School Reopening Surveys

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Dear EVCS Families,

I hope you are all enjoying the start to our much anticipated and much neededsummer! As proud as I am of the way our school community rose to the challenges of this past spring, I think we all really need a break to rest, restore and recharge the old batteries.

I hope to do some serious chilling out of my own this summer – but I will also be busy planning to launch our school again in September. We still can’t predict exactly what September will bring, so I will be working throughout the summer with a team of teachers and staff, as well as parent representatives from the School Leadership Team, to envision and plan for various possible scenarios. At this point the most likely scenario seems to be a model of blended learning, which would allow for both in person and remote teaching and learning. Information and guidance from the Department of Education will be coming out regularly throughout the summer which we will of course be using to frame our planning, but I also think it is critical that we take into account the experiences, perspectives and unique situations of EVCS families. In that spirit, our SLT has developed two surveys for EVCS families – one for parents and one for students. Please take some time to let your voice be heard so we can learn from our experiences so far with remote learning and do whatever is possible to create an optimal situation that works for our families.

Though uncertainty is still the prevailing sentiment, a few of the many chips are starting to fall in place. One item that has become more clear which may be of great interest to some of our families, is that the DOE has committed to creating an option for students to continue with remote learning in the fall, regardless of the blended learning structures that exist in their school building. This option may be compelling for students who have compromised immune systems, who live with immunocompromised family members, or for families who are generally uncomfortable with the idea of returning to school buildings before a vaccine is available. Families who are interested in pursuing this option will need to sign up for it between July 15 and August 7. I will make sure we message out the instructions and all relevant links and resources for that option as they become available. And as things continue to develop and more is known about what is coming down the pike, I will do my best to share that with you.

As always, I appreciate the thoughtfulness, support and compassion of our great community. I really, truly can’t wait until we can be together again, but I also believe that we will get through these next challenges as we have the ones that came before. We’re in it together and we are going to be alright!

Take care, be healthy, have a terrific summer, and please don’t hesitate to reach out for anything at all.

Yours,

Bradley

Blended Learning

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Dear EVCS Families,

After what truly feels like the longest spring in history, we are finally at the finish line. Hobbled and totally exhausted, but we made it. We generally like to end every school year with all of the loose ends tied up, and with a sense of closure and excitement for what comes next. This year that last-week-of-June-feeling is more complicated, as we are heading into our summer break with a lot of uncertainty about what September will bring.

Last week at our PA meeting I shared the (limited) information that I had about the Chancellor’s suggestion that we would be moving towards a “blended learning” model in the fall. Of course, every piece of information that we have leads to many questions for which there are not currently answers, and no new information has been provided by the DOE since last week. Not knowing what to expect can feel frustrating and anxiety producing for all of us – and I want you to know that I am committed to full transparency and passing along any information I have to all of our families and staff, as soon as I have access to it. One thing is becoming clear – figuring out exactly how our school will roll out blended learning must be a collaborative effort, including all stakeholders at our school. In that spirit, below are some bullets summarizing the main points of what we discussed last week and there will be another PA meeting tomorrow evening at 5:30 to continue the discussion. Unfortunately there isn’t much in the way of new information to share tomorrow, but I’m sure there is still a lot of processing to do of the information we have.

Here’s what we know and are thinking about:

The Chancellor is suggesting that NYC public schools will likely shift to a blended learning model next fall, that will provide each student opportunities to learn at home through remote learning as well as in school with teachers.
Schools will be expected to schedule students and teachers on staggered schedules to allow for social distancing, according to CDC guidelines that require each individual to have 65 Sq ft. of space within the classroom. Based on the average NYC classroom size, this would allow for 9 students with 1 adult in each classroom at any time. System wide, New York City has the ability to work with 49% of our 1.1 million students in-person at any given time.
Every principal was provided with data specific to our schools that show building utilization and capacity numbers, given our projected enrollment next year. Our school’s capacity to work with students in our current space in our building is roughly 33% – well below the City and District average. In other words, many schools may be able to come up with an alternating schedule that would allow their students to learn in school with a teacher in a classroom half of the days, or even more frequently, but our students would most likely be able to come into school at most 1/3 of the days. It is well known by the District, CEC, and Central DOE that our building is overcrowded. Alleviating this overcrowding for our students has been a priority of the DOE for years, and has now taken on a new urgency. From what I understand, the DOE is considering a range of options to address this situation, even for just the short term, so that our students can have equitable access to live, in-person teaching and learning.
Exactly what sort of alternating schedule schools may adopt will likely vary, and could be alternating days, alternating weeks, or am/pm shifts. From what I understand now, schools will have the flexibility to put in place the model that is the most convenient (or, perhaps least inconvenient, if we’re being accurate) for our families and staff. We will be surveying families soon to better understand your needs and preferences.

So many questions abound. For example, how will we service our students with IEPs, who require an ICT setting? What about students who rely on paraprofessionals? What about lunch, recess, specials like art, music and PE? How will our teachers balance and manage both remote and in-person learning for all of their students? How do we maintain social distancing with our youngest students, for whom it is just very unnatural and difficult? Will there be school busses? Can we arrange for siblings to have similar schedules? What if they go to different schools? Bathrooms? Masks? The list goes on and on. It’s frustrating to not have answers at our fingertips to our many questions, but let’s ask the questions anyway.

I hope to see you tomorrow to continue the conversation, to commiserate, to hopefully begin to envision together how we might make lemonade out of these lemons, and of course to wish each other well as we start the summer. Looking forward to it. And if you can’t make it tomorrow, I’ll be in touch throughout the summer as new information comes out and as opportunities to engage in a process around this emerge.

As ever,

Bradley

Looking ahead to September

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Dear EVCS families,

Even though the beginning of this school year feels like ages ago, somehow it’s hard to believe that it’s finally actually coming to an end. And what a year it has been – surely one that none of us will ever forget. Our teachers will be working over the next week and a half to help all of our students arrive at a place of closure on their school year. Despite the challenges of the last few months, there have also been great achievements, joyful experiences and tons of academic and personal growth since September. It’s important that our kids get a chance to reflect on and celebrate their journey and finish the year with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

I know that even as we wrap up this school year, on the top of everyone’s mind is what to expect in September. It certainly occupies a lot of my thoughts these days. Although there is still a lot of uncertainty and many, many unanswered questions, we have received some information recently that gives a small window into what the start of next year might look like for us. According to the latest announcements from the Chancellor, schools will be using a “blended learning” approach in September, where all students will spend some of their time learning remotely at home and some of their time learning in person at school. The in person learning would be planned in shifts to allow for social distancing, and although it’s still not clear exactly how this will work, it seems like individual schools will be tasked with coming up with a model that works with the CDC guidelines, takes into account building capacity and enrollment numbers, and also makes sense for their school communities. One thing is for sure, it’s going to be complicated and challenging – but I expect also temporary and a step in the right direction.

If you can join tomorrow morning’s Parents Association meeting at 10:00 I will share whatever details I know about the DOE’s plans for blended learning and specifically how our school is gearing up for it – and I will of course do my best to answer any questions you have, though to be honest I have a million questions of my own. Sorting it all out will take a community effort, and I’m looking forward to beginning that with you tomorrow.

Kind regards,

Bradley

School Wide Morning Meeting Message – May 18, 2020

Dear EVCS Students,

How great was that to see so many different people contributing to School-Wide Morning Meeting today!  I want to give a massive shout out and THANKS to Yaeli, Yonatan, Yuval, Manuel, Annabel, Ellie, Craig and Terry for sending in videos to use in this week’s SWMM.  Our next SWMM will be on June 1 – and then we will have one every Monday until the last week of school.  If you would like to be included please record yourself singing and/or playing any of the SWMM songs and send the video to bradley@evcs.me.

And if you would like to participate in this year’s talent show, the deadline to submit performances has been extended to this Sunday, May 24.  We have so many talented students at EVCS – I can’t wait to see what you do.  Submissions should be sent to talentshow@evcs.me.  

Keep up the incredible work everyone!  You’re doing great and I’m so proud of all of you for staying focused and staying positive throughout this unusual time.  Don’t forget, whatever happens… 

Thanks again to everyone who led us in the singalong today, and a big thank you to everyone who sang loud and proud from their homes! Have a great day and great week everyone.  

Love,
Bradley

May Parent-Teacher check in

Dear EVCS Families,

First, I want to thank you for your collaboration throughout each stage of the process of updating our remote learning framework. From the survey you filled out in April to the grade level Q&A sessions last week, your voices were heard and I think the plans that were developed through this process represent this collaborative effort well. If you weren’t able to participate in the Q&A in real time and would like to see the recording, they are all archived here. And as a reminder, you can read the overview of our remote learning plan for the next two months here.

