(04/04/2020 – 1 pm) Work Flow in your home
I know that many parents and caregivers are looking for guidance in terms of how much time their child should be spending on schoolwork during this distant learning phase. While I hesitate to give a detailed daily schedule to you that is “required”, I will offer some suggestions. I know that every household has different circumstances surrounding home learning. In one home, there may be multiple children at multiple grade levels working. In another home, there may not be a parent present to make sure their child is doing school work, as the parents are at work. For some, there are technology barriers. The willingness of a child to engage may be difficult for some. So, in reading these suggestions, please understand that you as the parent need to gauge what is doable in your home. I need to trust that all of you will do your very best to have your child engage in academic work for a portion of their day. How that looks, well, I don’t necessarily know.
Suggested Minimum Time for Daily Academic Work:
PreK-K: 30 minutes
1st-2nd: 45 minutes
3rd-4th: 60 minutes
5th-6th- 90 minutes
Again, these are suggestions. For some students, this will be their limit, for others, they will be able to sustain more time. As a parent, you will have to decide what is best for your situation. I’d like to give you a glimpse of how my home has evolved during home learning. My intent is not to say that what we are doing is right, but to show you that I, an educator, am struggling with this as well.
First, I will say that currently my oldest daughter is feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work she has. She is in tenth grade. My middle child, a daughter, who is a 7th grader seems to be handling her workload just fine. And finally, my son, a second-grader, well, it depends on the day what I can get out of him. All of my children are being provided work online and my son has some packet work.
My oldest daughter is a driven student. She wants to do well in school and unfortunately her drive to succeed can also cause her stress and anxiety. I’m working with her to recognize the fine line between having grit to get something accomplished and over-stressing to accomplish a task. Currently, she is setting up her own schedule that basically has her working from 8:00 am until 3:00 pm on school work. I think this is too much, but again, she is driving this.
My middle child, another academically driven student, tends to recognize when she is feeling overwhelmed and takes breaks. She has set times where she has video conferencing with her teachers and then works independently. Her day typically starts at 8:00 am and by 1:00 pm she is pretty much tapped out.
Then there is my youngest, a second-grader. When this home learning initially started I had written out a schedule for him to follow. Here is what it was:
7:00-8:00- Screen Time, Breakfast, Teeth Brushed and Dressed
8:00-8:45- Learning Time
8:45-9:30- Break (non-screen time)
9:30-10:15- Learning Time
10:15-11:00- Snack and Break (non-screen time)
11:00-11:45- Learning Time
11:45-12:30- Lunch and Break (non-screen time)
12:30-1:30- Screen Time
1:30-6:30- Non-Screen Time- Encouraged Outside Play or Inside Games
6:30-7:30- Screen Time
I thought it looked doable. The first day went really well. The second day, our 45 minutes of learning time slipped to about 30 minutes. By our third day, the schedule was in shambles. My wife and I were finding it difficult to keep him on task because as soon as we left his side, he’d be calling us to come and help him and it was starting to stress us out.
And so, what we’ve done is that we have pulled back, a lot. We still aim for three chunks of learning time a day and we still aim to limit the screen time. But, what we’ve found is that every day is different. Some days, he will sit for an hour working on his math assignments. Some days, when the sun is shining, he limits his own screen time by being outside riding his bike or jumping on the trampoline. On rainy, cold days, he has a bit more screen time than we would like.
What I’ve come to realize is that every day is different. We do have guidelines and a rough schedule, but they are flexible. And being flexible with our time, it feels right. During this stay at home order, we can be flexible and it feels really good. If we wake up and the sun is shining, then we may hop on our bikes and ride for a bit, and not get to our learning time until the afternoon. If I’m bogged down with work, which is mostly the case, and my wife needs to work (we are fortunate that she works from home anyway), then my children are sort of on their own and I’m not sure what they are doing.
This is not our typical normal. I do not expect us to be recreating a school day at home. It can’t be done, not at this point anyway. I do expect my children to be engaged in learning at some point during the day. How much time that is, well, it depends on the day. And that is alright.
