August 28, 2020

From the Board

Dear Families —

At our regular August 24th Board meeting, the PPCS Board continued its long task of making decisions and approving policies to answer crucial questions of the 2020-2021 school year. As most of you know, the Board’s job is to set policy — and then our Executive Director, Ms. Branen, and PPCS’s teachers and staff make it come to life operationally.

Here are a few highlights from our decisions.

  • PPCS will remain in the Remote Yet Connected model for all students until the winter break in December (unless Moscow no longer has community spread of Covid). If we decide after winter break to return to in-person instruction, we will continue to offer remote learning for any student who is unable or unwilling to return to in-person instruction.The board will assess the fall semester and begin discussion of next steps in November, with a decision to be made at the December board meeting.
  • Masks or other appropriate face coverings will be required for all staff and students in the building. We will also enforce social distancing guidelines both inside and outside the building as much as possible. Staff and students (or their families) will complete a self-screening tool focused on symptoms, travel, and possible exposure, before coming into the building.
  • In general, we seek to minimize the number of people coming into our building. Visitors and volunteers will need to be authorized by Ms. Branen before coming to the building.
  • Our school day will include both real-time learning (via video) and student-paced learning for all students. The Board acknowledges that this year’s unusual circumstances require a flexible approach to attendance, and will be addressing attendance issues on a case-by-case basis.
  • PPCS’s child care enrollment will be capped at 16 students initially. The Board authorized Ms. Branen to revise this as needed.

Families are always welcome to observe board meetings – agendas for upcoming meetings are posted 48 hours prior to the meeting on our school door, and on our website under About/Governance/School Board. Public comment, which is shared with all Board members, can be submitted any time to Jessica at jbearman@palouseprairieschool.org.

Sincerely,

Jessica

Jessica Bearman, Board Chair
Palouse Prairie Charter School

A Word From Our Teachers

Teachers are in the process of planning for a successful start to our very unusual school year! We want to share with you some general details about how school, communication, Wednesday meet-ups, and more will work. Please be on the lookout for more specific information from your child/children’s classroom teachers.

The School Day: Although our school day will look different from in the past, we are planning ways to make it consistent, connected, and creative! Here are some basics that we have already worked out:

Instructional Hours (the number of hours that students will be engaged in real-time or student-paced instruction delivered by the teacher):

  • Kindergarten: 1-2 hours per day
  • 1-2 grades: 2-3 hours per day
  • 3-5 grades: 3-4 hours per day
  • Middle School: 4-5 hours per day

Weekly Plans: Teachers will share weekly plans with families on Fridays by 12 p.m.

  • Weekly plans will include:
    • Zoom links
    • Real-time or student-paced instruction schedules (including Wednesday meet-ups)
    • Overview of topics and learning targets
    • Materials needed and distribution

Wednesdays will be a fully remote model (all instruction is pre-recorded and posted in Canvas for students to access) for learning.

  • Wednesday meet-ups are for connecting and building community and may include the following based on student and family needs:
    • Each student will receive one in-person meet up every three weeks
    • The meets may include but are not limited to:
      • Meet up with a child on their front porch
      • Small group hikes
      • Fieldwork experience
      • Crew meetings at a park

On Back to School Night, you will receive more detailed information specific to your child’s classroom. Please stay tuned for specific details about Back to School Night from your child’s classroom teacher.

Fall Sports

Dear Parents and Guardians:

Thank you for your patience as we have been working out some details about fall sports. We are excited to be able to offer sports experiences to our students. An important change is that we will not have interscholastic competitions this year. Scrimmages/competitions will be in inter-squad format instead. We are offering football for seventh and eighth graders, volleyball for seventh and eighth grade girls and cross country for sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Practices will take place on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Intramural scrimmages/competitions will be held only on those days as well, and we will get information to you about those schedules soon. Mask wearing and appropriate social distancing will be built in to all activities, according to MSD guidelines. Locker rooms will be used very minimally, and only for necessary functions. All athletes are required to have a mask that is comfortable for exercising. See below for additional information about sports.

Please sign up using RegisterMyAthlete at this link: https://registermyathlete.com/ This link can be found on our the MMS website, under Sports and Activities – Sports Teams and Schedules also.

