Letter to Families from Principal Whaley

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]September 17, 2020

Dear Mohawk Families,

I am so glad that families are getting back into their homes after being displaced by the Holiday Farm Fire.  It has been a long week for many.   I also evacuated from my home in the Mohawk Valley last week and know firsthand the stress that comes with waiting and wondering.  School is important, but not nearly as important as taking care of one another and making sure your family is okay.  I am often impressed by the caring of this community for each other in times of difficulty like we have endured lately.  Hopefully you are getting settled again and are ready for some routines to help us all gain our equilibrium back.

As we finally embark on the start of the school year, I wanted to take this opportunity to share some information you may find useful. Teachers have been working hard over the summer and have been back to work in recent weeks getting things ready for Comprehensive Distance Learning.  We have some really great plans for school and we can’t wait to see our students!

First, the computer distribution event/reverse parade is being rescheduled and redesigned due to air quality and school access issues.   We look forward to seeing our students, checking out computers and other materials, and sending home some food for the kids.  Listen for the robocall and/or watch for the email with specific dates and times soon. We have to wait until we are at least at evacuation Level 1 to have people on campus.  Students and their families will enter through the elementary entrance and drive through the school parking lot to pick up their supplies and computers at designated stations. Students who have not officially registered for the 2020-21 school year will need to register at the district website before receiving their supplies and computer.

Next, Mohawk will be scheduling classes differently this year to help things go more smoothly.  Here are some highlights of the changes:

    • Students will have five classes instead of seven and the first term will end right before Winter Break. The next two terms also end right before breaks- Spring Break and Summer Break. (Some call this model a 3 x 5, three terms of 5 classes each.) 
    • With this schedule, students who may need to make up coursework and credits from the spring will have the opportunity to earn an additional .5 credits over last year.  Plus, this timeline matches up better with the college quarter system at LCC.
    • Additionally, students will be grouped together in cohorts (called “pods”) with two teachers to receive all of their core instruction (English, Math, Social Studies, and Science).  These changes are designed to make the communication loop easier between teachers and students, as well as better manage student academic workloads.  
    • Some pods participate in live instruction in the morning, and others in the afternoon, to try and spread out the need for internet bandwidth by a single household with multiple children.  The other half of the day, students will be working on applied learning activities assigned by their teachers (some computer-based and others not).  Students will be participating in a full day of learning.
    • Pod assignments have been predetermined by the staff based on academic needs (especially math) and student interests from the elective survey in the spring.
    • The main reason for grouping students this way is to facilitate a smooth transition between Distance Learning and when we return to school in person with required health and safety requirements, including cohort groups.
    • Electives have had to change to allow students to participate in groups outside of their pod without cross contamination.  Most electives will be virtual with possible opportunities for in person small groups as restrictions loosen.  Students will hear all about the elective choices the first week back and will start those classes the following week.  The electives will happen in the middle of the day, adjacent to lunch. (PE also falls into this category.)
  • Class time schedules, pod assignments, and additional information will be included in the materials to pick up.

New to Marcola this year is the Schoology platform for student learning management.  Teachers will be teaching students how to navigate and complete work during the first week of classes.  Parents will have access to short instructional videos on the district website to help them learn as well.  We are really excited to have a “one-stop-shop” to learn, access assignments and assessments, submit work, check grades, and communicate.  Watch for Schoology parent login information in the next week or so!

Before school starts, students and families should start thinking about how to get ready to be virtual learners.  Suggestions for this include: Designate a comfortable study space in your home and try to make sure it is free of distractions such as video games.  Purchase or locate headphones to minimize noise distractions, especially if there are multiple students in the home.  Try to make the learning environment different from the sleeping one and use a space other than the student’s bed. If you have difficulty with internet access at your home, please contact the school to inquire about available supports.

Finally, some of you have asked about when we will be transitioning back to in-person learning.  While it is always our goal to have students and teachers together, it has to be in safe conditions.  We are continuing to put safety precautions in place to keep everyone healthy.  It is also important to have some kind of consistent plan that students, teachers and families can count on when scheduling.  The plan right now is to start in Comprehensive Distance LearningPlease note: The date to review the health metrics and decide next steps is Oct. 15.  If data supports returning to in-person instruction in the building, there will be a two week ramp-up period for staff to make the transition to the classroom.  There are multiple factors that are constantly changing and it is important to the district to provide some predictability to all families.

I am so proud of our Marcola community and how we come together to support our students.  While this is a year unlike any other, I have confidence that our students will emerge stronger and with new skills for success in the 21st century.



Stacey Whaley, Principal
Mohawk Jr./Sr. High School