Remote Learning and Other Updates from Lyonsgate

[This is the body of the August 21 “Remote Learning and Other Updates from Lyonsgate” email sent to all Lyonsgate families]

Hello Again Lyonsgate Families,

If you still have not responded to the “Return Intention” survey, please do so as soon as possible. We hope that the information included today helps to inform your difficult decision-making. We know how hard it is. Please see the Hamilton Public Health resources below for more information that may assist in your decision-making.

This week, we have an update to the Elementary mask requirement, Hamilton Public Health resources for you, and the plans for what will likely be unavoidable periods of at-home, remote learning throughout this coming school year, as it presently stands. As you know, there are significantly more stringent “exclusion criteria” this year that will require children to spend more time at home than usual (see “COVID-19 Exclusion Criteria” for details). There is also the possibility of cohort/classroom closures, and of full shutdowns of either individual Lyonsgate campuses or of the entire school and child care system.

None of us want shutdowns of any form to occur, so please continue to follow all public health guidelines for the health and safety of your family, and the wider community, so that we can all participate in a full and safe 2020.2021 school year. Keeping community transmission rates low is essential.

For those of you with children also in the public or Catholic systems, or who have been following the reopening plans for those school systems, you will notice that we are using the same terminology to describe the various aspects: remote learning, synchronous learning, asynchronous learning, hybrid plan, etc. This is for consistency, but please note that Lyonsgate’s plans are significantly different from what the public boards are being mandated to provide. We simply do not have the resources to provide what is required of public schools, and Montessori education is significantly different from traditional education, which is why you chose it for your children, so we have to do things differently.

Lyonsgate cannot provide an opt-out, online-only learning option such as what is being offered in the larger public systems. However, we do understand and appreciate that some families may be hesitant to send children to school until a more clear picture develops of the impact the return to school will have on case numbers and the extent of community transmission. If any Lyonsgate families do choose to wait at the beginning of the school year, your children will be welcomed to their cohorts at any time you feel comfortable sending them back to school. We will not institute specific return periods or dates.

However, as of September 1, a new piece of legislation comes into effect that will affect families in the Casa and Toddler programs: you will have until September 14 to accept your existing spot at Lyonsgate. If you choose to accept your spot but wait, fees will still apply but your spot will be reserved for you. If you choose not to accept your spot, after September 14 it can be offered to another family on our wait lists. We will apply this to our Elementary program as well. If you choose to wait, please let us know no later than September 14, but the earlier the better, if you can. Thank you for understanding.

Please also note that remote learning will only be available for illness-related and required absences. Remote learning is not available during scheduled, or additional family, vacations.

The sudden closure and transition to remote learning in March was chaotic and difficult for all of us. However, we learned a lot about providing Montessori education via remote learning, and you learned a lot about guiding your children’s learning at home. Many of you also shared many, very valuable responses to our year-end survey about remote learning. Below you will find details about what will happen this year when students are required to be home for more frequent and possibly extended periods of time, and what will happen in cases of cohort or school closures.

We are using the phrase “extended absence” here to mean occasions when children must remain absent for the 14-day period when parents choose to not have a COVID test for children, and for other circumstances that may arise when a student is required to stay home beyond a regular illness and recovery period.

Primary Campus

Your feedback told us that large group gatherings online were not beneficial to Toddler and Casa students, that small group and one-to-one online time was most beneficial, that French needed to be delivered in a bilingual rather than immersive manner when offered online, and that guidance for parents to help children work with hands-on materials was required more than social, performative, or worksheet based activities.

We have changed how we will offer remote learning to Toddler and Casa children to address your needs, as follows:

Toddler Students

Toddlers required to stay home due exclusion or closure will each have a package documenting Montessori Practical Life activities they can perform at home. For extended absence or closure periods, parents will also receive pre-recorded Parent Education videos or written guides covering ways you can bring a Montessori Toddler environment to your home to allow your Montessori Toddler to continue your chosen path of development for them. In cases of closure, these will be supplemented by live Zoom Q&A sessions for parents with your child’s Montessori guide and assistants.

Casa Students

Individual Presentation Binders: Your children’s Montessori guides will maintain an individual binder for each student that will be continually updated with resources related to the Montessori materials and activities they are presently engaged with. When a student is required to be excluded due to illness or closure, the current material in this binder will be placed into each student’s Individual Material Kit (see below).

Individual Material Kits: Lyonsgate staff is developing Montessori-style material kits that will be tailored to each student and that they can use in the case of a cohort closure or extended required absence. These individualized material kits are made up of printed versions of Montessori materials, accompanying instructions for presenting and using each material, and several extensions and DIY ideas for further in-home exploration of Montessori concepts. On occasion, your child will also receive concrete materials to take home (again, with instructions included). The primary purpose of the individual kits is to allow students to have hands-on materials ready, for the Montessori activities they are working with, to take home with them in cases where they must stay home for extended periods of time.

Presentation and Parent-Ed Videos: Lyonsgate staff are preparing short (as Montessori practice requires) pre-recorded videos of presentations of Montessori materials and activities, just like children would receive in class, that also double as educational videos for parents to learn the “how and why” of working with specific Montessori materials with their children at home.These videos will be shared in cases of cohort or school closure.

Small Group and Individual Zoom Sessions: Your feedback told us that the most valuable and engaging live video interactions for your children were the small group and individual interactions. In cases of extended absence or cohort closure, this is the model we will adopt to guide both children and parents in continuing the children’s Montessori education while at home. To follow best Montessori practice, scheduling and grouping of children for these sessions will be determined at the time based on children’s development and the Montessori materials and activities they are currently working with or are ready to move on to. The interactive Zoom meetings will revolve around presentations with the materials accessible via your child’s material kit; this gives parents and children the chance to see the actual material in practice for a deeper understanding of its purpose and practice after the Zoom call has ended.

