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Upper School Newsletter for April 5, 2020

Welcome, April!

Amidst this time of great uncertainty and widespread concern for the health and safety of loved ones, friends, colleagues, and caregivers, I hope that you are all doing well and successfully enduring – and perhaps at times even enjoying – the social distancing and abode confinement that has become our collective new normal.  It is therefore gratifying for all of us who teach the wonderful students of NYA to get back to work with them, albeit virtually, and make the very best of this new educational configuration presented to us in relatively short order. Despite the inevitable new technological challenges, the potentially complex process of choosing ideal home workspaces, and our current inability to physically be together on campus, the common denominator that predictably holds it all together – even virtually – is the NYA community we speak of so fondly. Our students, parents, faculty, and staff have collectively turned a great challenge into opportunity. After completing the first full week of this new experience, our dedicated faculty and staff continue to work hard in providing the best remote learning opportunities possible for our students, all from the temporary ‘comfort’ of one’s own home. In the coming days and weeks, we certainly look forward to enhancing our virtual connections while simultaneously supporting all of those around us who may be affected and needing our attention.

We are proud of our students and commend them so far this spring for their flexibility, their good work, and their commitment to maintaining a high level of effort amid this temporary virtual learning transition. We look forward to sharing the following updates in our April divisional newsletter.

Eric Austin
Head of Upper School

AP EXAM CHANGES

For all students currently enrolled in AP classes, it is important to know that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the AP program has made some significant changes to the exam timing and format for the testing in May. Most notably, students will be taking shortened digital at-home tests in May, and the original AP testing schedule has now been delayed by a week, providing extra time for students to review. All AP teachers are providing this updated information to their students, and further details, master schedule, and regular updates are provided on College Board’s website. All students should be aware of these changes, and we certainly appreciate that College Board is providing these accommodations for all students in light of the current pandemic status. As more information becomes available, teachers will be informing their students in their preparation.

SENIOR SPEECHESNYA Senior Speech Podium

We are very much looking forward to the final seven senior speeches that still remain in the school year. The members of the Class of 2020 have certainly delivered many memorable speeches thus far, and we are currently finalizing the virtual framework and timeline for the remaining speeches to take place. We are looking to resume speeches on Friday, April 24 and will provide more information as the time gets closer.

REMOTE LEARNING SCHEDULE

After completing our very first week of remote learning at NYA, we will continue to implement a mix of both synchronous and asynchronous experiences for students in order to provide a balanced approach for our students and our teachers. We aim to maximize the benefits and minimize the drawbacks of student screen time. In synchronous learning, students attend class and interact with the teacher and peers in real time via Microsoft Teams. Our new remote learning schedule has blocks for up to three synchronous classes each day. Asynchronous learning is completed independently of the teacher, giving the student the ability to design the schedule and the pace that works best for each person. (In our normal school routine, homework, reading, and studying are examples of asynchronous learning.) Teachers can assign readings, papers, problems, labs, video lessons, projects, and more as part of asynchronous learning. Our remote learning schedule has work periods scheduled into each day for students to work on asynchronous assignments, which may continue into the evenings and on weekends as needed. This mix not only helps to reduce the amount of screen time required of students each day, but it also encourages the use of innovative teaching techniques such as flipping the classroom and collaborative dialogues. It can also promote independence and perseverance in students as learners, while supporting those who may wish to work at a slower or faster pace. The Microsoft Teams platform supports the different aspects of our remote learning through features such as video conferencing, chat, reminders, and assignment distribution and collection. Teachers also post assignments and share documents in Family Web and/or via email.

NETIQUETTE

Remote learning brings a unique set of expectations for how we interact and engage in an online setting. To help set the stage, Dean of Students, Lynn Sullivan, shared with the students an outline of those expectations. Each teacher modifies and adapts these for what works best in his or her class, similar to what occurs in each classroom on campus. Students are enjoying trying out the various features of Microsoft Teams that are available, while bearing in mind the importance of following the expected netiquette. We appreciate all of the great work and attention our students give to this aspect of remote learning.

LEARNING COMMONSNYA Learning Commons April 2020

The NYA Learning Commons is looking great! With some additional furniture and books, we hope it will be ready when we’re back in school. Take a tour.

