I’m pleased to share that our classrooms are well ventilated with large windows that will remain open every day, and we are purchasing large box fans to further help with the air flow.

At the last two PA meetings a number of questions have surfaced in the chat, some of which went unanswered, either because we didn’t have the information yet or we ran out of time to address. Our schools Reentry Planning Committee has kept track of those questions and put them together into this document, along with the latest guidance and policies. We will continue to update this Q&A document with new questions and answers as we receive them.

Much more information is coming shortly about your child’s teachers, their schedules, login information for Google Classroom, and details for the orientation days. Stay tuned.

Though we have experienced a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity this summer as we have planned for reopening schools, I feel as though we are now finallyon terra firma. We have a start date, we have the supplies and protocols to keep folks safe, and we have the time for our staff to get ready. Sure, it’s bound to be a weird and challenging year, but I have tremendous confidence in our amazing and talented staff and our incredible families to rise to the challenges of this moment and make it work, together. We got this!

Have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend. I will see you very soon.

As ever,
Bradley

Open Letter on Schools Reopening

Dear EVCS Families,

On Friday afternoon Liz and I, in solidarity with other District 1 school leaders, signed an open letter to the Mayor, Governor, and Chancellor, urging them to delay the start of in-person school for students this fall. The concerns outlined in the letter, which can be read here, echo those of school leaders across the city, the principals and teachers unions, City Council members, New York City’s Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and countless others. To be honest, it was a difficult letter to sign because we are used to facing adversity, doing difficult work and making lemonade out of lemons. Saying “this is too much” is just not in our repertoire. But the reopening of the largest school system in the country is too important, the stakes too high, for us to not get it right for all of our schools. And most importantly, we must be able to guarantee the safety of our students, staff and families.

Since schools closed on March 16th we have worked tirelessly with our teachers and staff to create the best possible learning experience for our students while prioritizing the health and safety of everyone in our community. Throughout the summer we have been working nonstop to plan the incredibly complicated logistics for reopening with a blended learning model, often with very limited or very late information and guidance on critical questions regarding instructional models, special education compliance, and labor policy. We’ve been forging ahead with our plan making, trusting that guidance will be forthcoming, but the fact is that with just a couple of weeks before the start of the school year there are still many unanswered questions, shortages of in-person staff at schools throughout the city due to medical accommodations, and promised supplies and PPE still not yet delivered to schools. Perhaps most importantly we are not being allowed the necessary time to train our staff on all of the many critical health and safety protocols and instructional practices for blended learning. We will need time – beyond the two days the city has allowed, between when teachers return from their well-earned summer vacations on September 8 and students are slated to return to buildings on September 10, to work with our teachers to plan what high quality teaching and learning will look like in this brand-new context. Believe me, we want nothing more than to be back in school buildings with our children and families, as soon as possible. But we feel that it is essential that schools be completely and totally prepared for this transition, and until adequate safety precautions and appropriate training can be put in place for all schools, in-person learning should be delayed.

In some ways the challenges we face now are no different than those we face each year. We could always use more time to train, to plan, to make our school building better and safer for students, families, and teachers. Every school year we have questions that go unanswered by the Chancellor, the Mayor, and the Governor. But we all know this year is different. The stakes are so much higher that we felt it necessary to add our voices to the many others demanding answers and common-sense solutions from our leaders. One thing that remains the same this year as it does every year is that no matter the response we receive from this letter, or what the city’s timeline for reopening ends up being, the EVCS staff will do absolutely everything in our power to make this school year the best, and the safest it can be for our students and families. If you chose blended learning for your children, please know that we will be there for them, smiling at them from behind our masks, ready to create a rigorous and joyful learning experience, no matter when the first day of school happens to be.

With love and gratitude,

Bradley and Liz

Mid-August Updates

Dear EVCS Families,

I want to thank everyone who attended our PA town hall meeting on Wednesday evening, and say thanks to everyone who has shown up, asked (so many) good questions and been so engaged throughout the summer as we have planned the complicated logistics for reopening school this fall. Your engagement and collaboration is essential always, but especially now. I know that many folks were not able to join on Wednesday so I’ll share an overview of the big ticket announcements and resources here.

Our school’s re-entry planning team, made up of teachers, staff and parents, has been meeting weekly and has drafted a framework for how blended learning will work at EVCS. Our plan takes into account all of the latest protocols and guidance from the Department of Education and from public health officials, it centers our school’s core values of Kindness, Inclusion, Social Action, Self-Awareness and Joy of Learning, and most importantly, it prioritizes the health and safety of our students, staff and families above all else. You can read through the key features of our plan here, from the slides I shared on Wednesday. And more detailed information about health and safety protocols that will be in place for all schools is available on the DOE website.

Our school’s instructional model this fall will ensure that all students, whether they are learning in school or at home, will be actively engaged in instruction five days a week. All students who are able to learn in-person will come in to school one-third of the days and learn at home remotely on the other days. Students opting for in-person instruction will be assigned to small groups or “pods” of roughly 9 students that will remain consistent throughout our time in blended learning. All students, whether they are participating in blended learning or not, will have the benefit of working directly with all three teachers on their grade level, but when students come in for in-person learning they will always work with one specific teacher. We are working on forming groups and schedules and will share information with families regarding which days of the week children will be learning in school and who their “homeroom” teacher will be before the end of next week so you can coordinate your plans.

All of our students, whether they are participating in fully remote or blended learning, will spend the majority of time learning remotely so we are planning for the online features and platforms to be the backbone of our instructional plans and for there to be continuity and coherence on the grade level, so that the content, rigor and quality of teaching and learning is consistent for all students. Remote learning this year will include synchronous and asynchronous instruction every day, and all students will start each day with a live morning meeting and end each day with a live closing circle. We will have consistent, regular weekly schedules for synchronous remote instruction so families can plan accordingly. It’s very important to us that our students who will not be learning in the school building this year continue to feel connected to their classmates, teachers and school community, and we have prioritized this in our plans.

