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Update from our Superintendent

Update from our Superintendent
Posted on 04/02/2020
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Dear School Community,

I hope that you’re hanging in there. I realize that between your work responsibilities and now your educational responsibilities, you’re a bit stressed. I also know that having information during these confusing times can help. Although I enjoy the video messages, there was just too much information to share today, and I was afraid a video may have become a really boring “mini-series” for you. I, consequently, thought an email was the best way to communicate.

As always, so that you can select the information that you need most, the message is structured as follows: (1) Two Week Instructional Calendar; (2) Parent Survey; (3) Kindergarten Pick-up; (4) Schoology and Seesaw; (5) Checking Email; (6) FAQs for Parents and Students; (7) Student Activities; and (8) Mini-Thon and GV-CTC Donations.

Two Week Instructional Calendar

As we progress through our first week of online learning, we are looking ahead while trying not to get “too far ahead”. There are several reasons why we believe two week “chunks” of time are best. Information continues to change quickly, and the more we have to change plans the more confused our school community becomes. Even though everyone has been patient and flexible, we want to provide as much clarity as possible. Also, we are only four days into our “new normal” and we want to be able to flex with the needs of our students, parents, and teachers. We believe two week windows of time are long enough to give us a good body of data while being short enough to make adjustments. To this end, the instructional calendar for the next two weeks is as follows:

Monday 4/6 Tuesday 4/7 Wednesday 4/8 Thursday 4/9 Friday 4/10

Online Learning Online Learning Online Learning Online Learning School Closed

Monday 4/13 Tuesday 4/14 Wednesday 4/15 Thursday 4/16 Friday 4/17

Online Learning Online Learning Online Learning Online Learning Inservice Day

The first thing that you’ll notice is that we will not have spring break this year. We wanted to continue with our learning and provide as much structure as possible for our students. Additionally, since we made the decision to provide optional, educational opportunities for the first two weeks of the shutdown, we felt that it was important to limit interruptions. We, however, still wanted to provide a “day off” on Friday, April 10th for everyone to regroup, catch-up, and take a breath. The 10th will represent almost two full weeks of our “new normal” and it seemed like a good time for a break.

We are also including an inservice day on Friday, April 17th. Since our teachers are still adjusting to this new instructional delivery method, we wanted to provide them with continued professional learning in areas of self-identified need while also giving them time to plan, review, and grade student work for the following week.

Parent Survey

An important element of success of our virtual learning model is our parents. We, therefore, need your feedback. This feedback will help us to gauge students’ workload, troubleshoot issues that parents are facing, and improve our delivery methods. Please take the short parent survey by clicking here.

Kindergarten Pick-Up

The Concord Elementary School team will email a PDF of the Kindergarten Home Learning to all parents on Friday, April 3rd. For those of you who are able to print at home, please print the work which will include the next three weeks of instruction including Special Area classes. If you indicated on the survey that you are unable to print the PDF, please meet Dr. Penning and Mrs. Leach at Concord Elementary school this Friday, April 3rd between 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM. We kindly ask parents to remain in their cars and drive up to the circle in front of Concord. A GV staff member will check your name off of a list and provide you a packet. It is important to note that we only have copies for parents who indicated that they needed one.

Schoology and Seesaw

In the area of staying flexible and patient, we are all experiencing issues with Schoology and Seesaw. Please understand that these providers are experiencing the repercussions of the pandemic as well. In fact, we received an update yesterday from Schoology explaining their plan to accommodate the 400% increase in usage of their 20+ million users. They recognize that there have been service interruptions; consequently, they are (a) increasing monitoring, specifically looking for areas of the site that are causing performance degradation; (b) during peak usage periods throughout the day, turning off certain resource intensive processes that have minimal impact on their users; (c) implementing specific throttles that allow them to quickly mitigate potential performance issues in certain features; and (d) tuning their infrastructure to account for the much larger volumes. Schoology asserts that these accommodations are occurring 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We also continue to monitor the performance of Seesaw. After some initial glitches, the platform appears to be functioning much better. However, our technology department will continue to monitor both systems and will work closely with customer service staff to facilitate as seamless an experience as possible for our students.

Checking Email

Now more than ever, it’s vital that we are checking our emails. We ask that parents maintain accurate contact information in Alma at all times as all parent communication is sent using this data. Click Alma Links to find each school’s unique URL. If you have any problems accessing your Alma account please contact Garnet Valley Tech Support:

Bethel Springs Elementary, Liz Murphy liz@garnetvalley.org
Concord Elementary, Kyle Croll kyle@garnetvalley.org
Garnet Valley Elementary, Sally McGraw sally@garnetvalley.org
Garnet Valley Middle School, Patty Lafferty patty@garnetvalley.org
Garnet Valley High School, John Huber jhuber@garnetvalley.org

FAQs for Parents and Student

We continue to update information for parents and students. Perhaps the best resource to utilize when you have questions is our FAQ document. You can access it by clicking here.

Student Activities

The social and emotional well being of our students is extremely important to us and remains a priority. However, with a stay-at-home order in place for the foreseeable future, we do not have many options for some of the large-scale, social gatherings that are part of activities such as graduation, proms, concerts, field days, sports contests, etc. I realize that parents and students want definitive information regarding the district's plan to provide these opportunities, but at this time it is not possible for a multitude of reasons. In the meantime, our administrative team continues to brainstorm ways to provide student activities and events when we return to school.

Several of the questions I've received about activities were focused on graduation. The high school administrative team is meeting with the University of Delaware this week to discuss commencement. Simultaneously, Mr. Brandt and his team continue to explore various scenarios and options.

Mini-thon and GV-CTC

Please read this message from Madelyn Lederer, who is one of our amazing GVHS seniors and who leads Mini-Thon: One of the unfortunate consequences of school closures is the cancellation of many extracurricular activities and events our students have worked hard to plan. One of these events is Mini-THON, a student-led dance marathon at the High School that raises money for pediatric cancer research and treatment. In the past 12 years, Mini-THON students have raised over half a million dollars for Four Diamonds, and despite the cancellation of their in-person event, they remain committed to supporting the cause. Please click on their names and take 2 minutes to watch these videos from two of our Seniors, Madelynn Lederer and Derek Brown, who will explain more about the impact of Mini-THON and the importance of continuing to support Four Diamonds. Click here to donate, and thank you so much for your generosity.

GV-CTC has over $16,000. You can still donate! If you would like to participate, we ask that you use the GVCTC Venmo account: @GVCTC. If you are asked, the 4 digit code is 3706. Jennifer Tront, GV-CTC Treasurer, owns the account, so you will see her name appear. If you know anyone in our community who needs assistance, please have them complete this updated link (Food Services Assistance) and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Take good care!

Dr. Marc Bertrando, Superintendent

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