• E-News

  • Oct. 23 - Letter to All Families: Updates on Returning to School

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    Our virtual Curriculum Nights are behind us, and although we would much prefer to be back in person, we are navigating and managing the distance learning space very well. We will obviously continue to do our utmost to improve, adapt, and address any challenges or questions your children or you may have. I so enjoyed reading through parents’ and guardians’ positive and upbeat comments on the Middle and Upper School Division Padlets after our last two Wednesday evenings together. I look forward to meeting some of you this coming week during the several times I have made available to connect.

    As I indicated in last Friday’s letter, I want to convey to you what conclusion we have reached regarding distance learning, returning to school and/or a hybrid learning model. Meg’s communication this summer indicated that the first key decision made was to begin the 2020-2021 school year in the distance learning environment through the first trimester, which would have meant a return to school after the Thanksgiving break.

    This past week the Planning and Operations Continuity Committee met twice, one of the times with John B. Lynch MD, MPH, Medical Director of Infection & Control at Harborview Medical Center, and Mithya Lewis-Newby, MD, MPH, Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine Seattle Children’s Hospital, who both have been beyond gracious on multiple occasions since March to share freely of their deep expertise and knowledge of COVID-19, safety, and what lies ahead. To have access to this level of expertise has been beyond invaluable to the committee, the school, and the board.

    As we know, every indicator unfortunately is heading in the wrong direction, and in anticipation that we in the next 6 to 12 weeks, in all likelihood, will see a significant further increase in COVID cases, we have reached the conclusion and decision to remain in the distance learning space through MLK Day, January 18, 2021. The safety, health, and well-being of our community are, of course, of the utmost importance during this pandemic, which presents so many layers of challenge, complexity, and uncertainty.

    We realize that this news will not land positively with everyone, although some will experience a significant sigh of relief. We also realize just how important it is for students and adults to be able to socialize, connect and break away from the current mostly virtual world. We are committed to providing safe, distanced, masked, modest-sized outdoor opportunities for our community.

    It is important for all of us, but particularly for our students – newcomers to our community as well as returning students. Next week we will share our safety procedures, thinking, and plans in more detail regarding any social gatherings for students and/or adults. We have invested in several tents so outdoor activities on campus can take place. We are exploring on-campus COVID-testing for adults and students, and we will continue to monitor and follow all local and state health recommendations.

    Any event we help facilitate and plan on or off campus will, of course, be optional. We understand that everyone’s comfort level and/or circumstances differ a great deal. I am pleased to announce that John. B. Lynch and Mithya Lewis-Newby have agreed to be present at a Town Hall meeting about COVID-19 and the most current information. The Town Hall will take place Tuesday 10/27 at 8:00 PM, via Zoom. Drs. Lynch and Lewis-Newby will present and field questions re: COVID-19, and members of the Planning and Operations Continuity Committee will answer questions re: school and optional social gatherings for students and adults. Our Health Coordinator, Sierra Maxwell, will also be on hand.

    Thank you for your support, flexibility, and patience. I look forward to meeting some of you at tomorrow’s Farm and Garden event. Have a wonderful weekend and expect a communication regarding the upcoming election and how NWS is preparing students and adults.

    Best wishes and in partnership,
    Dennis

    Dennis Bisgaard
    Interim Head of School

  • Oct. 23 - Letter to Upper School Families: Upcoming Social Events

    Dear Upper School Parents and Guardians,

    Another very full week at The Northwest School. I shared at Wednesday’s Curriculum Night opening session about the fantastic range of topics covered just at Community Meeting this week. The meeting started with Dennis sharing a version of the slideshow some of you have seen (this one adapted for students) to introduce himself more fully and invite students into conversation with him. I’ve heard that students are excited to get to know Dennis better. Next was an introduction to the latest Outdoor Program Adventure, an Outdoor Bingo Game that can be completed by everyone, no matter where they live, to encourage folks to get outside. Kevin Alexander, Dean of Students, and Christian Stallworth, Choir Teacher and 9th Grade Coordinator, invited students to participate in a costume contest, and shared information about links to a student video about cultural appropriation in costumes. We then watched a video about the Electoral College, followed by further discussion in Advisory groups. Students grappled with questions such as Do you think the electoral college is a fair and equitable system? Why or why not? Imagine your dream system for Presidential elections. What does it look like? How does it work? How are people able to participate in the voting process? This is a great example of how we are working to reach the various needs and interests of our students. How to have fun, stay healthy, be knowledgeable about all that is going on in the world, and discover ways to actively do so.

    At Curriculum Night, I also shared the Padlet to express gratitude to the Upper School faculty for the amazing work they are doing with your kids. Please take a minute to read the Padlet to see what others have written. Every time I read it, I am moved by the expressions of love and find it inspiring to hear about how online school is being experienced in your homes. This is an extremely challenging situation for everyone, and we are rising to the challenge. It is not too late to add to the messages!

    Here are some additional updates:

    Outdoor Ed Program

    Nathan Franck, 7th Grade Science Teacher and Outdoor Education Coordinator has this update:

    The NWS Outdoor Program is currently drafting COVID-19 guidelines for resuming in-person experiences. With guidance from our Health Coordinator, King County, and the State of Washington, we have determined that it is safe to resume in-person day experiences. Overnight experiences are still suspended, but we will continue to assess their feasibility and safety as COVID-19 rates change.

    We are excited to announce that we have added a few bonus trips in the upcoming months! We did not originally have trips planned for November, December, or January, of this school year. The first bonus trip is a day hike on November 21 and/or 22. This trip will be small in participant number and close to or in Seattle. After implementing this trip, we will assess how well our Outdoor Program COVID-19 Guidelines worked and make any necessary adjustments for future in-person experiences. We are aiming for adding a day hike or bike ride in either December or January. The previously-scheduled trips for winter and spring are still on the calendar, although their details may change.

    Social Gatherings

    The Grade Levels are planning a variety of social gatherings in the upcoming days. Ninth and 10th Grades are planning shared movie nights, the 11th Grade is hosting a game night tonight, and 12th Grade held a late afternoon Meet-Up. All of these are in the late afternoon or evening so that classmates around the globe can participate. Please encourage your kids to join these gatherings.

    Until we are able to fully return to campus we will continue to expand our in-person small group offerings that are both in line with our safety measures and in response to the data received from parents, guardians, students, and faculty. If you have not completed the survey, please do so.

    Upcoming Election Opportunities Next week during Community Meeting and Advisory we will be learning about voter turnout and voter suppression in the United States. If you’re interested in learning more, in advance of next week, consider watching Selma: Bridge to the Ballot, or listening to The Economist Podcast, “Where does power lie in America?” interview with Stacey Abrams. As always, head over to the Civics & Swing States program website for additional resources for learning about elections in the United States.

    Communication In an attempt to offer more clarity about our communication protocols and expectations we have created a graphic that can be found on the website here. Hopefully, you will find this useful.

    Mid-trimester feedback should have come your way this week if your student is in 9th grade, is new to the school, has an LSP, or is struggling in any classes. If you are ever wondering about how your student is doing, please reach out to their advisor.

    Grade Level Coordinators are sending an email about what they have been doing as a grade-level team. We hope to send those each trimester to keep you informed.

    I realize we are sending out a lot of material, and I hope you find it useful to have a better sense of what we are doing and all the exciting things your kids are experiencing.

    Be well,
    Amy

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here.

  • Oct. 23 - Letter to Middle School Families: Updates from the Week

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    Thank you to those of you who shared words (and some pictures!) of appreciation with Middle School faculty on this Padlet. If anyone would like to add to it, there’s still time. I will share it with faculty on Monday. Also, the survey about remote learning is open until Monday and we’d love to hear from all parents/guardians.

    Here are some updates:

    Middle School Athletics

    We are excited to announce that we will begin to offer in-person cross country practice opportunities starting the week of October 26th. We have chosen to begin with cross country because this activity falls into the lowest risk category as determined by the WIAA. We will be partnering with our Upper School Cross Country Program and coaches Lulu and Rachel. This opportunity is open to ANY Middle School student who is interested. Please have your student contact Lulu Hayes to sign up for practices.

    We will continue to assess our ability to add opportunities for Middle School students as we progress through Trimester 1.

    Outdoor Ed Program

    Nathan Franck, 7th Grade Science Teacher and Outdoor Education Coordinator, has this update:

    The NWS Outdoor Program is currently drafting COVID-19 guidelines for resuming in-person experiences. With guidance from our Health Coordinator, King County, and the State of Washington, we have determined that it is safe to resume in-person day experiences. Overnight experiences are still suspended, but we will continue to assess their feasibility and safety as COVID-19 rates change.

    We are excited to announce that we have added a few bonus trips in the upcoming months! We did not originally have trips planned for November, December, or January, of this school year. The first bonus trip is a day hike on November 21 and/or 22. This trip will be small in participant number and close to or in Seattle. After implementing this trip, we will assess how well our Outdoor Program COVID-19 Guidelines worked and make any necessary adjustments for future in-person experiences. We are aiming for adding a day hike or bike ride in either December or January. The previously scheduled trips for winter and spring are still on the calendar, although their details may change.

    Sign-up details will be on the Outdoor Program website about two weeks prior to each trip. If you have questions, email Nathan Franck.

    We will continue to expand our in-person small-group offerings that are both in line with our safety measures and in response to the data received from parents, guardians, students, and faculty. So again, if you haven’t completed the survey linked above, please do so.

    Upcoming Election

    This week during Community Meeting, as part of our schoolwide efforts to engage in the 2020 election, students and faculty learned about the electoral college. We watched a short video together as a school, and then moved into Advisory for smaller group conversations. Discussion questions included: Do you think the electoral college is a fair and equitable system? Why or why not? Imagine your dream system for Presidential elections. What does it look like? How does it work? How are people able to participate in the voting process?

    Next week during Community Meeting and Advisory we will be learning about voter turnout and voter suppression in the United States. If you’re interested in learning more, in advance of next week, consider watching Selma: Bridge to the Ballot, or listening to The Economist Podcast, “Where does power lie in America?” interview with Stacey Abrams. As always, head over to the Civics & Swing States program website for additional resources for learning about elections in the United States.

    Middle School Owned Laptops

    When Middle School students received their laptops, they were introduced to, reviewed, and agreed to a Responsible Use Agreement. Use the link to review the full document. Now that we are in the middle of the trimester, let me invite you to ask your student about what they are doing to take care of their laptop and how they are using both the hardware and the software responsibly.

    The word of the week was a lofty one: integrity. I’m a Brené Brown fan and shared this quote during Morning Meeting on Monday,

    Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.

    Brené Brown

    We will continue to offer lofty intentions like integrity while trying to ground them or couple them with intentions like self-compassion and curiosity.

    Yours on the journey,
    Sue

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here.

  • Oct. 16 - Letter to All Families: Remote Learning Successes

    Dear Northwest Parents and Guardians,

    What a pleasure it has been to serve as this school’s Director of Educational Technology during remote learning. As a doctoral student in instructional design for online learning, I find myself in the fascinating position of attending classes by night on research-based online teaching strategies, and witnessing by day, our teaching faculty implementing these same practices in their classrooms. I wanted to take this opportunity to lift up some of the best practices that I’ve seen, firsthand, by our innovative teaching faculty. With this week marking the midway point of Trimester 1, I think this is a perfect moment to celebrate some of the best of what we have all achieved.

