James River Day School

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Distance Learning

Friday, March 27, 2020

I hope you and your family healthy and coping with the ever-changing world in which we live. It is oddly comforting to know that we are all in this together, doing our best under the most challenging of circumstances.

Converting a school to distance learning in only one week is a complex task, to say the least. We understand this is an unusual time with new hurdles for everyone. We want to be flexible, while providing our students the structure and quality educational opportunities they need. We also know that one size does not fit all.
Accordingly, here are the plans, by grade.
  • Grades K-1 will use SeeSaw as their means of communication, since parents and faculty are already familiar with this app. Weekly assignments will be posted, and the teachers will be in touch with parents on a regular basis. Screen time will be particularly limited for this age group. "Specials" classes (world languages, art, music, and technology) will begin later.
  • Grades 2-3 will use Google Classroom as their means of communication with students. This is the same technology already in use by grades 4-8. The teachers have been trained in Classroom, and the first task for these kids will be to learn this new, simple platform. Assignments will be posted daily to Classroom by 9:00 am. "Specials" classes (world languages, art, music, and technology) will begin later.
  • Grade 4 will continue to use Google Classroom as they have all year.
  • Grades 5-8 will also use Google Classroom as they have all year. Assignments will be posted by 9:00 am on the days a class meets (see schedule in below).
To that end, we will follow the schedule posted on the Distance Learning page to reserve "screen time" for classes. The intent is to minimize (though it is impossible to completely eliminate) the amount of time that a household might have overlapping class meetings, while still keeping the length of the instructional day reasonable. These reserved times do not mean a class will meet digitally every day during that time, it simply affords teachers, students, and families a timetable within which to work. When a teacher is not holding an online meeting during his/her reserved time, that teacher is available to students via email/SeeSaw/Google Classroom/phone, as appropriate, for questions. We know that the schedule outlined below will evolve from week to week as we gain experience and obtain feedback from parents, students, and faculty.
As mentioned above, flexibility is important. Teachers in grades K-4 will offer “suggested” daily schedules, but the schedules are just that--suggested. Children and families will have the freedom to get their work done in a way that makes sense to them. For grades 5-8, mornings are free for students to do their work. Advisory will be daily at noon, and attendance will be taken. We have not yet made decisions about assessments.
Our goal is to start slowly and build on our successes, while asking for your feedback frequently. If you experience difficulties with technology, the school will be happy to assist you.
This letter contains many details, but I want to reassure everyone that the James River sense of community will not diminish in the coming weeks. Our teachers and our classes will still be as much about caring and character as they have always been. To that end, as your children engage in their lessons, we encourage families to take a picture or make a short video of your child describing what he/she just learned. Send those pictures and videos to pix@jamesriverdayschool.org, and you may just see it on the school’s social media. We have also put together a special web page where you can find the above schedule and much other helpful information about the school's response to COVID-19. I encourage you to check it out.
I’m looking forward to Monday! I hope you are, too. We are all in this educational adventure together.
With my kindest regards,

Peter H. York
Head of School