Update from Heather
Grade Level Town Hall Meetings next week
Distance Learning at a Glance
UPDATE FROM HEATHER
Dear Keys Families,
It is nearing the end of July, and what a busy and unique summer it has been thus far for every one of us living this COVID-19 experience. The Keys Leadership Team and Task Forces have worked tirelessly all summer long to develop and prepare safety protocols for our campuses, as well as to design rich curricular experiences to deliver our mission vibrantly, regardless of the model we employ. There has been no pandemic handbook for us to turn to; however, I’m deeply proud of the work our teams are doing to keep the mission alive, and most importantly, holding your children and our community at the center of all we do. The work continues full steam as we head towards fall, and I write to share more specific details of that planning with you.
Last Friday, I shared that Keys K-8 will begin the year in a Distance Learning model. Our Leadership Team arrived at that decision to ensure the safety of our students and faculty at a time when California cases are surging. We want to provide a strong, consistent, and predictable start to the year for all of us, and to focus solely on the best delivery and realization of a Keys education in an online format. With this in mind, and to provide stability and structure for our students and faculty, our Distance Learning Program will extend through the first week of November, which coincides with the end of the first trimester.
This fall, our Leadership Team will pay close attention to the virus’s course of action, and we will communicate regularly with you about our plan for re-opening our campuses. We will consider the following criteria when making that decision:
- Transmission rates in our immediate Keys community and the Bay Area
- In keeping with the governor’s guidelines, the County of Santa Clara must be off the watch list for a minimum of 14 consecutive days
- The enforcement of required state and county safety protocols to gain re-opening approval from the county
- Testing availability and timely results for contact tracing
- Community Confidence among families, faculty, and staff. When cases surge, confidence wanes, and safety is questioned. As cases decline, confidence increases.
Our Keys faculty delivered a strong Distance Learning Program in the spring, and we also recognize that it did not work for all learners. Our Learning, Professional Development, and Community Mental Health Task Forces have spent considerable time this summer researching best practices, professional development opportunities, and reviewing student, parent, and faculty surveys. As a result, we are honing and adapting our curriculum and delivery, and we’re excited about it! With our new learnings and a clear direction for the first trimester, we can focus our attention and energies on delivering the strongest possible Distance Learning program for our students in the fall.
I know you will have many questions, and Betsy Doss, Larry Purcell, and I are here to answer them. Below you’ll find “Distance Learning At-A-Glance,” and it will provide a high-level view of the program. You’ll also find dates and times listed for grade-level meetings hosted by the Division Heads, where they will drill down on specifics for each campus and grade. Additionally, please click here to share any remaining questions you have. We will curate these questions, fold them into FAQs for Distance Learning, and address them in our grade-level town hall meetings. FAQ’s for our Campus-Based and Home-Based Learning Programs, and from the Town Hall will be available at the end of next week.
We know that this year will not be school as usual. What will be usual is Keys commitment to and passion for educating the whole child, cultivating genuine relationships, growing emotional intelligence, providing an excellent academic experience, and loving your child and family. All this you can count on.
As always we are grateful for your partnership. With our community’s strength, focus, resolve, and grace we learn and grow together.
Here’s to your good health and family connection!
All the best,
GRADE LEVEL TOWN HALL MEETINGS
Betsy Doss and Larry Purcell will host grade level zoom calls in the coming week to share more details about our Distance Learning program and to answer your questions. Click Grade Level Town Hall Meetings for the zoom links.
Kindergarten Town Hall – Wednesday, July 29, 7:00-7:45 pm
Grade 1 Town Hall – Tuesday, July 28, 6:00-6:45 pm
Grade 2 Town Hall- Tuesday, July 28, 8:00-8:45 pm
Grade 3 Town Hall – Thursday, July 30, 6:00-6:45 pm
Grade 4 Town Hall – Thursday, July 30, 8:00-8:45 pm
Grade 5 Town Hall – Tuesday, July 28, 7:00-7:45 pm
Grade 6 Town Hall – Wednesday, July 29, 6-6:45 pm
Grade 7 Town Hall – Wednesday, July 29, 8:00-8:45 pm
Grade 8 Town Hall – Thursday, July 30, 7:00-7:45 pm
DISTANCE LEARNING AT A GLANCE
Laying a foundation – the first two weeks
As we kick off our new school year, our focus will be to build community and make connections between students and teachers. In small, more intimate groupings, teachers will facilitate conversation and relationship building among students. During these initial weeks, teachers will be focusing on getting to know their students as people and as learners.
In these first two weeks, students will learn how to be a student in a virtual classroom environment. This foundation will be vital to a successful Distance Learning program. All students in grades K-8 are still in the years where they are building their habits and mindsets as learners. Our youngest students are learning for the first time what it means to be a student at school. While our older students may know what it means to be a student in a physical classroom, they are newcomers to the experience and accountability of being an effective, active participant in school from home.
