Dear HA Families,
I hope you are finding some measure of sanity and joy as we navigate these extraordinary days. Before writing, I wanted to have some time to review plans with the admin team and also had to mix my work time with helping lead the first day of "home school" for my own kids here in Washington Heights, so my apologies that it took a bit longer than expected to send this message. Nevertheless, I think we are in as good a place as possible given the circumstances.
First off and aligned with the Mayor's announcement yesterday, Harlem Academy's buildings will be closed through April 20 in support of the social distancing strategies put in place to thwart the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Our students' distance learning will begin on Tuesday, March 31 and continue for at least 3 weeks. Families can expect grade-specific details to follow in the coming weeks and individual communication with your child's teachers to begin on Monday, March 30. However, I wanted to give you a preview and to make sure you have what you need when it's time to get started.
If any student is still in need of hardware to borrow (Chromebook for Grades 3-8 or IPad for Grades 1-2) for our distance learning program, you must email Ms. Feliz (firstname.lastname@example.org) to pick-up that technology THIS Tuesday or Wednesday from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. After this Wednesday, the building will be completely closed to both teaching and administrative staff, so students and parents will have no access to the building, belongings they may have left, or technology resources. It is important that you email Ms. Feliz before coming so that we can prepare any needed equipment for you ahead of time. Also, please make sure anyone who comes to pick-up technology has no cough or fever, so we can do our best to keep the folks healthy who are trying to help all of us with preparation for distance learning.
Looking ahead to Tuesday, March 31 (when distance learning classes begin), you should expect required programming to take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a break for lunch from 12 to 1 p.m. Some classes (especially in the older grades) will be taught using Zoom or Google Chat. Some will use Google Docs to create collaborative writing environments. All students will use their library account to keep up with independent reading books and IXL for math and grammar practice.
We have been learning from the advice of schools in Washington, Colorado, and other parts of the country that have already moved to a distance learning model. One of their main pieces of advice is that teachers will also be sure to have regular voice or video communication with students in the upper grades and with students and parents in the younger grades (where students will need more help to do their work). Everyone can expect some kind of personal communication several times per week if not every day.
Finally, we understand that the current situation places strain on all families and in particular on families with fewer resources. If you are concerned about technology for distance learning, please follow the directive above and reach out to Ms. Feliz tonight or tomorrow morning. However, we also want to help with food, access to mental health services, or any other needs that families may have during these extraordinary times. You can reach out to LaShonda, Emma Baber (our counselor), me or any other member of the team with whom you have a trusted partnership, and we will work together to figure it out.
And even if it's not for an emergency, feel free to write me back with questions, ideas, or just to check in at any point between now and when we return to regular classes.
With best wishes always,