December 18, 2020
December 4, 2020
November 25, 2020
"I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness - it's right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practicing gratitude." - Brene Brown
Dear Clayton Community,
In my communications over the years, I have emphasized the importance of gratitude and being intentional about expressing it. The simple act of showing your appreciation for someone or acknowledging the good things in your life can lead you to greater personal happiness. Expressing gratitude can improve your own well-being and there has even been research to prove it. I know this to be true and remain a firm believer in it.
I am also human and realistic. The last eight months of our lives have been like nothing we have previously experienced. As we approach this Thanksgiving holiday, I am reminded again about how our lives have changed in ways we never expected. We have to live and interact with one another differently and have to come to terms with not being able to see extended family, visit our favorite places or build new memories over break. Our learning environments look very different. This will be remembered as the greatest educational challenge of our time, especially for our teachers. They are our "front line" workers who are heading into the classroom everyday to make sure Clayton students learn and grow academically and emotionally.
Given all of this, finding the emotional energy to be grateful can be a challenge. However, I believe it's something we must do - especially this year.
This is exactly why we need to be even more intentional this year about expressing our gratitude and acknowledging those people or aspects of our lives for which we are grateful. Doing that can be contagious and can combat those emotions that cause us to feel hopeless. Personally, here is how I am going to adjust my mindset:
- I am going to make the most of the time I have with the limited family I will get to see over the break. I look forward to retelling stories and laughing.
- I am going to make use of the time I usually spend with friends or family in a different way. I might even get a few home projects complete. (The reality is I will probably binge Netflix).
- I am going to send some random written cards to important people in my life.
- I will make some phone calls to friends that I miss (not Zoom).
- I will enjoy the peace of reading a non-school related book.
- I will reflect on what I have learned and ways I have grown from the difficult experiences over the last eight months.
- I am going to catch myself before complaining.
- I am going to pay attention to the small things in my life that are actually extraordinary.
I encourage you to monitor your emotions and challenge yourself to recalibrate your mindset over the break. I understand that's often easier said than done, but I believe it is worth the effort. I hope we can look back on these challenges and be grateful for how much we have grown or learned. This time has helped me gain new perspectives and resiliency. I hope the same for you.
I wish you all a healthy, safe and peaceful Thanksgiving holiday.
Sean N. Doherty
November 20, 2020
Dear Clayton Community,
We have had all of our in-person learning students back in our buildings for two weeks. While it hasn't been without challenges, it's been so good to see our schools alive with students who are engaged in learning. The students in our buildings who I have talked with appreciate the opportunity to learn with their peers (even though everyone is wearing a face covering and six feet apart).
We continue to look very closely at the positive cases and impacts of quarantines within our schools. Our contact tracing of students or staff who test positive for COVID-19 has not shown any evidence of in-school transmission of the virus. This data indicates that our risk mitigation efforts and quarantine procedures are having their intended effect. However, it's still going to take all of us to be vigilant to keep in-person learning in place at our schools.
One of the most important things we can do as a learning community is to stay home when we are sick or experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. Making the responsible choice can have a tremendous impact on everyone around you. Choosing to come to school or work with COVID-19 symptoms can lead to those around you being placed in quarantine when it could have otherwise been avoided. The number of students and staff who were quarantined this week could have been significantly reduced if individuals recognized symptoms and chose to stay home. This video from some of our seniors at CHS reinforces that message.
As many of our families get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, I ask all of us to be mindful of the choices we will make next week. There are countless recommendations about how to celebrate the upcoming holidays safely and things to consider before traveling. We have also included some information on our website and in this week's edition of eNews. This pandemic has and will cause us all to make some difficult personal choices. Please be mindful how your choices can impact you and others.
All my best to you and your families for a safe, restful and peaceful Thanksgiving.
Sean N. Doherty
November 13, 2020
Dear Clayton Community,
Our school buildings are alive again with students. Since the first day of school in August, we have been serving small groups of students safely in our buildings. On Oct. 5, we started welcoming more students back to our schools for in-person learning beginning with our elementary schools and the Family Center. On Nov. 9, we welcomed back our students at both Wydown Middle School and Clayton High School. It's been wonderful to see students this week and I hope that we can continue to do this. We have been intentional and proactive about putting risk mitigation measures in place to minimize the potential for transmission of COVID-19 within the school setting.
