K-8 Educational Plan 2020-2021
Dear K-8 Parents,
We will be sending out another email early next week detailing our Covid-19 procedures for the beginning of the school year so you will have the necessary information to guide you in choosing which option will work best for you and your family.
Thank you for your patience as we continue to plan for the start of the new school year. The first educational plan for the fall we sent out was one that we were 100% certain we could implement. We did not want to promise educational instruction that we could not deliver. Our first preliminary plan presented in-person learning or home schooling as the available options.
We have continued to work on a more robust plan that would provide a better learning environment for our students whether at school or at home. However, we had several technological issues that had to be pursued and overcome. Our new plan is outlined below. We believe it is one that will better meet the needs of our students.
The plan, technology, and associated costs:
We plan to offer in-person and live stream instruction.
We are issuing all K-8 students iPads. Students will have the iPads at school and may also take them home with them. Students participating in live stream instruction will be given a time to pick up their assigned iPad that they will keep at home. Parents will be required to sign a waiver similar to “if you break it, you bought it” clause, with the cost included on the waiver. Fortunately, iPads are pretty durable. We had hoped to be able to use our existing iPad mini’s but they cannot run the academic programs we need. The school will be spending approximately $101,000 on iPads for K-8 students. Secondly, we also needed to make sure we had enough bandwidth. We have a one gigabit ethernet connection to the Internet. We are working with our provider now to make sure we can have videos uploaded automatically and erased after a preset time to not incur additional storage/usage charges.
We are purchasing cameras and tripods for each classroom. Cameras for each classroom will cost roughly $4,000, the tripods about $43.00 each. At the same time the teacher will be teaching, the class will be streamed live. It will also be uploaded to our site and will be available to students to either re-watch the lesson or watch it at a different time.
We will not live stream specials at the beginning of the school year (library, music, art, PE, leadership and computers, and possibly religion or language classes). We want to work through technical issues with core classes in grades 5-8 and classroom teachers in grades K-4.
Parents will be responsible for purchasing stylus for the iPad. Our tech team recommends an inexpensive Adonit Mark Executive Capacitive Stylus. Batteries are not required, and it is available on Amazon. However, you may purchase any stylus you like, they are widely available.
In terms of content:
iPads: Each student will have access to Microsoft Office 365 for Students, PowerSchool Unified Classroom (mostly for grades 5-8), and all of our various grade-based curriculum options including Reading Counts, Amplify Science, Clever, and any other programs specific to any grade level. Teachers will be utilizing both Microsoft Teams and PowerSchool Unified Classroom, so all of their curriculum content is accessible to those iPads wherever they happen to be. iPads will be configured using Jamf Classroom and Apple School Manager using supervised mobile device management. The St. Mark's Tech team and our teachers will have primary control of the iPads. The iPads will not have camera, or internet functions enabled as they are being configured for coursework only.
Programs we will utilize: Microsoft Office 365 for Education including Teams, OneNote, Word, Outlook, and SharePoint - Teachers and students in all grades will be able to access, create and submit class materials both in class and from home as necessary. In grades K-4 where part of the curriculum is printing and handwriting or perhaps 5-8 in art or for class projects, we will use OneNote and a stylus (provided by parents) to facilitate those type of lessons.
Please consider the following: the school will have plenty of connectivity to send things out, but each home has unique levels of internet connectivity and number of people who may be accessing the internet at the same time.
It may be a good time to upgrade your service given the additional devices that will be used at the same time.
Parent Choice: In Person or Live Streamed
Parents have until August 1st to notify the school office whether they will be choosing to have their children attend St. Mark’s in person or to use live streaming distance learning.
We are continuing to work on the details of our Covid-19 planning and will have those sent out next week to help you make your decision. If you choose to have your child attend in person, and at a later time you decide it is better to use the streaming distance learning you may do so simply by notifying us. However, please understand once you either begin distance learning at the start of the year, or switch to it after the school year has begun, you cannot automatically go back to in-person learning. You will be placed on a waiting list for an opening. We will try to accommodate our students who wish to return at a later date, back into the classroom but it may not be possible.
One final personal thought, I included the costs and perhaps much more technical information than parents are interested in, to provide some context for the challenges the school is facing and what we are doing in our pursuit of what is best for the students under our care. Every year, St. Mark’s Staff members dedicate themselves to making sure the young people under our care experience “our best year ever”. It is not a just a phrase, it is our mission.
We are continuing to meet with vendors and staff this week and will have our Covid-19 procedures/practices emailed to you next week.
Barbara M. Clark