Distance Learning Guidelines from SOMSD Superintendent Dr. Taylor

by The Village Green
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From SOMSD Superintendent Dr Taylor:

Dr Ronald Taylor, Superintendent of South Orange Maplewood Schools

Distance Learning Guidelines for Parents/Students Letter

March 17, 2020

Dear South Orange and Maplewood Students and Families,

As students prepare to begin distance learning on Wednesday, March 18th, we want to provide some additional information and guidelines to aid in the process. Before doing so please allow me to recognize the efforts of our staff. Our Teachers and Administrators have put forth a tremendous effort to create a continuum of instruction that will allow for instruction. Specifically, I would like to acknowledge our Director of Curriculum, Ms. Ann Bodnar and our team of Instructional Academic Supervisors, for facilitating this arduous process. They truly have demonstrated a singular commitment to offering authentic distance learning opportunities for our students.

To that end, do know that our teachers have prepared lessons and activities for students to complete from home. All these assignments are currently accessible on Google Classroom, but also available as a hard copy (if you need a printed copy, please reach out to your child’s teacher). Below, you will find directions on how to access the lessons, how you can communicate with teachers, as well as FAQs we anticipate you may have during this unprecedented national crisis (including questions around food distribution and technology needs).

We, of course, understand that these are unprecedented times and we understand that each family will face its own set of challenges. The lessons that your teachers are designing are intended to maintain contact with course content, not to overwhelm students with large volumes of independent coursework. We will continue to provide updates as they become available and remain receptive to any feedback you may have during this time.

Educationally yours,

Dr. Ronald G. Taylor,

Superintendent of Schools


Distance Learning FAQs

What are Distance Learning Days?

Distance Learning Days refer to days when school buildings are closed, but instructional activities are taking place at home.  As shared in previous District communications, learning days will continue until Friday, March 27, 2020.

Do the Distance Learning Days count toward the State’s requirement of 180 school days?

Our plan does meet the 180-day requirement, but we await further guidance from the Governor and the New Jersey Department of Education.

What schoolwork is my child expected to complete during the Distance Learning Days?

Your child is expected to do all the assignments that are posted on Google Classroom or given as hard copies.

How does my child access these activities?

All assignments will be available on Google Classroom on or before Wednesday, March 18, 2020.  As was communicated via our Principals, hard copies will be available at the Central Office during the specified times below.   [If your child did not attend school on Friday, March 13, hard copies of elementary book baggie/materials pickups will also be available during this time].

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Tuscan and South Mountain & Annex – 9:00 AM – 11:00 A.M

Clinton and SOMS – 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Marshall, Jefferson & MMS – 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Seth Boyden’s book baggies and Hard copies will be delivered to homes.

Self Contained and Resource Room families have already been contacted by the Special Services Department.  Please follow the directions from Dr. Morana.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

CHS families who responded to the District’s technology assessment phone survey and expressed a need to borrow/loan a computing device will be provided one according to the device dissemination schedule emailed under separate cover today (Tuesday, March 17).

As an update to Principal Morgan’s 3/16 email to families:  In lieu of hard copies, devices will be provided for students per the District’s technology survey.  A parent/guardian must be present for device pick-up.

If you are a CHS Family who did not respond to the District’s technology needs assessment phone survey, yet you still need to borrow a district device, please email:  info@somsd.k12.nj.us and we will reach out at a later date.

Do the assignments need to be completed each day, or can my child submit the work on a different day if necessary?

It is strongly encouraged that all students complete assignments throughout the next two weeks. This will help students stay connected to the content and assist with their pacing. However, we do understand that circumstances will vary from family to family.

Does my child need to “sign-in” online each day for attendance purposes?

Yes, all students grades 3-12 should email their classroom teacher (2nd-period teacher at Middle Schools and High School)  by 10:00 AM. every morning and teachers will record their attendance from the email. Kindergarten – 2nd-grade students do not need to email teachers for attendance purposes [You can check the District Email Directory to find teachers’ contact information.]

If we do not have Wifi at our home, how can my child complete the assignments?

If your child does not have access to a computer or Internet we ask that you reach out to their teacher and we will provide you with a hard copy of the assignments (please see pick up schedule above). [You can check the District Email Directory to find teachers’ contact information.]

In addition, two service providers, Comcast and Altice have agreed to provide complimentary internet service to Maplewood and South Orange residents, see below for more information (this can also be found on our District, COVID-19 Update Page, under Tech and Resource Information):

60 Days Free Internet Services – Altice / Lightpath – South Orange Families |Source: Altice (service not endorsed or provided by SOMSD, some restrictions apply)

60 Days Free Internet Service – Comcast – Maplewood Families | Source: Comcast (service not endorsed or provided by SOMSD, some restrictions apply)

Will these assignments be graded?

Teachers will review the work and provide feedback regarding student progress. This feedback will serve to support the instructional activities that take place upon the return to school.

How can my child contact their teacher with questions or assistance on assignments?

All teachers will be available during regular school hours and will respond to your questions within one business day.

If my child receives Special Education Services within the classroom, how will those needs be addressed?

Please see the correspondence from the Department of Special Services shared with our families on Sunday, March 15, 2020.

If my child receives Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, or Speech Therapy, will those services be provided during Distance Learning Days?

Please see the correspondence from the Department of Special Services shared with our families on Sunday, March 15, 2020.

My child participates in the Free & Reduced Lunch Program. Will meals be made available for pick-up?

Yes. Beginning on Wednesday, March 18th from 11 am to 2 pm, students will be able to pick up a meal consisting of lunch for the current day and breakfast for the following day. All meals for students PreK through 12 will be distributed from Seth Boyden School, both middle schools and Columbia High School. Please have student ID numbers or IDs available to help speed the distribution of meals (please note, no District student will be turned away).

If you feel that your family will need additional food support during school closure, please contact Karen Weiland: 973-762-5600, X1850 or email:  kweiland@somsd.k12.nj.us (Leave your name and phone number. Please speak slowly and clearly & repeat your phone number twice. The district will share your contact information with a community volunteer who will make a food delivery to your home.)

How will athletics be impacted during the Flexible Learning Days?

All athletics and extracurricular activities are canceled until further notice.

How will Standardized Testing be impacted by Distance Learning Days?

The New Jersey Department of Education will communicate any adjustments to the testing schedule for April and May 2020.

How will the Advanced Placement exam schedule be impacted by Distance Learning Days?

The Distance Learning Days will aim to maintain as much continuity of content as possible. Any adjustments to the AP testing schedule would be the result of consultation with the College Board.

Is there someone I can contact if I have questions regarding the assigned coursework or if my child has technical difficulties?

For questions related to a specific assignment, please contact the teacher directly via email.

For questions related to technology or other needs, including Google Classroom support, please visit our COVID Technology & Information Resource webpage  (or) email.

The email will be forwarded to the administrative team and someone will contact you to address your concern.

Is the District providing computing devices for students/families who need to borrow one?

A technology needs assessment phone survey was sent to all Families on Monday, March 16, to assess student/family availability to internet services and computing devices at home.  All device requests are currently being assessed by the District and families will be contacted based on availability.

Can I use District playgrounds during the school closure?

In accordance with the recommendations of our Local and State Government Health Officials, as well as the CDC, the School District of South Orange and Maplewood have now closed our playgrounds and recreational areas until further notice.

Office of the Superintendent

South Orange Maplewood School District

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