Distance Learning Week 2

March 28, 2020

The first week of distance learning is in the books. I hope that you were able to use this last week to become familiar with the online platforms (Google Classroom/Zoom), and identify routines, procedures, and schedules that worked, as well as ones that didn’t. Routines and schedules take time to develop. It may take you another full week (or maybe two) before you find exactly what works best for your family. Please know that we have compassion and understanding for what you are managing at home. You have had a lot thrown at you, and none of this is easy. Between establishing new at-home work schedules, taking care of the house, providing academic support to your children during the day, and managing anxiety and fear within the family about COVID-19 makes any frustration you may have had completely understandable and expected. Know that this week will be better than the last. If you are struggling to create an effective distance learning schedule at home, please reach out to me or your child’s classroom teacher. Together we can identify some strategies that may create more efficient and manageable day to day routines that lighten the load and reduce stress.

Google Classroom Guidelines
The kids have really impressed us with their use of the online platforms, especially Google Classroom. We value the student questions and comments made, and have found it to be a great way for kids to stay connected and see the good work that is being done by their peers. We would ask that the students not use Google Classroom as a means to chat and have personal conversations. They could certainly Zoom each other for that, but Google Classroom is meant only for accessing/uploading assignments and having discussions about school related activities. If you could pass this friendly reminder on to your child, it would be greatly appreciated. Teachers can certainly delete student comments that refer to things outside of school, but we really want the kids to get the hang of all aspects of Google Classroom, including its purpose and how to utilize it for academic advancement.

St. Michael’s Facebook
We would love to receive pictures of your child working from home, including any special family projects that you might be doing. Please feel free to email a picture to your child’s classroom teacher so that we can begin posting pics to our FB page. We want to continue sharing the great work being done at our school with the community.

Grades & Assessments
As we move forward, our faculty and administration will be discussing distance learning grades and assessments. Remote learning is different and difficult, but it still holds great value and seriousness. We believe in every single one of our students, and expect them to be good stewards of the honor system. As schools across the country are taking COVID-19 into consideration when looking at grades and achievements for this year, so will St. Michael’s. There is much to discuss, but for now, please know that we are working to develop a policy specifically for distance learning grades and assessments.

I am looking forward to joining class Zoom meetings next week. Trust me when I say, we miss the kids just as much as they miss us.

Week two here we come!

Warm regards,
Mandy Hart
Division Director – Lower School

Great First Day!

March 23, 2020

Great First Day!
Bravo on completing your first day of distance learning! Everybody did a wonderful job of checking in with their classroom teacher, accessing assignments on Google Classroom, participating in Zoom meetings, and embracing (bravely) an entirely new world of communicating and learning. As expected, there were a few glitches here and there. The most problematic issue across K-8 was the ability for students to upload completed assignments within Google Classroom easily. After a bit of trouble shooting, we believe the main issue to be the restricted access we previously placed on student devices. In an effort to bypass future issues, and improve student ability to upload work more easily, we are going to remove the restrictions placed on student devices related to camera and YouTube functionality. We will also provide open access to email communication so that parents and students can email one another. This should all help tremendously!! With the removal of these restrictions comes the need for diligent parental monitoring. Student Chromebooks and iPads will continue to filter for spam, but please remind students that their devices are to be used for schoolwork only. We appreciate your support at home!

For Students with School iPads
There has been an issue with the IOS Google Classroom app working properly on iPads. This issue is directly related to the app itself, and our school network technician is working to resolve the problem. In the meantime, if you are experiencing trouble uploading assignments through an iPad, please upload student work through a laptop or desktop at home (if possible).

This has really been an impressive first day! I’m honored to be part of this amazing school. We are facing one of the greatest challenges of our lives as a family united, not divided. Together, we are creating a safe space for our kids to learn, persevere, and overcome the isolation that social distancing incurs.

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns. I’m always available and happy to help in any way I can.

Onward we go! Forward is our pace!

Warm regards,
Mandy Hart
Lower School Division Director

Lower School Distance Learning

March 18, 2020

Dear Lower School Families,

It was wonderful to see all of you yesterday! Thank you for coming to school and collecting student workbooks, materials, devices, and belongings. Teachers were deeply touched by your words of encouragement, gratefulness, and generosity during this unprecedented time. The temporary closure of our school has been heart-breaking for us all. There is an enormous sense of loss right now among teachers as we grapple with not being able to interact, converse, and guide our students in person. That said, we are on our way to establishing a new normal. Teachers have been working diligently in their classrooms as they prepare to transition to distance learning. Our goal is to continue to provide purposeful education and excellent communication through online platforms for as long as required.

Asynchronous Learning
Distance learning will begin Monday, March 23rd. Lower School will be operating in an asynchronous format, which allows students to access assignments and complete work at their own pace. The main online platforms that teachers will be using are Google Classroom and Zoom. We will also be sending things through the mail from time to time, as this type of blended approach is better suited for young learners.

Google Classroom will act as our central hub for communication. It’s where teachers will post videos, assignments, quizzes, questions, and schedules. Students can upload pictures, provide comments, and chat with teachers and peers. You will be able to access your daily/weekly routine here! On a side note, as you begin accessing teacher videos through Google Classroom, you will most likely need to download the video before it appears.

Zoom will be our virtual meeting place! Teachers will be inviting students to meet individually or with the entire class! It’s a great way to check in with each other visually and keep that feeling of community!

Daily Schedule / Routines & Procedures
You can expect approximately three to four hours of work each day. Your child’s classroom teacher will provide a suggested daily schedule in an effort to help establish and maintain important routines and procedures at home. We understand that childcare will look different for each family, and that it may be difficult to follow a set routine M-F. That said, young learners thrive in environments that provide consistent routines and clear expectations. As mentioned in a previous blog post, here are a few things to consider when setting up a workspace at home for your child:

  • Create a permanent space for your child to work that is free from distractions
  • Have materials easily accessible (sharpened pencils, writing paper, scissors etc)
  • Have a basket for finished work
  • Allow for optional seating (sitting, standing, laying down, bean bags)
  • Keep students comfortable – allow them to have their water bottle and a snack handy while working
  • Establish important routines and procedures at home

In addition to daily online interactions, we will also stay in contact through email and by phone. Teachers are available for questions and concerns M-F from 9:00-3:00. All K-4 classroom teachers have provided families with their personal cell phone numbers, but email is the preferred method of communication.

Please know that I am always available, and happy to help in any way I can. I will be reaching out each week to different families to check in and see how things are going. I am eager to set up Zoom meetings with the kids and see their smiling faces!

Lastly, I want to thank you in advance for having patience with us as we navigate online teaching platforms that are entirely new. We expect there to be some glitches here and there along the way, but overall we hope that our students find distance learning to be engaging, exciting, and a continuation of the great learning that takes place at our school on a daily basis.

I look forward to speaking with you, or “zooming” soon!

Warm regards,
Mandy Hart
Lower School Division Director

School Closing Tomorrow

Good Evening,

As Mr. Sullivan mentioned in his earlier communication, Governor Ducey announced the closure of all state schools, effective tomorrow. In an effort to keep our St. Michael’s community healthy and safe, we will be following suit.

Our school will be closed beginning tomorrow, until further notice. We have arranged for parents to pick up student belongings on Tuesday between 8:00-10:00. Your child’s teacher will have all student learning materials, workbooks, textbooks, devices, and chargers ready for you to pick up and take home. Please head straight to the classroom. If you are unable to come between 8:00-10:00, you may want to consider coming between 3:00-5:00 during the Upper School pick up time. If Tuesday does not work for you at all, please contact your child’s teacher and make alternate arrangements.

Thank you for your patience and support. We have an amazing community!! We hope to see you on Tuesday.

Warm regards,
Mandy Hart
Lower School Division Director

Eagles Unite!

March 14, 2020

There is a popular quote in the field of education, as well as in the world of parenting, that directs us to “prepare the child for the road, do not prepare the road for the child.” As I think about our students, I take great comfort in knowing that they have been taught how to persevere. They are resilient, competent, capable, and are prepared to face challenges. I can’t think of any greater challenge than the temporary closure of our school due to COVID-19.

As our faculty embarks on a new way of teaching, and our students prepare for a new way of learning, please know that we are committed to providing educational rigor via distance learning. Lower School will be using a blended approach, using both online tools (i.e. Google Classroom, Zoom) as well as mailed assignments/packets. Families can expect three to four hours of learning to take place each day. In an effort to accommodate complicated work life, as well as unknown child care schedules, student assignments can be accessed and completed at times that work best for you.

As you begin thinking about your child’s daily schedule at home, keep in mind that they need unstructured and structured time. In a recent interview on Good Morning America, Dr. Denise Pope (co-founder of Challenge Success and Senior Lecturer at Stanford) encouraged parents to incorporate what she refers to as PDF = Playtime, Downtime, and Family Time. Students will have daily math, writing, reading, and enrichment projects, but don’t forget to include PDF!

There are several things you can do now to prepare your child for success at home. Consider the following:

  • create a permanent space for your child to work that is free of distractions
  • have materials easily accessible (sharpened pencils, writing paper on hand, scissors, etc)
  • have a basket for finished work
  • allow for optional seating (sitting, standing, laying down, bean bags)
  • keep students comfortable – allow them to have their water bottle and a snack handy while working
  • establish routines and procedure at home

Students in grades 2-3 will be provided school iPads, and 4th grade students will be taking home Chromebooks. Teachers will be talking with students this week about the importance of caring for these devices. School devices should only be used for school work! We could certainly use your help at home in keeping these devices in tact! If you already have a device at home that your child could use during this transition, please let your child’s classroom teacher know.

