Hopefully you are all aware by now that the district is moving forward with a remote- plan for the first trimester of the 2020-2021 school year. As such, any discussion of the hybrid learning plan, and considerations or specifics for that plan, I am tabling for a later date, if and when that becomes necessary to address. Just as the district needs to focus their energy
solely on the remote learning plan to ensure successful and thoughtful implementation, the PTO needs to also direct our efforts toward what is currently happening, so that we can best provide assistance to our community. Thus, here are the notes that I have as they relate to the
remote learning plan:
School Start—As of right now, school is scheduled to start on the already approved district calendar date. That said, as we move forward with planning, etc. it is possible that the district might push back the start date. We will just have to wait and see on this, but for the time being, plan on the school year starting on Wednesday, August 26th, 2020.
School structure—School will be 5 days per week, consisting of both synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Small groups may also be employed. The details of this are still being worked out by both the district and teachers and will be shared in an upcoming BOE meeting, that I encourage you to attend or listen to the recording afterwards. It is unclear if the school day will run until 3pm or end a bit earlier. That is also being worked out. The remote learning plan will be for AT LEAST the first trimester. Subsequent trimesters will depend on both local and state data in terms of COVID19 infection rates and also general science as we
learn more about this virus and it’s effects on humans. The district will let us know what the plan is as they determine it, but it will be very fluid, and things might change rapidly.
Technology for school—The district has stated in BOE meetings that they will be providing all students with electronics needed to complete their work. This will likely be an Ipad for younger ages, and older students already have technology according to their grade level. Older students
new to the district will also receive devices after they are registered. We don’t yet know how these devices will be delivered, but it is likely that there will be a supply pick up (or many supply pick-ups) the week before school is scheduled to begin. Additionally, the school district has funds to assist in establishing internet connections for those who do not have them. They have always had this in their budget. Those needing this service need to reach out to the district directly. There has been some talk and request that the district provide keyboards for students’ ipads. The PTO has pushed forward this request and also we have discussed this with Mr.
Hodge and Ms. Mura, who will also be pushing for this from the district. I would also encourage parents to reach out to board members and make this request.
Printed materials—Many have asked if the school district will assist in providing worksheets and printed materials. The district has funds available to print all necessary materials. This will be especially important for younger students. You should also note, that Principal Hodge has
reported that teachers at Irving have already placed orders at the district print shop for math, writing, and other workbooks. Teachers are being extremely proactive in this. The goal is to have these workbooks in “back to school” kits/bags that will be distributed in some form (likely a supply pickup) the week before school begins. Any additional resources that you need to print throughout the year can be printed for you at the district. You will need to contact your child’s teacher in order to do so after the year begins.
School Supplies—School supplies will still be needed for the year, but they will look a bit different than in previous years and likely they will not be requesting any community supplies since we aren’t starting the school year in person. That list is being constructed as we speak and should be out shortly. The PTO elected not to order supplies for this school year (which
had to be done last spring), because of the uncertainty about how school would be starting and potentially needing to change the types of supplies requested, so supplies will be up to individual families to acquire. The PTO will try to assist families who are not able to provide these things by acquiring them for these families either through direct purchase or community donation.
Childcare issues—This is a big question mark for many right now. Dr. Kelley has opined that parents’ direct and active supervision will not be necessary for the remote plan. That said, some families will not be working from home and will need childcare, and guidance in learning.
The BOE has requested that leftover Bond Levy funds be used to help cover the costs of childcare for such students, and community partnerships with local childcare providers as well as the park district have been pursued. It is unclear whether the full cost of childcare will be
covered by the district, or whether it will be supplemented. Please be attending the virtual BOE meetings going forward for more information on this. The PTO will continue to provide updates on those meetings as well. Unfortunately, due to liability reasons, the district will not allow the
PTO to be involved in the coordination of childcare in any sort of supplemental or grass roots fashion. Instead, the district will be sending out a survey to assess childcare needs very shortly, and they would like us to help direct families towards them if they are in need of such services.