As I wrote to you in an earlier note, every family needs to find their flow. Right now, for my home, our flow depends on the day. My priority is to limit stress and anxiety for all of my children and I encourage you to do the same. I’m not overly concerned about children regressing during this unusual time. When we get back to school the teachers will be ready to meet their needs, that’s what they are really good at.
Currently, teachers are working on developing their at-home learning plans. Some teachers are offering class meetings, virtually, which I think is awesome. If your child is able to attend those meetings, that would be great. It allows them to see their classmates or at the very least hear them with the call-in option. Some teachers have created Flipgrid or Seesaw accounts for students to share on. I love adding my voice to these platforms! Teachers will be suggesting work to be completed. At some point, we will need to take “attendance” for each day of the week. Basically, we will need a quick check-in from students. How that looks, well, as with a lot of things right now, we are not sure. There will be a lot of options for students to engage in learning.
Finally, if you are feeling overwhelmed about this home learning experience, know that you are not alone. My suggestion is to take a step back, take a breath, ask questions and know that all of this is new for everyone. Again, we are all in this together. For now, enjoy your weekend and please keep in touch.
(04/02/2020 – 11 am) Hard days ahead
Families and Community Members,
Yesterday was one of the hardest days I’ve yet to have as your Principal. I spent the better part of my day on video conferences, hearing about guidelines, mandates, and recommendations. For those of you who don’t know, I’m concurrently in school to receive my Principal license, and I had to be present during a video seminar. As I tried to juggle all of the demands of the day, my thoughts turned to the families in all our communities who are also juggling, struggling to provide a new normal for themselves and their children. I too have children, three, who are all needing help navigating this new normal. I know how difficult life is right now, how uncertain the future looks.
So, in the late afternoon, I had had enough. I broke. The enormity of the moment won out on my emotions and I snapped. Anger and frustration flooded me. I knew that holding this anger and frustration was not something that I could do, so, I had to let it out. I’ve battled with handling my anger and frustration my whole life. If you were to know me as a school- age child, you would have seen someone who was often physically and verbally aggressive. You would have seen someone who had fits of rage.
Over time, I figured out how to deal with my anger and frustration through a combination of exercise, thoughtful reflection, and acceptance that these feelings are normal. So, at the moment of my peak of feeling all of these emotions, I jumped on my bike and headed into the backroads of Barnard to attack hills as if they were my enemies. And it worked. As I climbed hill after hill, my thoughts began to ease into thoughts of hope, thoughts of compassion, and thoughts of delivery.
The reason why I am telling you all of this is because I know that many of you have and will experience these types of emotions during this very trying time. I know this is a hard situation we find ourselves in. My encouragement to all of you is to accept it. It is hard. It will draw out feelings of anger and frustration. Everyone needs to find a way to handle these emotions in a healthful and productive way. I’m not saying everyone should jump on a bike. But, what I do hope is that you can find a way to accept these feelings for what they are and to find your way of coping with them. The biggest encouragement I can give you is to handle them, again, in a healthful way.
For those of you who have known me as a classroom teacher, you know that one of the main focuses in my classroom were health and wellness. I’ve dreamed of a school where health and wellness was at the forefront of all that we do. To understand what it is that we, as humans, can do to develop ourselves into our fullest potential, physically, emotionally, and academically is invaluable. I believe, at this moment in time, the importance of health and wellness is greater than ever before. This might possibly be one of the biggest lessons we may learn coming out of this pandemic.
We also are blessed with an abundance of resources to help us get through this tough stretch. The Sharon Incident Command Center can guide you to help concerning food, health, financial, and other problems that may exist for you at this time. I encourage you to reach out to them at 763-7331 or email at sharonfirehouseIC@gmail.com. For school purposes, our counselor is available. Please contact me if this is something you would like to access.
As we have heard, we are entering a tough stretch with COVID-19. Feelings over being overwhelmed, anger, sadness, and frustration are sure to arise in the coming weeks. Please find your way, a healthful way, for managing them. And, again, if you need help, ask. We are all in this together. Together we can get through this. And, if you do happen to hop on a bike, maybe I’ll see you out there. Just remember, keep that six feet of distance. That distance still gives a chance for a quick hello and a friendly smile.