    Seamless Scheduling

    Teaching faculty have mastered the Zoom integration feature in Canvas so that students receive all their meetings for academic classes on one calendar. In addition, classwork is being assigned so that students can see the due dates for assignments, discussions, and quizzes all in one place. Teaching faculty have taken the guess work out of the online school game to focus on learning.

    Frequent Feedback

    Teaching faculty have received professional development that focused on disseminating timely and meaningful feedback using the Canvas gradebook. By embracing the iterative and epistemic nature of feedback, teachers are stimulating and involving learners to engage in a dialogue around the how and why of their learning.

    Constant Communication

    Teaching faculty have incorporated a new Canvas online tool, Grade Guardian, into their practice so that advisors and allies can better meet the needs of their advisees. Data on missing assignments are now at the fingertips of a multitude of supporting adults, and mid-trimester feedback has been both simplified and enhanced through the integration of this new datavisualizing tool.

    Awesome Activities

    Teaching faculty have stepped up to deliver killer content in stunning multimedia, using online tools. Students are encouraged to lend their voices through colorful social walls and quirky video grids embedded on the Canvas platform. Interactive Zoom lessons complement rigorous collaborative assignments, and teachers are assessing student understanding at regular checkpoints through online quizzes, surveys, and presentations. Teachers have raised the bar during these times to ensure that students are designing, presenting, and publishing in visible ways.

    Dynamic Designs

    I have visited all of the Canvas course rooms and many, many Zoom meetings. The one commonality that I’ve found across all of the various subjects and grade levels at The Northwest School is a tireless teaching faculty who have invested their evenings and weekends revising, strategizing, and prototyping to make online learning work for students. Our teachers have taken it upon themselves to embrace change, to ideate and collaborate with each other from their kitchen tables, and to push themselves to become better teachers.

    If you can’t tell already, I feel so lucky to have been hired to work at this school. I would like to end by quoting a member of our amazing teaching faculty who asked me to meet with him to give my two cents on his already impressive and intuitive online course design:

    “Here’s the thing, if all this hadn’t happened, I would have continued to teach the same way for the rest of my career. I see this as a year of free professional development. I am so much of a better teacher today than I was this time last year. I will never go back to the way things were.”

    Thank you,
    Zach

    Zach Groshell
    Director of Educational Technology

  • Oct. 16 - Letter to Upper School Families: Sharing Gratitude

    Dear Upper School Parents and Guardians,

    It was so fun to see so many of you at Curriculum Night on Wednesday. I miss seeing you around campus and on the sports fields so it was great to have a few minutes together. We get to do it again next Wednesday when we will experience the second half of the schedule, blocks E, F, G and H. I kept the Zoom call open throughout the evening and a few parents and guardians popped in. We were able to have a quick “hallway” chat. Please feel free to do that this Wednesday, too.

    One of the things we’ve been talking about with students is the benefits of sharing gratitude. When we express gratitude, we benefit ourselves and those we share it with. I am grateful for this community of students, parents, and educators, and the partnership we share in helping students grow into passionate, thoughtful, engaged citizens of the world. I appreciate my colleagues at Northwest and the deep care and commitment they bring to this work. I hope you were able to experience some of the magic they create with your students on curriculum night or as you’ve engaged with different members of our support faculty this fall. I have included a Padlet here, and invite you to share your gratitude or appreciation for Northwest Teaching and Support Faculty, and I will share it with them. I know that many of you have reached out to individuals to express your appreciation for their work with your students, and I don’t want to discourage you from doing that, but I think it will be powerful to also collect your sentiments here for all to see. Plus, you will get to learn one of the technologies your students are using regularly.

    Mid-trimester Feedback

    I wrote last week that we are nearing the middle of the trimester, a time that we intentionally guide students to reflect on their academic progress, and a time that advisors communicate with the parents and guardians of new students to the Upper School, students who have a Learning Support Plan (LSP), and any students of concern. Gradebooks and mid-trimester comments will be updated by the end of the day. Advisors will reach out next week to the parents and guardians of the student groups mentioned above.

    Upcoming Election

    We will be utilizing Community Meeting and Advisory in the week prior and after the election to engage and support our community during what feels like a historic event. Jenny Cooper, who has been running the Civics and Swing States course offered to the community, shares this today to support you in engaging in conversations about the election at home.

    The 2020 election is one of the most important of our lifetimes, and its outcomes will disproportionately impact the futures of our students—in relation to racial justice, climate change, public health, and beyond. It will also disproportionately impact the lives and futures of Black, indigenous, and people of color in this country and around the world.

    Election Day is just under two weeks from now, early voting has already started in states across the country, and ballots drop in Seattle this week. I encourage everyone who is eligible to vote, to be sure you’re registered, and to be sure to cast your vote. Every vote counts, and our democracy depends on our individual and collective participation. You can check your voter registration here.

    We will be having elections-related Community Meetings and Advisory discussions on October 21 and 28, and November 4 to create space for learning, dialogue, curiosity, processing, and action. Our time together on October 21 will focus on the electoral college; subsequent community discussions will focus on voter suppression and voter justice, how to constructively engage in elections and civics more generally. In the meantime, I invite you to look through the government and elections resources on the Civics & Swing States program website.

    Gift of Time for Seniors

    The following message was shared with the seniors:

    The 12th grade faculty team, in conjunction with administration, have decided that all seniors will have the day off from school on Wednesday, October 21st. We know that you are diligently working, training, reading, writing and going to way too many Zoom calls and meetings. We want you to have a day when you can get caught up, finish up essays, finalize that application, sleep in, go for a long walk, and have a day with a little less busyness. That evening from 6-8pm is also the FINAL College Application Work Party before early application deadlines. We hope you can use this as a day to knock as much as you can off your college lists and come back to school with mental space a little clearer and energized. You do not need to go to Community Meeting or Advisory, but you are welcome to join in anywhere, especially affinity groups and college visits scheduled that day.

    Faculty Update

    Meg Goldner Rabinowitz is on Medical Leave. While she is away, please contact me or Dennis Bisgaard, Interim Head of School, for things you would typically reach out to Meg for.

    With gratitude for your partnership,

    Amy

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here.

  • Oct. 16 - Letter to Middle School Families: Opportunities for Connections

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    I hope that you have already read Dennis Bisgaard’s and Zach Groshell’s Friday communications. I am already feeling the benefits of Dennis’ insights and leadership experience as we update our response to the pandemic and continue to work towards connection, continuity, and community in our Middle School program. Zach, as Director of Educational Technology, has also been an amazing thought partner and support to teachers, and I hope you were able to glimpse in-person during Curriculum Night some of the opportunities he wrote about in remote learning.

    I have shared in the past that I am a regular reader of the weekly Tech Talk Tuesday resource from Delaney Ruston, creator of the film Screenagers. This week’s Tech Talk Tuesday newsletter focuses on friendships and socializing digitally. Dr. Ruston writes, “So often, I hear adults say things such as, ‘Social skills really only happen when kids are in person with others.’ I strongly feel that it is not either-or. Being mindful and skillful at how one relates to people online is very important. In-person skills and online skills share similarities and have many differences. Discussing the ways that they are similar and different is key.”

    I encourage you to read the full newsletter because the socialization challenge that we are collectively facing due to the physical distancing required in a pandemic response is, and will continue to be, the toughest nut to crack. While I continue to be grateful and amazed at the ways our teachers have brought vibrancy and substantive learning opportunities to remote learning, I also acknowledge that our students need support in building and maintaining relationships and more opportunities to connect. Until enough of us have been vaccinated or are immune, though, physical distancing and mask wearing and a different level of attentiveness to ourselves in space will be barriers to the full socialization benefits we get from being in each other’s presence. While we are working on how to provide more in-person experiences for students, we will also need to keep utilizing digital platforms to facilitate connections between students and between students and teachers. Here is an update on opportunities for connection that Maria Moses shared in her Friday communication a couple of weeks ago:

    • Interest groups every Thursday from 2:35 to 3:30. More middle schoolers have started groups! Also, the 6th grade team has and will continue to facilitate students naming their hobbies/interests and making connections based on those interests.
    • Jenny Cooper, Director of Environment Education and Sustainability, will be coming to Morning Meeting on Monday to encourage Middle School students to participate in the Farm/Garden Volunteer Day on October 24th as announced in this week’s E-news. Students need to sign up in advance and the deadline is Wednesday, October 21st.

    Next Friday, I will give an update on Middle School athletics and outdoor-ed opportunities.

    Mid-trimester Feedback

    I wrote last week that we are nearing the middle of the trimester, a time that we intentionally guide students to reflect on their academic progress, and a time that advisors communicate with the parents and guardians of new students to the school, students who have a Learning Support Plan (LSP), and any students of concern. Gradebooks and mid-trimester comments will be updated by the end of the day. Advisors will reach out next week to the parents and guardians of the student groups mentioned above.

    Upcoming Election

    We will be utilizing Community Meeting and Advisory in the week prior and after the election to engage and support our community during what feels like a historic event. Jenny Cooper, who has been running the Civics and Swing States course open to the entire community, offers this today to support you in engaging in conversations about the election at home.

    The 2020 election is one of the most important of our lifetimes, and its outcomes will disproportionately impact the futures of our students—in relation to racial justice, climate change, public health, and beyond. It will also disproportionately impact the lives and futures of Black, indigenous, and people of color in this country and around the world.

    Election Day is just under two weeks from now, early voting has already started in states across the country, and ballots drop in Seattle this week. I encourage everyone who is eligible to vote, to be sure you’re registered, and to be sure to cast your vote. Every vote counts, and our democracy depends on our individual and collective participation. You can check your voter registration here.

    We will be having elections-related Community Meetings and Advisory discussions on October 21 and 28, and November 4 to create space for learning, dialogue, curiosity, processing, and action. Our time together on October 21 will focus on the electoral college; subsequent community discussions will focus on voter suppression and voter justice, how to constructively engage in elections and civics more generally. In the meantime, I invite you to look through the government and elections resources on the Civics & Swing States program website.

    Faculty Update

    Meg Goldner Rabinowitz is on Medical Leave. While she is away, please contact me or Dennis Bisgaard, Interim Head of School, for things you would typically reach out to Meg for.

    Last week, I shared how our word of the last two weeks was “gratitude” and encouraged the intention of practicing gratitude. If you would like to express gratitude for our teachers or support faculty, you can so on this Padlet. Not only will this gesture support your well-being, you will have a chance to engage with one of the technologies your students utilize regularly!

    Yours on the journey,

    Sue

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here

  • Oct. 16 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Looking Forward

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    Another week has slipped by as I continue my “Virtual Learning Walk” through the school, absorbing Northwest one conversation, one meeting, one experience, and one document at a time. Although we as a community find ourselves spread out and mostly away from one another, all my interactions have signaled a level of excitement, enthusiasm, leaning in, and high hopes. I have been able to share a little of myself and my background with families and faculty, and soon will do the same with all students.

    I have had the genuine pleasure to meet some of you in person: seniors taking the SAT, a Middle School student who had to pick up sheet music; parents who dropped by for the annual “Dough and Joe” – Thank you for your generosity! I have covered DIG (Drawing Interest Group) although the five Middle Schools students were far more talented than I, and one of our international students interviewed me for a project on the current civil unrest for one of her classes.

