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April 17 Update from GVSD Superintendent

April 17 Update from GVSD Superintendent
Posted on 04/17/2020

Dear School Community,

Today, I wanted to update you on a number of topics that will impact families as we continue the school closure through the remainder of the academic year. I realize that for some members of our school community, I am not providing enough definitive information, and they are feeling frustrated. Please understand that balancing the recommendations of the Department of Health, guidance from the Department of Education, and the many directives from the Governor’s office with the multitude of needs in our school community is complex. Simultaneously, as information changes quickly, I am hesitant to cancel events or make long term decisions that go beyond a few weeks. I, consequently, would rather keep some decisions pending so that we maintain as many options as possible. I really appreciate your understanding, cooperation, and flexibility.

Our topics for this week are as follows: (1) Instructional Calendar; (2) Graduation and Proms; (3) Grades and Final Exams; (4) Reopening School Buildings to Retrieve Possessions; (5) Student Survey Results; and (6) GV-CTC and Mini-Thon donations.

Instructional Calendar

Below is the instructional calendar for the next month. I hope you are noticing that we value everyone’s input as we continually improve our virtual learning delivery methods and strategies. As a result, we have embedded a teacher inservice each week so that we can provide professional development that is responsive to the data that we receive from our surveys, observations, and other feedback loops. Simultaneously, the Friday, Student Catch-Up Days take into account that families are undoubtedly dealing with uncontrollable issues such as unstable wifi, software glitches, hardware availability, and parents’ work schedules. As a result, Catch Up Days are designed to give students adequate time to complete projects and assignments as well as take assessments. Teachers will not assign new work on catch up days.

Within the next few weeks, we will send another email that details the dates for the end-of-school. We are working with our team, school board, and consulting with districts throughout the county to determine an end date that meets the multitude of needs in our school community. Please note that regardless of any adjustments to the calendar, the end of school date will not extend the academic year beyond the previously reported June 5th date for seniors and June 15th for underclassmen.

Mon 4/20 Tues 4/21 Wed 4/22 Thurs 4/23 Fri 4/24
Online Learning Online Learning Online Learning Online Learning Inservice/Student Catch-Up
Mon 4/27 Tues 4/28 Wed 4/29 Thurs 4/30 Fri 5/1
Online Learning Online Learning Online Learning Online Learning Inservice/Student Catch-Up
Mon 5/4 Tues 5/5 Wed 5/6 Thurs 5/7 Fri 5/8
Online Learning Online Learning Online Learning Online Learning Inservice/Student Catch-Up
Mon 5/11 Tues 5/12 Wed 5/13 Thurs 5/14 Fri 5/15
Online Learning Online Learning Online Learning Online Learning Inservice/Student Catch-Up

Graduation and Proms

I wanted to include a message that Steve Brandt, GVHS principal, is sending out today with an update on the “once in a lifetime” events for high school students. I think he did a great job of giving an overview of his committee’s progress while acknowledging that definitive action is not possible at this point.

Message From Steve Brandt:
On Wednesday, our committee, inclusive of staff, students, and parents, met to discuss upcoming activities and events. Most events were canceled, but the committee is working to preserve the following events in some capacity:

  • Junior Prom: We are looking at moving this event to later in the summer. We are still working with the King's Mill venue as our location.
  • Senior Awards Night: This event will move to a digital presentation.
  • Senior Prom: We are looking at moving this event to mid/late summer. We are still working with the Drexelbrook venue as our location.
  • Senior Post Prom: Our parents are working diligently to identify an alternative plan, which aligns to the time frame of Senior Prom.
  • Graduation: We are currently coordinating with the University of Delaware on our graduation event. As of today, our June 9th date is still not eliminated, but we have also started planning an alternative date for mid/late summer. The University of Delaware is exploring the possibility of allowing us to use their venue at a later date as well. Our committee is also exploring other options if a ceremony at the University of Delaware is not possible. Lastly, on this most important event, our committee is also examining a digital platform to honor and recognize our Seniors in addition to a more traditional ceremony.