Be well, keep healthy and please reach out if you are in need.
(03/29/2020 – 9 am) Letter to Parents – Week 3
I hope your weekend was enjoyable. We are moving into a new week, a week in which we now know that we will not have classes at the school for the rest of the year. But, we are going to continue to be in “school”, it will just look different.
Distance Learning or Remote Learning is now our reality. Students will be asked to work from home. I know that this will bring challenges. I know that for some, internet access is not available at home. While we work to help develop our new way of schooling, I ask that families commit to staying in touch with their child’s teacher. School is NOT over, it’s just going to be different. All teachers have reached out to their families. If you have not had a chance to connect yet, please do so. The State of Vermont’s Agency of Education is in the midst of developing guidelines and expectations for the rest of the school year. We are monitoring these closely as we look to create a meaningful curriculum for our students in these new and difficult times. The Agency of Education is asking schools around the state to submit plans for distance learning by April 13th. Keeping children’s minds engaged is crucial to maintaining current skill levels.
Again, I know that this is going to be a big change for all of us. We most likely will make mistakes along the way. But, I am certain that we can all rise to this challenge.
Together, teachers and parents can help our students find comfort and success in this new learning environment. Please reach out to your child’s teacher or me with any questions or concerns that you have. It is as important as ever to keep our lines of communication open.
Thank you and be well,
Sharon Elementary School
(03/26/2020 – 8:40 pm) Vermont Schools suspended for the rest of the year
As you may have heard, Vermont has suspended school for the rest of the year. Let us all take a moment to absorb this news. This is an unprecedented event. I will reach out soon with the next steps in terms of academics for this year. But, for now, take this all in. Reach out to me with your worries, concerns, thoughts and whatever else you are thinking. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know this will be a hardship for many. Please trust that we, as a school community, are searching for ways to support our students and families, while continuing to help prevent the spread of this nasty virus. Continue to adhere to our Stay Home, Stay Safe directives from Governor Scott and search for the peace and flow that we all hope to achieve during this difficult time.
(03/25/2020 – 10 am) Lunch Service Change
Starting next week (starting 03/30), our lunch delivery and curbside service will be operating Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On those days you will receive two days worth of food to cover Tuesday and Thursday. Please make note of this change. Our operating hours will still be 11:00 am until 1:00 pm. If you have not been accessing the curbside or delivery service and would like to start, please email me at, email@example.com.
Sharon Elementary School
(03/25/2020 – 11:30 am) Finding Peace and Flow in these uncertain times
As we wade through our second week of school closure, and as a “Stay home, Stay safe” order from the governor goes into effect at 5:00 pm today, I want to reach out to you with some thoughts.
First, as with all of my messages, health and wellness remain our top priority. Continue to practice social distancing and stay home unless you are an essential worker, or if you need to get essential supplies.
We are all experiencing a historical event. The magnitude of this moment will be felt for years to come. As a society, how we handle this will be the true measure of who we are and who we will become. I’m hopeful that we will learn from this and be better for it. Yes, in the moment, it’s painful, scary, and inconvenient. But, as many educators have encouraged students to do for years, I challenge you to find the lesson in this experience. What can we learn from our current dilemma?
Many are asking, what can I do to help? What are my responsibilities? These are valid questions. These have been expressed by the staff of Sharon Elementary. They are wanting to support, help, and provide guidance to our students. They miss their students dearly. Tears have been shed and the desire to be connected with students is ever-present.
Parents and caregivers have shared the same wonderings. Are we doing enough? What can we do to help? What are the academic expectations? What is going to happen next? Again, many questions and few answers. So, here is what I can offer in terms of advice. This is the time to find your peace and to find your flow.