We know that these last several months have taken a toll on many of our students academically and emotionally, and we will of course be planning to address our students’ needs, whatever they may be. Responsive and differentiated instruction has always been at the heart of what we do at EVCS, and there has never been a time when this approach has been more important than now. We also recognize that some of our students will need more intensive supports and may benefit from more frequent in-person learning sessions. We have built in some flexibility to our three-cohort programming model to allow for a small group of students on each grade level to attend school in-person more than one-third of the days, or with more than one pod of students. Our planing team will be developing criteria for how we will prioritize student needs to make this opportunity available to students, and we will be reaching out to families on an individual and rolling basis to discuss. If you feel that your child needs or would greatly benefit from more frequent in-person instruction I invite you to reach out to me directly to discuss. Equity means that everyone gets what they need, and this is essential to our approach at EVCS.

I know many are wondering exactly what day we are starting and what our school schedule will be. The DOE has not confirmed the official start date or released the school year calendar yet, but the first day of school for students is tentatively scheduled for September 10. It’s possible that the city will respond to calls for pushing the start date for in-person instruction back a couple of weeks to allow schools more time to prepare for that. We will make sure to keep everyone posted once we know for certain. Our school day for students will start at 8:30 for in-person and remote instruction, and will end each day between 1:45 and 2:00 to allow for a staggered dismissal. Please note that the school day ends earlier this year because student lunch will overlap with instructional periods.

I know it’s a ton of information to process! Please reach out if you have any immediate questions or if you want to schedule a time to talk through some of these items. And there will be another opportunity to come together for a town hall style meeting in the last week of August, so please look out for an invite from the PA. I hope you and your loved ones stay healthy and safe and that you find joy and relaxation in these last weeks of summer. I’m looking forward to seeing you soon.

As ever,

Bradley

September planning updates

Dear EVCS Families,

I hope this message finds you all healthy, well and enjoying your summer. I am looking forward to seeing many of you tomorrow evening at 5:00 for our bi-weekly parent meeting to discuss the latest on our plans for re-opening schools in September. Here’s a little preview of what we will discuss.

Next Friday August 7th is the deadline to sign your child up for the 100% remote learning option. I know many parents have been wondering about what that will entail, who will teach the children opting for fully remote learning, and how they will stay connected to their classmates and our school community. Although questions still abound about exactly how we will make this work at EVCS, some of our questions were answered in a letter to families from the Chancellor yesterday. Most notable is this statement, “No matter whether you are at school in-person or you are learning remotely, you and your child are still enrolled in and part of your school community. Your child’s schedule and learning experience will be fully managed by your school. The vast majority of students who participate in fully remote learning will be taught by teachers from their school.” We can discuss in greater detail tomorrow.

We are expecting the majority of our students to participate in blended learningthis fall, spending part of their time learning remotely at home and part of their time learning in-person in the school building. We know that for most of our families the in-person time is essential and very highly valued, and we are doing our best to maximize that in-person learning time for all of our students. Because our school is in an overcrowded building our default programming is for a 3-cohort model, which would allow most of our students to learn in the building 1/3 of the time, or five days every three weeks, but we have also been considering some potential out-of-the-box ways to increase the amount of in-person learning time for all students participating in blended learning at an annex site. It’s a bit of a long shot, and depends upon many still unknown things lining up, but it’s definitely worth exploring. More on that tomorrow evening.

Remember, you can always catch up on all the latest information from the DOE on their website, Return to School 2020 page.

Thanks for your continued patience, understanding and collaboration.

Yours,
Bradley

Planning For September

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Dear EVCS Families,

I hope you are all enjoying the start to summer in good health! I have a few brief updates and a couple of reminders for you.

The other day the Chancellor and Mayor revealed a bit more detail on the city’s plans for blended learning in September, including a template for programming models that schools will be encouraged to use. There are many variables that need to be considered before determining which models will be an option for each school, namely our total enrollment, the number of students opting in to 100% remote learning, number of staff available for in-person and remote teaching and our actual building capacity and ability to social distance within classrooms. There’s still a lot to sort out, but we now have a more clear framework to plan around, which is progress.
Families will have the option for 100% remote learning if they are not comfortable sending their children back to school for in-person teaching and learning yet. There will be a window to register your children for that option, opening later this week and going through August 7. Please note that once families sign on to 100% remote learning they will only be able to opt back in to blended learning on a quarterly basis. Other questions remain about the 100% remoter learning option, including who teaches these students, if they are EVCS teachers or other teachers from a central pool, using a standardized curriculum. Hopefully we will have more clarity on these questions soon so families can make informed decisions.
You can always find the most up to date information and many more details on the DOE website, Return to School 2020 page.
The Department of Education is hosting an information session for families on school reopening this Thursday July 16 at 6:30. You can register to attend here.

I will be working throughout the summer with a team of EVCS teachers and staff as well as parent members of our School Leadership Team and Parent Association Executive Committee to develop our school’s plan for September. We will of course take into account all of the guidance from central DOE as well as parent and student feedback from our in-house surveys. If you have not already done so, please take a moment to complete the survey today. The survey will close by tomorrow morning. The student survey can be found here – and the parent survey can be found here.

Finally, I hope to see many of you at the Parent Association meeting tomorrow evening at 5:00, where we will talk through all of this information in greater detail and do our best to make sense of it together. There is no doubt that more great challenges lie ahead for us, and that our abilities to be adaptive and flexible will continue to be tested. But I also believe these challenges and inconveniences will be temporary and that we will get through them together and emerge as an even stronger and more resilient community.

As ever,

Bradley