Our classrooms on campus have been carefully and thoughtfully designed to facilitate learning, maximize focus, and minimize distraction. Doing school from home has a whole different set of challenges, distractions, and temptations. Prior to the start of the school year, we will share our recommendations with you about how to support your child in creating a pleasant, functional, and productive work space.
Bearing in mind developmentally appropriate expectations, teachers in Lower School will be taking the time to intentionally and purposefully teach younger students the skills to safely and effectively use the physical and digital tools that will be a part of their learning experience. Older students will be learning about how to show up for, and get the most out of, class – which means showing up on time already breakfasted and dressed, sitting up at a workstation, and bringing their full attention to their sessions.
Distance Learning at Lower School
With elementary students’ need for routine in mind, the Lower School Distance Learning program is designed to establish and maintain the regular rhythms of a school day. Each day will be bracketed by opportunities to connect socially and emotionally with one another through a Morning Meeting and a Closing Circle.
We have made many modifications and enhancements to our Lower School Distance program with the benefit of parent, student, and teacher feedback. Our schedule has been adjusted to include shorter on-screen times per learning period with regularly scheduled breaks, allowing students the chance to physically move, take a break from screens, and mentally take time to transition between different classes. We have increased the frequency of specialist classes, and class sizes will be smaller, allowing for greater engagement and more interaction with the curriculum, classmates, and the teacher. In addition, knowing that young children thrive in an environment where they feel known, not only academically but also socially and emotionally, we have built in many more opportunities for one-on-one and small group check-ins throughout the day.
Each morning, students will start their day in a live group meeting, either with their classmates in Morning Meeting or the entire Lower School in Gathering. These meetings provide opportunities for building community. Each is structured to allow for students to greet one another as well as share details about themselves.
Students will have five 30-minute lessons over the course of a school day. Most classes will be engaged in direct live instruction, discussion, and activities for the entire class time, while at other times, classes will include small group or guided independent exploration time. The teacher will almost always be present and available to students during assigned class times, even if independent exploration is taking place.
Each day, students will have a 30 minute break in the morning and an extended 90 minute lunch break, allowing students to connect with friends via a Zoom lunch bunch, take a walk, bike ride, or have a relaxing lunch, so that students can return to their afternoon classes refreshed.
Distance Learning at Middle School
Distance Learning at Middle School this fall brings an enhanced focus on the individual student and individual student needs. Our schedule and modes of teaching are structured to better serve online learning and fuel student engagement. Various class sizes and cohorts, advisory check-ins, office hours, embedded breaks, improved lesson design and feedback loops, as well as balanced workloads will allow students to have robust, connected, learning experiences.
Four days a week, our Middle School students will start their day with a live group check-in with their advisor and their advisor group of approximately 10 students. During this meeting, students will review their schedule, play community building games or share more personal check-ins, ultimately, setting the tone for the day. This is a time for students to ground themselves and start their day with purpose. On Wednesday mornings, the entire Middle School student body and faculty will meet via a zoom assembly for announcements and to discuss larger themes and community news.
Each school day is divided into four 75-minute blocks with a 15-minute break in the middle. Students will have four or five classes a day. Most classes will be engaged in direct live instruction, discussion, and activities for the entire class time, while at other times, classes will include small group or guided independent exploration time. The teacher will almost always be present and available to students during assigned class times, even if independent exploration is taking place.
Core subjects (English, math, social studies, and science) will be taught in smaller groups of approximately 12 students to allow for increased personal connection, greater engagement in discussions, and more accessibility and opportunity for one-on-one time with teachers. Specialty classes (art, theatre arts, music, self-science, dance (grades 7 and 8) and research and design (grades 7 and 8) will be taught in groups of roughly 18 students. Spanish or Mandarin classes will be groups of 12-15 students and P.E. will include all the students in a grade level.
Students will have an hour long break for lunch every day, and this will also be a time when students can participate in a club or simply meet up with friends via zoom. Some of the clubs last spring included meditation, knitting, and gardening. We are excited for students to bring their passions and interests to this year’s clubs.
Another important addition is that core teacher Office Hours are now built into the schedule. Separate from class time, every core teacher is available to each grade for 30 minutes once a week. Attendance at Office Hours is highly encouraged and will be yet another mode of feedback and redirection should students need support.Office Hour time can be used for students to ask questions, receive homework support, review concepts, or partner with peers.
Two 75-minute blocks a week are scheduled for independent work. During this time, students may work on homework, meet with a teacher, or connect with classmates for small group work. Embedding dedicated time for independent work within the school day is a direct response to needs that emerged in the spring.
THE PLANNING CONTINUES…
As a community of diverse learners, we will be monitoring student engagement and progress closely to ensure that all student needs are met.
Social and emotional learning and the mental health and wellbeing of our students is such a vital part of our mission and program at Keys. Our counselors and faculty have been hard at work this summer, redesigning their curriculum for a virtual program, so that we can continue to provide the rigorous social and emotional learning and support for which Keys is known. We expect to share more with you on this front in the coming month.
And, we continue to explore creative ways to incorporate in-person and safe social opportunities for students beyond the school day and will be in touch with more details when we have them set.