Athletic physicals are required for all student athletes, prior to their first practice. Physicals forms that were submitted last year are good for this year as well, as long as the date of the physical is less than two years ago for the entire season. Registration materials and a sports physical must be complete and on file for your child to be allowed to participate. Please complete and submit all registration materials by Friday, September 11. If you have questions about registering your child, please contact me or Trish Borchers in the Moscow Middle School office (208-882-3577.) We are not assessing fees at this time (either ASB or sport fees) due to pending adjustments in the fee structure. If you have already paid and the new fees are lower than what has been paid you will receive a refund. We will provide more information as we have it.

The first practice for all three sports will be Monday, Sept. 14. All students are eligible to attend, whether A or B hybrid or online-only. Students in the A and B blocks are only required to attend practices on those A and B days but are encouraged to participate in all practices if possible. Home, charter and private school students are allowed to participate as in past years.

Cheer

Cheer is open to all 6th, 7th and 8th graders. Cheer will meet in the multipurpose room after school. In order to manage group sizes we ask that A group students practice only on Mondays and Tuesdays, and B group students practice on Thursdays and Fridays. Students who are online only, etc, will be scheduled to balance the group sizes. Cub cheer builds confidence, leadership and basic cheerleading skills. We will learn cheers, chants, jumps, voice control and so much more. Note: Cheer will have a brief team informational meeting on Monday, Sept. 14 at 3:15 for the A group and Thursday, Sept. 17 for the B group. Online only students and others can choose one or the other meeting.

Cross Country

Cross Country is open to all 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. The boy’s team will meet at Oylear Field (across D Street from MMS). The girl’s team will meet on the track. Practice starts at 3:20 and ends at 4:30 and will take place every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Runners will be participating in a variety of activities, including supervised runs around the community. They will learn proper running techniques, strategies for racing, keeping healthy, being part of a school team, leadership and goal setting. We will be scheduling a few competitive runs as well.

Football

Football is open to all students in 7th and 8th grade. Players will meet on the east side of the Bear Den. Practice begins at 3:20 and ends at 5:00 p.m. Our 7th and 8th grade program will focus on skill building in a sports camp atmosphere. Players will learn key skills through drills and scrimmage activities. There will be no live blocking and tackling. Blocking and tackling drills may include the use of tackling dummies and/or blocking sleds. Any face-to-face contact activities will be restricted. Scrimmages will be held in a seven on seven, passing format.

Volleyball

Volleyball is open to 7th and 8th grade girls this fall. Players will meet on the north side of the Bear Den. Practice begins at 3:20 and ends at 5:00 p.m. each day. Players will work on skill development, teamwork and will participate in intramural scrimmages, held on Friday afternoons. Scrimmages for volleyball will begin on Friday, October 2.

Please contact me by replying to this email if you have additional questions. Go Cubs!

Bill Holman

August 19, 2020

Dear Families,
I want to give you an update regarding our Remote Yet Connected Reopening Plan. This is a bit of a long letter and includes lots of information. We will post all the important answers in our PPCS FAQ document so that you can find them easily.

Over the past week, I have been working with our K-2 team, Special Education lead teacher and Title One teacher to develop a plan for our prioritized students. I have also been working with a small group of dedicated educators and technology staff to determine the best Learning Management System (LMS) for our remote learners. We know you’ve been eager for specifics, and we are sharing them with you in real time, as they are worked out. We will be able to provide more details once teachers begin their specific planning.

As a small school, we have more autonomy to make good decisions for our staff, students and families. We don’t take this responsibility lightly and are thinking critically about how to support every learner at our school. There is no doubt we will all face challenges during this time. I know that, for me, this has been the most challenging and stressful process I have ever gone through in my career. However, I am grounded by and grateful for the collective spirit of our families, Board, and staff to work together to support every member of our CREW. We also are supported by a national organization, EL Education, that has been working behind the scenes endlessly to support our students during this pandemic. Our dedicated and creative staff are committed to providing a high quality EL education in a very different way that continues to build students’ character and academic skills. In order to do this, we will integrate technology into our teaching in new ways, build strong relationships with our families, and truly demonstrate what we ask our students to do – show compassion, respect, engagement and welcoming – that’s CREW!

Read on for more information —

Jeneille Branen
Palouse Prairie Charter School Director

Remote Yet Connected PPCS
Students in grades 3-8 will be Remote Yet Connected until conditions in our community improve. Palouse Prairie will be aligning with the Moscow School District and using Canvas as our Learning Management System. Staff will take what they learned from teaching in the spring and your feedback, and use that to design remote educational experiences that reflect the EL principles that guide our learning model.

