Lower School Distance Learning Resource Guide

Dear Lower School Families,

I hope you are doing as well as can be expected in these uncertain and challenging times.

Having our teachers completely change the manner in which they teach, in a very short turnaround time, has been a monumental task. They have spent countless hours designing purposeful lessons and collaborating with each other online to develop a comprehensive learning plan for your children. Our teachers have shown such strong dedication and commitment under very difficult conditions. They are our heroes.

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 are also very aware of the reality that all the adults in our Poly community — parents and guardians, faculty and staff — are juggling many obligations. Parents and guardians of Lower School students will be learning how to support their children through new tasks and routines. Lower School teachers will be supporting our students through the Lower School distance learning plan, while also caring for their own children, families, and those closest to them. And many of us are likely feeling anxious about local, country, and global news.

We ask everyone to show patience, kindness, and generosity toward one another so that we can sustain the partnership that is central to our shared commitment to the Poly community. Please know that we want Poly to be a source of strength and comfort as we learn how to connect with, learn from and help each other in new ways. We want to do everything we can to support you. We will meet these challenges together.

Because of the unique nature of distance teaching and learning, and the uncertainty around the duration of this closure, we all need to remain engaged, flexible, and kind. 

Be well.



The purpose of this guide is to give parents and guardians an overview into what distance learning is like for Poly students. This guide will also provide insight into how they can engage their student(s) at home with best practices and tips for distance learning best practices.


What is Distance Learning?

In response to COVID-19 and state and local government health agency recommendations, Polytechnic School students have engaged in distance learning. Distance learning entails the facilitation of our program and curriculum through a variety of synchronous and asynchronous tools and modalities. During these unprecedented times, we are committed to fostering the community of learning that we are known for, and to ensuring the success of our students in completing the school year. Distance learning will never wholly replace the experience of our program and community, but it will allow students to continue to move forward in their academic studies and nurture relationships with peers and trusted adults.

Distance Learning Guiding Principles at Poly
  • Keep it simple
  • Keep it essential
  • Focus on the learning and the skills

What will students do during Distance Learning?

Students will meet each day, Monday-Thursday with their homeroom teacher (and PE) and each Friday with their other single subject teachers to connect with their teachers and peers through video conferencing. This opportunity to connect with their teachers and each other is a critical part of the Lower School learning experience and will set the stage for the rest of their lessons and activities. Recorded videos and other media will also be used to enhance this experience and provide students with valuable touchpoints in their learning as they engage in independent activities and lessons. Single subjects will provide a similar mix of live video conferencing, recorded video lessons, and independent work. 

Our goals for distance learning are to maintain the integrity and continuity of our academic program and to maintain a sense of community and connection. To maintain the integrity and continuity of our academic program, faculty will continue to use the Lower School curriculum documents to provide the essential skills students “need to know and be able to do” for academic success in the next grade level. To maintain a sense of community and connection, we will incorporate synchronous learning opportunities (students and teachers gathering and working together in real-time). 

We recognize that learning remotely requires students to develop new skills and ways of thinking. This model may present new challenges for students as they make the transition. Teachers will honor student accommodation plans to the greatest extent possible and will remain attentive to student feedback about workload and deadlines. We encourage students to contact their teachers directly if they need additional guidance or support. Because of the unique nature of distance learning and the uncertainty around the duration of this closure, we all need to remain engaged, flexible, and kind. 

What will a typical Distance Learning day look like?

Homeroom teachers will email and post to Seesaw their “Daily Distance Learning Plan” (Monday-Thursday lesson plan) for students. Single-subject teacher designees will email and post to Seesaw the “Distance Learning Plan: Spotlight on Single Subjects Day (lesson plan for each Friday). In order to eliminate multiple emails, you will receive one email with all the single subject lessons for the grade level.

Synchronous Learning 
Opportunities for synchronous learning will be provided. Synchronous learning allows faculty, teaching assistants, and students to gather as a whole class, in small groups or one-to-one at the same time via a live Zoom video conference. 

This method allows for group discussion and creates the opportunity to monitor student understanding and to answer questions. Synchronous learning also allows for the classroom community to stay connected as school is conducted remotely.

Asynchronous Learning
Students will also participate in asynchronous learning opportunities. These learning opportunities may be recorded lessons, pencil-paper activities, etc. This allows students to learn at their own pace and at a time that is convenient for the family.

Will students have homework?