Equity, 504 and IEPs—As Mr. Hodge has always done, he will be trying to balance classes in terms of children’s identified gender, race, economic status, learning levels, and in terms of 504 plans and IEPs. The district is still working out logistics on how they are going to provide services for those with IEPs or 504’s as well as those who might not fully meet criteria for an
official plan but are not performing at grade level. Please stay tuned for more information on that as it is decided. Future BOE meetings will also likely address this, and we encourage you to watch those. They are all recorded as well, for those of you who have other commitments
during the BOE meeting times. Please also know that equity is an ongoing issue in this community, as well as nationally. The remote plan was also partially chosen because of serious equity concerns with the Hybrid model, especially at the middle school level, where risk mitigation of infection would have created major problems with equity and balanced classes.
Class lists will be out sooner than in years past, but Mr. Hodge and Ms. Mura will need time to try to ensure as equitable of classrooms as possible. So please be patient with that.
Emotional Health and Community—Social workers will still be providing services to children and their families throughout the school year. Those already identified as needing services will continue to get services and those needing services going forward will either be identified by
teachers, or can be requested by parents. Please email Mr. Hodge or Ms. Mura for more information on that. In terms of Community, the PTO is looking into various things that we might purchase for students to continue to build a sense of belonging even while learning
remotely. We have yet to hammer out the details of this, but we are researching and considering budget for this, while also wanting to reserve funds to assist the community in other ways. Please stay tuned on this. Additionally, there has been a lot of talk of forming social pods within classrooms and grade levels. The Irving PTO has been thinking about how we might be able to do this in an equitable way and meet the needs of those who might not be as socially connected within our community. However, the district has asked us not to proceed with this due to many liability issues for which we could not find work arounds. We may revisitthis in the future, but for now, the PTO is not able to assist with this. We would like to
encourage those of you who are forming Pods, however, to think about this through the lens of equity and perhaps reach out to families that are new, might not be as socially connected,might have greater needs than your family, or who perhaps do not look like your family inappearance or structure. It is to all of our benefit to surround ourselves with rich diversity that encourages inclusive worldview.
Other thoughts—As we move forward with this school year, I just want to encourage all of theparents to try to remain as positive as we can. This will be hard for so many people, but I am onfident that we can ease each other’s burdens and come together to support each other uring this time. Our children take their cues from us, and it is important to model a
productive, positive outlook, full of problem-solving and flexibility. Please keep this in mind as we enter a difficult year. The PTO has already met and spent a lot of time thinking about and organizing efforts to assist. It will not be perfect, but I do believe we can help. Later this week, you will be receiving a needs assessment, to help us determine what needs exist and to what extent. Please fill this out honestly, so that we can find ways of helping. Please note thatpreference will be given to those with the most indicated need, which is the most equitable response.
Additionally, please keep in mind that your PTO board is made up 100% of parent volunteers. We do this in our extra time and will also be facing many of the same struggles that you all are facing in terms of time, commitments, challenges with remote learning and guidance, 504’s and IEPs, mental fortitude and even financial hardship. We are open to your feedback, but please keep it productive and directed at the right source. We do not have any say in the district decisions, we can only try to organize or encourage the district toward certain outcomes. Our main priority at this time is supporting the Irving Community during this pandemic. We look forward (with some trepidation, but also a positive outlook) to this school year and
witnessing what is possible if we all come together.
Your PTO Executive Board
Stacey Belmont, Co-President
Lauren VanderBerg, Co-President
Michelle Ahring, Volunteer Coordinator
Susan Raphael, VP of Communications
Wendy Alvarez, VP of Communications
Mechelle Wesley, VP of Diversity and Inclusion
Lisa Berube, VP of Diversity and Inclusion
Vanessa Izar-McFadden, Co-Treasurer
Beata Rzucidlo, Co-Treasurer
Melissa DeJesus-Vasquez, Co-Secretary
Jen Trudell, Co-Secretary