Dear Bloomfield Hills Schools Community,
As always, I hope this email finds you well and want to thank you for providing feedback via our two Continuous Learning Surveys. We have heard in our survey results that our community appreciates shorter and fewer messages so I will share up-front that the beginning of this note is intended largely for our K-5 families. If your child is in grades 6-12, you may or may not find an interest. In the interest of time, you may wish to skip down to the “what’s next?” section below.
Over the past two weeks, our district teams reviewed your feedback to see what changes, if any, are needed to the Continuous Learning Plan. After the first week, we announced the following changes:
Kindergarten, First, and Second Grade staff worked with their grade level teams to create a rotation of instructional sequence between science and social studies content.
A subcommittee of the Teacher Task Force was assembled to work through the issues that were experienced with enVision.
K-3 shifted to a new grid template structure, which was visible to parents/guardians beginning April 27, 2020. The new grid template was collaboratively designed by teachers and IT, responsive to community and staff feedback.
Based on staff feedback, we made an internal modification: each K-3 Work in Progress folder now has a new copy of the Master Template to work in, an example to reference, as well as a guide document.
These changes were, for the most part, well-received by students, staff, and families. However, in the survey last week, we heard concerns from parents and guardians regarding how much screen time our younger students have in a day. We also heard that now that the weather is warming, it’s getting harder and harder to call kids back indoors to do lessons. Families shared concerns about meaningful feedback and email response time being a bit slower than desired, while staff shared their frustration with not being able to respond to students, colleagues, and families as quickly as they’d like due to being overbooked.
Therefore, at this time, we are announcing the following change that will begin May 4, 2020:
Grades K-5 will maintain the existing morning schedule the week of May 4, 2020 for interactive engagement with students, but eliminate the afternoon general education office hours. This will give students the opportunity to break away from screens in the afternoon and provide time for educators to provide meaningful feedback and faster email response to parents.
This change does not affect special schedules or meeting times with support staff, which will remain the same. The five meetings per week are still on the high end county wide as most districts, on average, are meeting with students 1-2 times per week.
In addition to this change, I would like to address a particular point of feedback we heard from a few families. Some families asked why some teachers seem to spend more time “checking in” than others. While some teachers appear to jump right into the content for the day, others spend time lingering on the “how are you feeling?” question.
I want to reassure you that this is not only intentional, but reflective of a “normal” school day. Just as routines and the classroom culture differ from one physical classroom to another, online learning classrooms each have their own personality. Our teachers are collaborating more than ever in this new way of teaching and learning. In an effort to meet both the academic and social/emotional needs of our students, teachers are taking turns focusing on the social and emotional needs of our students. So, some days the math lesson may begin with a longer introduction, a “how are you doing?”, or a “how was your weekend?” Other days, students will experience a full 30 minute math lesson. In this way, we hope to support our students’ social emotional needs as well as create forward learning opportunities.
As we enter the final weeks of the school year, our focus will shift beyond the here and now to the “what’s next?” Like you, we have questions about what school will look like in the fall. We are taking steps now to answer questions and resolve potential pitfalls before they become thorns for our students, staff, and families.
This week, our team began meeting with educators from Denmark, South Korea, and several other international schools that have either already reopened or will reopen shortly. We have also formed a consortium with districts throughout the United States to discuss plans for returning to school in the fall. Our goal is to learn from these schools and use their lessons learned to proactively plan for our own reopening in the fall. This includes a potential array of protocol changes to our arrival and dismissal procedures, cleaning practices, and more.
In addition to exploring plans for the fall, we are investigating ways to make a meaningful end to the school year for our students. The in-person learning experience ended abruptly this year and we know that students are feeling a strong sense of loss over the many events they did not have the opportunity to experience. Our teams are brainstorming ways in which we can honor our graduating seniors, support students who will experience a school change in the fall, and bring some of the normal spring “fun” (field days, class parties, concerts, etc.) to the new online school world.
It will take our whole community to support students, appropriately celebrate them, and bring the school year to a fun close. Therefore, we are taking a week away from surveys to create a survey that will ask students, staff, and families to provide feedback on the possibilities for emotional support, celebration, and many other items still in their infancy of planning.
I am confident that together, we can support all learners through the remainder of the school year and ensure they feel supported and welcomed when we return in the fall.
Tech Support Update
Our technology team has enjoyed supporting students, staff, and families and appreciated the feedback provided through the survey. In reviewing the survey data and use statistics, the following changes to our Help Desk Call Center will be implemented starting May 2, 2020:
Reduction in weekend hours: Sunday support will be provided from 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Our new weekday support will be provided from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Please continue to use the hotline 248.900.2470 or email email@example.com for your tech support needs. Calls and emails left after hours will be returned the following business day. Thank you for your patience!
A helpful resource
I’d like to share this video from Stephanie Grant. It is a 20 minute video on trauma, with some very practical resources for our families to use to understand behaviors of children, ways to talk to children, and how to find support through the pandemic.
Next week marks the annual week of Teacher Appreciation nationally. In this time of celebrating our nation’s COVID-19 frontline support individuals, I hope you will join me in celebrating our teachers. Teachers have been called to perform a job that was largely undefined prior to the start of this national health crisis. With little training and resources, Bloomfield Hills Schools teachers sprang into action, setting up classrooms in their living rooms, kitchens, and basements. They found ways to virtually instruct, emotionally support, and connect with their students.
They blazed the trail in providing online PT, OT, and speech services. They pioneered new ways of collaborating and ensuring services would be fluid for students, even if members of the teaching staff or their families became ill. They found resources and invented methods for reaching students who had technology gaps and struggles.
Our teachers are without the normal necessities of a classroom. They are in chaotic environments with their own children and families and noise around them. They are re-writing plans they painstakingly created prior to this “new normal” and adapting them yet again when the plans don’t go as they’d hoped. They are posting content publicly, vulnerable to the harsh criticism of strangers on the internet. They are balancing the incredible emotional needs of their students while continuing to move learning forward. They are fearless. They are relentless. They care.
To all of our teachers, thank you. Thank you for the love and compassion you show your students every day. Thank you for encouraging students through these challenging times, helping them continue to have hope that we will return to a recognizable world once again. Thank you for seeing our students for who they are, meeting them where they are, and supporting them to grow in ways they never thought possible.
If you have a teacher you’d like to show appreciation for, please share your comments online and use #ThankATeacher and #BHSTogether in your post so we can see your post and share it with the full school community. If you do not have social media, you can share your comment with our communications team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and they will make sure to get your comment to the teacher and share it with the district.
Pat Watson, Superintendent