Closing Out the 2019-20 School Year

Dear Red Hill Families,

On March 13th, schools in Virginia closed to keep our community safe from the spread of COVID-19. Since then, our school and school division focus has been on supporting students and their families. During the week of March 18th, teachers began contacting students regularly to maintain a connection with the school and to promote at-home learning opportunities. The school division’s Department of Technology increased WiFi access and distributed thousands of laptops and iPads. Children Nutrition has provided meal service for children under eighteen. The Department of Instruction developed plans for virtual learning. Our teachers learned a new learning platform, Seesaw, and made plans to teach in a whole new way. On April 11th, the six-week virtual learning option began. It is hard to believe there are fewer than two weeks left.

While we all wish we knew when school could resume “as normal,” there are some calendar events that I can share with you.

May 22nd – Last Day of Spring Virtual Instruction
The week of May 18-22 will be the last week that teachers will mail packets and post assignments in Seesaw. Teachers will continue to respond and give feedback through the following week.

June 5th – Stepping Up Celebrations
Instead of a Stepping Up ceremony for fifth-graders at school, teachers will deliver certificates and gift bags to students at their homes.

June 8th – Report Cards
The year-end report card will be in the form of a narrative describing your child’s overall performance in language arts and math for the year. We will mail them via USPS.

June 10th – Phase II Construction and Renovation Begins
The project is moving forward! The gym addition will include a new stage thanks to Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. Last week, they approved a transfer of the extra funds from the Scottsville project to ours to make this possible.

June 12th (tentative date, time TBD) – Drive-Up, Pick-Up III
Teachers will gather students’ work and belongings from their classrooms and package them for families to pick up at another drive-up, pick-up event. If families have school library books, they should return them.

Throughout this unprecedented time, our teachers, you and your children have been courageous and strong, taking on new ways of connecting and learning. I am grateful for the dedication of Red Hill staff members who have prioritized our students. I wish to thank you, Red Hill families, for sharing your children and your lives with us in ways you never expected.

As we continue to experience the frustrations and the joys of the changes and opportunities of the pandemic, know that we value your partnership with us.

Sincerely,

Nancy McCullen
Principal

Virtual School Information

April 1, 2020

Dear Red Hill Elementary Students and Families:

This message is to detail the plans to meet the instructional needs of our elementary school students going forward for the 2019-2020 academic year.  The guidelines below are based on those set forth by the Virginia Department of Education with regards to continuity of learning in response to the Governor’s decision to close all schools for the remainder of the school year. The emphasis for Albemarle County Public Schools during this time, as always, is to provide quality equitable access to instruction for all students.

Spring break (April 6 – April 10) will continue to be a period of time without academic work expectations for students. Beginning after spring break (April 13 – May 22), all elementary school teachers will be providing learning experiences and resources for students.  Teachers will be providing materials to address new key content/concepts necessary for completion of the grade, focusing on content that is essential for success with your child’s next year’s standards. Our intent during this time is not to overburden our students and families, but to provide hope, engagement, and a measure of normalcy during this period of unprecedented uncertainty.

What to expect:

Weekly learning time: Students should expect teachers to communicate the number of hours per week of learning in Language Arts and Math.  As you can predict, different grade levels will have different requirements of anticipated time. Typically, PK-2 classroom teachers will provide a total of about 60 minutes per day and 3-5 teachers will provide about 80 minutes per day of instructional activities for math and literacy.   Teachers will include optional and extension activities for Social Studies, Science and Essentials. You should receive a weekly plan from your child’s teacher. There is not an expectation that this is full time school. We are focusing on quality over quantity.

SeesawStudents will be provided learning experiences through an online platform called Seesaw.  You will hear from your child’s classroom teacher on how your family will be able to access this exciting resource.

Feedback: Students should expect to receive feedback on all assignments.  Teachers will use Seesaw to share lessons and assignments and provide feedback to students.

Virtual Office Hours: Teachers will continue to communicate with students and have virtual check-in times as a class, in small groups and/or individually.

Accommodations and Additional Supports:  Accommodations and additional supports will be provided as required, to students eligible for special education services (and IEP) or for those students with a Section 504 Plan. Additionally, special educators and related service providers will collaborate with teachers, sharing the available options to support students through available resources as well as through phone, email or virtual conferencing.

Assessments: Students should know that SOL tests will not take place this academic year.

Technology: The school division is working on a plan to distribute IPads to all K-2 students who do not have siblings in grades 3-12 who have already received a school computer. This distribution will take place after spring break.

We are both delighted and honored to be able to continue to serve Red Hill students and families.  We miss the daily, personal contact with your children and know this virtual learning plan does not compare to the learning “at school” experiences we typically offer. Until we can all be together again, we will provide responsive and equitable instruction based on the guidelines outlined above. Be safe and stay healthy!

