FAQ - Distance Learning at Keys

Teaching and Learning FAQs

Daily Distance Learning

Has Keys pedagogy changed since moving to a Distance Learning Program?

Though the medium may have changed, Keys’ mission and values have not; they are imbued in all Keys programming. As such, Keys commitment to growing emotional intelligence and academic excellence continues through our distance learning program. COVID-19 has allowed faculty and staff to reimagine how to deliver a Keys’ education. As such, the faculty have created a distance learning program that will enable teachers and students to work together to achieve robust learning from home. Each classroom has a schedule that varies from class-wide experiences to smaller group sessions to maximize learning. Students have the opportunity to engage with teachers and peers during Zoom sessions. Individual attention is given to each child’s progress and development. While the classroom model has shifted, our standards have not, and as such, our teachers will continue to conduct a high-quality program for all students.

Where does Keys access best practices in designing and executing a distance learning program?

Our Head of School, Senior Leadership Team, Curriculum and Instruction Team, as well as our faculty stay informed with best practices through daily teaching from the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS), local and national educational groups, educational forums and webinars, to name just a few of the resources our team taps to inform our Distance Learning Program and practices. Keys also studies early adopters, e.g., international schools that have been distance learning since January and who are sharing emerging trends from what they have learned during the pandemic.

What access to technology/internet does my child need to participate fully in Distance Learning from home? What support can Keys provide if our family does not have the needed tools or internet access?

Currently, Keys is using a variety of methods to connect and interact with students.  The most popular tool we use is Zoom. For this, a device with a camera and microphone is preferred.  A suggested internet speed of at least 1.5 Mbps will ensure quality video.

Keys can offer the use of a device at home to meet this need.  Middle School students already participate in a 1:1 laptop program.  Lower School students can be provided with a tablet to borrow during Distance Learning.

During Distance Learning, is the plan to teach all the same concepts, or will the ideas tackled be scaled back?

Teachers have looked at their respective curricula (with the help of Curriculum Coordinators) and identified the most important elements in terms of preparing students for the next grade level and life. They are focused on those skills and concepts to keep student growth and well-being at the forefront. While our program will closely mirror our regular curriculum, especially in terms of skill development, not every single item will be covered in the same depth or the same manner as it would if we were in the classroom.

Though COVID-19 presents a challenge to how we traditionally deliver a Keys education, it also provides the opportunity to teach and develop new skills that students before this time haven’t navigated. During the pandemic, students are receiving a master class in online learning, e.g., digital citizenship, online meeting etiquette, tech fluency, collaboration, research skills, as well as self-regulation skills.

How will Distance Learning work for students?

  • Middle School: MS schedule and Welcome Letters to 5-8 parents
  • Lower School: Lower School schedules include synchronous and asynchronous opportunities for students to engage with the curriculum. Weekly schedules are shared each Friday and the daily schedules are updated each evening by 5:00pm.

How much flexibility does my child have in how and when they complete work?

  • Lower School: The Distance Learning Program at Lower School is designed with flexibility in mind. We recognize that for some students or families the typical school schedule is not feasible. For this reason, all ‘live’ teacher-led sessions are recorded to be viewed at a later time should families choose. Teachers will be providing students and families with clear due dates through Seesaw.  If a student is struggling to meet deadlines, families are encouraged to reach out directly to the teachers to determine how best to help the student.
  • Middle School: Student assignments and relevant due dates will be posted on KeysNet.  Students should reach out directly to a subject-specific teacher via email (cc’ing their advisor), should at-home circumstances make it difficult to complete work on time and/or request an extension.  Faculty are prepared to be supportive and flexible, keeping student well-being as a top priority.

What parts of the Distance Learning program are optional/not optional for students?

  • Lower School: Keys teachers differentiate to meet the learning needs of each of our students. Teachers determine what best supports a student’s learning profile on an individual basis. Parents are encouraged to have direct conversations with the teachers to learn recommended online classes and assignments. Should you have questions, please reach out directly to your child’s teacher.
  • Middle School: All assigned coursework is essential to student skill progression and content mastery. Zoom meetings with faculty should be treated as essential as well. These sessions are designed to provide either direct instruction, discussions, assessments and/or small group work.  If a student cannot attend a scheduled Zoom call for a class, they should contact their subject teacher directly to make alternate plans. Office Hours held via Zoom are optional unless otherwise designated by a faculty member. Opening and Advisory meetings via Zoom are equally important. Students should expect to attend all advisory sessions, even if designed for community building. Again, if there is a schedule conflict, students should reach out to their advisor to discuss how best to make up the session and receive any information shared.  Community Connection Time (separate from Advisory) can either be optional or not. Virtual Recess and Study Hall are two examples of optional experiences. A grade-specific meeting or a community task are more likely to be expected for students to participate. Faculty and administration will make participation/attendance clear in our daily Class Captures.