It is crucial for all of us to find a sense of peace within this extremely difficult time. This may mean we have to recognize when we need help. It takes humility to stop and say, “I need help, I don’t know what to do”. This is not the time to “tough” it out. This is the time to ask. This is the time to recognize our vulnerabilities. This is not a weakness, but a strength. It takes courage to say, “I need”. And by doing so, you will find support. Feeling supported and heard can lead to a sense of comfort and peace. Our children need to feel this as well. So, as I’ve done many times before, I encourage everyone to reach out to the many support systems that we have in place. The staff of Sharon Elementary is willing and waiting to offer you support.
As families, we also need to find our flow. Flow meaning, how do our lives move, moment to moment? Is it the same every day? Is it different? My answer to you is, it is what it is for your family. I do encourage you to look for it, to find it, because once you find your flow, things will go a bit more smoothly. But, I also encourage you to let it come, slowly. Don’t force a new normal, because force is often met with resistance. Sometimes resistance creates strength and other times it creates fractures. The magic to finding flow is to recognize when the strength is there and when things are starting to fracture.
At this point in time, I want everyone to think about April 6th as a mile marker. From this point, until April 6th, take the time to find the peace and flow for your family. If that means having kids take long breaks between academic time to engage in other activities, then so be it. If you are looking for more academic work for your child, reach out to a teacher. Everything we are doing right now is meant to simply create our new normal.
My job is to think beyond April 6th. I am working with staff and folks at the Supervisory level to prepare what school will look like if we are to be out beyond April 6th. I will communicate plans as we develop them. But again, please do not stress about academic expectations at this point. You know your child best. You know how much you can push them and when you need to back off. My biggest want for our students is to stay engaged mentally. How that looks, can vary. Ideally, students would find time to read and think mathematically a few times a day. But again, that may be easier for some than others. Find what flows best for you. Find your peace in an uncertain time.
Feel free to reach out to me as well. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember that we are currently offering meals from 11 am until 1 pm via curbside pick up at the school. Or, if you would like the meal delivered to you, we can arrange for that as well. Either way, contact me and I will be sure to get your order in.
I hope to see all of you sooner than later. In the meantime, be well and keep in touch.
(03/23/2020 – 4:30 pm) Possible Exposure to COVID-19
Dear Families and Sharon Community,
I hope all of you are feeling well.
I wanted to inform you that Mr. Brands and I have possibly been exposed to COVID-19.
On March 12th, Mr. Brands and I played in an ice hockey game. This past Saturday afternoon, a teammate of ours contacted the team telling us that he and his wife have tested positive for the virus. He told us that he started to come down with symptoms the day after our last game.
I have reached out to the Vermont Health Department for guidance. Since Mr. Brands and I have not shown any symptoms and we are nearing the 14 day time period that it typically takes for symptoms to show, we have been asked to adhere to social distancing practices, and if possible stay home until the 14 day period has expired. Our 14 day time period since possible contact will be this Thursday, March 26th.
I understand that hearing this news may cause uneasiness as Mr. Brands and I were unknowingly working with possible exposure from Friday, March 13th until this past weekend. Unfortunately, none of that can change. We are now taking the necessary precautions moving forward.
Mr. Brands and I have agreed to stay home until we meet that 14 day exposure period. This will affect Mr. Brand’s ability to get hard copies packages out, but he will work on online resources to share with families.
If you are worried about possible exposure for yourself or your child, please reach out to the Vermont Department of Health. They were extremely responsive and helpful when I spoke to them. If Mr. Brands or myself do start to exhibit symptoms, we will be sure to follow the appropriate protocols and communicate with all of you.
None of this is easy and we will continue to be as transparent as possible. Please reach out with questions that you may have.
Sharon Elementary School
(03/20/2020 – 1:30 pm) Message from Mr. Haley
I know that we are all dealing with a new reality in our world and we are all creating a new normal in our lives. Many people are worried, anxious, have questions and downright scared. As your Principal, I feel obligated to connect with you to give you an update on how we continue to move forward.
First and foremost, health and wellness are of utmost importance. I want everyone, to the best of their ability, to practice social distancing and to stay home if you can. There are hardships and unforeseen stressors that come along with these new guidelines. There are academic, social, and financial implications of what we are all going through. Please reach out to your local Incident Command Center at 802-763-7331 for any assistance that is needed.
