March 24, 2020

Dear BB&N Families and Students,

Our teams on each campus are working hard to prepare for the start of Online Learning on Wednesday, April 1st. This email highlights our approach to this transition, introduces our online learning hub, details the specific plans for each campus, and gives an overview of upcoming webinars and the schedule for the next week. I know this is a ton to digest while you are on spring break, but we want to share all of this with you now so you can start to plan for what lies ahead.

Overview of our Approach
I’ll start by saying this is new territory for every single one of us. I’m grateful for the fact that our community focused last summer on the Growth Mindset, as this is precisely the attitude that will serve us all incredibly well as we navigate these challenges together. 

I ask that we all stay kind and compassionate in the weeks ahead. We are all balancing a lot these days—students, families, teachers, and staff. Patience and flexibility will be essential for every member of our community.

In this spirit of flexibility, we are starting with a two-week Online Learning plan (from April 1st to April 10th). We’ll seek feedback on Friday, April 3rd using a survey as well as a Zoom webinar that I’ll host with any students who want to participate. Using that feedback, we will adapt our plan accordingly if it turns out that we need to extend our school closure beyond April 13th. 

Online Learning will look different than the conventional school day we’re all used to. The pace will be different. The day-to-day experience will be different. Our goal will be to leverage the unique opportunities that the Online Learning environment presents to create and sustain meaningful learning and engagement for our students.

Creating routines and structure for students will be key ingredients for Online Learning success. However, we also believe strongly that creating too much structure will be counterproductive. We are intent on finding the right balance for our students and families. Too much screen time is good for no one, so we want to keep a close eye on that as well.

One area to which we will pay particular attention is striking a healthy balance of synchronous versus asynchronous learning for students. Synchronous means learning in real time; it typically would take place through a video conferencing tool like Zoom or Google Meet and it includes the ability for a teacher and students to interact with each other as the class is taking place. Asynchronous means that students have the ability to engage with the learning assignment in a time and location of their choosing, typically working toward a deadline previously established by the teacher. Due to BB&N’s wide span of grades, this mixture of synchronous and asynchronous learning will probably look different on each campus. 

We certainly do want to keep some synchronous learning opportunities in the mix for our students, as this will create opportunities for our students to continue to have meaningful connections to their teachers and classmates. Yet, we also understand that asynchronous learning is an important part of allowing our students to work at their own pace and in their own way. You can start to see what this might look like on each of the campus overviews listed below. 

We are asking our faculty and staff to be available, as much as possible, during the course of what is the normal school day for each campus. Individual teachers may reach out to their students with more specifics on their “virtual office hours.” Any video conferencing—whether class-based or contact with an advisor or specific teacher—will only take place during normal school-day hours. If you have questions outside of those hours, please email teachers or staff so that they can respond as soon as they are able. 

We are also in the process of working on another important document: the “Rules of the Road” that we will all need to observe in the Online Learning landscape. We will have these norms ready to share with you later. For now I’ll tell you that, in many respects, they will be quite similar to the expectations we would hold for a normal school day. Such as: Get out of bed and start to get accustomed to a regular routine! Try to maintain a consistent, distraction-free work space and that we will expect every member of our community to be their “best selves” when interacting online. More to come on this!

I want to address how we are going to assign grades for our students in Grades 7-12 during the time we are engaged in online learning. Our basic commitment is simple. As long as a student engages meaningfully in this experience, a student’s grades will not go down from their current year-to-date grade as a result of work during online learning. However, a student’s grade could go up, if the student’s work during online learning results in a higher grade than the current year-to-date grade. We will work out what all of this means in terms of report cards/transcripts, but please know we are committed to flexibility and reducing anxiety during this transition. Our hope is this approach to grading demonstrates our focus first and foremost on our community’s well-being. 

Online Learning Hub
We have created an Online Learning Hub as we realize that families might appreciate a sort of one-stop-shopping source of information relating to our Online Learning approach. (We have also created a site for our faculty/staff.) The Hub includes information such as technical specifications, online resources and tutorials, support resources, and campus-specific information. This site is an ongoing work in progress; it will be constantly updated with information, so be sure to keep checking the Hub.

The Hub is also where you can find the daily Head’s Challenge. Every weekday morning during our online learning schedule, I will post a fun, non-academic challenge for students. Our first challenge? Clean Your Room! I’m announcing this challenge a little early since this may be a multi-day challenge for some students! This challenge will close at 8pm on Monday, March 30. Use this link to submit your entry photo of cleaning or a photo of a clean room when done. A winner will be drawn at random from all entry submissions and announced on my Instagram . The winner will receive an e-gift card to &pizza , JP Licks Ice Cream , or Porter Square Books

Overviews of the 3 Campus Plans for Online Learning
Each campus director has worked extensively with their teams to outline what the first two weeks of Online Learning will look like for students and families. You can read them by clicking the relevant links below (they can also be accessed at any time on the relevant campus page of the Online Hub) :

Academic support will continue to be available for students on all three campuses when we transition to online learning. You can click here to read an overview of what this model will look on each campus. 

Schedule and Webinars
I absolutely recognize that this is a LOT of information to digest...especially during what was supposed to be a Break week for everyone! For that reason, the campus directors and I thought it would be a good idea if we host a webinar for interested parents this Thursday evening, March 26, at 7:00pm in which we could answer whatever questions you might have for us. I will also plan to host a couple of voluntary webinars for students on Monday, March 30: 11:00AM for LS students and 12:00PM for MS and US students. Tomorrow we will email join-in info to parents for the March 26 webinar.   

As a reminder, the schedule for the first half of next week will look like this: 
  • Monday, March 30: No school—this will be a preparation day for faculty and staff. As I noted above, I will hold voluntary Zoom webinars with LS students at 11AM and with MS/US students at 12PM.
  • Tuesday, March 31: No school—although students should be prepared for faculty to reach out to them to make sure that everyone is able to connect successfully.
  • Wednesday, April 1: The first day of our Online Learning schedule.

Remember, we’re all in this together! I am confident that, with a healthy dose of Growth Mindset and a commitment to flexibility, our uKnighted community will learn together how best to navigate the Online Learning experience in the weeks ahead.

Best,

Dr. Jennifer Price
Head of School


P.S. Reminder—if anyone is struggling due to the current circumstances, please let us know via this confidential form . Or please let us know if there is a BB&N family you might be concerned about. 

P.P.S. I am pleased to report that we continue to be aware of no reported cases of COVID-19 within our community.