Ordinarily at this time of the year we would be organizing our annual evening open house, when families get the chance to meet the teachers in the next grade level and get a preview of the classrooms, curriculum and expectations for next year. Given all the ways that we are restricted in our ability to do that now, not to mention the unknowns about exactly what next year will bring, we are instead going to use this as an opportunity for parents to have an individual check-in with their child’s teacher. Think of it as an abbreviated version of the parent-teacher conferences we just held at the beginning of March. The intention is to make sure we have clear, actionable goals and next steps for every student, so that we can finish this school year strong. Your child’s teacher will be reaching out this week to schedule a time for your check in, which will happen via phone or video conference.

I hope you are all feeling and doing well. I miss our school so much, your kids most of all. You’re all very much in my thoughts and I just can’t wait until we are all back together again. Please give your kids a squeeze for me.

As ever,
Bradley

School Wide Morning Meeting Message 05.04.2020

Click here for link to video

May 4, 2020

Dear EVCS Students,

It’s been 7 weeks since we were all together at school, and I miss you guys so much!   I’ve also really missed our School-Wide Morning Meetings, and even though it was fun to sing the songs by myself for you, I really want to hear your voices and share the music – because that’s what SWMM is all about.  So, for the next SWMM I would like to ask YOU to please video yourself singing one of our SWMM songs – it can be alone, with your family, with instruments or acapella (just singing voices).  Of course it’s optional – but if you send me a video of you singing a SWMM song, I will try to include it in next Monday’s School-Wide Morning Meeting!   

And I have some exciting news to share.  Even though our Multicultural Share was cancelled this year, we are still going to have a talent show!  Any EVCS student who wants to participate will be able to share a 3-4 minute video recorded performance.  We will be sending an email home this week with the details of how it will work and when you have to submit your video by, but please start thinking about if/what you would like to share.  Fun!

Also I will be starting a read aloud this week of one of my all-time favorite chapter books, Jenny and the Cat Club.  I will place a link in everyone’s Google Classroom starting this Wednesday, so look out for that.

I can’t wait until the time that we can be together again.  I’ve been visiting your remote classrooms and I see how hard you are working, and I feel so proud of all of you for your persistence and determination.  I know it hasn’t been easy, and that nothing compares to being in school together, but it won’t always be like this.  Stay focused and keep up the great work, and we’ll be back at school one day soon! 

I want to say a big thank you to everyone who sang loud and proud from their homes! Have a great day and great week everyone.  

Love,
Bradley

Updates to Remote Learning Plan

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Dear EVCS Family,

Over the last few weeks we have been engaged in a large-scale deliberative process, gathering feedback from our staff and families about their experiences with remote learning through surveys and meetings, with the intention of developing a cohesive vision that will carry us through the end of this school year. We think it’s essential that we take into account the voices and perspectives of our different constituency groups, the things we have learned about what our students and families need in this time of crisis, and also – as much as possible – preserve and center our school’s vision and mission and our shared beliefs about what makes high quality teaching and learning. We still have more than two months of school before we break for the summer, and we intend to make the most of it! Please have a look at our school-wide remote learning plan here.

I’m sure that after reviewing the principles and guidelines for remote learning in our framework that questions will emerge about how this plan will take form at specific grade levels, and we want to make sure that we are creating space for those questions to be asked and answered. Therefore, we will be hosting grade-level Q&A sessions for parents next week. Each session will last about 45 minutes and will include the classroom teachers, Liz and me. In order to use the time most efficiently we are suggesting that questions be submitted in advance in this form. The schedule for Q&A sessions can be found here, and please note that we will be recording the sessions so parents who were not able to attend can access later.

As an important sidebar to our remote learning plan, I want to highlight the fact that a significant amount of feedback we received from parents about their experience with remote learning was lamenting the fact that their children are now spending such a dramatically increased amount of time on screens. While we recognize that the digital interface is a necessary part of remote learning, we also want to make sure that we are encouraging our students to be learning in analog formats, whenever that is an option. Perhaps the most important way that we can create continuity for our kids’ learning and also get them off their devices is by encouraging reading of old fashioned books. Having said that, I know that families’ supply of grade-level books in their homes is limited and/or has already been exhausted and in need of refreshing. If you are able to order more books through booksellers that are currently shipping, please do so! If you need advice on what books would be on your child’s level, please reach out to their classroom teacher or consult the handy Scholastic Book Wizard. And if ordering anything is not possible at the moment, I am very pleased to tell you that our world class Parents Association is currently putting the finishing details on an initiative to get actual books in the hands of every EVCS student who needs them, at no cost to our families. Our PA is the best! More information on that initiative will be coming very soon.