Teachers and students will follow consistent schedules on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday that mimic the regular school day. This format will create a predictable and engaged format that mirrors in-person instruction. Just as with in-person school, class time will include teacher facilitated lessons (in this case delivered live using video technology) followed by student work time. Mini-lessons can also be recorded and archived in the LMS for students who are not able to attend live lessons.

“Meet-up and Connect” on Wednesdays
Remote learning will take place on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesday will be our “Meet Up and Connect” Day – an opportunity for teachers to check in with families and offer outdoor “meet-ups” with small groups of students. During pre-planning, staff will collaborate to plan specifically the best supports we can offer during remote learning, outdoor meet-ups and interventions on Wednesdays when all students are off-site.

Kindergarten, First and Second Grades – Our youngest learners
Our kindergarten teacher will teach small groups of students (no more than 8) in the classroom and on school grounds while also providing live instruction through zoom and our LMS, 4 days a week, starting September 8th. To learn more about what kindergarten will look like, please visit our FAQ page.

Students in first and second grades will start remotely and will be one of the first cohorts to be brought back for in-person learning in small groups. We expect their learning model to be similar to kindergarten’s, but are waiting on funding that will support the additional staff needed.

Limited on-site learning and care
We are only able to have a limited number of students on-site, and have prioritized groups of students including those who receive Special Education and Title One services, kindergarten, and students who need child care during the day. These students can receive in-person instruction and remote learning support in the PPCS Building on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. We will work with each family to determine the best way(s) for your student to learn.

Busing and lunch will be available for students who are on-site, through our regular contract with the Moscow School District – details to come.

PPCS will offer limited onsite childcare for families who need it. Please fill out this form by August 24th if it is essential for your student to receive on-site childcare. Our ability to accommodate students will be limited due to COVID-19 safety precautions and staffing. Students who qualify for free and reduced lunch will be given first priority for these limited spots. Please note, filling out the form does not guarantee your child/children a spot. You will be notified by August 28th if your child has secured a spot for childcare.

COVID-19 Specific protocols and policies are under development
Our Safety team is still working on developing all safety protocols for the start of the school year. Policies related to student attendance, health screenings, illness, staff leave, and closures during COVID will go before the Board for approval on August 24th. The relevant policies will be communicated through our updated Staff and Student Handbooks.

PPCS is waiting on approval for additional allocated funding to support:

  • Additional staffing to manage technology and support remote learners
  • Professional development (beyond contracted time) for teachers and staff by the author of Empower to learn to implement high quality remote learning
  • Additional professional development around the newest EL publication, CREW: A Teamwork Approach to School Culture

EL Professional Development during the next few months:

SWIVL cameras for teachers to set up in home or classroom, along with a Learning Management System (LMS) to ensure that parallel learning is seamless.

August 10, 2020

Dear Families,

Thank you to all who joined us on August 4, 2020 for our Community Conversation. We had more than 85 families and teachers participating via Zoom. It was wonderful to see you and to hear (and read) your thoughts. We appreciated hearing the concerns we shared and were excited by your creative ideas for our Remote Yet Connected fall. If you missed the conversation, you can review the meeting’s slides and listen to/watch the Q&A portion in this recording

During our August 6, Board meeting, the PPCS Board made several decisions that we want to convey to you. We know that families are eager to know all the details about how school will work this fall — and we are working hard to get you those details. We have started an FAQ Google Document, and will continue to update it as we have more answers. If you’d like to submit a question to that document, please email Jessica at jbearman@palouseprairieschool.org