    Her questions were thoughtful, deep, and culturally nuanced. Although we represent quite different ages and come from very different parts of the globe, our early immigrant experiences were quite similar as we, after the official interview, shared anecdotes and hindsight laughter about how we initially navigated a new language, a new culture, unfamiliarity, often feeling like the outsider without a GPS or any framing guard rails, no compass. Maybe some new students and parents feel a bit like that themselves. Especially during these times away from campus, if you are a returning family please reach out, share your maps and introduce your children to each other. It may be a little awkward at first, but forging connections is so important right now.

    Wednesday during the first half of two Curriculum Nights, you were able to meet, greet and hear from your children’s teachers and got a glimpse into their classroom and learning experiences. I marvel at the deep commitment and quality of our teachers I have already witnessed, the sheer passion for their subject matter and students, and their deep commitment to providing an excellent education under challenging circumstances. I hope you understand and recognize just how hard it is to do so in the distance learning space. The amount of planning, preparing, executing through new tech tools and platforms before classes even launch is quite exhausting to even think about.

    Yet faculty roll up their sleeves and do their utmost to keep students engaged while being mindful of their mental health as well as their potential struggles. Of course, we are particularly mindful of students for whom the distance learning space may be disproportionally more challenging, and we will continue to home in on how best to support everyone to make the experience as positive and meaningful as humanly possible. During Friday’s PD Day, faculty displayed their versatility, depth and breadth by teaching each other – as we all know, the best teacher is a life-long learner.

    As Amy pointed out in her introductory remarks, not all is bad or difficult in the virtual space: parents and guardians did not have to deal with heavy traffic to get to Curriculum Night, no difficulty finding parking, and no getting lost on campus trying to find Fannie Brice or other spaces. Until I found out myself very recently, I wondered why I had not seen Fanny Brice on any of the current faculty lists! Next Wednesday, I will join Sue and Middle School parents during your second opening session.

    As I indicated Wednesday night, I am eager to meet and hear from parents directly and next Friday will provide some dates and times for “coffees” or “fireside chats.”

    In next Friday’s communication it is also my sincere hope that I, on behalf of the school, can convey to you what is on the horizon post trimester one. I know you wonder about what may happen after the Thanksgiving break. Will we be able to return to school? Will we transition to a hybrid model? Will we be forced to continue in the distance learning space a while longer? What should we anticipate? Plan for?

    I must tell you how impressed I have been with the careful and deliberate work of an internal group that has met for months on a weekly basis, supported by the board as well as knowledgeable experts. Hiring a health coordinator through a strategic partnership to help us navigate the multiple layers of complexity of COVID-19 has been just one of the concrete results that will benefit us all. In my short time here, I have already attended three meetings of the Planning & Operations Continuity Committee whose purpose and mission you will find below.

    • Purpose: this committee serves as the guiding coalition working to deliver on the education program, while navigating the complexities of safely re-opening the campus.
    • Mission: specific to this pandemic crisis and in the spirit of uniting the leadership team and community in this unique moment, we aim to:
      • provide the best academic experience
      • prioritize safety above all else
      • prioritize community through all that we do
      • no interruptions to mission- essential functions

    I belong to several local, state, and national head of school list serves, and the heads from across Washington state currently meet weekly. As you can imagine, the number-one topic on everyone’s mind is how to “do school during the pandemic?” NAIS provides good insights and guidance, as do local and state governments and health organizations, yet it is just impossible to fully predict the future. As numbers currently are on the rise in King County and yesterday reached 92 of 100,000 – above the 75 threshold and far off from the target goal of under 25 – the introductory paragraph under NAIS COVID-19 section reads:

    “This situation is evolving by the hour. Every school is struggling with what decisions are the “right” ones to make and, in many instances, we may not know what is “right” until we have the benefit of hindsight. Even then, we may not know. With that in mind, the “right” decision is one that considers public health guidance, the law, your school’s mission and culture, and your community’s safety. What is “right” for one school may not be right for another.”

    We all much prefer to be in school, yet safety, health, and the well-being of our community will clearly always be the key priority. Yet, we are also quite conscious about the desire and need for students who by nature are social beings and thrive on connections to be together. As you likely are aware, some modified and safe sports practices are currently taking place following all guidelines and precautions. Some of our older students have taken the ACT and SAT in small groups wearing masks, safely and far apart. These gatherings and times together have been positive and welcome breaks and even seeming moments of normalcy for students and adults. We are currently exploring safe, smaller social options for both younger and older students to gather and be together. Outside is the likely place to do so, and more information will follow in the very near future. Later in this mailing you will find a survey to families to help us further understand needs, hopes, and worries. We will send a similar survey to all faculty as well.

    Let me end with an image from my rooftop. I live very close to the school because I think proximity serves me well as I take it all in. I love to go for long walks, although I am not used to Seattle-kind-of-hills. Walking back from the Aquarium the other day, I thought, Oh, my goodness, I could use a rope and pick at this point! The last several days the late afternoons have been gorgeous, and the view from the 17th floor rooftop is spectacular on a clear day. I do understand that not all days in Seattle are clear, and certainly when I visited during the heaviest smoke not long ago, there was no visibility at all. Yet the mountains and the beauty, whether visible or not, is a permanent presence. The pandemic, some uncertainty and recent complexities is the smoke, grey clouds, the blurry horizon. Yet, I already sense that the vision, core values, and impact that a Northwest education represents is still right there. The pandemic will end, the clouds will dissipate, and clear skies will once again allow our community to be seen in its full display.

    Thank you and in partnership,

    Dennis

    Dennis Bisgaard
    Interim Head of School

  • Oct. 9 - Letter to Upper School Families: Useful Tools

    Dear Upper School Parents and Guardians,

    One of the things I miss the most about in-person schooling is the opportunity for impromptu interactions that give us the chance to see each other more fully and build connection. With Zoom, all our shared time together has to be planned for and scheduled. I find I miss the spontaneity and play that happens easier in person. I appreciate the ways we are learning to adapt to this loss by our sharing of pictures. If you are not following the school’s various Instagram accounts, I strongly encourage you to do so. I took the plunge into this form of social media last spring and the images shared by our Dining Services Team, Athletics Program, Environmental Sustainability Program, and other programs give me some of that sense of connection.

    Another tool we’ve been using is Padlet, and I want to share the Padlets that have been created after the Great NWS Campout and Drop Everything and Read this last week. The images of our community engaging in our shared sense of learning and wonder sustain me in these challenging times.

    Here is some information on important happenings over the next couple of weeks and in response to questions raised. Dennis Bisgaard, our new Interim Head of School, will be communicating with the community on our work and progress of readying the building and program for a transition to some in-person instruction and the criteria we are using to determine the timeline for doing so.

    Mid-trimester Feedback We are nearing the middle of the trimester, a time that we intentionally guide students to reflect on their academic progress and a time that advisors communicate with the parents and guardians of new students to the Upper School, students who have a Learning Support Plan (LSP), and any students of concern. Teachers are working on getting their grade books on Canvas updated so that advisors can collect the data there to share with parents and guardians.

    If you are curious about your student’s academic progress, ask them to share the information available to them through Canvas. This is a powerful tool for sharing information about student learning and progress. If your student has questions about information on Canvas, they can ask their teacher or advisor for help.

    Curriculum Nights begin next week. I hope you will join us for Curriculum Night the next two Wednesdays. It is a great way for you to hear directly from the teachers about their classes and put a name to a face. Curriculum Nights are scheduled for Wednesday, October 14th and Wednesday, October 21st. The classes your students engage in on Mondays and Thursdays will be presented on the 14th, and their Tuesdays and Fridays classes on the 21st. Since Humanities in grades 9-11 is a double course, and because the Humanities department presented to the community this last week, those teachers will present on one of the two evenings. Your individualized schedule will be sent through email from the registrar’s office closer to the event.

    Library Book Delivery The librarians, Charlotte King-Mills and Alicia Kalan, made the following announcement at Community Meeting this week. It is another example of the creative and thoughtful ways our entire community is working together to support and engage our students.

    The Northwest School Library is excited to announce that our book delivery service will kick off the week of October 19th! Books can be picked up, along with your dinners, at locations across the city. Space is limited on each route, so get your requests in early. Fill out this survey with either specific titles that you’d like (browse the catalog first to see if they are a part of our collection) or tell us a bit about your reading habits so the librarians can pick out books for you, based on your preferences. The survey needs to be completed by Sunday, October 11th. You’ll receive an e-mail reminder the day of your pickup. Note: This won't be a weekly service. The next book delivery will be the week of November 9th.
    Survey Link
    Library Catalog

    As a school, we will celebrate and honor Indigenous People’s Day on Monday and are not holding classes. Maria Moses, Middle School Dean of Students, shared this reflection on the importance of the day with middle schoolers this week, and I would like to share it with you here.

    Enjoy the blustery fall weekend, Amy

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here.

  • Oct. 9 - Letter to Middle School Families: Gratitude

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    Our word of the week, or rather two weeks since we won’t have Morning Meeting on Monday, is gratitude. School Counselor Erin North shared with students that an intentional practice of naming the things that you are grateful for, and either writing those down or expressing them in some way over the course of two weeks, has shown to increase a sense of well-being. Expressing gratitude is an act of protest against disillusionment and despair. So, let’s all engage in what feels like a defiant act and look for those words, actions, or moments that have impacted us positively. I’m grateful for the sunshine that has been out more than once this week. I’m grateful to the 6th grader who led his advisory group in exercising during Thursday morning check-in. I’m grateful for the thought and care that Middle School teachers brought to our grade-level meetings this week, as they do each week, collaborating on how best to offer our students connection and continuity. I’m grateful to the parents and guardians who agreed to act as Leads for the Parent Guardian Association and will serve as another connection for all parents and guardians to the school. I could go on and on, because I really do have a lot to be grateful for.

    Here is some information on important happenings over the next couple of weeks and in response to questions raised. Dennis Bisgaard, our new Interim Head of School, will be communicating with the community on our work and progress of readying the building and program for a transition to some in-person instruction and the criteria we are using to determine the timeline for doing so.

    Mid-trimester Feedback We are nearing the middle of the trimester, a time that we intentionally guide students to reflect on their academic progress and a time that advisors communicate with the parents and guardians of new students to the school, students who have a Learning Support Plan (LSP), and any students of concern. Teachers are working on getting their grade books on Canvas updated so that advisors can collect the data there to share with parents and guardians. Gradebooks are expected to be updated by next Friday. During the week of October 19, advisors will start to reach out to the parents and guardians of the student groups mentioned above.

    If you are the parent/guardian of a student in one of the categories above or are just curious about your student’s academic progress, ask your child to share the information available to them through Canvas. Ask questions about what is represented in the grade book section and how your student is using the data. If your student has questions or doesn’t understand any information there, encourage them to reach out directly to their teachers (they can message them through Canvas) or their advisor if they need some support in connecting. Remember that we want to center students in managing their learning; we believe that students gain valuable practice and agency when they communicate with their teachers around questions or concerns.

    Curriculum Nights begin next week. I wrote this last week, but thought I’d offer it again: Remote learning is not a replication of the program we can offer in the “House,” but we are working hard to educate the whole student, staying relational as well as academic. I hope you will be able to attend both Curriculum Nights now scheduled for Wednesday, October 14 and Wednesday, October 21. The four classes your students engage in on Mondays and Thursdays will be presented on the 14th, and three of the four classes your students engage in on Tuesdays and Fridays will be presented on the 21st. Since Humanities is a double course, and because the Humanities department presented to the community this last week (here is the recording of that event), Humanities will not be part of the schedule on the 21st. Your individualized schedule will be sent through email from the registrar’s office.