I want to acknowledge our teachers and the monumental work they are doing to make learning happen for our students. They are the true heroes in this situation. Please take some time to express your gratitude for supporting the growth of our students during this very difficult time.
COVID-19 In Our Region
There has been a great deal of news recently about the increasing rate of COVID cases in our region - causing some to question why we would bring our students and staff back to school. We know more now than we did last spring about how to best mitigate risks in our learning environments and feel we have procedures in place to safely allow students to learn at school. And, along with many other school districts in the region, we have not seen transmissions occurring within a school setting.
However, we know that transmission in schools is always a possibility and are closely tracking cases in our community and thoroughly contact tracing all exposures to determine if we need to make adjustments in our environments. We are also consistently monitoring the data within our region and continue to receive guidance from the St. Louis County Department of Health (DOH) about any changes we need to make in the future related to the rate of transmission in the community
On Nov. 12, Governor Mike Parson, in conjunction with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, announced revised guidance for quarantining students or staff members who are exposed to COVID-19 while at school. The new guidance, which runs counter to current CDC guidelines, reflects a change determining close contacts and assessing exposure to COVID-19 in school settings. It would be a departure from the protocols we, and our partners at the DOH, have been following to ensure the health and safety of our learning community. After evaluating the new guidance, the DOH has indicated that the current process and protocols for school-related exposure WILL NOT CHANGE. The District will continue to follow the guidance from the DOH and evaluate school-related exposures to COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis and make the decisions that we feel are necessary to ensure the health and safety of our learning community.
Now that all of our students have returned to in-person learning, we need to have the flexibility to mitigate risk in a way that will sustain in-person learning over time. Quarantines based on exposure, which is still the current CDC recommendation, are an important part of that strategy even though they result in short-term learning/working from home. We believe our current practices related to exposure and quarantine are a critical piece in keeping the virus out of our schools and we will continue to support our students and staff members who need to quarantine as a result of exposure at school. Navigating this pandemic is a challenge for everyone. Taking care of our students and staff is our greatest priority and we will maintain our current approach as we believe it's an important part of keeping them healthy and safe.
Our Collective Responsibility
As a learning community, we are doing everything we know in order to provide in-person learning for our students. But we can't do it alone. St. Louis County issued a Safer at Home order and updated requirements for face coverings (which are consistent with our current practices) this morning. We need you to do your part by taking steps to lower the risk of transmission by:
Wearing face coverings, even when walking to/from school
Practicing social distancing at all times
Washing your hands frequently
Limiting contact with others
Avoiding large group gatherings
Talking to your children about the importance of these guidelines and how their choices and behaviors when they are not at school can make a difference for everyone
In order for us to stay in school, it's going to take all of us working together and being accountable for our actions.
We also need our students, staff and families to be prepared to change direction with short notice. There may not be much notice if you learn you need to quarantine or if we need to transition a class or an entire building back to remote learning. We will continue to communicate as quickly as possible, but we ask that you have a plan ready for your family if a situation would arise. For the time being, the best we can do is to ask that you always be ready.
Again, I have appreciated all of your support throughout this entire process. These are new challenges for all of us but we feel confident about the way we have been able to move forward and are excited to have our students back in the classrooms.
Sean N. Doherty
November 2, 2020
What You Need To Know:
- CHS and WMS students will return to in-person learning on Nov. 9.
- Each school will follow a hybrid schedule, with learning split by mornings and afternoons, as outlined in previous communications.
- Synchronous remote learning days for all PK-12 students will be added to the calendar around Thanksgiving Break and Winter Break to provide students and teachers additional time to isolate before and after each break.
- Nov. 23/24 - Remote Learning before Thanksgiving Break
- Nov. 30/Dec. 1 - Remote Learning after Thanksgiving Break
- Dec. 21/22 - Remote Learning before Winter Break
Dear Clayton Community,
During my career in education, I have learned that even though I am not always going to please everyone with my decisions, I need to be clear about why I made those decisions. I have always worked to make decisions that serve the best interests of our students. In the last year, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of those decisions have been unprecedented and difficult to make. On Oct. 16, we made the announcement that we were going to have our secondary schools return to in-person learning on Nov. 9. At that time, we said we would let the community know by Nov. 2 if our plans were to change.