Sincerely,
Nancy McCullen

Principal
Red Hill Elementary

Highlights from Superintendent’s Visit

Every Monday throughout the school year, our Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Matthew Haas, visits at least one school, center or academy in our school division. He writes about these visits in his weekly email check-in. The email is sent to all 2,647 of our school division employees, as well as our school board and board of supervisors members. On Monday, Dr. Haas spent a good part of the morning at Red Hill Elementary School and his Friday check-in focused on his time with us. I thought I would share the following excerpt with you:

For me, no visit to Red Hill is complete without a quick check-in with the school’s office associates, Casey Powell and Michelle Creasy, and the school nurse, Julie Mendelsohn. I greatly enjoy my talks with these professionals, plus they know the community and have good advice for me on just about any topic.

While I was waiting to visit with Nancy McCullen and Ashley Struzik, a couple came into the school with wrapped presents. We exchanged greetings, but I didn’t ask who they were. I wanted to send them a card, so I asked Casey, and she immediately identified them as George and Gloria Wood from Mount Olivet Church. Our OAs are amazing people!

Nancy and I walked about the school and checked in with several staff and students. During our time, I was very interested in kindergarten/first-grade teacher Beth Kavounas’s problem-solving strategies lesson using engineering and design principles. Students identified a problem based on a story they heard from a farmer (a.k.a., Ms. Kavounas) and then generated and designed solutions. The problem was that a fox was following Rosie the chicken, and the students had to figure out a way to make the fox stop (without hurting him). The lesson was inspired by Ms. Kavounas’s participation in the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning presentation at Making Connections.

We also visited amazing music teacher Tracy Brown’s class. I have stopped by Tracy’s class at Red Hill and Crozet several times, and what I saw on Monday was typical of the upbeat, active, and objective-focused learning that Ms. Brown facilitates in the music room. When Nancy and I observed, she used song, movement, call and response, and plenty of positive reinforcement to teach students how to read music notes and sing a song in two parts.

When we visited Angie Rutherford’s third-grade math class, Mrs. Rutherford, who is also a third through fifth-grade reading intervention teacher, was introducing students to a task that would allow them to practice calculating the area of features on a map. In addition to calculating area, students would use creative thinking and technology skills to produce maps on a grid. It was not surprising to see how eager the students were to begin this task.

My overall impression is that Red Hill is a place with happy and engaged students and staff who take teaching and learning with empathy seriously. Thank you to all the Red Hill staff and students for my visit; I had a lot of fun!

Red Hill staff and students are doing terrific work and I am so glad that Dr. Haas took the time to visit and acknowledge the great things that are happening at our school.

For the Love of Reading

A new school year means that we set goals and priorities to improve our school and learning outcomes for our students.  As a staff, we commit to these goals and identify how we will achieve them in a process that is documented in our 2019-20 School Improvement Plan.  A current draft of this plan is available on our school website.

One of our goals is to develop strong readers who love to read. Some of our strategies include instructional methods that teach specific skills. Others are intended to motivate students to choose reading as a useful and joyful activity. While we work to do what we can at school, we know that the connection between home and school is invaluable.

Year after year, research tells us that having a variety of reading materials available at home, promoting a positive attitude about reading and writing,  as well as spending time reading and discussing reading is associated with reading proficiency. Here are a few specific ways families can promote literacy at home:

  • Tell stories. We all love to hear stories about the people we care about. Talk about a funny, exciting, or other memorable event that happened when you were young. Encourage your child to tell stories. Make up stories together. Capture stories in homemade books, scrapbooks and journals. Spend time reading and re-reading these treasured texts.
  • Make reading special. Take your kids to the library, help them get their own library card, read with them, and buy them books and magazines as gifts. Have a favorite place for reading materials in your home or, even better, have them everywhere, including in the car.
  • Talk about reading. Tell your child about yourself as a reader. Share information that you learned from reading the newspaper or a magazine, paper or digitally. Discuss age-appropriate aspects of books or articles that you are reading. Start a family book club by reading the same book or establishing a regular time to read together. Share your enthusiasm for reading by discussing it over dinner, in the car or anytime you are together.
  • Participate in reading-related opportunities at school. Support nightly reading assignments with enthusiasm, attend events where our partner The Free Book Bus is set up offering a selection of free books for students and their families, visit the Red Hill school library and check out books for yourself or other family members, and shop at the Scholastic Book Fair.

Stay up to date with classroom and school-wide reading initiatives through classroom news, student planners, Tuesday Folder flyers and the Moosletter. If you need reading material or specific suggestions for your child or family, contact your child’s teacher.

 

Superintendent Substitutes at Red Hill

On October 23rd, our Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Matthew Haas, served as a substitute for Tyler Croson, one of our 4th/5th grade teachers. This was a special treat for our students and school!

Every Friday throughout the school year, Dr. Haas, sends an email check-in to all 2,647 of our school division employees, as well as our school board and board of supervisors members. Dr. Haas uses these check-ins to keep us connected as a community of learners. In each check-in, he shares about his weekly visits to schools and his interactions with educators, support staff, and students.

One of Dr. Haas’s recent check-ins focused on his day at Red Hill Elementary School. I thought I would share the following excerpt with you:

I didn’t get out to a school on Monday because I was at the Virginia Association of School Superintendents fall conference; however, I had a great experience substitute teaching for fifth-grade teacher Tyler Croson on Wednesday at Red Hill Elementary School.

