Dear Parents, As members of Duke School’s Academic Team, which works with faculty to ensure that students receive a Duke School education consistent with our core values, we are using Lisa’s weekly parent communication slot to update you on our very special start of school. A glimpse of student life at Duke School might initially look very different from last September. Students on campus emerge from carline masked, and individual desks fill nearly every square foot of our buildings. And our Apple TV’s look a bit like the start of The Brady Bunch as our Bridged Distance Learners (BDL) eagerly join classmates for Morning Meeting, Advisory, or classes. But as we walk around campus for a deeper look, it quickly becomes apparent that the heart of our work is clearly the same. In one preschool class, kids invited us to play a socially distanced bean bag throw game as they practiced taking turns and inviting others to join in their game. In middle school, teachers used QR codes and video to do virtual book talks about favorite summer reads and shared them with both On Campus and BDL students. And kindergarten teachers even made a virtual Choice Board for their BDL students! Parent Nights As we prepare for parent nights next week, we wanted to share with you a bit about our planning for this year. While we have taken many hours to define the nuts and bolts of the school day, we have taken many more hours to define our plans, our actions, and our interactions with each child. Each year, the faculty reviews research from professional organizations, assesses our students, and plans goals and expectations – and while this year is very different – this practice is still in place and as important as ever. In defining goals and developing curriculum, educational leaders across the country caution us to spend more time than usual attending to the social-emotional needs of students who are starting school in a very different way than in past years. The last six-months have been very hard on all children, and we want to ensure that we are caring for them and allowing time for them to connect and flourish – whether in person or virtually. National experts have also helped teachers examine academic standards and focus on the ones that are most essential for student success this year and to carry them forward to next year and beyond. Many of the recommendations are ones that come easily to Duke School teachers- integrate themes from various subject areas and focus on student inquiry. As a result, much of our school day looks different than in past years. Students may have different projects, essays, and assignments, but our overarching goals are the same. We want all of our children to emerge from this period with their self-worth intact, knowing they are seen, cared for, and appreciated as resilient, problem solving, self-advocates who can ask questions, research answers, work with others to revise their thinking, and present their results to others. We remain confident that this is exactly what our world needs as we prepare our students to grow into empathic and just adults who can manage future pandemics and solve other complex problems. Over the next two weeks, teachers will be hosting parent nights to connect with you and share more details of our learning lives at Duke School this year. It is our hope that at least one grown-up can attend the session – which should last 30-60 minutes– and teachers will be able to share their PowerPoints after the session for families that might not be able to attend. All sessions will be at 6 PM, and teachers will be sharing Zoom links with you in the coming week.
Bridged Distance Learning (BDL) Changes Establishing consistent routines and procedures is an important part of creating a safe, caring, and productive community. As a result, our Academic Team decided to ask parents to commit to BDL or On-Campus Learning for several months at a time to ensure the consistency and predictability children and adolescents need. This commitment also allows the school to prepare to welcome a new student into a pod and ensure that the proper social distancing and safety measures are in place. The first date for a potential change was September 1. We want to let you know of the other dates throughout the year that you may make a change from BDL to On-Campus Learning. Watch Spark eNews for reminders.
If you have questions or concerns about your child's experience or any of these dates, please contact your division director. With much gratitude for your partnership, Kathy Bartelmay, Curriculum Director Emily Chávez, Director of Equity and Justice Jenny Murray, Middle School Director Nicole Thompson, Lower School Director