As everyone can imagine, these conversations are very fluid and are contingent upon government and health officials' recommendations and mandates. We will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our school community members, but we certainly recognize the value and importance of the events listed above and we are desperately trying to preserve them. Our committee will meet again on Tuesday, and we have a follow-up meeting on Thursday with the University of Delaware. It is our hope that we will have more concrete dates and details within the next two weeks. Thank you in advance for your patience and support as we navigate these unprecedented and ever-changing times.

Grading and Exams

No final decisions have been made regarding students’ grades. We are analyzing several options while also soliciting teacher input, consulting with other districts, contacting colleges and universities, and analyzing the guidance of various professional organizations. We are considering options that include pass/fail, averaging and weighting the face-to-face grades with the virtual work, and various other possibilities. Regardless of what we decide, I want to stress that learning from now until the end of the school year counts. Students will move to the next grade level and we need them as prepared as possible with the understanding that next year’s teachers will need to review and reteach concepts at the beginning of the year. The only decision that we have made at this point is that there will not be final exams at the secondary level.

Reopening School Buildings to Retrieve Possessions

We understand that several of you are frustrated by the fact that you are unable to retrieve your possessions from our buildings. We met today to finalize plans for temporary openings that will allow this process to take place. It will start with teachers and then accommodate students. The difficulty in opening the buildings is that we have to follow rules on social distancing and on public gatherings of no more than 10 people while also complying with the stay at home order that does not expire until at least April 30th. Clearly, the building “clean outs” will look different at each level, and we will provide specific directions, guidelines, and schedules soon after April 30th.

Results of the Student Survey

Thank you to the approximately 750 high school students who responded to last week’s survey. Dr. Kingsborough provided teachers and students with an overview of the data, but I wanted to give the rest of the community a quick overview. All of the data that we are receiving from our community is playing a vital role in assessing our virtual learning program. So, THANK YOU for your conscientious participation!!!

One of the key areas of the survey was to understand students’ perceptions of their workload. Over 80% of the students in grades 9 through 12 reported that there is too much work being assigned. No students reported not receiving enough work–huge surprise :)!!

Since elective courses are a major part of students’ high school education, we wanted perspective on the time allocation between elective and core areas. Students reported that they were spending anywhere between 20 minutes to over an hour a day on the work assigned by their elective teachers. Students’ time was spread somewhat evenly along the range of 20 to 30 minutes, 30 to 45 minutes, 45 to 60 minutes, and over 60 minutes.

In the core areas, the responses showed less diversity. Over 71% of the students reported that they were spending over an hour a day for each core area course. 22% reported spending 45 to 60 minutes per course, per day.

We were pleased to see that over 67% of the students’ believed that it was relatively easy to obtain assistance from their teachers while 21% felt it was a “piece of cake” to get assistance. Conversely, 11.4% of the students felt that it was difficult to get academic help.
Again, all of this information is being used to refine, adjust, and improve our continuity of education plan. Our programming will continue to improve, and it is our hope that what we are learning will not only help our current delivery methods but will also assist us as we move forward with blended and online learning opportunities for students in the future.

Mini-Thon and GV-CTC

The GV-CTC continues to do a wonderful job raising funds. More and more of our families need our support, so we still need donations. If you would like to participate, we ask that you use the GVCTC Venmo account: @GVCTC. If you are asked, the 4 digit code is 3706. Jennifer Tront, GV-CTC Treasurer, owns the account, so you will see her name appear. If you know anyone in our community who needs assistance, please have them complete this updated link (Food Services Assistance) and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

I would like to share this message from GVHS Madelynn Lederer:
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to Mini-THON. Please click on their names and take two minutes to watch these videos from two of our seniors, Christine Palmer and Scott Lehrfeld, who will explain more about why your support is important. Please click here to donate, thank you for your support!

I wish everyone a wonderful "stay at home" weekend!

Dr. Marc Bertrando, Superintendent
Garnet Valley School District

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