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Riverside News

Dear Riverside Families,

We hope that you share our excitement about the start of school on Monday, though I know that there is some trepidation for all of us as we prepare for a very different opening than we have ever had before.  Our staff members have worked tirelessly to prepare for our "all remote" model, and I can assure you that their warmth, enthusiasm, and creativity will shine -- even through a screen.  I have some important notes and reminders to share about Monday and the weeks ahead as we seek to work towards a "commitment to community":

1) First, I have encouraged our teachers to reach out to all of you in their classes to introduce themselves and to establish general plans for this week -- particularly Monday.  In essence, all 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 in case we have issues with Canvas.

2) Speaking of Canvas...we are excited about all of the possibilities that this new platform offers, but everyone in our school community faces a learning curve so I have preached patience and flexibility with our staff members as it may take a few days to make sure that everything is working as smoothly as possible.  I know that as the weeks and months progress, our teachers will become increasingly proficient in the nuances of this platform as they find new, creative ways to actively engage students.

3) Attached are copies of the handouts that we provided at our distribution process this past week -- including both English and Spanish versions of instructions regarding Chromebooks and iPads.  These forms will walk you through every step needed to access "Class Link" -- which contains the icons for Canvas and other district programs.  Thus, you will not need to download a separate Canvas app -- it is all set up through the district device.

4) Should 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 guru Mike Remoli (  As noted above, our teachers are flexible and empathetic so please know that we will work with you on any issues that you may have and make sure that your child is not missing core experiences.

5) For families who were unable to pick-up a device and/or their child's classroom materials -- or should you need for Mike to work on your device -- we are planning to be open for all of those issues between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm every day this week.  We will have some type of signs directing you to the appropriate location, and if this time frame does not work, please reach out to our main office so that we can figure out a plan B.

6) As shared with you in earlier communications, our elementary schools are approaching this fall differently from the spring as we will be following a more "traditional" school schedule -- with dedicated times for Morning Meeting, Reading, Writing, Science, Social Studies, Specials, and even FOCUS.  Yet, 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 are also cognizant that we have myriad family structures and dynamics that will present challenges to these schedules, and if that is the case for you, please reach out to your child's teacher and communicate often. 

7) We will also be focusing heavily 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.  All of our teachers will be using their daily "Morning Meeting" time for this purpose, but we will also be intentional about prioritizing these values and activities.  And...if you are concerned about your child's social-emotional status or growth in any way, please reach out to our wonderful guidance counselor Ben Samara (

8) We are required by the state of NJ to keep daily attendance, though that is tricky in an all-remote environment, and 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 (generally math, reading, or writing) each day, and if students are present for both of those, we will be counting them "present" for official purposes.  

9) I have attached a copy of the "Upstander" expectations for virtual learning that we passed out this past week as we strive to guide our students in appropriate behavior during remote school -- being respectful, responsible, and positive.  Our teachers will use this document as a touchstone to build classroom expectations and norms.

10) I know that you likely have tons of questions about our upcoming switch to a "hybrid" model in early to mid-October, but our immediate focus is on Monday and the rest of week #1.  I should have much more detailed information to share with you by next weekend -- including your child's assigned "cohort" for kids in the hybrid model and the teaching situation for those of you who have elected to remain "all remote" -- and I am looking to hold another parent forum via Zoom at some point in late September to explain everything in greater detail and to answer your questions.  

11) Two key dates for this week:

-- Wednesday, September 16th, 7:45 pm:  A Fireside Chat with Dolly Chugh (She is the author of The Person You Mean to Be.  Kudos and thanks to Gita Varadarajan and Anne Lord for another great opportunity with our Talking Circle that they have created and nurtured.  I will share that Zoom link again on Wednesday along with a reminder.)

-- Thursday, September 17th, Times TBA:  Back to School Night (I will also plan to share those details in an email blast early in the week.)

12) Final Thoughts:

 -- Please remember that our primary goals next week include:  a) making sure that all kids have full access to technology, b) building community and prioritizing social-emotional learning and connections, and c) establishing norms and routines to lay the foundation for a successful learning experience.

-- Special thanks to Ben Samara for putting together a wonderful introductory video. View it here.  Enjoy!

-- In Jon Muth's children's book The Three Questions (based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy), the protagonist named Nikoai seeks an answer to three questions:  a) When is the best time to do things?, b) Who is the most important one?, and c) What is the right thing to do?  Through the parable, the boy learns the most important thing in life is to do good for the one who is by your side -- or, in the year 2020, maybe through your computer screen -- essentially prioritizing compassion and engagement.  In this time of uncertainty, that is our challenge and our mission for each kid every day, and we pledge to be unyielding in our desire to maintain that focus.

Wishing you all an engaging, meaningful, and inspiring school year.


Mark Shelley

  • Riverside News