    Middle School Athletics Unlike the Upper School, our athletics program is usually incorporated within our PE Health and Wellness Program. With beginning the school year remotely, and with athletic guidelines prohibiting team sports, our current PE Health and Wellness offerings do not include team sports. Now that restrictions have eased and Upper School has begun to offer practices, the Middle School is exploring how we can offer opt-in after-school opportunities in conjunction with the Upper School or as separate Middle School practices. These would be limited to practices as there is still no Middle School athletic competition happening in this phase of the pandemic response.

    Getting an actual library book to read! I want to highlight the following from this week’s E-news because of my hope that middle schoolers will check out actual library books and take a break from their screens to read them!

    The Northwest School Library is excited to announce that our book delivery service will kick off the week of October 19th! Books can be picked up, along with your dinners, at locations across the city. Space is limited on each route, so get your requests in early. Fill out this survey with either specific titles that you’d like (browse the catalog first to see if they are a part of our collection) or tell us a bit about your reading habits so the librarians can pick out books for you, based on your preferences. The survey needs to be completed by Sunday, October 11th. You’ll receive an e-mail reminder the day of your pick-up.
    Note: This won't be a weekly service. The next book delivery will be the week of November 9th.
    Survey Link
    Library Catalog

    Lastly, we will celebrate and honor Indigenous People’s Day on Monday. Maria Moses, Middle School Dean of Students, shared this reflection on the importance of the day with middle schoolers.

    Warmly, Sue

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here.

  • Oct. 2 - Letter to Upper School Families: Plans for Curriculum Nights

    Dear Upper School Families,

    Yesterday, we began our Upper School Faculty Meeting by sharing shout-outs and appreciation for each other. It was beautiful to hear the outpouring of thanks for the support, collaboration, and partnership the faculty are feeling with each other, and the enthusiasm they are feeling about their work with your kids. At this time of perpetual challenge and ongoing discouraging news, it is important to find moments to celebrate and acknowledge gratitude.

    This week, many of our student athletes started “summer” sports practices. It was exciting to see kids running and playing together, while following our closely designed safety protocols. Another opportunity to get out and be healthy is The Great NWS Campout 2020 that begins today! The idea is that you don’t have to go far, but any meaningful experience with the natural world or the outdoors will benefit your well-being and can be shared. Share your experience with the community on this padlet!

    Many of you attended the Humanities information night on Wednesday. I was so inspired by the Humanities teachers and their passion for helping our students make sense of the world. Their passion was infectious. If you were not able to attend, you can watch it here. You will be able to meet the rest of your student’s teachers at the Curriculum Nights now scheduled for Wednesday, October 14th and Wednesday, October 21st. The classes your students engage in on Mondays and Thursdays will be presented on the 14th, and their Tuesdays and Fridays classes on the 21st. Since Humanities in grades 9-11 is a double course, and because the Humanities department presented to the community this last week, those teachers will present on one of the two evenings. Your individualized schedule will be sent through email from the registrar’s office closer to the event.

    One last reminder: there will be no school for students on Friday, October 9th (professional development day for teachers) and Monday, October 12th (Indigenous People’s Day).

    Warmly, Amy

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here.

  • Oct. 2 - Letter to Middle School Families: Plans for Curriculum Nights

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    Screenshot%202020-10-02%20135704.jpg

    Picture taken in the Upper Hall

    Thanks to Maria Moses, Middle School Dean of Students, for writing the Friday communication to Middle School families last week. Maria also chose the word of the week for this week, which was “celebrate.” In the middle of a pandemic, on-going protests, and a week that included a demoralizing presidential debate, you may be wondering why in the world we set celebration as an intention.

    Maria shared with the students during Morning Meeting on Monday that this week included Yom Kippur, one of the Jewish High Holidays, which many students and faculty observed on Monday. The International Student Union, which includes students studying remotely from their home countries, presented during Community Meeting on the Mid-autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, a national and widely celebrated holiday in various Asian countries. Last week, Latin American Union presented on Hispanic Heritage Month and celebrated numerous influential Hispanic figures throughout history and their positive impact on the world. We shared with the students that to create and maintain a culture of care and belonging, our continual goal at Northwest, we must learn about, celebrate, and commit to honoring and respecting our differences – from our racial identities to our religions, countries of origin, heritages, and more.

    A strong tide that we work to swim against in working with middle school students is their fear of being different. We reinforce the message in various parts of the program, even remotely, that by learning about our differences, we begin to become more aware that our “normal” is not someone else’s “normal.” When we become aware of that truth, we can disrupt assumptions that we make about other people. And we can live more fully into our unique selves. Celebrating, recognizing, honoring, and respecting our differences is also one key component for disrupting the creation of any hierarchy of differences.

    Remote learning is not a replication of the program we can offer in the “House,” but we are working hard to educate the whole student, staying relational as well as academic. I hope you will be able to attend both Curriculum Nights now scheduled for Wednesday, October 14 and Wednesday, October 21. The four classes your students engage in on Mondays and Thursdays will be presented on the 14th, and three of the four classes your students engage in on Tuesdays and Fridays will be presented on the 21st. Since Humanities is a double course, and because the Humanities department presented to the community this last week, Humanities will not be part of the schedule on the 21st. Your individualized schedule will be sent through email from the registrar’s office.

    One last reminder: there will be no school for students on Friday, October 9th (professional development day for teachers) and Monday, October 12th (Indigenous People’s Day).

    Warmly, Sue

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here.

  • Sept. 25 - Letter to Upper School Families: Opportunities for Building Connections

    Dear Upper School Families,

    In conversations with students this week, I was excited to hear their enthusiasm for their classes. What I found particularly encouraging was that each student I asked about the class they were most excited about mentioned a different discipline. They mentioned math, science, humanities, Spoken Word, dance, and band. The creativity and work teachers put into redesigning their curriculum over the summer are being realized. Kids are engaging with the material and each other in inspiring ways.

    This week was also filled with powerful engagement outside the classroom. I hope you had the opportunity to watch the called Community Meeting Thursday morning after the painful news of the grand jury in Kentucky deciding no police officer would be criminally charged with the murder of Breonna Taylor. If you have not watched it, I encourage you to do so here. I feel it is a powerful demonstration of our values as a school and our commitment to caring for our community.

    We are committed to offering our students ways to engage meaningfully and powerfully in the world around them. In addition to the Climate Speaker Series and Civic & Swing States course that began this week, students were introduced to the Outdoor Program and the importance of getting into nature, particularly in this time of remote learning. Please watch this introduction to the Outdoor Program that was shared with students this week, and read below for information specific to the Campout. Students also were introduced to more interest and affinity groups. They viewed videos made by the Latin American Union describing National Hispanic Heritage Month and the Jewish Student Union describing the High Holidays. To see more of the videos and announcements shared at Community Meeting, ask your child to share the Community Meeting Padlet in their Advisory Canvas.

    The Upper School Parent Guardian Association was hard at work this week delivering packages to all our local 9th graders. A team of parents and guardians coordinated with the 9th Grade Faculty Team and Kevin Alexander, Dean of Students, to deliver a special gift bag along with the letter-writing exercise students would normally have done at the fall 9th Grade Trip. This letter to themselves will be saved and given back to students their senior year, shortly before graduation. A similar packet is now being prepared for our abroad 9th graders. It is fantastic to have the PGA and faculty working together to support the kids.

    Along with the dinner delivery this week, most students received a gift bag from the school. If you did not get yours, it will hopefully be included next week. Juniors also received their Chemistry kits, and next week, Biology and Arts kits should go out. If your chemistry student has not received a kit, please have them check in with their teacher.

    Below you will find updates and information you may find useful.

    Curriculum Night

    We are redesigning Curriculum Night so it will better serve our needs in this remote circumstance. We have divided the experience into two parts, which will be split between October 14th and October 21st, from 7:00-9:00 pm. The schedule will be divided with classes in Blocks A-D meeting on the 14th and Blocks E-H on the 21st. This is different from the previously published discreet MS and US nights. More information will follow.

    Opportunities for Building Connections

    Interest Groups Interest groups officially launched this week, and many of these groups presented who they are and what they do during Wednesday’s Community Meeting. Interest groups are inclusive groups formed by students who share a common interest. A list of interest groups being offered this year has been posted on the Community Meeting Padlet, which students can access through their Advisory Canvas Course. Interest groups meet every Thursday from 2:35 - 3:30 pm. These groups are optional this year, although it is highly recommended that students join an interest group to meet new people, connect with others, and help create community and a sense of belonging. They are also really fun! If a student wants to start a new interest group, they can reach out to Kevin Alexander, and he will help them get their group started.

    Affinity Groups Affinity groups are groups where members share a particular identity. These can be based on race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, and are designated “safe spaces” to build connection and community. Affinity groups offer spaces for deep belonging and uplift voices often silenced. Affinity spaces are critical to unlocking community for each and every member of our school.

    Affinity groups meet on Mondays from 2:35 - 3:30 pm and Wednesdays from 3:00 - 3:30 pm.

    Outdoor Program Outdoor Program Coordinator Nathan Franck has provided the description below for how to connect with others through the Outdoor Program:

    “In my conversations with students I can’t help but notice that so many talk about the difference between this year and last year in terms of the ability to connect with peers. Many mention the lack of passing time to just “hang out” with each other. One hope for the upcoming Great NWS Campout is that students are able to connect with each other and with nature in a meaningful way. The best way for students to connect is to sign up to join the experience using this link. By signing up, they will receive an invitation to join pre-trip and post-trip Zoom meetings to talk with each other and build excitement for outdoor adventures. The post-trip meeting will be a time for students to share their experiences. In addition, everyone involved in the Great NWS Campout is encouraged to share their experience virtually, using this Padlet. Finally, if your child has a small group of friends/peers that is within their “covid-pod,” it would be great for students to share these experiences in person! Please see the Great NWS Campout website for outdoor activity ideas and recommendations for being safely outdoors. If you have any questions, please contact me: Nathan.Franck@northwestschool.org.”

    When A Student Is Absent Steps one and two in the instructions below for when a student is absent are from page 16 of the Student and Family Handbook:

    1. The parent, host parent, guardian, or residential advisor of the absent student must call or email the school (attendance@northwestschool.org), with the student’s advisor cc’d, before 9:00 am to account for the absence; or in the case of an accident, the school must be notified as soon as possible.

    2. When a student knows in advance that they will be absent (reasons for excused absences include religious holidays and observances; illnesses and medical procedures; and family events like graduations, weddings, and college visits), the student must email their teachers, attendance@northwestschool.org, with their parents/guardians cc’d, at least two days in advance. This communication should include an explanation of their absence, as well as a request for information so that the student can keep current with their work. The student is responsible for making up all of their work and any arrangements needed to do so with their teachers.

    If a student is unexpectedly absent, please encourage them to email the teachers of the classes they were absent from, requesting instructions on what they need to do to make up the work missed from class. In these cases, it is common for a teacher to request that a student attends office hours.

    It was fun to see some of you at the meal drop-off sites this week. I loved the opportunity to see people in 3-D, even all masked up. The idea that we are all sharing a meal together prepared by our kitchen team, grown by local farmers, coordinated and delivered by a team of helpers, is a powerful reminder of our ties as a community.

    I hope you all find some moments of rest and peace this weekend.

    Amy

  • Sept. 25 - Letter to Middle School Families: Opportunities for Building Connections

    Dear Middle School Families,

    This week, Sue has asked me to write the weekly email for families to share some updates of the happenings from “my office” as Middle School Dean of Students. The word of the week shared at Morning Meeting on Monday was “perseverance.” We asked students to set the intention of persevering when challenges arise. Persevering as a student might be attending office hours if feeling confused about how to start an assignment, going outside of your comfort zone to join an interest group to meet new people if you’re feeling lonely or isolated, or attending all classes on time, taking screen breaks throughout the day, and incorporating movement into your routine, even if feeling challenged by remote learning. Over the last two weeks of school, I have seen advisors and teachers working with students to practice persevering through such challenges.

    There are individual challenges, and then there are challenges that we face as a community, requiring us to come together, to support one another, and to care for one another. The painful news of the grand jury in Louisville, Kentucky, deciding that no police officer would be criminally charged with the murder of Breonna Taylor was a sobering reminder that the fight for racial justice is not over. Persevering through this moment is not easy. It is critical to name the harm this injustice has caused, particularly for people who share the same racial identity as Breonna Taylor. Advisors, teachers, and the School Counselors have been and will continue to be available to support students through this moment. Here is a list of some resources from Teaching Tolerance if you are needing support for talking with your student about this at home.

    It feels odd to move to more “business-like” content in this communication, and yet, I want to make you aware of important happenings at school that are designed to support your student’s school experience. Below, I list ways for students to stay connected and in community with one another. I briefly describe what happened in advisory this week, and I outline the process of communication for when a student is absent. I hope this information provides a wider lens into what happens each week at school.

    Curriculum Night

    We are redesigning Curriculum Night so it will better serve our needs in this remote circumstance. We have divided the experience into two parts, which will be split between October 14th and October 21st, from 7:00-9:00 pm. The schedule will be divided with classes in Blocks A-D meeting on the 14th and Blocks E-H on the 21st. This is different from the previously published discreet MS and US nights. More information will follow.

    Opportunities for Building Connections

    Interest Groups Interest groups officially launched this week and during Wednesday’s Community Meeting many of these groups presented who they are and what they do. Interest groups are inclusive groups formed by students who share a common interest. A list of interest groups being offered this year has been posted on the Community Meeting Padlet, which students can access through their Advisory Canvas Course. Interest groups meet every Thursday from 2:35 - 3:30 pm. These groups are optional this year, although it is highly recommended that students join an interest group to meet new people, connect with others, and help create community and a sense of belonging. They are also really fun! If a student wants to start a new interest group, they can reach out to me (Maria Moses), and I will help them get their group started.

    Affinity Groups Affinity groups are those in which members share a particular identity. These can be based on race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, and are designated “safe spaces” to build connection and community. Affinity groups offer spaces for deep belonging and uplift voices often silenced. Affinity spaces are critical to unlocking community for each and every member of our school.

    Affinity groups meet on Mondays from 2:35 - 3:30 pm and Wednesdays from 3:00 - 3:30 pm.

    Opt-in Lunch Socials I will periodically be hosting opt-in social gatherings over lunch for 6th graders, as they are the newest members of our community and are meeting each other for the first time online. As the school year continues, there will be other opportunities for all Middle School students to join opt-in social gatherings. We had a small turnout this Wednesday at our first social gathering over lunch, and I hope to see many more students at the next event! Links for these events will be posted on Advisory Canvas Courses.

    Outdoor Program Outdoor Program Coordinator Nathan Franck has provided the description below for how to connect with others through the Outdoor Program:

    “In my conversations with students I can’t help but notice that so many talk about the difference between this year and last year in terms of the ability to connect with peers. Many mention the lack of passing time to just “hang out” with each other. One hope for the upcoming Great NWS Campout is that students are able to connect with each other and with nature in a meaningful way. The best way for students to connect is to sign up to join the experience using this link. By signing up, they will receive an invitation to join pre-trip and post-trip Zoom meetings to talk with each other and build excitement for outdoor adventures. The post-trip meeting will be a time for students to share their experiences. In addition, everyone involved in the Great NWS Campout is encouraged to share their experience virtually, using this Padlet. Finally, if your child has a small group of friends/peers that is within their “covid-pod,” it would be great for students to share these experiences in person! Please see the Great NWS Campout website for outdoor activity ideas and recommendations for being safely outdoors. If you have any questions, please contact me: nathan.franck@northwestschool.org."

    Advisory This Week The advisory program provides students with consistent touch-points with their advisors, as well as scheduled programming of topics, such as social emotional learning, study skills and academic support, health and wellness, digital citizenship, advancing equity, and current events. Below is a brief description of what each grade level did during advisory this Wednesday:

    6th grade: The 6th graders met as an entire grade and in small breakout groups for the first in a series of lessons on executive functioning skills. These lessons focus on learning strategies for ensuring that students are prepared and organized at the start of each class. The beginning exercise involved students imagining all the items they need at their work station to be ready for class, and to then use that mental imaging to work backwards towards physically gathering all essential materials and tools for all of their classes.

    7th Grade: The 7th graders met with their advisory groups and set goals for the year. They used either the SMART goals model or the WOOP goals model to structure and scaffold their goal-setting practice. Goals were shared with their advisors, some pertaining to academics and others to health and well-being.

    8th Grade: The 8th graders met as an entire grade and in small breakout groups to learn about the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, including her activism and advocacy for gender equality and civil rights and liberties. Students engaged in discussions about activism through analyzing poetry, video clips, and teacher presentations.

    When A Student Is Absent Steps one and two in the instructions below for when a student is absent are from page 16 of the Student and Family Handbook:

    1. The parent, host parent, guardian, or residential advisor of the absent student must call or email the school (attendance@northwestschool.org), with the student’s advisor cc’d, before 9:00 am to account for the absence; or in the case of an accident, the school must be notified as soon as possible.

    2. When a student knows in advance that they will be absent (reasons for excused absences include religious holidays and observances; illnesses and medical procedures; and family events like graduations, weddings, and college visits), the student must email their teachers, attendance@northwestschool.org, with their parents/guardians cc’d, at least two days in advance. This communication should include an explanation of their absence, as well as a request for information so that the student can keep current with their work. The student is responsible for making up all of their work and any arrangements needed to do so with their teachers.

    If a student is unexpectedly absent, students should check Canvas for course materials and assignments. When they are able to, students should also email the teachers of the classes they were absent from, explaining why they were absent, their plan for making up the work from their absence, and any questions they may have. In these cases, it is common for a teacher to request that a student attends office hours.

    I hope you all are able to experience self-compassion and self-care this weekend. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

    Maria Moses MS Dean of Students

  • Sept. 18 - Letter to Upper School Families: Upcoming Events and Programs

    Dear Upper School Families,

    The wind is beginning to move the trees a bit outside my office window. Hopefully, the smoke is beginning to clear. By my calculation, Upper School students and faculty navigated about 10,500 Zoom links to get to classes, Community Meeting, Advisory, and Affinity Groups this week. The energy and enthusiasm of faculty and students returning to classes and engaging in learning together has been awesome. The 9th and 10th grade-level faculty teams enjoyed the opportunity to talk with parents and guardians at the Potlucks, and I heard some relief from 11th and 12th grade students after a reassuring College Presentation. Now, I hope everyone can find some rest and time away from the screen this weekend.

    Updates, Clarifications, Upcoming Happenings:

    How to communicate with teachers If you have a question for a teacher, please email them by utilizing our Outlook emails. All faculty members have email addresses in this format: firstname.lastname@northwestschool.org. During our first tech Q&A, we indicated that parents could message teachers through Canvas, but have since learned the limitations of this approach. Remember that emailing teachers with questions about your student’s class experience is the most direct way to get questions answered.

    Teacher absences If a teacher is unable to be present for a designated class period, that teacher will provide an asynchronous lesson for students to work on. If an absence is longer than three days, a substitute teacher will be brought in to facilitate lesson plans.

    Add/Drop An Add/Drop period for schedule changes is open until Friday, September 25. Students must receive approval from their advisors as well as all teachers whose classes are being added or dropped. Schedule changes are also dependent on appropriate placement, scheduling logistics, and class capacity. Please see below the process to follow for adding/dropping classes:

    1. Consult with your advisor before you begin the process of changing courses. If your advisor approves, move on to step #2.
    2. Obtain the approval of the faculty member whose class you would like to ADD. You must have approval of a teacher to JOIN their class before you can request permission to DROP a class.
    3. Obtain the approval of the faculty member whose class you would like to DROP.
    4. Submit an online Add/Drop form. You will need the following information to complete this form:
      1. The name, block, and teacher of all classes you are adding and/or dropping
      2. Your advisor’s email address
    5. Once the schedule change has been processed, you will receive an email notification from the Registrar’s office.

    Civics in the Swing States From Director of Environmental Education and Sustainability Jenny Cooper: This upcoming election is arguably the most important election of the lifetimes of young people around the world in relation to racial justice and climate change, and the communities most impacted by it--the same communities most impacted by COVID-19 and by racial injustice. So, let’s get out the vote!

    The November 2020 election is less than eight weeks away—that’s eight Tuesdays away! Are you interested in tangibly engaging in the election? Supporting voter registration and voter turnout in swing states?

    Starting September 23, I’ll be facilitating “Civics & Swing States,” a free four-week program aimed at mobilizing young people to get out the vote in swing states and engage locally and nationally in the November 2020 election. I facilitated the program this summer to a group of 65 people, ranging in age from 12-68, and I am excited to offer the program for a second time. Come join!

    Civics & Swing States is open to students, parents, faculty, alumni, and friends and family. I designed the program with high school students in mind, but it is open to anyone who is interested and able to dive in.

    Register here (no later than Sept. 16)

    Full program description here. And, if you would like to get an even stronger flavor for the program, you can check out the website from this Summer’s session. I will be updating the website for the Autumn edition of the program shortly.

    Dates: September 23 - October 17

    Times: Option 1: Wednesdays & Fridays, 8:00am-9:00am PT Option 2: Thursdays, 5:15pm-6:45pm & Saturdays, 10:00am-11:30am PT

    Environmental Sustainability Speaker Series On Wednesday of next week (9/23) Harriet Morgan will kick of our series, sharing her work on climate change adaptation, ecosystems vulnerability, and collaboration with decision-makers across sectors to enable more resilient communities in the Pacific Northwest. Harriet Morgan, Researcher, UW Climate Impacts Group - Wednesday, September 23, 7:00pm on Zoom

    Fitness Opportunity From Director of Athletics Britt Atack: Everyone in the Northwest School community is invited to join Tyree Harris, our Fit Club/Strength & Conditioning Coach, for NWS Community Fitness Monday-Friday, 5:00pm, online here. Workouts will be brief, 20-30 minutes, as we very much appreciate the desire/need to limit screen time. They will be challenging yet scalable to your individual exertion and fitness levels. Workouts will be recorded and made available to allow those not available at 5pm to access workouts when works for them. Here’s to a trimester of enhanced fitness and all-around well-being!

    Shanah Tovah to those of you celebrating Rosh Hashanah. I hope you all enjoy a restorative weekend.

    Best Regards, Amy

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here.

