Upper School Distance Learning Resource Guide

Dear Poly Upper School,

This coming spring will bring many changes to activities and events. We will do our best to proceed as normally as possible exchanging virtual versions to support “Safer at Home” whenever possible. We will communicate regularly with updates as we have the information to share. We are trying to be creative, intentional, and authentic to the original experience as much as we can. I trust we won’t always get it right and I invite you to reach out to me at any time with questions.

Finally, I continue to be grateful and humbled to be part of the Poly community. So many of you have reached out with thanks and offers of support. Our faculty and staff have transitioned their work, nearly overnight, to a product that is still rich, engaging, and rigorous, even if it is from afar, and our students, your children, have shown up wholly to take part, to be good sports, and to make the best of what is a tough situation for all of us. Thank you.

As always, reach out with any questions. Let me know how we can help.

May you and your loved ones both near and far stay safe and healthy.

Take good care,


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?

Students need to be available for schoolwork during normal school hours starting each morning at 8:30 a.m. and finishing after the last class. For any video conferencing, students need to be appropriately clothed and in a school-appropriate setting (not lying in bed, not sitting in a jacuzzi, etc.) 

Will students have homework?

Yes. Faculty have pared back their curriculum focusing on what is essential and there will still be some between-class work that will need to get completed. 

What about tests and quizzes?

Faculty will be assessing students in the ways that make the most sense for their discipline and course. Some teachers are using Google Forms, others are using particular Apps like Socrative and others. Some teachers are using more traditional methods of sharing the questions and have students write their work out on paper and submit an image.

AP Test Update:
For those of you who have children enrolled in an AP course, the College Board has been actively redesigning and rethinking this spring’s culminating test experiences. As you likely know, this year Poly will not require students enrolled in AP courses to take AP exams.  We hope that students along with their parent(s) or guardian(s) will make the best decision for them. For seniors, we encourage them to look at the credit-granting policies of the college or university they will attend. If students can earn advanced placement or elective credit by earning a 3, 4, or 5 on one or more AP exams, they should consider taking the exam(s). Many colleges will grant valuable credit for qualifying AP scores.

For juniors and sophomores, we encourage them to think carefully about their exam(s). If students feel prepared or nearly prepared for the reconfigured exam(s), and taking the test(s) will not cause undue stress or strain, they should lean toward taking your exam(s). Students could be earning valuable credit at the college they will attend in the future. However, the choice is up to the student. They are not required to take the exam for any class.  They will not be asked to explain your decision. For more in-depth information, please read through this

If you have questions, reach out to Mr. Rasic, Director of College Counseling or Mr. Geisler, Poly's AP Coordinator.

What about grades? 

We will continue to provide our students with yearlong (or semester for those classes) grades. Faculty are devoting time and energy to rethinking the fourth quarter and focussing on what is essential work-wise. Faculty are also considering opportunities for students to continue to demonstrate their growth as well as places where it makes sense to be more flexible. 

Will Poly’s usual rules and policies apply?

The community expectations of behavior, PolyHonor, and Technology Responsible Use Agreement all apply during distance learning. Our student remote learning guidelines add some specific details for students and families. Students should keep in mind that all communications with teachers should be respectful and courteous. Students should not be doing any other work or engaging in social media, chats, texts, video games, etc. during class meetings. Please refer to the Distance Learning Guideline for Students.

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

Students, please check and respond to emails from teachers promptly within the school day. Use of Images: Please do not record any live interactions teachers have with the class.  Also, do not share or upload any images or videos teachers create for class. In short, we ask everyone to be respectful of our teacher’s desire to not have their images used in any way they have not initiated.

If you become ill while at home please:
  • Have a parent email usattendance@polytechnic.org by 9 a.m. each day
  • Communicate with your teachers, advisors, and grade-level dean, so that we can support you getting back on track when your 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?

Teachers will be recording attendance through MyPoly so you will need to be ‘present’ to check-in using the method determined by teachers and communicated through MyPoly. If students are too sick to engage in the school day learning, please have parents email usattendance@polytechnic.org by 9 a.m. each day.

What about athletics, co-curriculars, and activities?

Poly’s Athletic and physical education department is launching a site that provides specific “safer at home” exercise plans and guidance for staying active and healthy. Each of the spring teams has specific pages and there are general P.E. workouts for our students (or parents!) who are not currently on a team. Many of our clubs are still meeting during community time on days 3 and 6. Our performance groups are assigning at-home projects to continue developing students’ readiness to bring their work to life.

What additional support is available for my student?

Extra help will be available during 2:40 - 3:15 p.m., during L periods, and during any additional time arranged between students and  teachers. For any additional learning support, please reach out to Ms. Silber, esilber@polytechnic.org. If students need some writing support, please reach out to Ms. Hamilton.

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

If students are struggling to use any of the apps or software from teachers, please reach out to Ms. Goldin for help. bgoldin@polytechnic.org

If students are struggling with wellness, please reach out to Andrea Fleetham for support, afleetham@polytechnic.org

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

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. 

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 your students. Your student 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 work space outside the bedroom. 

Take an active role in helping students stay connected. In the course of a regular school day at Poly, your student engages 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. John Bracker, the Head of School, and Jennifer Fleischer 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, concerns, clarifications, etc. about anything above or a topic not addressed here, feel free to reach out directly to Jennifer Fleischer, jfleischer@polytechnic.org.
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