What additional support are we providing for Lower School classes?

While there continue to be times when the learning support team (learning specialist, reading specialist, math specialist, and school counselor) are in the virtual rooms with the classroom teachers, we are also working to provide additional support for the times when they are not. Therefore, in classrooms without associate teachers, like 2nd-4th grade, there may be times when staff members, such as Ms. Michelle or Mr. Quinton, are in the rooms to provide support. This additional support will allow the teachers to utilize breakout rooms for small group and one-on-one instruction.

Differentiation, Learning Support, and Counseling

How will we differentiate learning for students?

Structures for differentiating that were in place in the classroom will be replicated to the best of our ability online. These may include differentiated small group work, choice in topic, task or product, extension possibilities, extra online support from teachers, and extra time, among others. Teachers are working to ensure that their online offerings meet the needs of all students, and we are regularly getting feedback from students on an individual and school-wide basis about what is effective for their learning as we navigate this new environment. We are also consulting distance learning experts as well as best practices shared by peer schools to shape our program.

How will we provide appropriate support for students with learning needs?

Please see our Letter to Parents regarding “Support for learning needs.”

How will my child receive learning support and/or counseling support?

Goals and Assessments

What are the end of year goals for each grade?

End of year goals remain consistent, especially in terms of skill development. Teachers are focusing their instruction on the skills and content that will be most relevant for students going forward, and teachers are building on the foundation set in the first two trimesters of the year, as they usually would.

Additionally, we know that this time presents unique social and emotional challenges for our students. Helping students manage the emotions that come with our changing world and helping students continue to feel connected to their peers, teachers, and the Keys community is a high priority for each grade level as we close out the year.

How will we grade/assess student work and performance?

Teachers will continue to gather robust data and give meaningful feedback about student performance through online platforms. At the middle school level, teachers will continue to host discussions, assign projects and writing tasks, and give assessments online, mainly through the Google Suite of tools with which students are already familiar. At the lower school, teachers will continue to meet with students as a whole class and in small groups to observe student progress. Additionally, lower school teachers are using the app Seesaw to collect student work samples through writing, voice, video, or project documentation.

In alignment with many schools in the area and nationally, Keys will be moving to an end of year grading structure that takes into account the sudden shift to online learning. At the middle school level, students will receive Credit/Incomplete instead of letter grades, and written comments by subject in place of a full Skills Growth Report. At lower school, students will receive regular feedback from teachers on their progress toward meeting learning objectives. We are in the process of developing what our new reporting system will look like.

What is the plan for standardized testing?

ERBs are cancelled for Spring 2020. Keys will offer ERB’s again in the Spring of 2021.

Logistics FAQ

When will campus re-open?

Campus will reopen! And, first and foremost, the health and safety of our faculty, staff, students, parents are our priority. Knowing this, we are closed through the remainder of the 19-20 academic year. We anticipate opening campuses this summer for the 20-21 academic year. Please note that Keys campuses will remain closed in the fall only if we are still collectively working to flatten the curve and protect communities from the spreading of the virus.  As we have been doing throughout the pandemic, we will be working in concert with other independent schools and schools across the region and nation to appropriately respond to recommendations and mandates from state officials.

Whom do I contact if I have a question during Distance Learning?

Contact the following individual if you have questions about:

  • Lower School Distance Learning Program: Lower School Division Head, Betsy Doss
  • Middle School Distance Learning Program, Middle School Division Head, Larry Purcell
  • Communications: Director of Communications, Jan Bruzzese
  • Business: Director of Finance and Operations, Steve Smith

What is the status of upcoming events?

Some events we are able to reschedule, others will be canceled, and still others will be reimagined.  We will communicate these changes to our community as soon as possible through our weekly community email updates and on our online school calendar.

Is supplemental care available during school breaks?

Keys is offering free virtual supplemental care from 8:00 am – 12:00 pm. The aftercare staff will provide a variety of fun Zoom-based activities to keep students engaged and active during school breaks. Please contact Quinton Rief, Lower School After Care Coordinator, with any questions.