  • Sept. 18 - Letter to Middle School Families: Upcoming Events and Programs

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” ― Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness

    Classes began this week and we followed what will be our weekly schedule, beginning Mondays in our all-Middle-School meeting, Morning Meeting. This year, Morning Meeting will be a time for students and faculty to make announcements and for Middle School faculty to encourage and give direction to students setting intentions. This first week’s intention-setting word was compassion.

    Setting intentions is different than setting goals. It’s more process oriented than product oriented, but with the hoped-for outcome of students having a sense of agency in things like negotiating with their emotions and taking a stance of curiosity as opposed to judgement. Intentions support the process of navigating change, transition, and the unknown with resilience. I have embraced Amy Cuddy’s mantra from a few years ago: “fake it until you become it.” Setting an intention like practicing compassion is an essential first step to having something like compassion be a habit. I invite you to ask your students about this week’s intention-word-of-the-week: compassion. When were they compassionate towards themselves, towards their peers, towards their laptops, and towards their teachers?

    Here is some information in response to questions raised this week and some reflections on what we learned.

    How to communicate with teachers If you have a question for a teacher, please email them by utilizing our Outlook emails. All faculty members have email addresses in this format: firstname.lastname@northwestschool.org. During our first tech Q&A, we indicated that parents and guardians could message teachers through Canvas, but have since learned the limitations of this approach. Remember that emailing teachers with questions about your student’s class experience is the most direct way to get questions answered.

    Teacher absences If a teacher is unable to be present for a designated class period, that teacher will provide an asynchronous lesson for students to work on. If an absence is longer than three days, a substitute teacher will be brought in to facilitate lesson plans.

    Movement A concern that has been lifted is the need for students to be moving during the school day. In addition to the opt-in Screenbreakers ideas for movement, and the after-school movement course NWS Community Fitness offered to all students Monday-Friday, at 5:00pm, Middle School students are all enrolled in PE Health and Wellness. I asked PE, Health & Wellness Director Ryan Griffiths to give you an overview of what this course will look like so that you are knowledgeable about what’s happening in all grades:

    The MS PE program looks a bit different this fall, but our priorities remain the same: to provide a space where students can explore how movement and exercise can impact our overall well-being. While we normally would be preparing for Soccer games, Volleyball matches and Cross-Country meets this fall, we are excited to share with you what the program will look like this Fall.

    All MS students will rotate through a series of two-week (7th and 8th Grade) or three-week (6th grade) classes that lay the foundation for our work together this year. The class includes Yoga, Using Tech for Exercise, Mindfulness, Get Stepping, and a class on designing your own workouts. We are thrilled with how students have engaged this week and we are thrilled to be in this work with your students. In a couple of weeks, we will also be launching weekly fitness challenges that students can opt into. Look out for future communication from me about ways to engage your students in conversations about our work together.

    Upcoming programming I’d like to highlight: Just like the Community Fitness program is open to all members of our community, including Middle School students, so are these upcoming events being offered by Jenny Cooper, Director of Environment Education and Sustainability. Since this program is so timely and relevant to current events, I wanted to highlight Jenny’s communications here even though it has also been shared in E-news:

    Civics in the Swing States This upcoming election is arguably the most important election of the lifetimes of young people around the world in relation to racial justice and climate change, and the communities most impacted by it--the same communities most impacted by COVID-19 and by racial injustice. So, let’s get out the vote!

    The November 2020 election is less than eight weeks away—that’s eight Tuesdays away! Are you interested in tangibly engaging in the election? Supporting voter registration and voter turnout in swing states?

    Starting September 23, I’ll be facilitating “Civics & Swing States,” a free four-week program aimed at mobilizing young people to get out the vote in swing states and engage locally and nationally in the November 2020 election. I facilitated the program this summer to a group of 65 people, ranging in age from 12-68, and I am excited to offer the program for a second time. Come join!

    Civics & Swing States is open to students, parents, faculty, alumni, and friends and family. I designed the program with high school students in mind, but it is open to anyone who is interested and able to dive in.

    Register here (no later than Sept. 16)

    Full program description here. And, if you would like to get an even stronger flavor for the program, you can check out the website from this Summer’s session. I will be updating the website for the Autumn edition of the program shortly.

    Dates: September 23-October 17

    Times:  Option 1: Wednesdays & Fridays, 8:00am-9:00am PT  Option 2: Thursdays, 5:15pm-6:45pm & Saturdays, 10:00am-11:30am PT

    Environmental Sustainability Speaker Series On Wednesday of next week (9/23) Harriet Morgan will kick of our series, sharing her work on climate change adaptation, ecosystems vulnerability, and collaboration with decision-makers across sectors to enable more resilient communities in the Pacific Northwest. Harriet Morgan, Researcher, UW Climate Impacts Group - Wednesday, September 23, 7:00pm on Zoom.

    This was a busy week for all of us. I wish you and your family rest and restoration over the weekend. And to those of you celebrating Rosh Hashanah, I wish you a happy new year!

    Warmly, Sue

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here.

  • Sept. 11 - Letter to Upper School Families: First Day of Classes Information

    Dear Upper School Parents and Guardians,

    What a week! It was such a pleasure to have students and faculty back in action together. We had opportunities to share inspiration, create a massive photo board, enjoy music and skits, and begin to talk about and put into practice the foundations of our 2020-21 community. And, after a few days to regroup this weekend we’ll be off and running.

    Online classes begin September 14th Click here for the general class schedule for students studying in Pacific Standard Time. I want to clarify some aspects of the schedule:

    • Teachers may use the 55-minute class periods for both synchronous and asynchronous activities. This means that your student may not be on a Zoom call for the full 55 minutes. This shift from what we did last spring (shorter class periods, longer independent work expectations) allows teachers greater oversight of the independent work they are expecting students to complete.
    • Advisory/Class Meeting will be anywhere between 30 and 55 minutes. The programming will dictate the length and, just like classes, may include both synchronous and asynchronous activities.
    • Screen breaks: Click here for a document we shared with students this week that we hope to add to as community members share their ideas for worthwhile activities that we can do when we take a break from our computers and step away.

    Canvas as a Learning Management System Here is a link to the Q&A from Thursday that Zach Groshell, Director of Educational Technology, and Frances Tee, Teacher and Ed Tech Coordinator, offered to the community. It is a great tutorial on what Canvas is and what it offers as a learning management system. Our goal for high school students is that they learn to manage and be responsible for their own learning. We believe Canvas will be a useful tool for navigating that process.

    The importance of students connecting with one another A parent/guardian asked this week why students still have Teams available to them on their laptops when we have shifted to using Canvas as the learning management system and Zoom for video conferencing. Teams will still be utilized formally for groups outside of class, like affinity groups and interest groups. Informally, Teams can be used for students to connect with one another. Students may use Teams to chat or video call each other as a means of staying connected.

    Potlucks and College Night We had a successful start to our grade level parent/guardian gatherings with the 12th grade College Night last Tuesday. The 11th Grade will have its College Night and Potluck on Tuesday, September 15, and 9th Grade Parents and Guardians and 10th Grade Parents and Guardians will have their Potlucks on Wednesday, September 16, at 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm respectively. The purpose of the 9th and 10th grade Potlucks is to meet the school faculty and other parents and guardians who will become pivotal in your child’s life this year.

    Counselling Update We are excited to announce we have hired a school counselor, Lynn Heramis, to partner with Erin North in the support of our students. Click here for a letter from Erin and Lynn, which shares important counselling resources. Please read this letter as it includes information about our partnership with Forefront, a suicide prevention organization, and the training we and you can engage in to attend to student’s mental well-being

    In closing, here are the remarks shared by Acting Head of School and Assistant Head of School Meg Goldner Rabinowitz at Community Meeting today. It is a reminder of our duty to recognize all that is going on in the world around us, and the power of coming together as a community to support each other as we grow and learn together.

    Stay safe, and I’ll write again next week.

    Best Regards, Amy

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here.

  • Sept. 11 - Letter to Middle School Families: First Day of Classes Information

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    A week and a-half of picking up laptops, students participating in online orientation activities, and families attending virtual potlucks is now over (or almost over…looking forward to seeing 8th grade parents/guardians tonight!). I am grateful for all of the ways that we have been able to connect and how students have started to connect or reconnect with each other. We will continue to work with the Middle School faculty to keep connection a priority in our work this trimester. Classes begin on Monday, and I write to share some updates and offer some guidance.

    Here are two newer vocabulary words we all need to know: synchronous and asynchronous. Instead of independent work or homework (remember, all work is homework in remote learning), teachers will talk to students about the asynchronous activities they are expected to engage in and/or complete outside of the synchronous time they spend on Zoom.

    Online classes begin September 14th Here is the general class schedule for your students. I want to make clear some aspects of your child’s schedule:

    • Teachers may use the 55-minute class periods for both synchronous and asynchronous activities. This means that your student may not be on a Zoom call for the full 55 minutes. This shift from what we did last spring (shorter class periods, longer independent work expectations) allows teachers greater oversight of the independent work they are expecting students to complete.
    • Advisory/Class Meeting will be anywhere between 30 and 55 minutes. The programming will dictate the length and, just like classes, may include both synchronous and asynchronous activities.
    • Screen breaks: Click here for a document we shared with students this week that we hope to add to as community members share their ideas for worthwhile activities that we can do when we take a break from our computers and step away.

    Laptops If your child is having any technical difficulties with their laptop, they are expected to email Helpdesk@northwestschool.org. Since the laptop is critical to full participation in class, we want to support it staying in working condition.

    The school is the Administrator of the 6th and 7th grade laptops. This means that 6th and 7th grade students cannot install programs or add devices to their computers. Parents and guardians may be called on to do so if additional programs are needed. Due to security protocols, I cannot send the parent/guardian administrative log-in information through email. It has to be delivered in person, over the phone, or in a Zoom call. We used the various opportunities this week when faculty, parents, and guardians gathered on Zoom to share the log-in information. Additionally, the log-in information can be attained by calling the main office number. Our receptionist, Reena Marston, is managing the front desk, answering the phones, and ready to assist.

    The Helpdesk is available to parents and guardians as well. For example, if you as an 8th grade parent would like to change the administrative rights on your child’s device, contact Helpdesk.

    Canvas as a Learning Management System Here is a link to the Q&A from Thursday that Zach Groshell, Director of Educational Technology, and Frances Tee, Teacher and Ed Tech Coordinator, offered to the community. It is a great tutorial on what Canvas is and what it offers as a learning management system. I’d like to take a step back, though, and write about centering students in managing their learning.

    Middle school is a great time for students to make mistakes and get poor grades. No college, university, employer, or future life partner will ask to see a middle school transcript. Middle school is the right time for students to practice, if they haven’t already begun to do so, managing their learning. We are ready to support them in this practice. We will ask students to set goals, offer coaching and guidance on organizational strategies, and give them feedback along the way. I am asking you to play a coaching role by asking questions of your students as opposed to giving them directions. Questions that will lead them to ask questions and to take problem-solving action steps.

    The importance of students connecting with one another A parent/guardian asked this week why students still have Teams available to them on their laptops when we have shifted to using Canvas as the learning management system and Zoom for video conferencing. Teams will still be utilized formally for groups outside of class, like affinity groups and interest groups. Informally, Teams can be used for students to connect with one another. Outside of class time of course! Student may use Teams to chat or video call each other as a means of staying connected.

