SBMS Families and Community,
I am writing to give you an update on the start of the school year. If you have not already been contacted and told by the school district or seen the news, I want to make sure you know that the first day of school has been moved to September 21. This change for all district schools is in response to the wild fires and hazardous air quality in the area that have affected families and stopped our efforts to distribute technology to all students.
Our certified staff has been back in the building working on developing new distance education lessons, learning new technology tools, and partnering together to create classes best suited for comprehensive distance education. The rest of this letter is an update on that work and answers to frequently asked questions we are getting from families.
First Day of School for All Students – September 21
The first day of school is Monday, September 21. That day will have a one-time special schedule designed for us to figure out at a basic level who we are reaching and which students are able to connect to their teachers in the variety of ways they will need to this year (email, Canvas, Zoom video conferencing). Monday morning, we will be asking students to view introductory videos about how to access email, how to log into Canvas, and how to join the Zoom meetings
On Monday afternoon, from 12:20 to 1:20, we want as many students as possible to join the video conference for their Advisory class. Students and parents/guardians will get an invitation from their Advisory teacher through email. Students will get their email invitation in their district Zimbra email account; parents will get the invitation based on what is in our records. Those invitations will go out next week by Thursday, September 17.
What is Canvas?
Canvas is our new Learning Management System that teachers will use to organize and present much of their instruction for students. Each SBMS student will have a Canvas account and our goal for the first two weeks is to teach them how to use it effectively. Therefore, expect that the first two weeks will be light on content and heavy on learning how to use the system. We will also be offering parent trainings on Canvas during the first two weeks of school.
What is Zoom video conferencing?
Zoom is a video conferencing program that runs on the student iPads and most any other kind of laptop, tablet, or phone. Teachers have Zoom accounts that allow them to have an entire class together, for lecture, discussion, and group work. We will be teaching video conferencing etiquette and norms to help create safe and productive teaching spaces. We also realize from personal experience in Zoom meetings that such meetings can have diminishing returns as they go on and we will be working to put limits on Zoom time and look for alternate ways to be in-person with students using collaborative tools other than video conferencing.
What is Zimbra Email?
Canvas has a very powerful chat and communication system for students and parents. However, having and using an email account will always be a necessary skill, even just as a back-up to recover passwords for Canvas. Therefore, we will teach students to access and effectively use their district email account.
What is Advisory?
Advisory is a period of the day dedicated to helping support students in what they need to be successful and happy at school. This year, for a variety of reasons, we are structuring advisory to have groups of ~22 students from grades 6-8 with an advisor. The main reason we are mixing the grades in advisory is because one thing missing in Comprehensive Distance Learning is a chance for students at the different grade levels to interact and to help make sense of middle school for 6th graders just entering our school. Over time, we will use the advisory period to offer affinity groups, clubs, and assemblies to continue to sustain our school cultures and identities.
Student schedules are available today on StudentVUE and ParentVUE. If you need help accessing your ParentVUE account, please call the front office next week, or email Heather Acharya (firstname.lastname@example.org). Note that the schedules you see in StudentVUE or ParentVUE assume that we are continuing distance education all year; if we move to a hybrid model, with students attending school, those schedules will change.
Change in Elective Offerings
Our original in-person schedule for this year had a special 6th period format that allowed us to offer a range of electives for all students, health, AVID for 7th and 8th, and intervention classes that still allowed students to take electives. With COVID and distance education, we cannot offer that schedule and meet the needs of students. Therefore, 6th period for students is very different: in the first trimester, all 6th grade students will take an academic success class, all 7th grade students will take either Health or AVID, and 8th grade students will have a reduced set of elective choices. If we continue in distance education beyond the 1st trimester, these sets of classes will rotate in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.
Schedule Change Requests
We will have a web-based form for schedule change requests available on the first day of school. We will send that out in email and put it on our website.
We have attached a basic Daily Schedule that explains how our 6 period day is mapped onto “A”, “B” and “C” days. You will see on the schedule that on a typical Monday
, or Friday
that students will be working on all 6 of their classes, and be “in-person” with their teachers in the afternoons. Also, Wednesday
afternoon is a time when teachers will be able to offer interventions, catch-up sessions, extensions, and office hours. We will create, post, and send out a prettier version of this schedule and a map of all of the A/B/C days for the first trimester. CLICK HERE to view “Spencer Butte Trimester 1, 2020 Typical Weekly Schedule”
Unlike in Spring, we will have regular grades this year. Depending on your teacher, that means A-F letter grades or proficiency based grades. You and your students will learn teachers’ grading policies once school starts.
Students are marked present in their classes by attending in-person synchronous classes in the afternoons, or by having an instructional interaction with their teacher or in Canvas that day. We will be closely monitoring student attendance and reaching out to you immediately when we see anything of concern.
Affinity Groups and Clubs
Once the year gets started, we will start our regular affinity groups and then ask students and staff to let us know what kinds of clubs they are interested in having/hosting.
Office and Website
Our office remains open during this time. Please feel free to call (we miss you). Also, the wild fires have directly affected our school and district staff who update our website, resulting in a delay in getting everything up there that we want for you. We will send out a communication when our pages related to Canvas, the schedule and everything else related to distance learning is posted.
We will be scheduling grade level specific parent/guardian meetings once the year gets going and have a virtual open house. For now, we have the following meetings scheduled for next week using the Zoom video conferencing platform.
Monday, Sept 14
For families with students with IEP or 504 Plans – 3 to 4 PM – Link to Video Conference:
General parent/guardian meeting – 5 to 6 PM – Link to Video Conference:
Tuesday, Sept 15
General parent/guardian meeting – 9 to 10 AM – Link to Video Conference: