Reopening Schools Redux

Dear EVCS Families,

The Mayor and Chancellor announced on Sunday that elementary schools across the city will resume in-person learning on December 7. Since schools first opened in September we have demonstrated that we can offer in-person learning safely and responsibly, and we know that many of our students really depend on coming into school for blended learning, so this policy shift comes as welcome news (whiplash notwithstanding). We are ready and looking forward to opening our doors again on Monday morning.

The Mayor’s announcement included some confusing messages however, about “phasing out blended learning” and students coming in for in-person learning 5 days a week. Given that schools must continue to maintain social distancing requirements in classrooms, many schools – including EVCS – will not be able to phase out blended learning due to the number of students enrolled in blended learning and limitations on space and staffing. Therefore, on Monday we will continue blended learning in our 2-cohort model. We will also be creating opportunities for a very limited number of students on each grade level to come in for in-person learning more frequently. These opportunities will be offered individually according to need, based on a range of criteria.

As an additional safeguard to keep our schools safe the DOE will be ramping up the COVID testing program in schools. Consent for COVID testing will be mandatory for all students and staff coming into school buildings, and a randomly selected group of students in grades 1-5 and staff from each building will now be tested each week.

Additionally, the DOE has updated it’s policy on travel outside of the city to be in line with New York State policies. Students and staff who have recently traveled outside of New York to a place on the State’s travel advisory list must quarantine for 14 days or test out of the 14-day quarantine based on the State’s guidance, which can be found here. Staff and students should continue to complete the health questionnaire daily.

Monday December 7 is a B Day, in case you were wondering, and here is the blended learning calendar for January – June.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. I hope you and your families remain in good health and good spirits.

As ever,
Bradley

IMPORTANT: School Buildings Temporarily Closed

Dear EVCS Families,

By now you may have heard that the Mayor and Chancellor announced that all school buildings will be temporarily closed for in-person learning. Beginning tomorrow November 19, and until further notice, all students in New York City public schools will learn remotely. You can read the Chancellor’s letter to families here.

EVCS students should log on to Google Classroom in the morning to access their agendas for the day, as they would on any remote learning day. We know that even though we all saw this coming it still feels disruptive and many of our students who have been coming in to the building for blended learning may feel really upset at this change in plans. All of our teachers and staff will be extra sensitive and vigilant in the coming days to make sure that our students feel taken care of and that there is minimal interruption to their academic and social emotional learning. We will be in touch soon with more details about our plans for this time.

Thanks for your understanding and support.

Yours,

Bradley

School-Wide Morning Meeting

Dear EVCS Families,

Today we shared our first School-Wide Morning Meeting of this school year. Of course nothing compares to gathering in the auditorium and singing loud and proud together, and hopefully we will be able to do that again one day soon. In the meantime, we will put together and share a SWMM video roughly every other week that will feature different classes and community members. This week’s SWMM features our A and B cohort 3rd graders playing ukulele and singing and also includes cameos from some of our 2nd graders. I hope creating and watching these videos will help us to feel connected to our community and that it can be a way for all of us to be together in spirit.

Our School-Wide Morning Meeting House Band will continue to kick out the jams, but we’d like to include a range of our community members in these videos as well. Please consider creating a video of your family performing one of our SWMM songs and send it to me so I can share it in a future presentation. And if you’d like to listen to iconic versions of some of the songs in our SWMM repertoire, I’ve put together this playlist.

Let it shine,

Bradley

Final reminder: changing learning preferences

Dear EVCS Families,

Please be reminded that today is the last day to change your child’s learning preference from fully remote to blended learning. You can do that here.

The first day of the new cycle will be on November 30. However, we are keeping a close eye on the slow but steady increase in the COVID test positivity rate in New York City and are aware that the DOE may take the entire school system remote at any time. If this should happen before our planed switch over to the new cohorts on November 30 we will hold off on regrouping students until we can provide in-person learning again. In other words, if we all go fully remote before November 30 students will continue to work with the primary teachers and groups they have been in, even if you indicated a change in their learning preference, and we would launch the new cycle when we are clear for in-person learning again. Fingers crossed that we can continue to safely work with students in person and proceed as planned for November 30!

If now is not the right time for your family to switch from fully remote to blended but you may be interested in doing that down the road, we will do everything we can to accommodate families on an individual basis throughout the year, as long as there is space. And if your child is currently enrolled in blended learning you can of course switch to fully remote learning at any time this year. If you are not changing your child’s learning preference you do not need to fill out this survey.

Please reach out to me directly if you have any questions or would like to discuss your own family’s situation. Thanks again for your understanding and support.

Yours,

Bradley

Reminder: Changing Learning Preferences

Dear EVCS families,

I hope your parent-teacher conferences over the last week have been meaningful and informative. If you have not had a chance to meet with your child’s teacher for a conference yet, please contact the teachers directly to schedule one. While the parent-teacher conferences are an essential opportunity to talk with your child’s teachers about their strengths, progress next steps and goals, it is certainly not the only one. All of our teachers have open office hours to talk or email with parents every day from 2:00 – 2:20. Parents are our most important partners in our students’ learning, this year especially, and communication is key to having a strong partnership.

Please be reminded that the window to change your child’s learning preference from fully remote to blended learning closes this Sunday November 15. According to the latest guidance form the DOE this will be the last official enrollment period for families to opt in to blended learning this school year. However, please note that if your child remains in remote learning now and you decide to change their learning preference later this year, we will do everything we can to accommodate your requests on an individual basis as long as there is space. If you are not switching your child’s learning preference there is no need to fill out the survey.