    Erin North, School Counselor, spoke to the importance of connection and ways for students to do so in the video that I shared last week. Here is a written communication from Erin specifically to you. Please read this letter as it includes information about our partnership with Forefront, a suicide prevention organization, and the training we and you can engage in to attend to student’s mental well-being.

    In closing, I’d like to give you a glimpse of our first Community Meeting of the year by sharing Acting Head of School and Assistant Head of School Meg Goldner Rabinowitz’s opening words to the community. It represents that we come together as a community for all kinds of purposes: to share, to educate, to celebrate, to recognize, and to re-member ourselves as a community of learners up to good work in the world. I hope you appreciate it as much as I did.

    Stay safe, and I’ll write again next week.

    Warmly, Sue

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here.

  • Sept. 4 - Letter to Middle School Families: More Beginning of the Year Details

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians

    It has done my heart good to lay eyes on Middle School students this week, and to begin the work of getting them oriented to the school year. I’m writing to share some important documents and to request some actions from you. The partnership begins!

    Class schedule for when classes begin September 14th

    Here is the general class schedule for your students. Individual schedules that let your student know which classes they have in each block of time will be available through My BackPack beginning on Tuesday, September 8. Part of the online Orientation next week will include advisors making sure that students understand their class schedules.

    Student & Family Handbook and Orientation next week

    Also here is our working draft of this year’s Student & Family Handbook. I’m intentionally using the word “draft” to share that revising and adding to our Student & Family Handbook is one of our projects for the school year. This is in recognition of remote learning and how our practices are shifting in response to the challenges and opportunities in this setting, and it’s in response to the call to attend to school climate so that we are living our inclusion values and advancing equity. We work towards creating a culture of care and belonging, and we are committed to our policies and practices, reinforcing and insisting on words and actions that create that kind of culture. Students will spend more time with the handbook next week as part of Orientation. Please note that students will receive calendar invitations to all on-line Orientation activities next week.

    View this video with your student from the Middle School Administrative Team

    The Middle School Administrative Team is made up of me and the following faculty:

    • Maria Moses, Middle School Dean of Students
    • Erin North, School Counselor
    • Rae Page, Learning Resources Coordinator
    • Ryan Griffiths, PE Health and Wellness Director

    Collectively and collaboratively, we work together to shepherd the Middle School program and support students and families engaging with our program. Maria created this video of the team that I am requesting you view with your student. The goal of the video is to set the stage for the school year and offer some tips and important things that middle school students should be thinking about. Here is the link. Note that I was unsuccessful viewing this video using Firefox, but could access it when using Chrome or Edge.

    Upcoming events

    Even though these events are listed in E-news and on the website calendar, I want to share the Middle School parent/guardian events here and make explicit who’s invited and what the purpose of each event is.

    • Technology Q&A for 6th grade and other new parents/guardians, Tuesday, September 8th at 4:30 pm
      • Who’s invited: 6th grade parents/guardians and new to Northwest parents/guardians in 7th and 8th.
      • Purpose of the event: Answer questions about the information provided from Zach Groshell, Director of Educational Technology, about the 1:1 program, the laptops themselves, or creating a family media agreement during remote learning.
    • 6th Grade Virtual Potluck, Wednesday, September 9th at 7:00 pm
      • Who’s invited: Parents and guardians of 6th graders.
      • Purpose of the event: Parents and guardians connecting with one another, getting introduced to the 6th grade faculty team, and connecting with their student’s advisor.
    • Parent/Guardian Canvas Q&A, Thursday, September 10th at 6:00 pm
      • Who’s invited: all Northwest School parents and guardians
      • Purpose of the event: Answer questions about the information provided from Zach Groshell, Director of Educational Technology, and Frances Tee, teacher and Ed Tech Coordinator, about our new learning management system, Canvas.
    • 7th Grade Virtual Potluck, Thursday, September 10th at 7:00 pm
      • Who’s invited: Parents and Guardians of 7th graders.
      • Purpose of the event: Parents and guardians connecting with one another, getting introduced to the 7th grade faculty team, and connecting with their student’s advisor.
    • 8th Grade Virtual Potluck, Friday, September 11th at 7:00 pm
      • Who’s invited: Parents and Guardians of 8th graders.
      • Purpose of the event: Parents and guardians connecting with one another, getting introduced to the 8th grade faculty team, and connecting with their student’s advisor.

    Thanks for reading!

    Warmly,
    Sue

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here.

  • Sept. 4 - Letter to Upper School Families: More Beginning of the Year Details

    Dear Upper School Parents and Guardians,

    We’re getting close now! Faculty have been working hard all week in excited anticipation of “returning” to school. We can’t wait to reconnect with the students. Some students have already begun! Last week, over 60 members of the Class of 2021 met with members of the College Counseling and Humanities departments to work on college applications and essays as part of our annual College Jumpstart program. Seniors got a sneak peek at Canvas, Northwest’s new learning management system, with which they completed modules related to the Common Application’s Activities list, Frequently Asked Questions, and more. On Friday, participants came together for two live sessions, including a panel with admissions counselors from Tulane University, Occidental College, St. Olaf College, and the University of Washington. This past week, they hosted an evening help session for our students living abroad. The College Counselors will share more information about ongoing individualized and group support for the senior class at 12th Grade College Night next week, and they look forward to connecting with 11th grade students and parents and guardians the following week.

    This email will hopefully answer questions you have been wondering about.

    Orientation
    Student Orientation will be throughout the week of September 8-11. Click here for the attached Orientation schedule. There will be a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities. We are intentionally starting with smaller group gatherings and building to an all-school Community Meeting at the end of the week so students have the chance to initially make connections in a more intimate setting. Students will receive calendar invitations to specific activities from their Advisors through Canvas before Tuesday. Students and parents or guardians will connect with Advisors during Orientation week. Advisors will also send links to the Orientation Zoom meetings to parents or guardians in case students have difficulty signing in.

    Logging In: Office 365/Email Accounts for Returning Students
    Students should log in to their email accounts as soon as possible to make sure they remember their passwords. If they do not, they will need to reset their passwords. Use this link for help with resetting passwords.

    Logging In: Office 365/Email Accounts for New Students
    Student logins will be sent to their parent or guardian later this evening. There will be a link to the website that will walk you through the process.

    Canvas
    We replaced Oba with a new learning management system called Canvas. This is the platform where all materials and Zoom links will be accessed for classes and Advisory. Once students have logged in to their Office 365 account, they can get to Canvas through the Student Information tab on the NWS website. They will use the Calendar feature on the left side of the Canvas screen to find links to Orientation sessions. All course information will be available by Sept. 14.

    Software Needs for Student Computers
    This link will give you all the information about computer specifications: 1:1 Program Information

    Technology Training and Resources for Parents and Guardians
    Starting this year, Canvas will be The Northwest School’s instructional platform for facilitating online learning between faculty and students. With Canvas, we will consolidate and provide information-rich asynchronous and synchronous instruction to students in remote, hybrid, and face-to-face formats. We would like to invite you to join us for a Parents and Guardians Q&A on September 10, from 6:00-7:00 pm. Here is the link for the session. A video of the Q&A session will be made available for those who cannot attend.

    Prior to that, you can learn more about how we will use Canvas as our central hub for online learning by visiting this page for a video tour and overview of Canvas. In addition, please send us any questions you have ahead of time by using this link.

    Class Schedules
    Student schedules will be published in My BackPack on Tuesday morning. Click here for the daily schedule.

    Materials Distribution
    Upper School students currently in Seattle have the opportunity to come by school to pick up supplies for science, visual art, music, and other miscellaneous classes from September 2-9. Please sign up for a time to visit our school supply drive-by pick-up here. There are a few students in 10th and 12th grades who will not have supplies to pick up yet. These students will receive an email letting them know they do not need to come to campus at this time.

    When coming to school, please approach driving North (downhill) on Crawford from Union. There will be several parking spots reserved near the top of the block. The pick-up will happen at the window to the Fanny Brice classroom. To help reduce everyone’s risk, please wear a face covering when visiting, and wait in your car if another family is already at the window. We are looking forward to seeing you!

    International Students studying in their home countries will receive a supplies list by email.

    Hum 9 Digital Resource
    Some parents have mentioned they purchased a Hum 9 Digital Resource with their book order they have not yet received. This course reader will be distributed at a later date.

    Virtual Potlucks and College Nights
    Join us for one of our virtual beginning-of-the-year traditions. Grades 9 and 10 will have virtual “Potlucks” to meet some of the adults who will be working with your students and to hear about some of our upcoming plans. There also will be a space in these events for you to share some of your hopes and dreams for the year. You will hear from the PGA leadership about the many ways to be involved in the school community. Grades 11 and 12 will combine their Potlucks with College Night.

    9th Grade Potluck: Wednesday, September 16th, 7:00 p.m. for 9th Grade Parents and Guardians (not for students)
    https://thenorthwestschool.zoom.us/j/94601641552?pwd=UlhxbXdjR3JSWmhOclVDeTdvVk9jZz09
    Meeting ID: 946 0164 1552
    Passcode: NWS9th

    10th Grade Potluck: Wednesday, September 16th, 8:00 p.m. for 10th Grade Parents and Guardians (not for students)
    https://thenorthwestschool.zoom.us/j/95179372480?pwd=SDVlSk82QXd4dmt4cG9sNWdiZWxwZz09
    Meeting ID: 951 7937 2480
    Passcode: NWS10th

    11th Grade Potluck and College Preview: Tuesday, September 15th, 7:00 p.m. for 11th Grade Parents, Guardians, and Students.
    https://thenorthwestschool.zoom.us/j/99011754497?pwd=S1JWZmVUSmZvYi9hQlhEUTZQaHh6Zz09
    Passcode: 107658

    12th Grade Potluck and College Night: Tuesday, September 8th, 7:00 p.m. for 12th Grade Parents, Guardians, and Students.
    https://thenorthwestschool.zoom.us/j/92465576681?pwd=b25lejZyVHo5aUlxcENMaHlESnJNUT09
    Passcode: 700980

    We are so excited to bring our community together and begin the 2020-21 school year!

    Enjoy the weekend!
    Amy

    Amy Berner-Hays
    Interim Upper School Director

  • Aug. 31 - Letter to Upper School Families: Beginning of the Year Details

    Dear Upper School Parents and Guardians,

    Welcome to the 2020-2021 school year and to the first of our regular weekly emails from me or other important Upper School faculty! I am emailing to update you on our preparations for the school year. Upper School students will receive a welcome letter with more information about the start of the school year early this week. In the United States, last week began with another senseless shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, and ended with thousands of people in front of the Lincoln Memorial commemorating the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech. At Northwest School last week, we oriented our excellent new faculty, and our returning faculty collaborated to plan for the new school year. Our work this year is to give our students the knowledge and skills to make sense of the world and to inspire them “to be the change,” in the words of Bridgett Floyd, sister of George Floyd. We are all enthusiastically looking forward to welcoming Upper School students to the 2020-21 school year.

    Orientation Student Orientation will be throughout the week of Sept. 8-11. There will be a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities. We are intentionally starting with smaller group gatherings, building to an all-school Community Meeting at the end of the week so students have the initial chance to make connections in a more intimate setting. Please note on this orientation schedule that time designated as grade-level time will be fully planned this week. Grade-level teams will decide if they will use these blocks of time for individual meetings, advisory meetings, grade-level meetings, or asking students to complete asynchronous activities, depending on their goals. Students will start receiving calendar invitations to specific activities once plans have been finalized. Students and parents and guardians will also connect with advisors during this week.

