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Lower Merion School District

Off-Canvas

March 25th Update from Superintendent Copeland

Dear LMSD Families,

I hope that you are well, despite the unusual circumstances in which we all find ourselves due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am finding working from home to be quite challenging – I've mastered ZOOM meetings, but I miss seeing our students and staff in person.

I must share that our dedicated staff has been inspirational during this time. Our school nurses have worked with Nutritional Services, Operations and Information Services (IS) staff to safely distribute more than 4000 meals and 200 Chromebooks to the community. Our IS Helpdesk techs have handled a record number of tickets. Our teachers and student services staff have swiftly and creatively mastered new ways of connecting with and supporting their students, while principals and school counselors continue their work with both families in need and with staff who are working while facing challenges at home. It has been a true team effort, but I do look forward to getting back to "normal," as soon as we can do so safely.

MOVING FORWARD:

As we shared earlier this week, Gov. Wolf has said schools may re-open to students on April 9,2020. But that is during our scheduled Spring Break, the start of Passover and just prior to Good Friday. So, as of now, we are planning on our students returning to school on Monday, April 13, 2020. Of course, this may change and we will follow all directives from the County and State. We are planning to allow our teachers, most of whom have been working even more diligently than usual during the closure, time to recharge over Spring Break. Therefore, no classwork will be given April 6-10, 2020.

However, we are going forward as planned with Flexible Instruction Days starting this Monday, March 30, 2020. While we have focused on skill reinforcement and enrichment over the past two weeks, we are now moving to new skill and knowledge acquisition. Teachers will be offering a combination of live, real-time (synchronous) lessons and of lessons that children can complete on their own schedules (asynchronous).

How Flexible Instruction Days look will vary among school levels. A brief outline of the Elementary, Middle and High school plans is provided below. More detailed plans will be shared by principals and teachers, and will be posted on the District website by the end of this week. My thanks to the Curriculum Department, who along with the Students Services and Special Education teams have worked so diligently to create an exemplary and comprehensive plan, that takes into account all students, including English language learners, special education students and those who have limited access to technology.

ELEMENTARY FLEXIBLE LEARNING:

Beginning Monday, teachers will be using Blackboard to deliver asynchronous instruction that will focus on essential core skills that support grade level mastery and provide foundations for future learning. Throughout the week, they will begin to offer synchronous opportunities with morning meetings and small-group check ins. Should the closure extend beyond Spring Break, we will build on these newly established routines and provide more small-group interactions. Teachers will also have increased office hours and will be available online via email to provide help to students and their families. The goal will be to communicate which skills and activities are essential, so that families can have much-needed flexibility to help students prioritize their time. Students will receive offers to engage, both synchronously and asynchronously, with their special area teachers through participation in Art, PE, Music, Library and FLES.

MIDDLE SCHOOL FLEXIBLE LEARNING:

Beginning Monday, teachers will communicate with students and families about the plan to transition students into increased opportunities to virtually engage with their teachers synchronously (real time) via Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, a collaborative Google document or other online platforms. A schedule has been created to minimize conflicts between subject areas and to allow students to take part in classes for up to 30 minutes each on assigned letter days. We want students to have a chance to engage with all of their teachers, including experiencing their personal development classes and electives. While students are encouraged to attend these synchronous engagement opportunities, participation will not be required.

At the same time, asynchronous learning will continue to take place. Given that there are varying levels of access to technology within each household across the District, this learning will be flexible so that families can share their technology access.

HIGH SCHOOL FLEXIBLE LEARNING:

Beginning Monday, students will see an increase in opportunities to virtually engage with their teachers synchronously, using Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra or other video conferencing platforms. We want students to have a chance to engage with all of their teachers, including experiencing their special area classes and electives. The schedule we have been using these past two weeks will continue, as it allows us the ability to minimize conflicts between subject areas so students can join classes in different subject areas at different times.

At the same time, asynchronous learning will continue to take place. Given that there are varying levels of access to technology within each household across the District, this learning will be flexible so that families can share their technology access.

TECHNICAL SUPPORT:

We are all depending on additional technology at this time. And, as we all know, sometimes we experience technical difficulties. If you or your high school student is having a problem with District-issued equipment, please contact the Helpdesk.

  • For High School Students: submit a ticket at https://helpdesk.lmsd.org.
  • For Elementary and middle school parents/guardians: Request technical support by emailing techsupport@lmsd.org or by calling 610-645-1899.
  • For all students: Please provide the following information:
    • Your first and last name
    • Your phone number
    • Your child's first and last name
    • The school your child attends
    • Your child's grade level
    • A detailed description of the problem

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT:

As a reminder, our Student Services Team has shared a number of resources to help families deal with stress and anxiety at this time. Please click here to access this information. School counselors are working at this time and you can reach out to your student's counselor, if you feel your family needs support. Their contact information is listed by school, when you click here.

Finally, I would like to thank our entire LMSD Community for your help and patience as we work together to support our students and their families during this unprecedented time. As a former social studies teacher, I look forward to when we will be looking back at this time through the lens of history. I don't usually make predictions, but I think that we will find that we have much to be proud of at that time.

Sincerely,

Robert Copeland

Superintendent

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