What is the type and frequency of communication that I can expect to receive from Keys?

Keys will be returning to a weekly, emailed, all-school communication, similar to the Wednesday Letter, though adjusted to meet the needs of our community during Distance Learning. We will also send email updates to our community when there is urgent information to share.

Will families receive a tuition refund while students are not on campus?

Keys relies on tuition payments to operate our school. Though our campuses are closed, innovative and inspiring teaching and learning continue. Tuition obligations remain in place.

Distance Learning requires an all hands on deck approach, and our faculty, support staff, enrichment team, and administrative staff are dedicating countless hours to ensure our students receive an excellent Keys educational experience at home. We have committed to uninterrupted pay for all of our faculty and staff because we know that the school’s ability to retain and compensate teachers and support staff is vital to our ability to effectively and successfully carry out our school’s mission during this pandemic, and when we return to campus.

Families who are experiencing extreme hardship due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are encouraged to contact our Director of Finance and Operations, Steve Smith, for information about Tuition Assistance or for assistance in restructuring your current payment plan.

Will teachers/administrators get my message if I call?

Yes! Voicemail messages roll into each faculty and staff members’ email automatically.

What if my child (or parent) needs technology help during Distance Learning?

Remember the 5 R’s:

  • Relax – take a calming breath, we all know hiccups will happen
  • Retry – try again, try another browser, quit and relaunch the application
  • Research – brief search using the search engine of your choice
  • Restart – your computer
  • Reach out – to the appropriate contact

Students: If the difficulty is about the assignment students should contact the teacher. If it’s a computer issue students should contact Mr. Zeigler (Middle School) or Mr. Johnson (Lower School) (and CC their teacher on the email).

Parents: Please contact Ryan MatyjasikCameron Johnson, or Steven Zeigler

Go to Tech Resources (found under KeysNet resources) for tech policies, instructional videos, troubleshooting Zoom, best practices and recommendations for workspace set up

My child left an item at school. How can I retrieve it?

Please contact Michelle Mathers (Lower School) or Emily Nadler (Middle School) to determine best modes of collection.

How are the school’s finances during this time?

Keys finances are secure. Keys had a robust admission season and enrollment is strong for 2020-21. The School has healthy reserve funds which are held in reserve for unexpected, unusual circumstances, as approved by the board of trustees. Keys’ endowment includes a number of funds that are earmarked for particular uses (Faculty Professional Development, Financial Assistance, Faculty Compensation, Growth and Well-Being), as well as a general endowment that is there to provide flexibility within our operating budget. The school and the board are tending to both the short-term and long-term financial needs of the school to ensure its long-term financial sustainability.

Does Keys have contingency plans for COVID-19?

Pandemics present uncertainty and require flexible scenario planning so Keys’ is actively engaged in contingency planning. In March, a Contingency Planning Task Force (CPTF) was formed and composed of board members, the Director of Finance and Operations, and the Head of School. CPTF is charged with ensuring that the school and board are identifying, prioritizing, planning for, and addressing the short- and long-term programmatic and financial needs of the school in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. CPTF is actively engaged in this process.

Health and Well-Being FAQ

What can I do to attend to my family’s mental health during COVID-19?

How much time will my child be on a screen each day?

This will depend on the student and grade level. The Distance Learning Programs at both Lower and Middle School were designed with flexibility in mind. We recognize that for some students or families extended periods of screen time are unreasonable and unproductive.  For this reason, all ‘live’ teacher-led sessions are recorded to be viewed at a later time should families choose. In addition, during the ‘live’ sessions, teachers are regularly encouraging movement breaks and letting students know when they can move away from the screen and work independently off screen. On average, there are opportunities to be in ‘live’ sessions with teachers for around four hours a day.

Will my child have the opportunity to take breaks during the day?

Yes! The schedule purposely allows for breaks, as we know students need downtime throughout the day to connect with friends and family, get outside, participate in activities away from the screen, etc. We are committed to working with families to ensure we can find a schedule that works best for their circumstances.

What can my family do to help those in need?

We encourage parents to connect with each other directly via their grade level Slack channel for ways they can support each other in meeting practical needs. Please be in touch with your Room Parent for more details.

Families wishing to provide financial support are encouraged to consider a gift to Fund-A-Need, which benefits Financial Assistance at Keys. Please be in touch with Ella Duncanson, Director of Development, for more information.