We are going to continue with our plans for our students at both Wydown and Clayton High School to return using a hybrid model on Nov. 9. This decision might feel counter to all of the information we are hearing in the media about the spread of COVID-19 in our region. We are going by the guidance we have received from the St. Louis County Health Department. We have been using multiple data sources and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicators and thresholds for risk of introduction and transmission of COVID-19 in schools. We know that when we look at the positivity rate in the region, it falls in the "higher risk" category for transmission in schools. However, having key mitigation strategies in place reduces the risks in school environments. The same data also indicates that we are falling into the "lower risk" category when looking at the disaggregated age bands for the number of new cases per 100,000 persons over the last 14 days. I share this also knowing that, at some point, we might need to go back into a remote learning environment and I feel confident we can do that effectively if or when that becomes necessary.
According to the CDC, "While risk of introduction and subsequent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in a school may be lower when indicators of community spread are lower, this risk is dependent upon the implementation of school and community mitigation strategies. If community transmission is low but school and community mitigation strategies are not implemented, then the risk of introduction and subsequent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in a school will increase. Alternately, if community transmission is high, but school and community mitigation strategies are implemented and strictly followed as recommended, then the risk of introduction and subsequent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in a school will decrease."
Over the last six months, we have invested a great deal of time, planning and resources to implement effective risk mitigation measures in our schools, which lowers our risks. We also have had medical professionals provide us guidance and recommendations for our return to in-person learning. All of them said the most important step we can take is to have good risk mitigation strategies in place. For the secondary level, we are taking the following steps to mitigate risk:
- Maximizing physical distancing in the classrooms
- Requiring everyone to wear face coverings
- Enhancing cleaning of our schools
- Using a hybrid schedule for fewer students in the building
- Installed new filtration systems to enhance indoor air quality
- Restricting visitors in the schools
- Developed orientation meetings/videos for students and their families
- Hired additional staffing to support cleaning and student support needs
- Educating our community about health checks
- Implemented new procedures for "foaming in and out" when entering classrooms
Although I believe we have provided a highly-effective remote learning model, there are added benefits to the in-person learning model. It provides students with personal interactions and processing that is often limited with online learning. Teachers are better able to provide responsive instruction and feedback that could lead to more differentiated support. Students are also assured physical movement and physiological needs that we might not know they are missing. We are better able to check in and attend to the social, emotional and mental needs of students. Also, there is a great opportunity to reach students in new ways with having small class sizes due to split classes for social distancing.
Second Semester Calendar Changes
As we look ahead toward Thanksgiving and Winter Break, we know that many people may be making plans to travel or spend time with close family and friends. Potential exposures outside of our school community put us and others at risk. We are scheduling Synchronous remote learning days for all PK-12 students around Thanksgiving Break and Winter Break to provide students and teachers additional time to isolate before and after each break:
- Nov. 23/24 - Synchronous Remote Learning before Thanksgiving Break
- Nov. 30/Dec. 1 - SynchronousRemote Learning after Thanksgiving Break
- Dec. 21/22 - Synchronous Remote Learning before Winter Break
Again, these calendar changes are designed to provide members of our school community with additional time to self-isolate and monitor themselves for potential COVID-19 symptoms and are not intended to allow families to extend their travel. We will communicate later this week how these days will look for students who receive services from Special School District. Strategically scheduling virtual instruction allows us to create a window before and after typically high travel times to isolate students and staff at home and prevent COVID-19 spread in our learning community.
I am a realist and know that many of our community stakeholders will be excited about this decision and others will be upset. Regardless of how we feel individually, we all need to come together and work collectively for the sake of our students and our schools. A return to in-person learning is only sustainable if everyone does their part to protect themselves and limit exposure by wearing a mask, washing your hands, practicing effective social distancing and limiting your interactions with large groups of people.
Thank you for your support.
Sean N. Doherty
October 16, 2020
What You Need to Know:
- WMS and CHS students and teachers will return to in-person learning on Nov. 9
- To maximize social distancing, students will attend classes in a blended/hybrid model.
- Half of students will attend school in the morning and the other half will attend school in the afternoon, with a break in between to allow for morning students to leave before afternoon students arrive.