  1. Palouse Prairie will begin school on September 8.  This start date — right after Labor Day provides three additional days of planning time for PPCS teachers, while still taking full advantage of good weather for outside activities. This start date does not require us to extend school further into June or change scheduled school holidays.  Because the Moscow School District will not be in session for another week, we are exploring options for students who will need transportation and school lunch, and will be back to you with that information.
  2. Back to School Activities will be held on September 3. Stay tuned for details on specific timing.
  3. Remote learning this Fall will look very different from the spring. PPCS staff will use several resources as a basis for structuring engaged, EL-aligned, remote classrooms in fall 2020.  PPCS is fortunate to have access to high-quality resources through the EL network, including the EL Flex Curriculum, professional development, and support through this network.
    • Teachers will focus on implementing active, high-quality remote learning to fulfill full instructional hours requirements (325 minutes/day for 1st-8th grade). 
    • Students who need extra support (IEP and Title 1) are prioritized to receive it in-person, contingent on safety. You will be contacted by August 14 if your child is already on our list of students prioritized for in-person learning support. Once the school year begins, we will also be using our RTI (Response To Intervention) system to identify students who are struggling to attend to remote learning and provide specialized support to those students. 
    • Face-to-face meet ups are prioritized for all grade levels. This includes outdoor gatherings of small groups of students as part of the school day. Students will not be penalized if they are not able to attend. 
  4. Many of you have asked for more detailed information about what the K-2 experience will look like this Fall. Our Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade teachers are in the process of developing a more specific plan for daily and weekly instruction, based on the EL Curriculum, your input, and PPCS’s resources. This plan will prioritize the regular face-to-face contact that we know these young learners need.  You will receive more information early next week. 
  5. Some of you have inquired about childcare during the school day.  PPCS intends to provide a safe place for a limited number of students who are not able to stay at home. Students who qualify for free and reduced lunch will be first priority for these limited spots.  Please complete this form if you are interested in childcare this fall. 

Sincerely,
Jeneille Branen, Executive Director
Jessica Bearman, Board Chair

August 3, 2020

Please join PPCS Director, Jeneille Branen and members of the Board for a Community Conversation on Tuesday, August 4, 2020 at 7:00 pm.  Zoom information (for log or call-in) is included at the bottom of this notification.

The focus of this meeting is to learn more about your questions, concerns, and interests as we move forward into a remote start to our 2020-2021 school year. If you have a question you know you would like addressed, please send it to jbearman@palouseprairieschool.org  so that we can be best prepared.

Purpose – during this conversation we will:

  • Provide a forum to hear directly from PPCS Director and Board about Remote Yet Connected plans for Fall 2020,
  • Learn more about specific questions and concerns that you have, 
  • Maintain and build a spirit of CREW even in the midst of such unsettled and anxious times.

Group Agreements:

We recognize that these are hard conversations for everyone and anxiety and frustration are high. We would like to have the most constructive possible conversation in the spirit of CREW: Compassion, Respect, Engage, Welcoming 

  • Compassion: Remember that these are tough times, and many are struggling 
  • Respect:  Honor the humanity of each person present
  • Engage:  Speak from the “I,” representing your own experience and perspective
  • Welcoming:  Create a warm and welcoming space for members of our community 

Agenda (7:00 – 8:30 pm)

  1. Welcome 
  2. Overview:  What we know and what we still need to learn 
  3. Common Questions:  We will first address questions that have come up through the survey and via email. 
  4. Open Q&A / Discussion
  5. Wrap up and next steps

Zoom Information:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/2728985259?pwd=eitIR0lFZnJxVlFzWmFWODVDNTBOZz09

Meeting ID: 272 898 5259

Passcode: bears

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Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kezPrkkWQ

Sincerely,
Jeneille Branen, Executive Director Jessica Bearman, Board Chair

July 31, 2020

Dear Families,
As our letter earlier this week let you know, Palouse Prairie will reopen school under a “Remote yet Connected” learning model to ensure the safety of our students, staff, and families while still providing a high-quality, rigorous education.

This is not how any of us envisioned the start of our school year — we would all prefer to be teaching and learning in the classroom — but we know that we are making the appropriate decision for our school community at this time when the community spread of Covid-19 is on the rise across our region.  We are committed to providing a remote learning experience this fall that truly reflects our EL model of education, with a focus on building strong student character alongside academic rigor. It will look different from the spring, when we had almost no time to plan. We are focusing our planning, time, and efforts to re-examine, and transform our learning model so that it feels like the rich and thoughtful educational experience that brought you to PPCS in the first place.

We care deeply about meeting the needs of all our students and we are committed to supporting our families and students during this global crisis. We are also grateful for your continued support and commitment to our school.  At the bottom of this letter you will find a more detailed re-opening plan.  It still has many unknowns, and we need to know more from your family about your plans, needs, and questions. Please complete this FAMILY SURVEY by August 4, 2020 to help us continue our planning process. 

Finally, we hope you have marked your calendar for a PPCS Community Conversation on August 4 at 7:00 pm.  We will be sending a Zoom link and an agenda for the conversation on Monday.  If you have additional questions or comments for the PPCS Board, please send them to Jessica at jbearman@palouseprairieschool.org.

