4/17/2020 4J Middle School Parent News: What to Expect—Middle School Distance Learning

4J Middle School Parent News: What to Expect—Middle School Distance Learning

Dear 4J middle school families,

Governor Kate Brown announced last week that Oregon school buildings will not open again for the remainder of the 2019–20 school year. We are saddened that we will not see our students back in classrooms this spring, but know this latest guidance comes as another measure to keep our community as safe and healthy as possible.

While our school buildings will stay closed, the learning continues. Eugene School District 4J and all Oregon school districts began distance learning starting this week. First, our middle schools and individual teachers are working with students and families to get devices connected, share information about how to use learning platforms, and review digital citizenship expectations. They are then moving on to distance learning.

We want to share with you what that will look like for middle school students in their condensed spring trimester courses. Please also look for emails your school has sent with information specific to your school. 

What will distance learning look like? 

Distance learning will not look or feel the same as a regular in-person school day. It will provide students a consistent connection with school staff and continued learning focused on essential skills as we finish the school year, but cannot fully replace the rich experiences a student has when engaging with their teacher and peers in the classroom every day.

Our guiding principles are to ensure safety and wellness, cultivate connection and relationships, center efforts in equity and efficacy, and innovate.

Distance learning will include a blend of teaching modes, some online learning and other methods, such as paper assignments and phone calls. Parents and families will play a key part in student learning. 

What does distance learning consist of? 

Distance learning has three components: teacher-led learning, supplemental learning, and health and wellness.

  1. Teacher-led learning: Structured, course-specific learning directed and supported by the teacher, focused on essential content. Teachers will use the Google Classroom digital platform to provide course work on a weekly basis, with the week’s lesson plans and materials available by Monday morning (adjustments may be made as needed during the week). While teachers may schedule some real-time, face-to-face virtual class meetings, most teacher-led learning will not take place on a daily scheduled time but will be communicated through online assignments, recorded videos, emails, etc.  These assignments may be completed on a daily schedule that is convenient for your family. The state has recommended maximum daily time for teacher-led learning: 30 minutes per class, 3 hours per day.

  2. Supplemental learning: Teachers will provide additional supplemental activities and guidance to students for optional skill practice and enrichment, led by the student and family, such as independent research, reading and writing, crafting and creative work, and individual and community problem solving. The state has recommended 1–2 hours per day for supplemental learning. Supplemental instruction for each class may be about 60 to 90 minutes per week. 

  3. Health and wellness: Advisory periods will be scheduled by your middle school, such as advisory class meetings held weekly or more or less frequently. School counselors may post supplementary activities that promote emotional wellness. Additional wellness activities should be included into the day as it works best for family schedules and student needs. This includes meal times, indoor and outdoor play, exercise, and social and emotional learning activities. The state recommends 2 hours a day for health and wellness activities.

What about…?

Classroom connections: Google Classroom is the primary digital platform for each class. Face-to-face time may be conducted using Google Meet or Zoom. Teachers have sent information by email about how to connect with their Google Classroom. If your student is not yet connected in Google Classroom with their advisory class and all six of their classroom teachers for the third trimester, please contact your school.

Office hours: Teachers will hold office hours in the afternoons Monday through Thursday, for students to check in one to one or in small groups about assignments, instructions and other questions. For schedules and other details, please look for information from your school or teacher.

Attendance: Students’ participation in distance learning will be noted on a weekly basis. If your student does not “attend” a class by engaging during a given week—such as submitting course assignments or connecting with the teacher via email, videoconference or phone call—they will be marked absent for the week and your school will check in with you.

Grading: Due dates are guidance for how students can best access the curriculum and participate in office hours. Late work will be accepted. Students will be awarded a grade designation of Pass / No Pass or Incomplete, rather than letter grades (A, B, C, D, F) for the third trimester. These grades will not affect a student’s grade point average (GPA). 

Technology needs: The district is working to provide technology supports to make sure that all 4J students can access learning. If you need to borrow a device for your student to use at home, please contact your school. For some suggestions regarding internet access, see https://www.4j.lane.edu/2020/04/internet-access.

Technology problems: If your student needs technical support with their school iPad, please email student_techsupport@4j.lane.edu or call 541-790-7770. Any needed repairs and/or replacement of devices will be handled by the district; students and families may not attempt repairs or take a device to a vendor for repairs or servicing.

Special education: Middle school teachers and specialists are working to provide instruction, guidance and supports that are appropriate to the unique learning needs of every student. If your student has an IEP, their case manager will contact you soon to discuss what specially designed instruction (SDI) will look like and present a plan regarding your child’s services.

Thank you for partnering in your child’s education 

Thank you for your patience and understanding that this is a tremendous change for teachers as it is for students and families—we are all learning this new normal. Please know we are committed to equity and access, and will continue to support families and strive to ensure every student has a way to connect with distance learning opportunities.

We know that this new mode of teaching and learning at home is challenging for families and that balancing work, family, and school isn’t easy for anyone. We appreciate your grace and grit as we navigate these uncharted waters together.