Dear Clayton Community,
On a recent visit to the grocery store, I noticed the bakery selling cookies decorated with the words “I miss precedented times.” I was struck by not only how relevant these words are but also how, as recently as last February, they would not have had any meaning. The cookies symbolized how pandemic-driven decisions preoccupy our lives. They were also a sign of hope.
Over the last two weeks, I have been able to see hope firsthand as we welcomed PreK through second grade students back to in-person learning. Even though in-person learning looks very different, the positive energy of the students could be felt as they adjusted to their new environment. We are looking forward to having our third through fifth graders back within the next two weeks.
Since the beginning of the school year, our intention was to bring our students back to in-person learning for the second quarter. Recent guidance from the St. Louis County Health Department, and the corresponding data for COVID-19 cases with the District, supports that we can move forward with these decisions. Our focus is now on initiating our plans for bringing our middle and high school students back into our schools. However, our path forward for our secondary students must be one that balances the benefits of having students and teachers back in school while mitigating risk to ensure that returning to school is done as safely as possible.
As we progress back into learning in person, we are planning to bring back students in some type of blended/hybrid model. Having smaller groups of students will allow us to maximize physical distancing in our classrooms. Our current plan for middle and high school brings students back November 9 in a blended learning model, with half of the students attending school in the morning and the other half attending school in the afternoon each day with a break in between sessions. We will also maintain our Learning@Home option for students for the remainder of the semester. Detailed plans will be shared from the building principals with information about risk mitigation measures and what part of the day your child will attend. Please understand that the calendar for this plan could possibly change if we receive guidance from the St. Louis County Department of Health or the positivity data indicates that we should remain in Remote Learning.
This blended, in-person learning model supports student learning regardless of which learning option they selected, provides viable learning options for students who may have to quarantine, includes plans for supporting students’ social, emotional and nutritional needs all while allowing students to meet safely with their teachers five days per week. Please know that we are making the best decisions we can with the information that is available to us. As I have said many times before, this is our first pandemic. Thank you for your patience and support as we move forward through these challenging times and continue to ensure that school will be a safe place to work and learn.
Sean N. Doherty
October 9, 2020
October 2, 2020
Dear Clayton Community -
Our elementary school buildings are coming alive again as we prepare for welcoming our kindergartners back to school next week. I know that transitioning back to in-person learning can create a great deal of anxiety for our students, parents and teachers. Even I feel anxious at times about all the important decisions we have to make in order to ensure we are doing everything we can to meet the needs of our learners and to keep our students and staff safe. Please know that we are always asking the hard questions about how we are moving forward and evaluating current data about the pandemic to ensure we are not only making the best decisions for our students and staff but also the safest ones.
Our kindergartners will come to school on Monday for a "back-to-school" orientation and start classes on Tuesday with first through fifth graders and our pre-K learners following a similar schedule in the following weeks. I can’t say enough about the work that our teachers have done to both deliver high quality instruction to our elementary students during remote learning and plan for their transition back to in-person learning. We have put together orientation videos for each of our Captain, Glenridge and Meramec families so that both students and parents can get an idea of how school will be different when they return. We have updated our FAQs with additional information about how we are enhancing the indoor air quality at our schools and with details on the cleaning procedures we will be using at our schools. Video resources about hand washing and face coverings as well as how parents/guardians are important partners in monitoring students’ daily health should also provide helpful information.
We are in the process of determining the next steps for our middle school students now that the St. Louis County Department of Health has indicated that current COVID-19 data for that age group will allow schools to evaluate returning these students to in-person instruction. We will announce what those next steps are as soon as possible but with plenty of notice to plan for the transition to in-person learning.
For our high school students, the COVID data is not as promising - yet. Positivity rates and cases per 100,000 for the 15-19 year old age range continue to trend at high levels. We are regularly checking that data and meeting weekly with area school districts and public health officials to determine the best path forward for our high school students. This week, we updated our COVID-19 Data Dashboard to include some of the other data that we are using to make decisions. In addition to tracking cases among students and staff (and thanks to a county-wide partnership with Mercy Health Systems), we are now able to include data that shows the 14-day positivity rate and total case count within the boundaries of the District as well as trends in cases/100k for school-aged children throughout St. Louis County.
