Dear Lower School Families,

In designing this distance learning plan, our primary goals have been to preserve the integrity of our academic program and to sustain meaningful connections between faculty and students. We drew on a breadth and depth of resources while keeping in mind the developmental ages of our students. We have designed our new Distance Teaching and Learning Plan (DTLP) to provide the best experience possible for our Lower School students with a focus on excellence and flexibility.
Our Lower School plan is centered around community relationships, engaging and deepening learning, and real-world application of knowledge through Project-Based Learning (PBL). Our instructional models include a variety of scenarios: online, on-campus, and a hybrid model of both online and in-person learning. 
Our plan is improved, enriched, and focused on delivering an excellent, student-centered experience. It is characterized by engaging, balanced synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities with developmentally appropriate strategies for our Lower School students.
As we all know, our Lower School learning environment evokes wonder, stimulates creativity, and inspires an innovative spirit within our students. This continues to be our overarching goal as we begin the 2020-2021 school year.  
Lower School Distance Teaching and Learning Plan (DTLP): Aug. 31-Oct. 30, 2020
Our new Distance Teaching and Learning Plan (DTLP) will offer an academic program that is comprehensive in scope and content; engaging students in literacy, mathematics, social studies, and science along with world language, performing arts, visual arts, physical education, mindfulness, and technology. The DTLP for the upcoming school year will prepare our students to be skillful collaborators, problem-solvers, and communicators, and will embed strong and ongoing character education (social-emotional learning) and service learning programs that instill empathy and respect for others.
 
Together with a research-informed faculty, our goal remains for our Lower School students to become independent thinkers and confident leaders. Our DTLP is driven by the following guiding principles:
 
  1. Culture that Empowers: Maintaining a sense of community and connection
  2. Teaching that Engages: Preserving the integrity and continuation of our strong and excellent Lower School program
  3. Outcomes that Matter: Learning outcomes based on the essential skills at each grade level
  4. Technology that Empowers: Learning with technology as a tool to create, communicate, and access information
 
Professional Development:
Since last March, we have learned so much about designing a distance teaching and learning curriculum – thanks to the helpful feedback from our parent community, as well as an investment in summer coursework by our faculty to empower them to thrive within virtual learning platforms. 

Our teachers have been hard at work this summer taking courses and attending webinars and workshops in an effort to establish best practices in the “new normal” of school: distance teaching and learning, on-campus instruction (in line with the recommended health and safety guidelines), and a hybrid model (the “dimmer switch” as Gov. Newsom coined - sometimes on campus, sometimes off campus… depending on the status of COVID-19 in LA County). 
 
One of the many professional development opportunities for our faculty was a seven-week “Online Learning for Elementary Students” course that included seven modules. It featured “Human and Social Need in Online Learning”, “Instruction in Online Learning”, “Conferencing and Feedback in Online Learning”, and “Assessments in Online Learning” – just to share a few of the course titles.
 
Teaching Teams, Student Cohorts, Class Lists:
In order to accomplish the goals of our Distance Teaching and Learning Plan and to create classroom cohorts (both in our DTLP and when we can safely return to campus) that meet local and county health and safety guidelines, we will establish 27 classroom cohorts in grades K-5 at the Lower School for the upcoming school year. 
 
Each grade level will have a “teaching team” and each cohort will have a “teacher leader.” 
 
Lower School Schedule:
We will maintain the same five-day rotational schedule as we implemented this past Spring. Upon reflection, we learned that keeping a five-day schedule at the Lower School helped everyone to plan each day of the week, Monday-Friday.
 
This year, Wednesdays will look different in the online and hybrid models in all three divisions, K-12.  Wednesdays will now be “Flex School Days” and allow for different programming and community building opportunities.  At the Lower School, we will begin each Wednesday with our teachers engaged in their Professional Learning Community (PLC) work from 7:45am-8:25am. Starting at 8:30am we will have our Lower School Community Meeting (typically ending at 8:45am). Following the community meeting each Wednesday will have a few of these components: Panther Pods, Buddy Time, DEI activities, Service Learning projects, Project Based Learning activities, and much more!
 
Here are some of the changes to the DTLP we developed in the spring:
  • Lower School: 5-day schedule
  • Wednesday is “Flex Day” (in all 3 divisions)
  • The school day will be from 8:30am-3:15pm each day
  • Single subjects (art, Spanish, science, PE, music, strings, drama) will be on a rotating schedule throughout each day (M-Tu-Th-F)
 
Health and Safety:
Throughout this challenging time, we will continue to remain flexible and move nimbly as more information becomes available.  Poly’s plans and procedures for returning to campus were developed by an incredibly committed and hardworking group of faculty and staff with guidance from our health and safety consultants to mitigate our COVID-19 risks.
 
I know these foundational years are truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it is my privilege to partner with you through this challenging and important time.
 
Warm regards,

Paula