The material kits, pre-recorded presentation videos, and live videos will all address both regular curriculum areas and French language instruction.

Elementary Campus

Your feedback, our experience, and what we learned from your children has taught us that Elementary students also benefit most from small group online gatherings in targeted curriculum areas, one-to-one feedback and guidance, regular scheduling to emulate a school-day-at-home, a simplified digital environment, and access to hands-on materials.

Accordingly, we have changed how we will offer remote learning to Elementary students as follows:

Synchronous Learning (live online inclusion in classroom)

Students taking part in synchronous learning will join their classmates via Zoom to view and participate in key lessons at the same time as their peers that remain in attendance at school. A weekly schedule will be posted for families on a private web page, and will include

  • Key lessons that require viewing of the Montessori materials (math, for example)
  • Specific demonstrations (geography, for example)
  • Essential discussions (language, French, history, biology, etc.)
  • O.W.L. classes as scheduled

Asynchronous Learning (material-based and other work completed at home)

Students will have Montessori-style material kits they can use at home to continue their learning after lesson presentations (math materials such as bead bars, for example). Each Elementary student will also be provided with a binder containing subject area notebooks and a pencil case containing pencils, erasers, ruler, and other basic school supply needs that will stay with them in class for individual use at all times, and which will go home with them each day so that they have it in case they need to stay home (keep it in their backpack so it comes to school with them each day, and avoids possible environmental cross-contamination).

Cohort or Campus Closure

In the event of a single cohort or full Elementary campus closure, both cohorts will move to a 4-day schedule for regular Zoom lessons in all subjects.  Each student will have a morning and afternoon live period each day of the four days.  Printable PDF learning guides will be provided for topics where students and families may need additional resources following a lesson.

If an O.W.L. workshop is scheduled for students in Years 4 – 6, this will be held as an additional Friday session.

The schedule will be as follows:

Mondays and Wednesdays will be dedicated to instruction for Lower Elementary cohort students in small group and individual instruction in regular curriculum areas with their Montessori guide.

Tuesdays and Thursdays will be dedicated to instruction for Lower Elementary cohort students in small group and individual instruction in French.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays will be dedicated to instruction for Upper Elementary cohort students in small group and individual instruction in regular curriculum areas with their Montessori guide.

Mondays and Thursdays will be dedicated to instruction for Upper Elementary cohort students in small group and individual instruction in French.

Fridays will be non-instructional days for students to practice physical and artistic pursuits, and for teachers to prepare for the following week’s online sessions.

Hybrid Plan

Much like the public system, we are also prepared for a situation in which a hybrid circumstance is required by legislation or public health direction. In such a case, we would use the whole Elementary building with the Lower Elementary cohort and the Upper Elementary cohort using the building on alternating days.

The hybrid plan is by no means anyone’s preferred scenario and would only be used if circumstances dictated it must be so. (A hybrid plan has not been recommended for or directed to be developed for children of Primary-level age — Casa and Toddler).

Elementary Mask Requirement Update

For the 2020.2021 school year Lyonsgate will be requiring cloth masks for all Elementary students. As you know, Montessori does not have grades and our cohorts have students who would be in a mix of equivalent grade levels. Also, we want to do what is best for the health and safety of all students, staff, and your families. This will be a compassionate requirement and children will be guided and assisted to wear, handle, and participate in mask use as a learning activity. More details to come.

Upcoming


Next week, we will be finalizing and submitting a variety of required COVID-related policy and procedure documents to both the Ministry of Education and Hamilton Public Health, provided we have received the legislation and related guidance documents telling us what those policies must include (have we mentioned this before?…). Once completed, submitted, and approved we will make those documents accessible to you. As we get closer to September we will also have a comprehensive staffing update for you; we have had some staff move on, new staff hired to take on those roles, have had to move other staff members around to meet new requirements, have had a staff member return from maternity leave, and hired for new roles necessary to meet heightened health and safety requirements. The week before school starts, we will be sending you videos and photos of what the school, and we, will look like. There will be screening stations, altered classroom spaces, new staff members, and staff in PPE. You will also start to hear directly from your children’s Montessori guides.

If you still have not responded to the “Return Intention” survey, please do so as soon as possible. We hope that the information included today helps to inform your difficult decision-making. We know how hard it is. Please see the Hamilton Public Health resources below for more information  that may assist in your decision-making.

Public Health Resources

On Wednesday, Hamilton Public Health provided us with this list of resources to share with you regarding COVID-19 and children/youth.

OrganizationResources
Best Start·       Webinar recordings
Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS)·       How can we talk to kids about COVID-19?

·       COVID youth and substance use critical messages for youth and families

Caring for kids·       COVID-19 and your child
Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO)·       Protect don’t infect video for kids

·       Helping your children and teens during a pandemic

CHU Sainte-Justine·       Infographies à propos de la COVID-19
Government of Canada·       Handwashing video and colouring activities
Healthy Literacy Project·       COVID-19 fact sheets
Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies·       COVID resources
Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child & Youth Mental Health·       COVID-19 resources
Reaching In…Reaching Out·       Parent resources of service providers
The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)·       Video for kids about physical distancing

·       CEO and Dr. Cheddar answers COVID-19 questions from kids

 

Thank you everyone, for your patience, understanding, and considerate actions as we work our way towards what will be a strange, but memorable and productive 2020.2021 school year.