The most important thing that needs to happen in order for us to transition all of our students back to in-person learning is for each of us to embrace our collective responsibility to decrease the rate of infection by social distancing, washing our hands and wearing face coverings. One of the medical professionals we met with recently mentioned that we "need to be 200 percent accountable." Embracing accountability on that level is our best path forward and the most direct way to get students back in our buildings. Thank you for your patience and support as we work to provide our students with a safe, high-quality learning experience.
Sean N. Doherty
What You Need to Know - Sept. 21, 2020
Elementary Responsive Learning students to begin gradual return to school on Oct. 5
Middle and high school students will remain in remote learning for the balance of first quarter
District launches COVID-19 data dashboard
Playgrounds to reopen on Sept. 23
Dear Clayton Students, Families and Staff -
Based on the recent guidance from the St. Louis County Department of Health, the District will begin to transition pre-k and elementary students back to in-person instruction on Monday, Oct. 5. The move to in-person learning, which only applies to students who selected the Responsive Learning option for this school year, will be a phased return to school starting with kindergarteners and gradually adding additional grade levels over the next four weeks. A schedule of the phased return, which begins with an orientation for each grade level, is available on the Return to Learn website.
Our Plans Could Change
While data is trending the right direction for now, things could change. Any plans for in-person learning will need to be fluid and could change on very short notice based on direction from public health officials or an outbreak of cases among students or staff. The District will do its best to provide as much notice as possible if we need to make changes in our schedule once students return, but we urge families to be flexible and have a plan in case school needs to transition back to remote learning.
Confirm Your Learning Option - Elementary Students
On Tuesday, Sept. 22, the District will be emailing parents/guardians of elementary families to ask them to confirm their learning option. We understand that not all elementary families may be comfortable with returning to in-person instruction. Families will have until Friday, Sept. 25 to request to change their learning option. Any request to continue learning at home (instead of returning to in-person instruction) will likely result in a student being assigned to a different teacher and/or a different class.
Learning Safely at School
The District has a number of safety and risk mitigation measures in place to ensure that learning at school is as safe as possible for students when they return. All students (and staff) will be required to wear a face covering while at school. The District engaged an architect over the summer to study the space in each of its schools and provide classroom layouts/capacity that will allow students and teachers to learn together while maximizing physical distancing in a classroom. Building principals will be communicating with their families about procedures specific to each school in the coming weeks. You can also view details on other health and safety measures on the Return to Learn website.
COVID-19 Data Dashboard
The District has developed a dashboard to track COVID-19 data for students and staff. The dashboard will be updated weekly. The dashboard, which will be updated weekly on Friday mornings, will track total cases of COVID-19 among students and staff as well as the number of cases and number of individuals by group (PK-5, 6-8, 9-12 and District/department staff) who have been quarantined as a result of exposure. Federal privacy laws protect student and staff confidentiality, therefore personally identifiable information on any individuals testing positive or being asked to isolate or quarantine will not be shared.
Playgrounds to Open on Sept. 23
In accordance with recent guidance released by the St. Louis County Department of Health, the District will be reopening its playgrounds on Wednesday, Sept. 23. Playgrounds will be disinfected regularly with CDC approved cleansers. To ensure safe use of District playgrounds, please note the following:
Do not use playgrounds if you are sick.
Face coverings are required.
Maintain a minimum of 6 feet of social distancing from others. If the playground seems crowded, come back at another time.
Limit time spent at playgrounds to ensure that other families have the opportunity to play.
Wash or sanitize hands regularly.
Again, thank you for all of your support during our return to learn. We know that this has been a difficult time for many and we know that working together we can make great things happen for our students. I hope you are staying well and I ask that you please remember that we all have a collective responsibility to decrease the rate of infection by social distancing, washing hands and wearing face coverings.
Sean N. Doherty
Update - Sept. 4, 2020
Dear Clayton Families and Staff -
As we move through the first quarter, the District will provide a brief, weekly update to parents and staff about our Return to Learn plan and our efforts to move toward in-person instruction. As I said last week in our eNews, our goal is to return to our buildings in October in the safest way possible. Until that time, we will continue to provide high-quality remote learning for our students.
