Hi Armstrong families,
We hope this email finds your family healthy and safe and we wish you a renewed sense of peace during this holiday season.
After looking back on the school year so far - and based on both our own internal discussions and external feedback - we have revised some of our plans and are ready to announce the following:
- Our plan to move to a new 3:2 Hybrid Plan (3 days of At-Home Learning and 2 days of On-Campus Learning) for grades 3-8
Armstrong’s On-Campus Learning plan will go into effect February 1st - subject to improved numbers around the community spread of COVID
- More opportunities for family feedback through monthly surveys
- Weekly written communication
- Weekly “office hours” with either Jessica or Neil or both for families, if they choose, to join with any questions
Here are some answers to key questions you may have or details you may want:
Before we look ahead, how can I give you feedback on how November went?
We always strive to improve our plan and would welcome any feedback about our November program - both from families with students on campus and from families with students who opted to learn remotely. Please use this link for a brief survey about your student’s November experience: NOVEMBER FEEDBACK
Looking ahead, can you put the January schedule in one place for me?
January 4th - 14th: At-Home Learning
January 15th: Students off; Faculty report card writing and conference preparation
January 18th: Martin Luther King Day; school closed
January 19th - 22nd : At-Home Learning
January 25th - 28th: Students off; Mid-Year Conferences
January 29th: Student Asynchronous Learning Day; On-Campus Learning Preparation for Faculty (assuming we are returning February 1st)
Why do students have no synchronous learning during the week of January 25th?
Mid-Year Conferences are a critical part of communication between teachers and families on the progress students have made in the first half of the school year. Armstrong has always baked these days into the academic calendar, roughly in late January. We have expanded these conferences from 3 to 4 days this year to allow enough time for each family to have a full, thoughtful conversation with faculty over Zoom.
We added Friday, January 29th as an asynchronous learning day for students and a day of preparation for faculty and staff; we found a preparation day made our November plan more successful for both our students and our faculty and staff.
As a reminder, any students that travel outside of northern California during that week (or any week) will have to quarantine for 14 days before returning to campus.
When are students returning to On-Campus Learning?
The week of February 1st. Middle School students will be on campus Mondays and Tuesdays. Lower School students will be on campus Thursdays and Fridays. Second graders are on campus all 4 of those days.
Why not sooner than February 1st?
We had previously shared that the earliest return to campus would be January 19th. When we revisited the calendar and took into account MLK Day and Mid-Year Conferences, we didn’t think a return the week of the 19th made sense, when the following week would be the remote conferences. We believe February 1st is the least disruptive to our academic program.
OK, so it’s the week of February 1st, can I put that in ink?
Unfortunately, no. The most obvious reason is the current dramatic increase in COVID cases. We hope that cases will start decreasing and return to a better level. Jessica will need to make a determination that overall health and safety conditions are appropriate to return to campus. We did get very positive feedback to date on our health and safety measures in November, so we are confident in our own policies and procedures. It would be nice if the world around us cooperated a bit more.
We are also still solving our shortfall of available faculty. We are cautiously optimistic that we have a plan which incorporates new technology in our classrooms and new “Learning Supervisors” to monitor classrooms that are being taught by faculty only available remotely. We need a fair number of these Learning Supervisors to make our plan work - and are aggressively advertising and hiring for the position. Please see the job description here and let us know if you have any candidates you would recommend.
When will we know more details about the 3:2 Hybrid Learning Plan?
We will present greater details about the schedule the second week of January. Some key elements of the plan:
For all students:
- At-Home Learning is still available for all students who would prefer learning remotely (with improved technology to integrate those students into the classroom)
- All days are academic days (in contrast to the November plan)
- As typical, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday are “full” days - exact hours being finalized, but think 8:45-2:30 with staggard starts and finishes
- As typical, Wednesday will be a “minimum” day to allow for faculty and staff professional development and planning
- On-Campus Learning Monday-Tuesday; At-Home Learning Wednesday-Friday
- Wednesday’s schedule will add an academic period for Math
- Thursday and Friday’s schedule will be remote and will stay consistent with our current remote schedule
- At-Home Learning Monday-Wednesday; On-Campus Learning Thursday-Friday
- At-Home Learning days will lean towards Language & Reading and Math groups, keeping small group learning intact
- On-Campus Learning days will focus on academic subjects taught in broader “homeroom” setting
Will we continue to have testing for our faculty, staff and students?
Yes, we will continue weekly testing for both our employees and our students when we return to On-Campus Learning. We are evaluating different alternatives because the testing options are changing quickly. We may do testing on campus again or we may look for “at home” options that have become available. We will not be doing the Rapid testing we used the week before Thanksgiving - the time needed to do so would be too disruptive to the academic schedule.
How do I indicate whether I want my student to participate in On-Campus Learning or not?
We are going to institute clear opt-in and opt-out dates for campus/remote learning. Your first decision is for the period from February 1st through March 5th. We will not allow students to switch to On-Campus Learning from At-Home Learning during that timeframe in order to maintain a consistency for our faculty and fellow students. That being said, we are certainly not going to force any students to be on campus - so any student can switch to At-Home Learning at any time. If your student travels outside of northern California, even if you have chosen the on-campus option, they will need to spend 14 days learning remotely on their return. Please, please plan accordingly.
Please provide us with your decision about On-Campus Learning for February 1st - March 5th by this Thursday (December 17th) so that we can continue our planning, using this LINK.
Thank you for committing to additional communications. When will that start?
You will receive a pre-holiday video message later this week and our first “office hours” will be scheduled for Wednesday, January 6th at 4:00pm.
Any other good news to share?
- Fun activities coming up for our students: Themed Free Dress, Cookie Decorating Challenge, Spirit Day!
- We have installed 5 tents around campus with Armstrong blue coverings and our logo
- As part of our Health & Safety and Green Initiatives, we have increased the number of places to fill water bottles on campus from 2 to 6
- Installation of our new classroom technology is complete to pilot in rooms 2 and 3
- CAPSO and many of you are finding creative ways to thank our outstanding faculty and staff during this unusual holiday season
This year has brought challenges for all of us, but we look forward to finding new opportunities to model flexibility, resilience, and a growth mindset for our students as we move forward into 2021. We wish you all a healthy and safe holiday season.