SOCIALIZING AND HEALTH DURING SOCIAL DISTANCING

It is essential that we continue to abide by social distancing and stay at home mandates. As our “new normal” can lead to feeling isolated and lonely, however, it is important that we find ways for the students to take care of themselves and to engage in safe social interaction. A consistent schedule and sleep routine can go a long way in helping to boost wellness and mood. Rather than switching to late nights, sleeping in, and keeping the pajamas on all day, instituting a school day routine that is similar to what students experienced on campus each day can be helpful. Exercise and outside time are integrated into our usual school schedules, and it is important that students continue to experience these. We have reminded students to establish some healthy routines to easily incorporate these into their day, whether it is exercising in the home, family walks/runs, playing basketball in the driveway, completing chores, etc. Students can also interact with a friend, a small group, or even the whole grade by utilizing the chat and video conferencing features in Microsoft Teams.

Take a look at how some of your classmates used technology to record Nice to Meet Ya by Niall Horan remotely! Nice to Meet Ya Social Distance Style

REMINDER TO CHECK EMAIL

As we are not together on campus each day, email is a vital means of communication with students and families. It is essential that students check their NYA email several times each day. Parents will receive emails, as well as links to Ben’s Sunday letters and the three division newsletters. Please be sure that your contact information in Family Web is up to date. You can edit this information using the Instructions for Family Web Parent Information Form, which can be found in Technology Help under the Parents tab on the NYA homepage.

TECHNOLOGY

We are very pleased with how smooth a start we have had with the technology side of our remote learning, and great thanks goes out to Chris Mazzurco (Director of IT) and Dave Gagne (Technology Coordinator) for their tireless work enabling this to occur and work so smoothly. Minor issues are unavoidable, but students have been great about working through poor connections, rejoining class if needed, etc. If you are encountering repeated technology issues and need support, please contact Chris Mazzurco with any questions.

WEEKLY INITIATIVES FROM THE WELLNESS TEAMBe Well Heart

During remote learning, NYA is excited to offer a weekly wellness theme which will encompass strategies for the NYA community to persevere in the coming weeks. We open with KINDNESS! Discover how practicing acts of kindness can benefit the brain and nurture our relationships with one another and ourselves. Join us, and stay connected by sharing acts of kindness in a Be Kind Challenge and a Virtual Kind Club.  ~ Cindy Hould, NYA Counselor

BE A SCIENTIST AT HOME

Many of us may be wishing that there was more we could do to contribute and help others these days. Here are some things you can be doing AT HOME that can help scientists. Some are directly related to helping the fight against COVID-19, and some are aimed at helping scientists take care of our planet and each other. All that these tasks require are you, a computer, and internet access.  ~ Terry Bartick, STEM Coordinator

GUEST SPEAKER “VISITS” GEOGRAPHY CLASS

Here is a nice excerpt from the In The Middle Middle School newsletter worth sharing for the community:

One of the five themes of geography is Movement, the travel of people, goods, and ideas throughout the world. As the sixth grade geography class learned earlier in the year, a by-product of this movement is the spread of diseases. Students learned about the devastating effect of diseases brought by explorers to the New World and Australia and New Zealand. It seemed only fitting to begin the remote phase of geography class with a study of pandemics. Dr. Jarrod Daniel, father of Hugo ’26, Delphine ’28, Cappy ’30, and Emme ’32, was a guest speaker in our virtual class last Wednesday. Dr. Daniel discussed COVID-19 in terms of the size of the virus germ (0.001 mm), how it works, the symptoms, and other facts surrounding this disease. He also explained how a ventilator works, and discussed whether or not asymptomatic people should wear masks. One reassuring statistic is that 80% of people who contract COVID-19 will recover without treatment. Thank you, Dr. Daniel, for your timely “visit” to our class. Knowledge will help us all keep the “panic” out of pandemic!  ~ Eliot Grady, Librarian, Geography, French

NYA SOIRÉE

Each year, we look forward to hosting alumni, parents, and friends at the NYA Soirée. Given the CDC recommendations on restricting social gatherings to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we are making some adjustments. This year, we plan to transition the live, in-person Soirée to a virtual gathering where we can come together as a community, online, for an engaging evening of fun and impact. We hope you will join us!  Please save the evening of Friday, May 15 for NYA’s virtual Soirée.

CALENDAR

As Ben Jackson shared in his letter last Sunday, unless otherwise stated, we are following the general school calendar as it currently stands and will continue to follow CDC and government guidance for campus events. The “For Your Planning” section will indicate events that have been cancelled or postponed. We will continue to update you on all events as new information becomes available.

FOR YOUR PLANNING:

4/14 Spring Strings Concert Postponed
4/20 Patriots’ Day NO CLASSES
4/21 Faculty In-Service Day NO CLASSES
4/24 Senior Speeches Resume
4/24 Spring Choral Concert Postponed
4/28 Spring Instrumental Concert Postponed
5/1 Last Day of Seniors’ Virtual Classes
5/11 AP Exams Begin at Home
5/15 NYA Virtual Soirée