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District News

March 27, 2020

Dear Parents,

We are ending Week 2 of PPS Remote Learning.  Thank you for the photos, the appreciation, and the helpful feedback.  Your positive responses are affirming the truly amazing work our PK-12 faculty is doing to translate their teaching expertise into effective distance learning.  We appreciate you as well for doing your best to carve out space and time in your work and home life to support your children’s learning.

We are working to get it right –- the workload, an appropriate amount of synchronous versus asynchronous time with students, the expectations for learning, and a balance of work time, down time, play time, and family time.   To that end, and for consistency across schools and grade levels, we are asking teachers to consider a few key principles as they plan their remote lessons, keeping in mind that their professional judgment and their knowledge of their students should drive their decisions.

Teachers will:

  • Focus on core skills, not simply content coverage.   This means that w hile we are attempting to move students along with curriculum goals, we know that nothing fully replaces what is done in the classroom.  Lessons will be pared down, along with time and product expectations for students. 
  • Present lessons in a way that allows students access throughout the day.  For families, this means students can watch videoed lessons or complete assignments when it is most convenient for them and their parents.  Remote learning may be more effective when students participate live with their teacher, but we know it may not be possible for every student to tune in on any given day or time.   Do what works best for your family.
  • Provide clear directions.   This is something we’re learning day by day as we receive feedback from students and parents.  If you have questions, use the teacher’s school email address or the PSL platform to ask.  Don’t panic if you don’t receive an immediate answer; due dates are flexible.
  • Assign “classwork” only, with no additional traditional “homework”.   We know students take varying amounts of time to complete assignments, be it in class or at home.  Teachers will adjust the quantity and type of work they are assigning as they assess student work and progress.  Flexibility along with compassion for everyone’s life situation is key for us.  While we do need your help to provide encouragement and an environment conducive to learning in your home, we do not expect you to teach the course or curriculum.
  • Use live chats or recorded lessons when appropriate.  If students are unable to attend the live session, they can watch the video when it is more convenient for the family.  At times, a teacher may want to also meet with small groups of students.  In that case, if possible, it would be helpful if you can arrange for your child to have a computer device available to them at the scheduled time.

Note:  We are as close to certain as we can be that all of our students who are income eligible have a district-issued device.  We know there may be further need for students who don’t quite meet that criteria.  If you know of a student who needs a device, please email the school principal. 

  • Use PowerSchool Learning (PSL) as the starting point for all lessons.   Links to other platforms like Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams will be found there.  

Note:  PowerSchool Learning was slow for a few days last week.  They believe they’ve resolved the freezing issue; we will be monitoring it carefully day to day.

  • Teach and communicate with compassion and flexibility.  This is perhaps most important as we know significant physical, emotional, and financial strain are new realities for our families. 

Over the last two weeks, parents and students have expressed appreciation for the creative ways teachers are engaging students through activities like virtual Morning Meetings, small and large group chats, live and videoed lessons, story “hours”, posting funny motivational videos, spirit days like Crazy Hat day, and teaching in a Google Hangout.   Principals and supervisors are also staying connected to students using district online platforms and social media to send messages, songs, magic tricks, and daily food for thought, along with weekly updates to parents.

We do know that learning is most effective when it is a social experience, and our teachers and administrators are striving to maintain social interaction despite mandated social distancing.  

We are so very grateful to our teachers for creating positive remote learning environments with instruction and guidance that is appropriate to the age and grade of their students.  With that, we are especially grateful to parents.  We know that balancing work, family, and school isn’t easy for anyone. 

A Note about Special Education and Related Services:  Teachers, Child Study Teams and related Service Providers have been reaching out to families to determine how to best support students and their families.  They are reviewing initial plans, listening to parent feedback, and determining how to best provide services remotely without overwhelming families.  Team members are working to engage families in either virtual meetings or phone conferences, with translators available as needed.  If your child has an IEP, we encourage you to participate in these meetings.  We recognize how challenging each day can be and setting clear expectations can help alleviate worry and stress.  Always feel free to call or email your child’s case manager or teacher as well should you have questions.

A Note about State Testing:  All Spring 2020 State assessments have been canceled, which include the New Jersey Student Learning Assessments (NJSLA) for grades 3 - 11, the Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State (ACCESS) tests for English Language Learners, and the Dynamic Learning Map Assessments (DLM).  The NJ Department of Education will provide school districts with further guidelines as they consider impact and unintended consequences of this action.  Cancellation of these statewide assessments will not prevent students from meeting their graduation assessment requirements.

With sincere appreciation for this wonderful village we are all a part of,


Anna Gonzalez Kosek
Assistant Superintendent, Curriculum & Instruction

En Español

March 24, 2020

Dear Students, Staff, and Families, 

The applause began last week in Spain. 

Following an order by the prime minister to stay in their homes, thousands of citizens throughout the country began taking to their balconies every night at 8:00 p.m. to give a standing ovation to the health care workers who are on the front lines caring for those suffering from the coronavirus.

And the applause is spreading.  From Spain to Italy to France and beyond, hundreds of thousands are now joining the nightly tradition.  Gratitude spreads faster and is more powerful than COVID-19. 

