Middle School Distance Learning Resource Guide

Hello, Poly Middle School community,

I realize that we are all surrounded by concerning news and a world that none of us fully recognizes at this time. I am preferring to take this time to focus on the silver linings; family dinners every night, cooking at home rather than take-out on the fly, walks with my wife, and multiple small projects that seem to have been put on hold for the past five years. 

Although there will never be a replacement for the connections that happen in classrooms and hallways, we are enjoying the opportunity to stretch the academic paradigm and to find new and innovative ways to connect and to teach. I know that all of the teachers are enjoying this part of the process as well. Our goals have remained the same since we started this new way of teaching and learning; keep things simple, teach what is essential, and try to give a sense of routine and normalcy during a time that offers anything but. I do believe we have been able to meet these goals. Sure, there are plenty of things that have been difficult and frustrating, but even in those moments, we continue to learn a great deal about what is possible.

We miss seeing the students and we miss the energy, curiosity, and passion that they all bring to Poly every day. Despite the current limitations, we have remained excited to be able to come together and continue the school year. It is important for everyone to know how much we appreciate the ways the students have engaged in this new way of learning. With very little notice, the students calmly did what was needed to plan and prepare, but what was far from a surprise was the positive attitude that they continue to exhibit; it was not a surprise because it is what the students show us on a daily basis.

Over the years many of you have heard me talk about the incredible partnership that we are all fortunate to share among parents, teachers, and administration here at Poly. I know that it is one of the central reasons that we have such a strong and uncommon community. I want to thank you all for your cooperation and abundance of goodwill during a stressful time for all.

Please let me know if you have any questions, and take good care of yourselves and your family. 



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 and 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 be engaged daily in both live video conference sessions with teachers as well as independent and small group work. The ability to connect with teachers in real-time, as well as providing a balance of technology and non-technology based work is critical as we support them academically and socially. Each week there will be times to meet with advisors and there will be division-wide large group meetings as well. Bringing the students and faculty together will help create a sense of community, and further enhance the distance learning experience.

What will a typical Distance Learning day look like?

Approaching this in two-week increments, the division has provided a class schedule that aligns with other divisions. This schedule will replicate the daily class rotations with modifications in the length of time and adjustments for things that could not be accommodated in distance learning, like Block. Although we will not have Block on Thursday mornings, some teachers will be gathering Block groups to continue projects started before the break or to make sure a particular grade level all gets an even amount of content.

Specifically, classes will be 50 minutes in length. We have added a short break between classes and lunch. Class begins at 8:30 am - (except for Tuesday when we will have a Morning Meeting through Zoom). From 10:30 am - 11:15 am every day we will have various plans that may include FLEx, Advisory, Study Hall, and other meetings.

Will students have homework?

Students will have daily and weekly homework assignments and they will be responsible for turning them in on the date they are due.

What about tests and quizzes?

Maintaining our program the best ways that we can, we have decided to continue to assess students through multiple modalities. Students can expect more traditional modes of quizzes and tests as well as more innovative and creative assessments as well. At the heart of this, we believe students will be acting with integrity.

What about grades and comments? 

More information to come.

Will Poly’s usual rules and policies apply?

The community expectations of behavior and dress code, Honor Code, and Technology Responsible Use Agreement all apply during distance learning. We will create clear expectations in the virtual classroom and during school hours for students and faculty.

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

We are asking students to be flexible and supportive of their 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. Students should communicate if they are struggling with the workload for any reason, and are asked to contact teachers and advisors so they can help support the student.

If a student becomes  ill while at home please:
  • Have a parent email msattendance@polytechnic.org by 9 am each day
  • Communicate with teachers, advisors, and grade-level dean, so that they can support the student 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 at the beginning of each period throughout the day.

What about athletics, co-curriculars, and activities?

Unfortunately, we are unable to offer Athletics, Debate, Robotics, Jazz Band, and Orchestra during this time. We feel it is important during this time to allow students space and time to work through this new environment of distance learning and social distancing.

What additional support is available for my student?

Teachers will continue to be available during Study Halls on Day 3, Day 5, and during any additional time arranged between the student and teacher. 

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

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

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 Marcy Kwitny, RN for guidance. 

If students could use some additional learning support, please contact Elizabeth Silber and the Grade Level Dean.

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 Middle School Director Pat Gray will be in regular contact with the community via email and on our 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 regarding overall academics, please reach out to Sarah WolfIf you have questions, concerns, clarifications, etc. about anything above or a topic not addressed here, feel free to reach out directly to Pat Gray.

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