Sincerely,
Jeneille Branen
Executive Director

Jessica Bearman
PPCS Board Chair

July 28, 2020

Dear Palouse Prairie Families —
I’m writing to you as PPCS’s new board chair.  Amy Ball, who has served the school for 7 years on the board and 5 years as chair, has ended her final term on the board. Luckily for us, she will continue contributing her energies to the school by way of the Parent Crew. I was elected last night, along with a wonderful slate of officers:  Lauren Crawford, Vice Chair; Zac Crist, Treasurer; and Juan Albaitero, Secretary. We are thrilled to serve the school with the rest of the dedicated and hard-working board.

Some of you may already have heard that last night, our board made an important decision about Palouse Prairie Fall operations.  Based on family and staff feedback, science related to the spread and impact of Covid-19, our school’s mission and philosophy, and our school’s capacity, we unanimously decided to begin the school year with a structure we are calling “Remote Yet Connected.”

In brief, this means that we will focus teachers’ efforts on designing and delivering the highest quality online education and supporting students. We will begin the year with most of our students learning remotely with outdoor meet-ups and activities as much as possible.  We will prioritize in-school space for safe, socially distanced in-person learning for small numbers of students, including:

  • Students who require in-person support for effective learning.
  • Students who need a safe space to be during the school day.
  • Our youngest learners. We are exploring ways to engage our kindergarten, first, and second grade students safely in-person. 

I know that you probably have questions and reactions in reading this brief overview. We will send you a more detailed description of the plan by Thursday night, along with a survey where you can share information about your concerns, plans, and needs. We will also seek feedback to learn more about your experience with distance learning last spring and your concerns and recommendations for this fall.

In addition, please mark your calendars now for a Community Conversation next week on Tuesday, August 4 at 7:00 pm. This will be an opportunity for questions and discussion with the Board of Directors and our school director, Jeneille Branen. 

The board will use the input we receive from families and staff to design and approve a more specific plan for this fall.  Our hope is that by August 10, we will have a final plan that allows families and teachers to do their best preparation for the start of school. We will post updates starting Friday, under a new Reopening Updates tab on our website: www.palouseprairieschool.org.

Because the importance of the situation requires us to move very rapidly, we would be grateful if you would save your input for the survey and Community Conversation, where we will be best equipped to receive it. As always, you can submit a public comment to the board for review any time via email:  jbearman@palouseprairieschool.org.

Thank you for your continued engagement and commitment to our school —

Warmly,
Jessica Bearman

July 17, 2020

Dear Palouse Prairie families and community,
This letter will update you about what we currently know and don’t know about fall 2020 re-opening plans. We do not yet have definitive answers, as the Covid-19 situation in Idaho and in our region is changing day by day. However, we know that you have big questions, and want to keep you as up-to-date as possible and to continue to seek your feedback.

The State Board of Education has released guidance for reopening schools that includes three risk categories, depending on the level of Covid in communities. Moscow School District is basing their developing plans on this guidance. At our Board meeting on Monday, June 13, the PPCS Board voted to align our plans as much as possible with the Moscow School District’s plans. This means that we agreed to adhere to the same broad risk categories from the State and subsequent closure decisions.

We believe that this alignment makes sense because of the high degree of interdependence and
overlap (including transportation, lunch services, and families) we have with the MSD, and our shared commitment to following guidelines from the Idaho State Department of Education and the CDC.

PPCS’ Board and leadership will be working to clarify our specific plans to fit Palouse Prairie’s particular circumstances with your input. We are thinking through safety measures and distance learning strategies that are consistent with our school’s size, teaching methodology, and wellness policies. We will share a draft by the end of July and will welcome questions and feedback in written and Community Conversation (town hall) format. Your input is welcome at any time via an email to the board: aball@palouseprairieschool.org

Our top priority is the well-being of our students, families, and staff. Please know that we are doing the best we can to address our community’s concerns and needs, and balance a huge amount of rapidly changing, complex, and sometimes contradictory information and perspectives. We need to hear from you! Over the next two months, we will be seeking your input and feedback regularly, and we will be grateful for your prompt and candid attention.

For starters, please contribute your perspective to this survey, seeking to understand your current thinking about whether and under what conditions your family would return to a classroom setting.

In the midst of so much uncertainty and turbulence, we remain grateful for the committed, engaged, and supportive PPCS CREW of students, families, teachers, staff, and community friends. We will get through this together.

Sincerely,
PPCS School Board
Jeneille Branen

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