The new cycle for blended and remote learning will begin on Monday November 30. If you have changed your child’s learning preference you will be notified of their new schedules, teachers and groups before our curriculum share events on November 24. For students not changing their learning preferences, we will make a great effort to keep the schedules and groups consistent. More on the curriculum share coming soon, but please mark your calendars for November 24 from 2:20 to 3:00.

Enjoy the balmy November weather and the day off today!

Yours,

Bradley

Updates: Blended and Remote Learning

Dear EVCS Families,

Next week families will be given the opportunity to switch their children’s learning preference from fully remote to blended learning. As per the Chancellor’s announcement the other day, this will be the only opportunity this school year to opt in to blended learning. This shift in policy was not well received by parents and schools alike, and it is my sense that this could change (again), but for the time being this is the situation. I know that this is a major decision – and a stressful one – to make at this point in the school year, especially given how uncertain things are, so I want to make sure that families have all the information currently available in order to make as informed a decision as possible.

Our Instructional Model – Remote/Blended Learning

Currently 39% of our students have opted in to fully remote learning. Students who are learning in the fully remote model work primarily with the teachers who are working remotely. Each grade level currently has one teacher assigned to the fully remote cohort. Fully remote students have synchronous and asynchronous instruction daily, including targeted small group work and whole class interactions that support academic as well as social-emotional learning and community building.

The remaining 61% of our students have opted in to blended learning. Students enrolled in the blended learning model come in to the building on half of the school days and learn from home remotely on the other half of the school days. When they are learning on-site it is in small groups of around 9 students. When they are learning remotely they have limited, but regular synchronous interaction with the grade-level remote teacher, and they have access to pre-recorded, asynchronous instruction and tasks that can be completed with relative independence. Blended learning students generally do not have small group instruction on blended remote days. Inherent in this model is that on blended in-person days students will get an intensive small group instructional experience that is tailored and targeted to their needs and next steps, and blended remote days will include less real-time contact with a teacher.

Remote and blended learning each have their pros and cons. Remote learning students have the benefit of continuity and consistency. They always work with the same teacher and have access to synchronous instruction in academic subjects five days a week. For many families who have chosen fully remote learning, the fact that their children are not in regular, close contact with others during this pandemic is an invaluable benefit. Of course the downside to fully remote learning is that students do not get the in-person human contact of friends and teachers right now, and the majority of their learning experience involves the use of technology, which can be problematic and a challenging way to learn for some students. Blended learning students have the benefit of coming in to school to learn in-person with friends and teachers. On the days when they are in the building they will always be in a small group and get targeted, individualized attention. The downside is that on the days when they are learning at home they will have limited synchronous instruction and contact with a real-time teacher and will therefore need to be more independent. We are doing everything we can, given the truly challenging circumstances, to provide our students with the level of instruction, support and attention they need and deserve, while also recognizing that neither instructional model comes close to the kind of experience that we would wish for our students in ordinary times. We understand and respect that each family is going to choose the pathway this year that is the right one for their unique situation, and we will do our best to make sure that all of our students, regardless of the mode they are learning in, are engaged, making progress and having fun. I will be hosting a town hall meeting on Monday November 2 at 5:00 to answer any questions that you may have about our instructional models this year. You can access the meeting at this link.

The one common factor in all of the experiences that our students will have this year, is that everyone will spend at least part of their time learning remotely. While older students can be more self directed, we know that the majority of our students need help and support from an adult at home, and we know that this is, in most cases, you! We consider parents to be our partners in our student’s education always – but far more so this year than ever before. As such, we want to make sure that you have a sense of the trajectory of skills, understandings and expected academic outcomes on each grade level. Here is a folder with the key priority standards for reading, writing and math for K-5that may be helpful to you, as you support your child’s learning at home. Please also note that each teacher will host a curriculum share for parents in their cohorts on November 24 to discuss these priority standards and answer any questions you may have about our approach.

Thanks for making it all the way to the bottom of this very long email. I appreciate you! Looking forward to seeing you soon.

Yours,

Bradley

Important: Changing Learning Preferences

Dear EVCS Families,

You may have heard that yesterday the city announced a new policy and timeline for changing learning preferences and opting into blended learning. The big headline is that families will no longer have the opportunity to opt in to blended learning quarterly throughout the year, as had been previously announced. The upcoming enrollment period, which starts on Monday November 2 and goes until Sunday November 15, will be the last and only opportunity to switch from fully remote learning to blended learning this school year. I recognize that this news comes as a surprise and possibly a huge disappointment to some of our families. It came as a shock to me as well.

Within the next couple of weeks we will all need to make critical decisions about how our children will learn and experience school for the remainder of this school year. It’s obviously an important decision with significant implications, so I think it’s a good time to check in on our current models for blended and remote learning and create opportunities for families to ask questions and be well-informed. Later this week I will email an overview of our current framework for blended learning, and then on Monday evening November 2 at 5:00 we will host a town hall meeting so we can process and discuss together. Look out for a link to this meeting in the coming days. There are pros and cons to each mode of learning, and we want to make sure that parents are able to make this decision with as much information as possible.

After the enrollment period closes on November 15 we will have a sense of how we need to program our school and what our remote and blended learning cohorts and pods will look like for the remainder of the year. When possible, we will make an effort to keep students with the teachers and classmates they have been with up until now, but of course there may be a need to shuffle some of the groups to accommodate updated preferences. We will be arranging a curriculum share for parents in each new cohort on the afternoon of November 24th. More information on that to come soon, but please mark your calendars.

Thanks so much for your patience, flexibility, understanding and support as we find our way through this unprecedented school year together.

Yours,

Bradley

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