To my surprise, fifth graders are a lot like high school students, and I thoroughly enjoyed my day. I think that Tyler and her partner Veronica Brennan are very strong teachers, and the students fell into routines that are built around the four Cs: communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. We had fun reading together, and I was impressed with students’ writing and story-telling skills. And when I forgot how to calculate the area of a triangle, students showed me how and explained why we use one-half the base. (It’s half of a rectangle, Mr. Matt!)

What a great compliment to our terrific staff and students!

Renovation and Gym Addition Plans Move Forward

On Thursday evening the School Board approved the schematic design for the Red Hill addition/renovation project and authorized Moseley Architects to proceed to the Design Development phase. The complete presentation and study materials presented to the Board can be found on the Board’s website. Here are a few slides from the presentation:

 

 

Powerful Learning

As we begin October, I am in awe of how much has been accomplished already. In all of our learning spaces, students have reviewed and been practicing routines and procedures intended to develop habits as caring, safe and productive members of their class and school community. While establishing community and developing learning habits has been and will continue to be a primary focus, students have also been immersed in academic experiences growing their skills as mathematicians, readers, writers, speakers, scientists, historians, citizens, artists, singers, musicians, and fitness enthusiasts. Our school focus this year is on powerful learning experiences that promote the students’ active participation in their learning. Our students have demonstrated that they are up for the challenge!

When not working with students, our teachers have been busy collaborating to develop a shared vision for learning, goals for improvement and plans for powerful learning experiences. This important work began during teacher work days before school started, has continued during teacher planning time and after school meetings, grounded our work on our professional development day on September 21st and will be the primary focus of professional development opportunities throughout the year. At Back to School Night, I introduced our focus on powerful learning experiences and active student participation in their learning. Our multi-age and open classrooms are a perfect match for these two concepts. In addition, they are aligned with our school division vision, “All learners believe in their power to embrace learning, to excel, and to own their future.” Parent-teacher conferences begin next week. A key to the teacher’s ability to plan powerful learning experiences is knowing each child, his/her interests, passions, learning preferences, etc. Your input is invaluable as you know your child best. If you haven’t already scheduled time with your child’s teacher, contact him or her to do so.

While at a professional conference a couple of weeks ago, I heard Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D speak. A scientist, who studies how children learn, Dr. Hirsh-Pasek and a colleague have recently published a book titled Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children. Her presentation affirmed much of work at the state level to define the Profile of a Graduate, broadening expected outcomes for high school students beyond mastery of content knowledge to include critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication and citizenship. For the past two decades Albemarle County Schools has infused these skills in the Division’s mission, School Board priorities and in the related practices in curriculum, assessment and instruction that guide teachers’ in the development of learning experiences that develop Lifelong Learner Competencies. The back cover of the book describes Becoming Brilliant as providing, “a framework for how we should be teaching children in and outside of school.” I am eager to read the book and invite you to join me. The goal of this shared learning would be to engage families in shaping and achieving our shared goals for our children. We discussed this idea at last week’s PTO meeting and those present indicated that they too would like to read the book. We decided to create a book club which will meet on the first Tuesday of each month during the regularly scheduled PTO meetings. Please consider joining. Look for an invitation with more details in this week’s folder.

Welcome to the 2018-19 School Year

In the short time since officially joining the Red Hill community, I have experienced the intense school pride felt by everyone I have met. Whether it be teachers and staff, families or other community members, in person, by phone or by email, it is clear that the community supports the school and that school is central to the identity of the community. It is an honor to be here with all of you.

While school families have hopefully been enjoying a slower pace and more time together, teachers have both enjoyed some R & R and been busy with a variety of activities to support students and to further their own professional development. In June, seven teachers attended the school division’s Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction Institute to deepen their understanding of instructional strategies that lead to powerful learning experiences for our students. Several teachers led our three week summer school program and week-long Kindergarten Jump Start program. Throughout the summer, teachers have opted into numerous professional development opportunities aligned with their interests and the school division’s goals. Mrs. Rondeau opened the library two evenings for book check-out, with one more evening scheduled on August 13th. And most teachers have come to meet with me individually and in groups to share their hopes and dreams and begin planning for the upcoming school year.

Our custodians, Mason and Stephanie, have scrubbed and polished the building from floor to ceiling so we will be ready to welcome teachers back on August 13th and students on August 22nd. Mrs. Cason has been busy in the office closing out the last school year, updating records and registering new  students for the upcoming year. While busily tackling their own lists of things to do, all three have graciously and patiently answered my many questions to help me with the resources and information I have needed to learn about the school. They are truly the linchpins of the smooth functioning of the school and I am grateful for all they do.

While I met several families during summer school, during the open library night in July and through phone calls and visits, there are still many of you who I haven’t met and I am eager to do so. Please know that I look forward to partnering with you to ensure your child’s success. I hope to see all of you at Open House on Monday, August 20th, 4-6PM. In the meantime, do not hesitate to stop by, call or email.

Your principal,

 

Nancy McCullen