And so I begin this message with my own applause.  For our health workers, absolutely, but also for our educators, our parents, our students.  All of you have had your lives upended by the coronavirus; all of you are feeling anxious about your own health and those of others; and yet all of you are finding new ways to continue learning and working and showing your care for one another.  It is not always easy, I know, but you have the appreciation of many. 

So what is next?  Our governor's executive order 104 has closed schools indefinitely throughout New Jersey.  I don't know when schools will be officially allowed to reopen, but I do know that staff and families are looking for guidance beyond this Friday, which will mark the end of our initial period of remote learning.  Consequently, after consulting with our local Health Officer, I am extending the remote learning period for the Princeton Public Schools at least through Friday, April 17, 2020. We will re-evaluate as we near the end of that time period. 

Some important points to keep in mind as we move forward:

Our schools and offices are now all operating remotely.  District buildings are open on a very limited basis only to essential employees.  If you have questions or requests, please email us.  We are trying to protect our staff, our students and our community.

Reach out if you need food or know someone who does.  Here is a link to our application (in both English and Spanish) to receive free or reduced priced meals during this time period when schools are physically closed. We recognize that this crisis has placed an economic hardship on many of our families - a hardship that is likely to increase.  If your economic circumstances have changed or if they do in the future, please go to the link above to review the income guidelines for receiving federally funded meals.  You can also get help in completing the application through the Princeton Children's Fund or make a donation to a family in need.

Spring Break will be a true break. We all need to take a breath right now.  During the week of April 6-10, please do just that.  Relax.  Laugh.  Spend time with neighbors and family - just do it from a distance and remember to wash your hands!

Once again, I am grateful for all that you are doing during this unprecedented time.  Give yourselves a standing ovation! 


Steve Cochrane


March 16, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Today has been a day of "firsts" as we launched remote learning, as we distributed food and technology to our students, and as we implemented the many changes necessary during this crisis. I would like to thank everyone for remaining calm in circumstances fraught with chaos.

As you know our current situation is incredibly fluid. Today, the Governor recommended a state of emergency instituting a curfew beginning at 8:00 p.m and extending through 5:00 a.m. and there will undoubtedly be more news breaking in the coming hours.  As we all struggle to process the magnitude of this health crisis and our responses to it, we want to take the steps that keep us safe and also keep us positive.

If you have a Princeton High School student you may have seen this message on Instagram from Principal Jessica Baxter. It strikes the right tone of what we would like to communicate to you. Be safe. Be cautious. Set a good example for your family. Our medical experts tell us that you cannot go wrong with stringent social distancing, which means avoiding contact with people outside of your household even if you are feeling well. And while playdates and sleepovers are tempting, all of New Jersey is being cautioned to avoid these risks. We are doing our best at PPS to heed these increasingly urgent precautions, and to the extent it is currently possible, I am now urging all PPS employees to work from home.

Meanwhile, we have finished our first day of Distance Learning. How did it go for you? How did it go for your children? If you would like to share thoughts or photos or videos please email We know that having kids learning at home will occasionally present some challenges, but we do hope to post the positive things you may be doing as a family to support learning and to also support the emotional health of your children during this difficult time.  In addition, please look for a short survey we will be sending soon so you can give us your feedback.

Finally, I would like to thank our staff, beginning with those who volunteered today to deliver two weeks of meals to our nearly 500 students who rely on us for breakfast and lunch.  I would like to thank our teachers who will continue to go above and beyond to thoughtfully engage their students.  And I would like to thank our custodians, our central office folks, our building secretaries, our technology department, and our principals, all of whom had important duties they fulfilled today while taking precautions to be safe.   For the next few days we will be operating with minimal staff in most buildings, with the goal of ensuring we can get computers into the hands of all those who need them to fully participate in remote learning. I am hoping that by mid-week I will be able to close at least some of our buildings and keep staff at home.

I will communicate with you regularly as we work to keep you informed and connected.  I would also ask you to look for information on our remote learning website page and on our coronavirus information page, where we have recently posted new information about social distancing.

We will get through this together.  


Steve Cochrane

En Español

March 15, 2020 

Dear Parents, 

This is an unusual and disconcerting time for everyone.  PPS administrators, teachers, and support staff throughout every department are working hard to support student learning remotely while encouraging a positive and healthy attitude.   

On Friday, you received a letter from your child’s school principal with information and guidelines for distance learning at that school level.   For your convenience, these letters will be posted on the Remote Learning page of the District website on Monday.   

We know that we will learn much from the students and their families over the next several days and our distance-learning plans will evolve and improve.  We also know that this type of learning will be easier for some children than for others.  Please remember that our school and central office personnel are still working, in district or remotely, and will address any needs or concerns you have.  Please do not hesitate to call or email.  Should you need assistance with materials, technology support, or other resources, there are many staff members ready to help. 