We continue to monitor trends in data in order to make informed decisions. Although the average rate of new diagnoses remains fairly high (18.4 cases per 100,000) in the region, we are seeing a decrease in the average total number of new COVID-19 cases. A decrease in overall cases is a trend we want to keep seeing as we move closer to the second quarter. We are also tracking the data for specific, school-aged groups. The District will continue to monitor the transmission data within our community, utilize the guidance of the St. Louis County Health Department and consult with local physicians in order to make informed decisions about safely returning to in-person instruction.
Once we have made the decision to start in-person learning, we will send out timely communication about schedules and daily logistics. We feel confident our schools will be prepared for students with new signage, social distancing structures and safety procedures. We will continue to send communication on a consistent basis as changes occur during the first quarter.
As part of our planning, we are designing orientations at all levels to proactively plan for our return to schools when it is safe. The goals of these orientations are:
- To proactively provide students who are in Responsive Learning with the opportunity to learn about new procedures and structures within the schools pertaining risk mitigation and health promotion.
- To provide social/emotional connections with students to foster a sense of belonging.
- To alleviate potential fears about coming back into school.
The schedules for these orientations will be sent out in the next few weeks.
Lastly, as we start this three-day holiday weekend, I ask that everyone remember our collective responsibility to decrease the number of COVID-19 cases in the region. Please practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands and have a nice weekend.
I appreciate your support.
Sean N. Doherty
Updated Guidance on Face Coverings - Aug. 21, 2020
The St. Louis County Department of Public Health has revised its order related to the wearing of face coverings in public and private schools in St. Louis County. All students attending a K-12 educational institution are required to wear a face covering. Children between the ages of 3-5 are strongly encouraged, but not required, to wear a face covering.
(UPDATED TO REFLECT REVISED ST. LOUIS COUNTY ORDER - 08/21/2020)
- All staff and all students (grades K-12) are required to wear a face covering.
- Early childhood students (age 3-5) are encouraged to wear coverings and may be required to wear them during parts of the school day (e.g. when participating in lessons that require them to be in close contact with other students or staff or moving throughout the school building).
- Early childhood students (age 3-5) may also wear a face covering at other times if that is their parent or guardian's preference.
- Any essential visitors or vendors in the building will be required to wear a face covering on campus.
- All students (regardless of age) will be required to wear a face covering when riding the bus.
Students will be provided with a cloth face covering but may also bring their own. A limited supply of disposable masks will be available. School nurses will work with the parents of students that have a health condition which prevents them from wearing a face covering. In addition, we understand that some students with disabilities may not be able to wear face coverings for disability-related reasons. With that in mind, IEP teams, parents, and school nurses will work together to determine reasonable accommodations. Students should not share their face coverings with others, and all face coverings should be appropriate and meet behavior guidelines for dress code.
What You Need to Know - July 29, 2020
- Students who select the Responsive Learning option for 2020-2021 will be starting in Remote Learning for the first quarter of the upcoming school year. Remote Learning will be taught by Clayton teachers using the District’s curriculum.
- Students/families who are not comfortable with the possibility of learning at school should still opt-in to Learning@Home.
- The deadline to select an option is Friday, Aug. 7.
- Answers to Frequently Asked Questions can be found on the Return to Learn website.
- Students/families can learn more at the Virtual Q&A sessions scheduled for next week.
Dear Clayton Families and Staff,
Last week I shared with you our Return to Learn Plan for the 2020-21 School Year, which included two options - Responsive Learning and Learning@Home. Since that time, I have heard a number of divergent ideas and perspectives from students, parents and staff. The following points are those that I heard most frequently:
- Students need to be back in school every day for their social/emotional well being.
- Students should not be back in school due to health concerns.
- Students should only be back in school when it is safe.
- If students are in remote learning, then it needs to be more synchronous and high quality.
- We need to figure out how to get our youngest learners back in school.
- There is a great deal of fear of returning to school with the number of COVID-19 cases going up in the St. Louis area.
This week, we have made the difficult decision to start in the Remote Learning phase of our Responsive Learning Plan for the first quarter. Students will have daily remote instruction by Clayton teachers, using our curriculum. This decision was based on the increasing rate of COVID-19 cases in the St. Louis area, the current, significant delays in COVID-19 testing and concern that spread of the virus will disrupt continuity of learning. Missouri, especially St. Louis County, continues to trend at high levels for COVID-19 infection, with St. Louis County classified as “active/immanent outbreak” in terms of a COVID-19 threat level. Please know our goal is to return to our buildings by the second quarter.
