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Community Park Back to School Information 2020-2021

Elementary Remote Learning FAQ

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Welcome Back: Letter From the Principal

September 2020

Dear CP Families,

The first day of school is such a magical day. That magic comes from our hearts and our anticipation of something new. It is a combination of yearning for the unknown and fearing the unknown.

This year is unlike any other for us adults or for our children. Let's focus on what will be the same. My commitment to being here for you and for your children remains. Our teachers' dedication to your children's success is even stronger. They have poured their passion into preparing for this fall. You know that teaching in this environment is not for the faint of heart!  CP teachers have heart!

Our entire staff has worked tirelessly to prepare for our "all-remote" model. You may interact for now through a screen, but our teachers and assistants are real, passionate, and energized and that will come through. Their initial lessons and days will focus on building community. We all crave community with our school peers - we have missed our students. We will also emphasize how to work together in the remote environment and how to organize our days for success and for great experiences.

Teachers will introduce themselves and establish general plans for this week. Most students will be meeting with their homeroom teacher on Monday morning around 8:30 am as a starting point, and most (if not all) are planning to start with Zoom next week just as we get used to Canvas. We are excited about all of the possibilities that this new platform offers. As with anything new, we are asking for your patience and flexibility as it may take a few days to make sure that everything is working as smoothly as possible.  

You should know that if you have any technical issues with your device, your log-in information, or other programs, please send an email to both your child's teacher and to our tech assistant, Vaishali Pandkar (vaishalipandkar@princetonk12.org).

If you were unable to pick-up a device and/or your child's classroom materials, please contact the main office (609-806-4230). We are on site and can assist you with a pick-up time. 

The elementary schools are approaching this fall with a more scheduled day in the hopes of keeping things organized for kids. There will be some dedicated times for Morning Meeting and for the content areas. However, please know that the intent is not for students to be on screen the whole time, and we have worked with teachers on age-appropriate guidelines for "screen time" for academic subjects -- with the daily totals increasing with age in accordance with guidelines from scientists and medical professionals.  Thus, the school day should be a blend of synchronous and asynchronous instruction, and that variety will also be evident with our "specials" as those will all take a different form. 

We will also be focusing on SEL (social-emotional learning) as we know how important connections are during this time of uncertainty and trauma for so many individuals and families. Teachers will be using their daily "Morning Meeting" time for this purpose, but we will also be intentional about prioritizing these values and activities.  If you are concerned about your child's social-emotional status or growth in any way, please reach out to our wonderful guidance counselor Liz Cameron (elizabethcameron@princetonk12.org).

We are required by the state of NJ to keep daily attendance. Our staff has agreed to a process that we will all use.  Each homeroom teacher will take attendance on the first Zoom (Morning Meeting) and the last Zoom each day, and if students are present for both of those, we will be counting them "present" for official purposes.  

I am sure you have questions about our upcoming switch to a "hybrid" model in early to mid-October; however, our immediate focus is on Monday and the rest of week #1.  There will be more detailed information to share with you by next week.  I will work with the PTO to set up another parent forum via Zoom at some point in late September. 

At this time, we are planning for Thursday, September 17th, for Back to School Night - details to follow.

Please breathe and know that we are here for you and your children.

Sincerely,

Dineen Gruchacz
Principal

 

August 21, 2020 

Dear CP Families, 

Change can be scary – but change is necessary!  I am sure you know that our superintendent recommended to the school board on Tuesday night that we begin with an "all remote" model for learning when school starts on Monday, September 14th, and the plan calls for a phased re-entry to a hybrid model in October, if possible.  Change… we will be in touch about all of those details as we build them and improve them. For now: 

1) CLASS PLACEMENT:  Teachers work on placement from the end of one school year into the summer of the next. We usually share those placement letters in late summer, and we share class lists in the early days of school. Under these circumstances, we are going to attempt to communicate your child's teacher assignment next week, as long as we can coordinate that distribution date with the other three schools so that we all send those simultaneously.  It is our hope that this bit of extra time allows you to coordinate your family’s personal needs and plans. 

2) EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS AND TECH DEVICES:  We are working to organize a process for each family to come to pick up materials and devices to support our 1:1 technology initiative (iPads for Pre-K through 1st grade and Chromebooks for grades 2-5).  A good change! This will be something like the end of year pick up of materials, and it may include the chance to say hello to staff from a distance. We are really anxious to reconnect with all of our students! This will likely be during the second week of September. It will also allow you to drop off any materials that you may still have (computers, books, etc.).  We will share more details about that process as we develop the plan. Returning students, please make sure to check around your house for any materials that you may need to return to CP. 

3) CANVAS:  Our district has adopted Canvas (a web-based program) as our new learning management system ("LMS" in educational lingo) to replace PowerSchool Learning, and there will be training videos and materials for parents.  Our teachers may still have students engage with other websites and electronic platforms, but we expect that Canvas will be the launching point and hub for all of those links and all of the information that you need on a daily basis. A good change! 

4) DAILY SCHEDULE:  It is no secret that the CP schedule is super complex to accommodate our Traditional and our DLI classes. Remote scheduling is no exception. Unlike the spring experience, we will have a more prescribed daily school schedule (8:30 - 3:00 on each weekday except for Wednesdays when "school" will end at 1:00 pm to afford teachers the necessary time to collaborate and plan for virtual instruction).  This does not mean that children will be on Zoom or a screen for all of that time, or for any extensive and consecutive time. It will support the ability to designate times when classes are working in a particular content area and in English or the target language (for our DLI students). 

This will also allow us to provide "specials" for all kids and to protect the time for support services (AIS, ESL, special education, speech, OT, and PT) that many of our students receive.  We will be in touch with more details in the weeks ahead, and the teachers will communicate specifics to you daily and weekly. 

5) ORIENTATIONS:  We will be organizing meet & greets and orientation experiences for our Pre-K and Kindergarten students and parents, as well as a gathering for all of our new families.  We expect that those will all be held during the second week of September -- more details to follow. 

I know change is hard and sometimes scary. Know that I am working with staff and others who care deeply about our CP children. Our goal is to provide the very best learning experience for all, regardless of the “model,” and we are contemplating the additional complications for parents and families during this time as we carefully plan.  CP will meet every challenge with calm, steady and innovative approaches to learning. 

Look how far we have come! Our teachers are wonderful, our parents are awesome, CP kids are champions.  We will have a fun and successful year in our traditional and immersion classes.  

I am planning some Zoom meetings with teachers and parents, and our PTO is engaged and stands ready to support – as always. No change there! 

If you have attended any of the past nine Back-to-School Nights at CP, you know that the first day of school for my own children through the years and, since 2011, for our CP family is a highlight of every year. I love the first day of school.  I promise to make this year special for all of us even if it has to be different. 

Sincerely, 

Dineen Gruchacz 

Principal