Below you will find high school, middle, and elementary school-specific guidelines to get your children started on this new journey.  The very best place to go for information is your child’s teacher’s PowerSchool Learning (PSL) website.  Additionally, teachers, supervisors, and principals will be answering emails each day.  You may also call my office at (609) 806 – 4203 or email me at  

Princeton High School Guidelines for Students and Families:  

  • Students should take all school-assigned and personal items home.  Lockers should be cleaned out.  

  • A google form will be posted in the Grade Level class in PowerSchool Learning each day. Students MUST fill out this form by 1pm each day in order to be counted present.  If a student has trouble accessing this form the student or parent must call the attendance line (609-806-4280 x3806) to report the student as present.  

  • If a child is ill, a parent can call in their absence to the attendance line to have the absence verified. 

  • Students will login to PowerSchool Learning each day and follow alternating E/F cycle day class schedules for accessing class content, activities and assignments.  Students should login to their E day classes the first day of the closure, then their F day classes on the second day of the closure, etc.  

  • Students should follow expectations and deadlines set by teachers for completing activities and turning in assignments.  

  • Teachers will post that day’s lesson, materials, activities, assignments, etc. by 8:20 am.    

  • Students should keep in contact with teachers via messaging features and/or email if they have any questions or concerns about content. 

  • A minimum of one grade per week will be inputted in PowerTeacher Pro.  Students and families should continue to reach out to teachers with questions or concerns via PowerSchool Learning or email.   

  • Currently, the school building will be open for minimal use between the hours of 8:00 – 3:00.  This, of course, will continually be reevaluated based on changing conditions and the advice of our local health officials.   Students and families may stop by to pick up materials or troubleshoot technology issues, but we ask that you call in advance.  For your convenience, hours and availability of staff will be posted on the school website. Clubs will not meet, and students/families should only come to the building if they have an appointment or question.  The cafeteria, Learning Commons, IDEAS Center, Fitness Center, etc. will not be available.  

John Witherspoon Middle School Guidelines for Students and Families

  • A google form will be posted in an Attendance Class that ALL students have in their PowerSchool Learning each day.  Students MUST fill out this form by 1pm each day in order to be counted present.  If you cannot fill out the form or are having difficulty, please have your parent /guardian call your child “in” to the attendance line.  (609)-806-4266 

  • Students will login to PowerSchool Learning each day and follow the cycle day class schedules for accessing class content, activities and assignments.  

  • Students should follow the provided daily schedule. 

  • Teachers will post that day’s lesson, materials, activities, assignments, etc. by 8:25 am.    

  • Students should follow expectations and deadlines set by teachers for completing activities and turning in assignments. 

  • Students will receive a minimum of one grade per week which will be inputted in PowerTeacher Pro.  

  • Students and families should continue to reach out to teachers with questions or concerns via PowerSchool Learning or email.   

  • Currently, the school building will be open for minimal use between the hours of 8:00 – 3:00.  This, of course, will continually be reevaluated based on changing conditions and the advice of our local health officials.   Students and families may stop by to pick up materials or troubleshoot technology issues, but we ask that you call in advance.  No afterschool activities, extracurricular activities or clubs will meet.  

Elementary School Guidelines for Students and Families 

  • Depending on the grade, attendance will be taken in one of these ways:  an attendance poll will be posted on their teacher’s website, parents will be instructed to sign a log sheet each day during the week, or parents will email the classroom teacher each day.  Students should complete either the poll or the paper log sheet to indicate they have signed-in and are beginning the day’s work. If you or your child is having difficulty with any of those methods, a parent /guardian should call the child “in” to the school attendance line.  

  • Be prepared for a call or email 2-4 times/week from one of your child’s teachers or support staff to check in on their progress and verify that they are in attendance. 

  • Students in grades 3-5 will login to PowerSchool Learning each day for their lessons.  Students in grades K-2 should continue each day with their learning packets.  Teachers of grades K-2 will move toward more eLearning within a week or two once all eligible students have a school computer device. 

  • Grades 3-5 teachers will post that day’s lesson, materials, activities, assignments, etc. by 8:25 am.    

  • Students should follow expectations and deadlines set by teachers for completing activities and turning in assignments. 

  • Students will receive feedback and grades as appropriate during the distance learning period.  

  • Students and families should continue to reach out to teachers with questions or concerns via PowerSchool Learning or email.   

  • Currently, the school building will be open for minimal use between the hours of 8:00 – 3:00.  This, of course, will continually be reevaluated based on changing conditions and the advice of our local health officials.   Students and families may stop by to pick up materials or troubleshoot technology issues, but we ask that you call in advance.   

Should you still need to create a PowerSchool Learning account, step-by-step instructions and information on whom to call or email if you need further assistance, can be found on the District website’s Remote Learning page.   

Also, below is a link to a short Brain Pop video on COVID-19, which you may find appropriate for younger students who are trying to understand the disease and the national concern around it: 

This NY Times article on supporting kids during what could be a lengthy period of remote learning offers parents creative ways to help their children navigate this new reality: 

Never was it truer than now that it takes a village . . . we are in this together for the well-being of the children.  I wish you good health and happiness in the weeks ahead. 


Annie Gonzalez Kosek
Assistant Superintendent, Curriculum & Instruction 

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