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Different approach, same goal for local districts

Marietta schools prepare for classes to begin next week

Photo by Janelle Patterson Shane Colvin seals plastic film and ads magnets to coverings for his wife’s fifth-grade classroom bookshelves for protection during overnight cleaning.

The 2020-2021 academic year begins next week for Marietta City Schools and preparations, troubleshooting and training have already begun.

But what about academic expectations, standards and policies for students?

“My wife is a first grade teacher in another district and I’m at the high school so we talk often about how the expectations will be different for different ages and developmental stages,” acknowledged Marietta High School Principal Chad Rinard Friday. “There are definitely things that we can expect of students at the high school that are not reasonable for the K-2 grades.”

Both parents and teachers have offered questions for each building level, asking for expectations in communication, in guidance and involvement and how students in the primary and secondary settings will be required to interact when at home and in the buildings.

“We may not have answers to all of your questions yet, for example, we’re still working with the state on what attendance policies will be,” explained Alicia McIntire, principal of Washington Elementary. “But we are constantly talking across the district to try and be consistent with expectations and have our safety protocols in place.”

The following are consistent questions offered by parents, guardians and some teachers as the days tick down to reentry:

What will my child’s day look like during the weeks they are in the building? Will they still move about the building like a normal (pre-coronavirus) day with lunch, recess/recreation times and art/music/electives?

Elementary level: “We are still planning to send all students to the lunchroom for lunch, to the playground for recess time and they will be going to specials with their specials’ teachers sanitizing between classes,” said McIntire. “We know that that movement is important developmentally for children and for teachers, too. We’re still going to be teaching social distancing and keeping that six feet apart.

Middle School: “There will be no class changing in the first nine weeks, no moving about the building except when they will go outside for a break time once a day and still be distancing or when they are going to lunch,” explained Brittany Schob, middle school principal. “When they go to the lunchroom — thankfully we have enough tables — they will be sitting two to a table and not moving about the lunchroom. But we know that middle school is so much about socialization and so we want to help facilitate that but in safe ways.”

High School: “With the four-day weeks we’ve eliminated the flex schedule and have gone back to straight eight-period days with 50-minute instructional times for each class each day,” said Rinard. “Thankfully by splitting students into cohorts, that will help with keeping the distancing requirements and my assistant has been working hard to put up the protocols around the buildings for how we’ll direct and limit traffic flow through the buildings.”

Finalized cohort tallies between buildings are receiving fine tuning through early next week, to fix glitches in submission requests and balance classrooms for better spacing, all three confirmed.

For the weeks children are at home, will parents/guardians know what’s due at the beginning of the week or day by day? Is my child expected to be logged into Google classroom the entire school day and watching a livestream of their teacher?

Elementary level: Yes assignments will be communicated, no the child will not be required to be watching a screen from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“There will be assignments with due dates for completed work… But we are completely understanding that our families are going to be in different situations potentially even on different days,” said McIntire. “We know that a lot of working parents or kids that are in other daycare, those parents want to be able to assist their child and work with them. And a lot of them are worried that if they want to do things on the weekend or after school will it count or is it too late? The answer is no it won’t be.”

She said all of the elementary teachers across the four buildings are being encouraged to coordinate by grade and to determine a breakdown of due dates for when remote work will need to be turned in.

“In no way are we at the elementary level expecting them to be sitting during normal school hours during the day when they’re not in school and stuck at the computer,” said McIntire. “Families and teachers are learning together so I’ve encouraged my teachers to keep things simple and familiar and basic so we can all learn this well.”

Middle School: “You will know for the week what’s expected and when things are due,” Schob explained. “I’m recommending that (a middle school student) stay on a routine, on the school schedule and be doing at home the lessons at the same times they would be in the classroom. But we understand that there are going to be some students still going to babysitters who might not yet be old enough to be home alone and so there will be flexibility with that but the expectation will still be to be logged in and completing work for each subject every school day.”

Schob explained that sixth grade is when MCS students are introduced to the computer skills course and in a normal year would begin really utilizing the online learning platforms as a supplement to instruction or in combination with assignments in the classroom.

Now that all teachers and all subjects are utilizing the technology to remain connected and instructing students when not in the building, that skillset will be further developed, she said.

“We know for our sixth graders this is going to be a huge transition for them and their parents or guardians,” Schob said. “I fielded phone calls today from parents unsure of how to get into Infinite Campus…

High School: “We’re expecting at this level for you to be up, to be logged into class on the bell schedule so you are ready to rock and roll with the materials at 7:40 a.m.,” explained Rinard. “But we understand, too, that there are students that will be babysitting their siblings or other students, too. So there will need to be some flexibility and adjustment, while still expecting these students to complete their work. My guide to the staff in trying to synchronize learning between the cohorts includes weekly outlining of expectations like a weekly pacing guide of some sort to be disseminated through Google Classroom.”

Will new material be introduced while my child is at home during their remote week? Will it be reviewed when my child is back in the building?

Elementary level: Most new material will be introduced when your student is in the building for Cohorts 1 and 2.

Middle School: Yes, with students able to interact through Google classroom during both weeks.

High School: Yes.

What will children do on Fridays when all students are at home? Are they free days or will they have assignments?

Across all three levels, the answer was Fridays are still school days, with required log-in and assignment times.

“That’s also the times when there may be more things due from the week and when teachers will be able to have office hours,” explained Schob, encouraging families to utilize Fridays for follow-up or further aid.

All students are remote Aug. 19-21, what’s our homework as a family those first three days?

Elementary level: “All of the elementary principals have decided that we will post some videos on the district website that are overarching, like for example wearing masks,” McIntire described. “General preparation for school… we wanted parents to be able to access, for example, them even on their phone.”

She said outside of watching the videos with your child, and discussing the general health and safety expectations together, “elementary students will not have assignments in Google classroom to complete between Aug. 19 and 21.”

Middle School: Schob said in addition to the district-wide videos, teachers and administrators at the middle school will contribute building-specific videos to introduce the separate entrance/exit doors, staff and rules applicable to the middle grades.

High School: District-wide safety videos must be reviewed, plus log-in and contact with each teacher.

Will students in the same/different cohorts and/or their parents be able to interact together online through Google Classroom during remote work days?

This will be encouraged through the platform, but will be at the discretion of the teacher to facilitate.

If my child has a question during a remote day, how can they communicate with their teacher? How do they get aid and what’s the timeframe for receiving an answer?

Elementary level: Send an email to your child’s teacher. Timeframes for responses are to be determined as the cohorts and instructors adjust to the new normal.

Middle School: Students will be encouraged to utilize Google Classroom to ask questions and use Fridays to get expanded aid. Teachers will be encouraged to provide additional instruction or aides for remote students when noting questions in-person.

High School: Students and teachers will communicate via Google Classroom.

We’re having trouble logging into the iPad/Chromebook/Infinite Campus/Google Classroom, when will that be fixed?

“I’d like to have an IT day or some set times, but we’re not sure yet how that would work,” said McIntire. “But that’s also the beauty of having a group of students the first week and then the second group the next so we can also hopefully help troubleshoot then.”

But for full-time remote learners, she said, the district is still hoping to determine time for technical aid.

“And if you have more specific questions about what to bring or how to work your child’s account please call,” said McIntire.

“We are so thankful for the patience of our parents and our students really working with us as a team so we can all try and get back to normal,” added Rinard.

Then after the Labor Day holiday, students may even begin to see some more return to the clubs and other extracurriculars they look forward to, said Schob.

“Let’s get the basics in together, then as we work out those kinks and foundational skills we can work to bring back the rest of the things that make coming to school great,” she said.

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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