July 16, 2020
Hello Two Rivers Families,
It is my pleasure to introduce myself as your new Executive Director! I am so glad to have met so many of you or witnessed the beauty and brilliance of your students during my years as an instructional partner and through the interview process. Unfortunately, this pandemic has limited my ability to be in physical proximity to you all this summer. However, I want you to know that I am in the work with you all and am diligently preparing for our safe and meaningful return to school. Back-to-School is a special time for Two Rivers. Every August, we come together as a committed community to bring life to our mission with open hearts and fresh eyes. This year, like years past, we are working to build strong bonds with one another and prepare experiences that are the hallmark of Two Rivers: deep learning that is joyful, engaging, challenging, and empowering.
While COVID-19 has upended our traditional notion of school, our staff is committed to ushering in another year of rich learning undergirded by feelings of connection and hope. It is with this commitment in mind that I write to share our plan for the start of school this fall. Over the past month, Two Rivers has engaged in an in-depth review of health and safety guidance, staff input, and your survey feedback. Eighty-six percent of our families, representing a diverse cross-section of our community, completed the citywide survey on reopening - thank you! You told us that your family's safety is your top priority; that you care deeply about your child's social connection and mental health; that you need a schedule that is consistent and minimizes further disruption; and, finally, that you want to ensure your child's learning stays on track.
Two Rivers will start the year with our students learning remotely. We anticipate supplementing our remote option with limited in-person services based on student needs identified during our continued planning and engagement. Two Rivers will continue with remote learning from the start of school on August 31, 2020, until at least the end of our first quarter on October 23, 2020. We are actively preparing to re-introduce an in-person option for students as early as the start of our second quarter in late October, if health conditions permit, and will communicate any decision with families well in advance of that date, at the beginning of October.
After exploring in-person, hybrid, and remote options, we determined that starting the year with a powerful virtual option for all of our students is the safest starting point for our entire school community. Reflection on staff and family feedback, our mission, goals, and remote learning experiences, led us to design principles to guide reopening that include the following: a deep concern for the health and safety of our school community, family empowerment, equity and access, connection, joy, hope, and continuity of learning. All non-remote options were in conflict with our design principles of health, safety, and continuity of learning, which feedback showed were highly valued by Two Rivers families. In these uncertain times, we must have an excellent remote option that works for all of our students to minimize disruption and disentangle the quality of our students' education from the havoc of the coronavirus.
We heard from you earlier this year that any option moving forward, whether remote or in-person, needed to address the following educational priorities shared by our families:
● A plan for supporting the social and emotional well-being of students (including through connection, play, socialization, and relationship-building)
● A variety of supports for families balancing their work inside or outside of the home with remote learning for their student, whether an in-person aid, childcare, guidance to families, or remote tools
● A system for tracking work, following curriculum and monitoring learning outcomes so families can support remote learning schedules more easily
● As much synchronous instruction and direct engagement with teachers as possible
● An assurance that all learning needs and styles will be accommodated in any approach offered
● A commitment to addressing learning gaps resulting from last year's disruption
● A practice of regularly communicating with families about both the plans being developed and their role in supporting their student's education so they can plan and contribute
Two Rivers is committed to offering a robust remote option that reflects this feedback. We also know our students and families are "crew" with us in this difficult moment and want to ensure that our plan for reentry continues to align with the vision of our families through our next steps.
Next Steps for Families & Students
For many Two Rivers families, this approach aligns with the preference shared with us, while for others, starting the school year fully remote likely raises challenges. For all families, we know that you have questions and thoughts about how we will meet the priorities for remote learning that you have shared and carry out the Two Rivers mission and goal that we are all here for.
In the upcoming weeks, we will be planning a mix of Two Rivers network and school-level engagement opportunities for families and students to learn more and share their latest thinking about remote learning and reentry. To start the conversation, we hope you will join us for a Two Rivers Family Town Hall on Tuesday, July 21, from 5:00 pm-6:00 pm to share more information about our approach to reopening and for families to ask questions and share feedback. A Zoom link will be provided via email prior to the meeting. You can submit questions in advance at bit.ly/TRFamilyQs
Below are some additional communications and engagement opportunities you can expect from the Two Rivers team:
● You will receive a bi-weekly email update from me about the status of Two Rivers preparedness for both remote and in-person learning
● Your school principal will also be sharing bi-weekly live opportunities for you to engage specifically with your school team and community on next steps starting next week
● We will be providing opportunities to weigh in via brief polls and learn about the latest developments on social media (@tworiverspcs on Instagram and Twitter)
We are embarking on a historic year. Since Two Rivers' humble beginnings in 2004, our schools stressed the EL Education ethic, "We are crew, not passengers." We approach the 2020-21 school year knowing that it will be challenging. Yet, because of our community and our focus on real-world learning, we have an opportunity to shine together in new ways. We thank you for your patience and your trust as we all navigate this unprecedented moment.
If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kristina Kyles-Smith, Ed.D Executive Director