I want to make sure you understand that the remote learning we will provide will be different from what our emergency remote learning was last spring. There will be daily schedules, more synchronous learning, cultivation of personal connections, and accountability aligned with our current grading practices. There are additional details about what that will look like, as well as answers to your frequently asked questions, on the Return To Learn website as well as more information about the comparison of our Learning@Home to our remote learning. The Virtual Questions and Answer sessions scheduled for next week will also be helpful and informative.
We are making decisions that look beyond just how we start the 2020-21 school year or the first few weeks of school. We are planning long-term for an entire year of learning knowing that school will look different from here on out. Our goal is for students to be learning in our schools in safe ways. To accomplish this transition back into school buildings, we will use the first quarter, while in a remote learning platform, to provide in-building opportunities for all of our students, staff and families (in small groups) to orient them to new procedures and learning structures with a goal of students again learning in school buildings. We know our students and staff are returning to the new school year with a range of emotions and signs of trauma related to the last five months. A measured transition back into our buildings will help support the overall social and emotional well being of our teaching and learning community.
While our primary structure for teaching and learning at the beginning of the year will be through students learning from home, we are developing ways to support students with varied needs during this period of remote learning. We are committed to all students experiencing success and in order to accomplish this, we have to think creatively and in a personalized way.
I know many of you will have conflicting feelings about this decision, but it’s a decision I feel is necessary in order for us to keep our students and staff safe, to maintain continuity of daily learning and to contribute to the decrease of cases in the region. All of us have a responsibility to do our part to reduce the number of new cases in our region.
We want to be back at school as soon as possible and believe that if we invest time during the first quarter, we will be better prepared to stay in school more consistently when we return to the buildings. We will take the time to effectively orient our students, teachers and families as well as focus on providing all of our teachers with additional assured professional learning focused on effective remote instruction.
Again, I appreciate everyone’s support and flexibility and understanding as we make these difficult decisions. My goal is to get our students back into their classrooms for learning as soon as possible. Until that happens, we are focused on providing high-quality, remote learning opportunities.
You will receive an update from us in a few weeks that will include information about device deployment, food service, student support, expectations for this first quarter and how we will implement our plan for returning to our buildings for the second quarter.
Sean N. Doherty
Virtual Q&As Postponed; Deadline Extended to Aug. 7
What You Need to Know
- The Return to Learn Virtual Question and Answer sessions have been postponed until next week. The new dates are as follows:
- Clayton High School Students/Families - Aug. 3 at 6:30 p.m
- Elementary Students/Families - Aug. 5 at 6:30 p.m.
- Wydown Middle School Students/Families - Aug. 6 at 6:30 p.m.
- The District will still announce on Wednesday, July 29, how students who select the Responsive Learning will start the school year. Answers to many of the questions submitted by parents will also be posted on Wednesday.
- The deadline to select a learning option for the 2020-20201 school year has been extended to Aug. 7.
New Dates for Virtual Question and Answer Sessions
The District has rescheduled the three virtual question and answer sessions for parents and families. We have received more than 350 questions from parents since last week. After reviewing the questions and listening to other feedback, we feel it will be most beneficial to hold the Q&A sessions after the District has announced how the 2020-2021 school year will start. The sessions will be live-streamed on the District's YouTube channel at claytonschools.net/youtube. Each session will be set up to take live questions and will be structured to focus on students/families of a specific age group:
- Clayton High School Students/Families - Aug. 3 at 6:30 p.m
- Elementary Students/Families - Aug. 5 at 6:30 p.m.
- Wydown Middle School Students/Families - Aug. 6 at 6:30 p.m.
Frequently Asked Questions/Start of School
The District will still announce on Wednesday, July 29, how students who select the Responsive Learning will start the school year. We will also be posting answers to parents’ most frequently asked questions on Wednesday. With a set direction for starting the school year, and answers to frequently asked questions, parents and families will be able to ask more focused questions during the rescheduled virtual Q&A sessions.
New Deadline for Selecting a Return to Learn Option for 2020-2021
While we recognize that many parents still have questions and need more information before making a decision about the 2020-2021 school year, we want to let you know how we will be collecting that information.