I want to put in a plug for a few additional initiatives that we will be rolling out this spring, in order to keep things interesting and fresh. I enjoyed reading books to our kids so much over our “spring break” week, that I will be starting a new read aloud cycle from a magnificent, but somehow lesser known classic chapter book called Jenny and the Cat Club. Be on the lookout for links to that in Google Classroom next week – it’s great for all ages. And our Multicultural Share may be cancelled, but we will be hosting a school-wide talent show! It’s going to be great, and all will be welcome to share their special talents in pre-recorded 3 or so minute clips. Stay tuned for more information from our Master of Ceremonies Eric, but please tell your kids to start polishing up their acts. And finally, this Monday morning we will be posting a link to our first ever remote School-Wide Morning Meeting. Given our constraints with the permitted technologies, the first remote SWMM will be pre-recorded – and hopefully we can figure a way to do live SWMMs soon.

I hope you are all staying healthy, safe, and relatively sane. Hang in there folks!

With love,
Bradley

Message from Bradley : Spring recess & video conferencing

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Dear EVCS families,

I hope this message finds you all healthy and well. As we get ready to enter our third week of remote learning I want to check in with all of you on some big picture and DOE policy updates, and also ask for your input on our long term plans.

I’ll start with the headline. On Friday afternoon the Chancellor announced that our previously scheduled spring recess, including the days of Passover and Good Friday, is cancelled, and that remote learning should continue uninterrupted this week and next. My understanding of the intentions behind this policy shift is that the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City is expected to hit exactly at the time of our scheduled break, and the City is doing everything they can to encourage everyone to stay home and be occupied and safe. While I get the rationale, I know this information came as a surprise and was disappointing for many of our students, parents and staff, all of whom have been working really hard during this stressful time and were looking forward to a well-deserved and restorative break. The teachers and I will be meeting tomorrow afternoon to discuss our plans for keeping students engaged during the break and I will update you soon so you know what to expect. My intention is to create a plan for that time that provides continuity for our students as well as a breather for everyone.

Since it is seeming more and more like remote learning will be our reality for the foreseeable future, we are starting to draft longer term plans and would like your input. Please take a moment to fill out this survey so we can understand from the student and parent point of view how this experience has been over the last two weeks and how it is working for your family.

Finally, it was announced on Friday that because of security and privacy concerns, the DOE is no longer allowing the use of Zoom as a video conferencing platform. They are reviewing other platforms including Google Hangouts – but for the time being the only approved platform for video conferencing is Microsoft Teams. Building the plane while flying the plane indeed! We designed our entire remote learning platform around Google applications, so before we pivot to adopt another platform, we are waiting for more guidance from the DOE, which should be coming soon. In the meantime though, I have advised our staff to hold off on all live teaching, small group instruction and individual conferences, including teletherapy – anything that requires the use of video conferencing. I believe this will be a very temporary shift, and we will be back to having video conferencing ability very soon, so please stay tuned.

Thank you all so much for your patience as we navigate these uncharted waters. Please tell your kids that I miss them, and that I am so proud of all the ways they have risen to these challenges over the last few weeks. More soon.

Yours,
Bradley

School Wide Morning Meeting Message 02/03/2020

February 3, 2020

Dear EVCS students,

This week in cities all across the United States, schools are participating in the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. EVCS is proud to be a part of this national event. Black Lives Matter is a movement that is working to create a world where Black people, and all people, are valued and treated equitably. Black Lives Matter continues the struggle of the Civil Rights Movement, because even though some things have changed over the years, the lives of black people aren’t always treated as equal in our society.

Our core values at EVCS are kindness, inclusion and social action, so EVCS is a school where Black lives matter, and this week we are taking the time to recognize this.  Every day this week we will be thinking and talking about different guiding principles of the Black Lives Matter movement, and special guests (EVCS parents) will be coming into your classrooms to read books that will shine a light on the Black Lives Matter at School principles. We hope this week will spark rich conversations between all the members of our EVCS community in and out of the classroom!

Thanks as always to the SWMM house band. A very special thanks to all the parents who have volunteered to come in this week to read books to our classes.  And thanks to everyone who came this morning and sang loud and proud!

Have a great day and a great week.

Love,
Bradley