We will be taking these next three school days to talk with our students about distance learning and getting them familiar with online programs. Please send an extra tote bag to school with your child on Tuesday as they will be taking home all classroom materials, textbooks, and devices.

This is a huge undertaking for all of us, but we will get through it together. Please reach out to me or your child’s classroom teacher with any questions or concerns. There will be much more information coming your way in the following days, but for now, please know that we are working diligently to make this unprecedented situation the very best that it can be.

Lastly, I want to close with Psalm 91, which is the inspiration for the song we sing together every single Monday during all school chapel, titled “On Eagles Wings.” It is in these times that the emphasis our school places on character values and spiritual strength unites us and keeps us moving forward.

Warm Regards,

Mandy Hart
Lower School Division Director

Psalm 91
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”


March 8, 2020

Thank you for making Love of Reading week such a huge success. The kids were excited to bring in their favorite books from home, visit the book fair, learn from a local author, decorate their door, hang out with Wilbur Wildcat, and close out the week with a pajama/free dress day! Special thanks to Susie Huerta, Sherry Downer, Michelle Slavin, Leah Walker, and all the Back Up Bakers and parent volunteers who made special events happen throughout the entire week. It was an awesome team effort!

We have completed collecting donations for WIRES and I’m excited to announce that the final amount equalled $556! Way to go Eagles!!

Friendly Reminder – we have noticed students walking on top of the outdoor classroom planters in recent weeks, as well as running in the dirt and within the courtyard areas before and after school. The expectation is that these areas remain calm and peaceful during drop off and pick up. Please help us continue to keep these learning areas safe by making sure your child is not participating in these behaviors. Thank you!!

Our 3rd grade students will travel to the Tucson Museum of Art on Tuesday. I look forward to hearing about their favorite piece of artwork.

As we continue to hear more and more about the coronavirus, our school is taking extra precautions to keep learning areas as clean as possible. Teachers are reviewing proper hand washing techniques and encouraging students to be diligent before snack/lunch and after using the restroom. In addition to individual classroom teacher efforts, our custodians are going through and disinfecting classrooms (doors, chairs, tables, desks) every week. As always, please keep your child at home if they are sick, or present cold/flu like symptoms. We are hopeful that these combined efforts will keep our school happy and healthy!

This looks to be a great week, albeit a bit rainy!

See you tomorrow,
Mandy Hart
Lower School Director

Free Dress & Eegees

March 3, 2020

Thank you to everyone who participated in the math-a-thon fundraiser! Our school community raised nearly $19,000 – WOW!! As a reward, all students may wear free dress this Friday and will be treated to Eegee’s.

If your child is in kindergarten or first grade, they may wear their pajamas to school on Friday in honor of Love of Reading week.

Happy Reading!

Ms. Hart

Love of Reading Week!

Hello Lower School!

Mr. Hawes and I had an excellent experience at the 2020 National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Conference in Philadelphia this past week. I toured the Friends Select School (founded in 1689) located in the city center, where I interacted with faculty, administration, and students. I attended a variety of workshops during the convention that included topics such as professional growth within the evaluation system, facilitating learning walks for teachers, establishing community partnerships, designing in-house professional development, women in leadership, and enjoyed engaging presentations by key note speakers Jonathan Haidt and Yong Zhao. I’m eager to share and implement some of the exciting strategies and program structures learned during the conference. I’m extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to attend. It really was amazing!

Love of Reading Week 
This year Scholastic is offering a secure digital payment option called eWallet. If you would like an alternative to sending your child to school with money for the book fair, this may be the right option for you! Find out more at scholastic.com/fair.

Additional Love of Reading Notes:

  • Boxes will be placed in each courtyard for our Angel Heart Pajama Project book drive. Please feel free to drop off new or gently used books at any of the boxes located throughout campus.
  • The book fair will be open T-TH 7:30-5:00, and F 7:30-3:30.
  • K-1 Pajama Day will be Friday
  • Wilbur Wildcat will be here Monday morning at all school chapel to help kick off the week!
  • Author Jennifer Stewart will present to K-4 this Thursday between 1:00-3:00. If you purchased one of her books, please encourage your child to bring it and get it signed!

Report cards will go home this Wednesday inside the Eagle Express. Please keep the report card, but return the manilla envelope with your signature on the back. Thanks!

Value of the month is Goodness.

Kindergarten Step Up Day will take place this Tuesday from 8:30-9:45. We are excited to welcome new families to our school! Our next admissions screening takes place this Saturday, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Please refer interested families to Dr. Teller.

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow. Happy March!!

Warm regards,
Ms. Hart
Lower School Director