For the purpose of school, you should have been contacted by your child’s teacher. Teachers will be sending out emails, possibly connecting through phone calls, at least 3xs a week to update expectations for home learning, answer questions, hear concerns and offer advice. I am not immune to the fact that this new way of schooling is far from perfect. My advice to everyone is to try and remain calm. If assignments seem unclear, then hit the pause button on them and reach out to your child’s teacher with questions.
As I said earlier, my main concern is the health and wellness for my students, staff, and members of this community. In an email to my staff recently, I told them to follow their heart when making decisions. If something does not feel right, then it probably isn’t. This is true for you as a parent. If your child is feeling overwhelmed, or you feel overwhelmed by academic work, please take a break. There is no rush. We all need to take care of ourselves first and foremost.
One area that I really want all of us to be thinking about with our children is the amount of screen time they are accessing. I know, as a parent of three children, that screen time is one of the easiest things to use to create a quiet and non-chaotic home. We also know that too much screen time affects our children’s attention span and possibly their physical and mental health. In a time where we are asking children to participate in remote learning through technology, this creates a difficult dilemma when trying to manage our children’s screen time.
That being said, I do feel it is important to have set times and limits on screens. By structuring their time, it will allow for predictability in an unpredictable reality. Setting aside plenty of time for play outdoors, crafting, listening to music, playing music, writing, and reading from a book will allow us to have a chance to find a balance between on and off screens.
I am also conscious of all the information that is flooding everyone. This too can be overwhelming. I will do my very best to keep all school information precise and to the point.
Remember that we are offering lunch and breakfast to anyone 18 years and younger, free of charge, Monday through Friday. We are considering a delivery system for lunches. Please check your email for a question concerning your need for lunches to be delivered.
Finally, I plead all of us to be compassionate during this very difficult time. We are all learning as we go. We will make mistakes and we will need to adjust. Follow your heart and know that as a community, we will overcome this struggle.
Thank you and be well,
(03/19/2020 – 4 pm) Lunch and Breakfast needs
Families, As we continue to work through how we respond to COVID-19 we are working on the distribution of lunch. Currently we are offering curbside pick up from 11am until 1pm. We are exploring the idea of bringing meals to set locations, via bus stops for pick ups. Before we do this, I need to get an idea as to who would want this service. So, could you please respond to this email, or email me directly at email@example.com if you would access a delivery of lunch service or if curbside pick up suffices.
(03/18/2020 – 8:49 am) Childcare for essential person
The Governor’s office has asked the school district around the state to identify needs in communities around childcare. As of now, all childcare and daycare facilities are to close, except for essential persons. “Essential” persons are defined broadly under the mandate and include health care workers and first responders. Also included are criminal justice personnel, public health employees, child care providers, school staff, National Guard personnel and some state employees. Children between the ages of 0 through grade 8 are eligible for such care.
Mr. Haley is asking who in our school community are essential healthcare workers/providers in need of child care during this time. Please let him know – firstname.lastname@example.org or call his office (802) 788-8044
(03/16/2020 – 3 pm) Day 1 COVID-19 (2)
IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Starting Tuesday, March 17th, Sharon Elementary will be offering bag lunches and bag breakfasts to children under the age of 18. Sharon will be offering curbside pick up at the school from 11 am to 1 pm each day. That bag will contain a lunch for that day and a breakfast for the following morning. We are asking that children and parents stay in their vehicles.
School staff or volunteers will deliver the meals to the car. All meals will be served free of charge. If you feel that you will want to access this service, please contact me at email@example.com. Or for elementary parents, you can also contact your child’s classroom teacher.
Sharon Elementary School
(03/16/2020 – 11 am) Day 1 COVID-19
As we enter our first day of being closed for the COVID-19 situation, I wanted to touch base about how we will move forward at Sharon Elementary.