- Parents/guardians will use a form in the Parent Portal on PowerSchool to select a Return to Learn option (Responsive Learning or Learning@Home) for each student in their household.
- The Return to Learn form can be found under the FORMS tab that is located in the left hand column.
- The form is available now and must be completed by Aug. 7.
Accessing the Parent Portal on PowerSchool
- You can access the portal directly at https://ps.claytonschools.net/ or www.claytonschools.net/powerschool.
- You can also visit the District website at www.claytonschools.net and click on the “P” in the blue toolbar on the right side of the homepage. NOTE: If you are browsing from a mobile device, you will find the toolbar at the bottom of the screen.
- If you have any questions or if you need help accessing the PowerSchool Parent Portal, please contact the District's Technology Help Desk at 314.854.6033.
July 20, 2020
Dear Clayton Students, Parents and Staff -
The start of a new school year can be a source of excitement and anxiety for many of us under normal circumstances. It goes without saying, this upcoming year will be different. Today, as parents, students and educators, we are being asked to think about how we return to a learning environment after having been away since Spring Break and in the midst of a resurgence in COVID-19 cases in St. Louis County. I want to thank you for your patience as we make decisions for our return to learning on August 24. Given the circumstances, I am being purposeful in saying our return to learning - and not school - because our options for learning will look very different this year.
We have been working tirelessly to make decisions about the opening of the 2020-2021 school year, focusing our work on three key areas: risk mitigation, health promotion and educational adaptation. We established a number of guiding principles to direct this work, including:
- The safety and health of the students and staff will guide all decisions.
- Our students will receive a high-quality education, whether they are learning in-person or remotely.
- The social/emotional well-being of our students and staff will be a priority.
- All decisions will be made with an equity lens.
- Any plans will be agile enough to adapt as public health conditions fluctuate.
We also listened to feedback from our students, parents and teachers about their experiences last spring. A working group of more than 45 staff members and administrators helped push our thinking. From this work, a number of things became clear about any decision we would make. We need to take care of all the members of our learning community and their different needs, meet expectations for a Clayton education and embrace change as it may be the only constant for the foreseeable future. It’s also clear that we are not just planning for Aug. 24 or the first quarter of the 2020-2021 school year. The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us to think about the long game and the need to reconsider and redefine how we deliver learning to our students.
Our Return to Learn plan has two options in order to meet the varied needs of our students, staff and families. These options include different phases of learning within the District and an option to learn from home for the entire semester. We plan to hold a series of virtual question and answer sessions to address any questions you may have about either of these options. These sessions will be scheduled for the week of July 27 Aug. 3and details will be shared with parents and staff later this week. We have also posted additional information on our website at claytonschools.net/returntolearn.
Our first option is called Responsive Learning. This flexible plan is designed with the goal of safely learning at school but being agile enough to respond to changing public health conditions. It has three phases (In-Person, Hybrid and Remote) for learning based on the health and safety needs of our community. We also recognize that we have students and families who are not able to consider an option that includes learning in person.
Our Learning At Home option provides a fully virtual approach to school with access to a wide variety of courses taught by a Clayton teacher, a teacher from a neighboring district or a state-approved virtual provider. This option will include synchronous and asynchronous instruction, a daily schedule and consistent grading expectations. Students who select this option will be asked to commit to it for the entire semester in order to ensure continuity of education. We are asking families who are interested in this option to commit by July 31. We will be sending out more information about Learning at Home, including how to opt-in, to families tomorrow.
We are also developing a separate Return to Learn plan for the Family Center to support the needs of our youngest learners. Our Director of the Family Center, Debbie Reilly, will be sending out that information soon.
Given the rise of COVID-19 cases in St. Louis County in the past two weeks, the County Health Department has asked school districts to delay announcing how they will start school. Based on current data, it’s difficult to say today which phase of Responsive Learning we will use to start the school year on Aug. 24. It is very likely we will implement either the hybrid learning model or start the year with remote learning. Our goal is to let you know by July 29.
I know that any decision we make as a District will be challenging for all of us and may not be what everyone would prefer. We continue to meet regularly with public health officials and will use their guidance to help inform our final decision. I assure you that we will be prepared to provide a high-quality education no matter the option. I appreciate your trust and support. We are going to return to learning with hope, optimism and excellence.