Homeroom teachers will email (and post to Seesaw) the daily lesson plan. All assignments given by the teachers should be treated with the same importance as the work completed before our Poly school closure. Our expectation is that students follow the Lower School distance teaching and learning daily lesson plan and complete assignments within the time period provided by the teacher.  We encourage everyone to maintain a regular schedule each day so that students can successfully manage her/his daily assignments. The teacher will let students know the assignments that will be assessed and counted towards grades.

Grades K-1: All assignments and activities (online and offline) should take a student approximately 1-2 hours to complete, including single subject assignments. 

Grades 2-5: We are following the requirements from CAIS (California Association of Independent Schools) for grades 2-12. All assignments and activities (online and offline) should take a student approximately 3.5 hours to complete, including single subject assignments. 

What about tests and quizzes?

Students will continue to have assessments, and teachers will let parents know if they are to be parent proctored or independent.

What about narratives and grades? 

At this time, we have not made any decisions on possible format changes for the Lower School report cards for the final reporting period at the end of this final semester or the Lower School end-of-year narratives.  

Will Poly’s usual rules and policies apply?

The community expectations of behavior, Honor Code and Technology Responsible Use Agreement all apply during distance learning. 

What new expectations are there for students in this remote learning environment?

Students should be flexible and supportive of peers and teachers.  This is unrehearsed, unchartered territory for much of our school. We expect steep learning curves and some likely frustrations. Please be patient and as always, we appreciate your feedback. Students should communicate if they are struggling with the workload for any reason. Parents should let teachers know so they can help support students at home.

If parent or student becomes ill while at home please:
  • Have a parent email lsattendance@polytechnic.org by 9 am each day
  • Communicate with teachers, so that they can support students getting back on track when their health has returned.

Do not gather in groups and follow social distancing guidelines when outside the home. School closure is intended to slow down the spread of the virus and ensure the health of students and our Poly families. 

Will attendance be taken?

Attendance will be taken daily during the morning with homeroom teachers.

What about athletics, co-curriculars, and activities?

More information to come.

What additional support is available for my student?

If students are struggling to understand lessons or complete their work, please reach out to the homeroom teacher for help. Student support services will continue to be offered during the distance learning period. Please reach out to Kathy Ford for more information.

If students are struggling to use any of the apps or software from teachers, please reach out to Mrs. Nua for help. 

If students are struggling with technology, bandwidth, or access problems, please reach out to Mr. Yen for guidance. 

If students are struggling with wellness, please reach out to Dr. Clint Daniels for support. 

If students are struggling with their physical health, please reach out to Ms. Kwitny for guidance. 

How can parents help? 

We are all fortunate to share an incredible partnership among parents, teachers, and administration here at Poly. It is one of the central reasons that we have such a strong and uncommon community. Now more than ever we will need help from parents to deliver the program to students. 

Establish routines and expectations: We encourage parents to help students set regular hours for school work in addition to the schedule set by the school. Keep normal bedtime routines for students and try not to let them stay up late. Students should move regularly and take periodic breaks as they study. It is important to set these expectations immediately, not after it becomes apparent a young person is struggling with the absence of routine. 

Define the physical space for study: Most students have a regular place for doing homework, but this space may or may not be suitable for the extended period of time or technology necessary for distance learning. A distance learning workspace should be a place that can be quiet at times and have a strong wireless internet signal. Consider having a space that is public in order to monitor a student’s focus during the day.  We encourage families to establish a place to work outside the bedroom. 

Take an active role in helping students stay connected. In the course of a regular school day at Poly, students engage with other students or adults dozens, if not hundreds, of times. These social interactions and opportunities for mediation include turning to a peer to exchange a thought or idea, participating in small or large group discussions, asking questions for clarification, collaborating on group projects, and countless other moments. While some of these social interactions will be re-created on virtual platforms, others will not. Human beings learn best when they have opportunities to process their learning with others. Beyond the check-ins recommended at the start and end of each day, it’s helpful if parents regularly circle back and engage with their student/s about what they’re learning. 

How will I know when distance learning begins and ends?

We are currently planning to continue distance learning for the foreseeable future. Head of School John Bracker and Lower School Director Paula Martin will be in regular contact with the community via email and on the Poly website with updates: https://www.polytechnic.org/about-poly/covid-19-updates, and we will use all forms of communication available with news of any school opening or extended closure.

Whom should I contact if I have questions or concerns?

If you have questions, concerns, clarifications, etc. about anything above or a topic not addressed here, feel free to reach out directly to Paula Martin.

Polytechnic School | 1030 E. California Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91106 | Phone 626.396.6300 | Fax 626.796.2249
© All Rights Reserved. Polytechnic School.