Currently, teachers are putting the finishing touches on distance learning plans. Your child’s teacher should be in contact with you about what that will look like for your child’s grade level. Please respond to your child’s classroom teacher’s email indicating that you have received the information. If you do not respond, then we will contact you by phone. It is our hope to reach all families.
In terms of materials, teachers will be leaving packets to be picked up in the gym from 7:00 am-3:00 pm on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. If you are unable to pick up materials during this timeframe, please contact me or your child’s teacher to make alternative plans. The materials will be in the gym, along the wall, labeled for each class. We will leave the door that accesses the gym open during this time. If you are looking at the main entrance to the building, the door that you can access the gym will be the second door to the right as you move down the side of the school. Once you pick up your materials, you will be notified if and when a new packet of materials are ready.
Teachers will be sharing an example of a schedule that you may follow during this time. It will include things such as work time, breaks and other options. Feel free to follow what is sent, or to create something that suits your house needs.
The goal of this distance learning is to maintain skills and to not teach new skills. We are NOT asking parents to be teachers. We are simply hoping to keep children’s minds engaged and current skill levels where they are. Certainly reading, writing and thinking mathematically will help with this. Through the guidance of your child’s teacher, I believe we can be successful in achieving our goals.
If you would like to access breakfast and lunch during the day, please let us know. We are in the process of figuring out how this will happen, but it will be helpful to know who needs this.
Finally, if there are any needs that you have, from food to childcare, to medical issues, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will do our very best to put you in contact with the appropriate authorities. As a community, we will need to work together to make the best of this current situation. Please continue to follow the advice of the Vermont Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control by practicing social distancing and keeping cleanliness at the forefront of your mind.
Thank you and be well,
(03/15/2020 – 6 pm) COVID-19 – Letter from Mr. Haley
Dear Sharon Families,
As you may have heard on the news already, Governor Scott has ordered the closing of schools in the state of Vermont. This will take effect at the elementary school in Sharon immediately and will last until at least April 6, as directed by the Governor.
Teachers and staff will be at school tomorrow to gather supplies and work on distance-learning plans for your children. The school is closed for children, and there will not be One Planet aftercare.
The preschool and the preschool aftercare program are also closed starting immediately.
We understand the inconvenience this might have on a lot of our community members.
“The orderly dismissal of schools is essential to support both the State’s response to COVID-19 and the needs of children and families across Vermont,” Governor Scott said. “We must ensure children are safe, nourished, and still learning even as the traditional structure of school is disrupted. The work of educators will be essential in this effort.”
Teachers, staff, and the administration are working on three key components to support the State response:
- Food and special needs services for children;
- Collaborating with the state to provide childcare options for healthcare workers and others essential to the response (EMS, Fire, LEO, National Guard personnel, etc.) ; and
- Systems for ensuring maintenance of education during the initial dismissal; and a continuing education plan if schools are dismissed for an extended period.
We will keep you informed as the plans develop on how we are moving forward.
This is unprecedented for all of us, we are as concerned about the well-being and education of your children as you are.
If you have any questions or concerns, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the school at (802) 763-7425 or my cellphone at (802) 356-7379 I will do my best to keep the community updated as we progress in these uncertain times.
Thank you for your understanding and flexibility.
Press Release from the Superintendent’s Office
Following final contract negotiations and fulfilling Vermont Agency of Education requirements, Jamie Kinnarney, will become the new superintendent, responsible for overseeing education operations for six school districts and the SU office in the White River Valley Supervisory Union (WRVSU). The WRVSU Board hired Kinnarney to replace the current superintendent, Bruce Labs. Kinnarney was selected as a finalist from a field of 13 candidates, who reside from within and outside Vermont. Kinnarney, was raised and educated in South Royalton and possesses undergrad and graduate degrees from three colleges in Vermont. He formerly taught in South Royalton, Bristol, and Randolph Schools. Kinnarney has been an adjunct professor at Norwich University and currently is a highly respected education consultant, providing leadership training for school administrators throughout Vermont. Kinnarney is currently the principal for the Williamstown Schools and has served in that role for the past seven years. The new superintendent will begin leadership duties on July 1, 2020.