    Materials Distribution Upper School students currently in Seattle will have the opportunity to come by school to pick up supplies for science, visual art, music, and other miscellaneous classes from Sept. 2-9. Please sign up for a time to visit our school supply drive-by pick-up here. There are a few students who will not have supplies to pick up yet; we are asking that you please sign up for a time and we will contact you if your supplies have been delayed.

    When coming to school, please approach driving North (downhill) on Crawford from Union. There will be several parking spots reserved near the top of the block. The pick-up will happen at the window to the Fanny Brice classroom. To help reduce everyone’s risk, please wear a face covering when visiting, and wait in your car if another family is already at the window. We are looking forward to seeing you!

    International Students studying in their home countries will receive a supplies list by email.

    Remote Dining Program Please complete this form, if you have not already done so, by Monday, Aug. 31 for the Remote Dining Program. I am so excited for this incredible program and grateful to Bethany Fong for her creativity and leadership. Technology Training and Resources for Parents and Guardians Starting this year, Canvas will be The Northwest School’s instructional platform for facilitating online learning between faculty and students. With Canvas, we will consolidate and provide information-rich asynchronous and synchronous instruction to students in remote, hybrid, and face-to-face formats. We would like to invite you to join us for a Parents and Guardians Q&A on Sept. 10, 6:00–7:00 pm. Here is the link for the session. A video of the Q&A session will be made available for those that cannot attend.

    Prior to that, you can learn more about how we will use Canvas as our central hub for online learning by visiting this page for a video tour and overview of Canvas. In addition, please send us any questions you have ahead of time by using this link.

    New Family Q&A, Virtual Potlucks and College Nights Join us for one of our virtual beginning-of-the-year traditions. On September 2, families new to Northwest School are invited to a Q&A session. (This event is not necessary for students who were at NWS for Middle School, as was stated in the E-news, but all families new to Northwest are welcome to attend). Grades 9 and 10 will have virtual “Potlucks” to meet some of the adults who will be working with your students and to hear about some of our upcoming plans. There will also be a space in these events for you to share some of your hopes and dreams for the year. You will hear from the Parent Guardian Association leadership about the many ways to be involved in the school community. Grades 11 and 12 will combine their Potlucks with College Night.

    Upper School Northwest School Family Orientation (for families new to NWS): Sept. 2, 7:00 pm.

    Please join us so that we can answer any lingering questions before school begins.

    https://thenorthwestschool.zoom.us/j/98910677853?pwd=aGFPRVZTRzl3ZUF6Vmd1dEIwYm8yQT09 Meeting ID: 989 1067 7853 Passcode: NWS2020

    9th Grade Potluck: Wednesday, Sept. 16, 7:00 pm for 9th Grade Parents and Guardians (not for students)

    https://thenorthwestschool.zoom.us/j/94601641552?pwd=UlhxbXdjR3JSWmhOclVDeTdvVk9jZz09 Meeting ID: 946 0164 1552 Passcode: NWS9th

    10th Grade Potluck: Wednesday, Sept. 16, 8:00 pm for 10th Grade Parents and Guardians (not for students)

    https://thenorthwestschool.zoom.us/j/95179372480?pwd=SDVlSk82QXd4dmt4cG9sNWdiZWxwZz09 Meeting ID: 951 7937 2480 Passcode: NWS10th

    11th Grade Potluck and College Preview: Tuesday, Sept. 15, 7:00 pm for 11th Grade Parents, Guardians, and Students. Link to follow.

    12th Grade Potluck and College Night: Tuesday, Sept. 8, 7:00 pm for 12th Grade Parents, Guardians, and Students. Link to follow.

    Humanities Curriculum Update Both in response to concerns raised by parents and guardians over the course of the last year and as a result of new teams and partnerships in collaboration, the Upper School Humanities Department has been working throughout the summer to develop their curriculum, evaluating the curriculum taught in the past and incorporating all they learned about online learning last spring. We have great confidence in their work and are looking forward to engaging our students. The new faculty members have enthusiastically joined their teams in collaboration, supported by Priscilla Lindberg, Upper School Humanities Coordinator. The 9th grade team is comprised of Harumi LaDuke, Samantha Simon, Scott Davis, Robin Nider, and Priscilla Lindberg. The 10th grade team is comprised of Jeremey Scheuer, Samantha Simon, Curtis Hisayasu, Robin Nider, and Priscilla Lindberg. The 11th grade team is comprised of Isaac Meyer, Kate Boyd, Curtis Hisayasu, Sarah Porter, and Gus Garces. The 12th grade electives are taught by Harumi LaDuke, Kate Boyd, Curtis Hisayasu, Isaac Meyer, Mercy Hume, Jeremy Scheuer, and Scott Davis. I have included the biographies of the new faculty members below. We invite you to join us at a Humanities information night on September 30, 7:00pm (link to follow soon) when you can meet the department, hear about the program, and ask any questions you may have.

    New Upper School Humanities Teaching Faculty

    Curtis Hisayasu – 10th and 12th grade Humanities

    Curtis comes to Northwest from the University of Washington, where he served as an instructor of the Robinson Center’s Transition School/Early Entrance Program for 10 years. While there, Curtis developed a series of courses designed to prepare young students for college-level humanities courses and introduce them to critical interdisciplinary conversations about nationalism, racialization, and cultural politics. Curtis holds a PhD in English literature from the University of Washington. In his application, Curtis wrote, “I am eager to take on a position that will challenge me to take my teaching in different directions, for different student populations. And I’m excited for the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with a diverse community of fellow teachers.”

    Gustavo Garces – 8th and 11th grade Humanities

    Gustavo joins our Upper School Humanities team with over a decade of teaching experience. He holds a MA in Curriculum and Development from Montana State, and a BA in both Literature, Language, and Criticism and Studio Art Concentration: Printmaking from Hunter College. Gustavo spent many years as a teacher on the Blackfoot Reservation, where he developed rigorous curriculum in the areas of language, literature, and composition, and he was personally influenced by the teachings of the Blackfeet people. In his application materials, Gustavo tells us, “As a Humanities teacher, place and time are central to all stories, and when we teach our past and actively pass down our traditions, we not only educate the mind, but the heart and the spirit in each of us. This experiential knowledge was the gift given to me by the Blackfeet people.”

    Robin Nider – 9th and 12th grade Humanities

    Robin stepped in as a Humanities teacher last year while Harumi LaDuke was on sabbatical. This year, we are excited to announce Robin is returning to our Humanities Department to teach 9th and 10th graders. Robin holds a MA in Teaching from Seattle University and has experience teaching combined Humanities courses at Cleveland High School. Prior to arriving at Northwest, she worked as Director of Student Life at Northwest Yeshiva High School. Robin uses a democratic approach to teaching in her classrooms. Students are encouraged to take charge of their learning and be a part of designing the day-to-day classroom experience as well as their own projects. Robin describes her teaching philosophy as purposeful: “This is particularly true of my philosophy around classroom management and student engagement. I believe that the manner in which I conduct my classroom, from the norms and agreements set at the beginning of our time together to how I deal with students’ behavior, is as important as the content I teach.”

    Samantha Simon – 9th and 10th grade Humanities Samantha received her PhD in English Literature from the University of Washington. Her research areas were 19th and 20th Century African American Literature, Black Studies, and Feminist Studies. Samantha brings nine years of teaching experience to Northwest, most recently with the Robinson Center at the University of Washington; she also spent five years working for the Northwest School Summer Program and we’re thrilled to welcome her back to the Haus! In her letter of application, Samantha told us: “At UW I have had the opportunity to merge my investments in African American literature with service related to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and I would be excited to continue this work through both the curriculum development and student mentoring and advising programs offered with this position at The Northwest School.”

    Counselling Update School Counselor Megan Reibel has made the difficult decision to spend the next few months at home with her family and is taking a leave from her responsibilities at Northwest. Megan worked with last year’s 10th and 12th graders and Peer Mentors and was scheduled to work with this year’s 9th and 11th graders. We have begun the hiring process for a School Counselor this week and will have someone appointed as soon as possible. In the meantime, please reach out to School Counselor Erin North for counseling needs in all four grade levels.

    Thank you for reading all of this! Please reach out to me with any questions. I will email again this week.

    Warmly,
    Amy

    Amy Berner-Hays
    Interim Upper School Director

  • Aug. 31 - Message About 1:1 Laptop Program

    Hello Parents and Guardians,

    Welcome to The Northwest School! My name is Zach Groshell and I am the Director of Educational Technology. I would also like to introduce Frances Tee, who will be supporting as an EdTech Coordinator. We’re excited to be working with you!

    I’m reaching out to share some important information about our one-to-one (1:1) device educational technology program.

    1:1 Program Your Middle School student will be bringing home a school-issued laptop that will be used as their primary device for remote learning. The device will come with the software (for example: Word, Excel, Outlook) that is necessary for schoolwork and will be used as a tool for learning during school hours. Sixth and seventh grade students will not be able to install any new software on the device. Most learning activities will take place inside of Canvas (our “online school”) and on Zoom.

    We believe in the potential for technology to empower students to make a positive impact in our changing world. At the same time, we know that introducing a new device into your home can lead to some tricky situations. To that end, we ask that you follow these steps for co-creating family media agreements about the use of the device at home. Please carve out some time with your student and click on the link in this paragraph to start the Family Media Agreement process.

    We are also offering a Q&A session for you to meet us and ask questions about the 1:1 Program. The Q&A session is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 8, 4:30-5:30pm. Here is the link for the session. A recording of this session will be made available for those who cannot attend.

    Canvas LMS Starting this year, Canvas will be The Northwest School’s instructional platform for facilitating online learning between faculty and students. With Canvas, we are able to provide quality instruction across remote, hybrid, and face-to-face formats. We are offering you an additional opportunity to learn specifically about Canvas on Thursday, Sept. 10, 6:00-7:00pm. Here is the link for this session. As always, a recording of the Canvas Q&A session will also be made available for those who cannot attend. You can also learn more about how we will use Canvas as our central hub for online learning by visiting this page.

    We look forward to partnering with you to develop structures for teaching and learning with educational technology. We invite you to please send us any questions you have ahead of our Q&A sessions by filling out this form.

    Sincerely,
    Zach

    Zach Groshell
    Director of Educational Technology

  • Aug. 31 - Letter to Middle School Families: Beginning of the Year Details

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    Welcome to the first of regular emails from me and/or other important Middle School faculty, and welcome to the 2020-2021 school year! I am emailing to update you on our preparations for the school year. Attached is the schedule for Orientation, including the schedule for laptop distribution. Even as the news continues to illuminate the challenges of this time, I continue to feel inspired by the good, important, and creative work of Northwest School’s faculty. We are all looking forward to welcoming Middle School students to this new school year.

    Orientation Please note on this schedule that time designated as grade-level time will be fully planned this week. Grade-level teams will decide if they will use these blocks of time for individual meetings, advisory meetings, grade-level meetings, or be asking students to complete asynchronous activities depending on their goals. Students will start receiving calendar invitations to specific activities once plans have been finalized and once they have their laptops in hand.

    Laptop Distribution Thanks to all of you who have been working with Leilani Nussman, Director of Extended Learning, to confirm your student’s pick-up time. If you have not yet confirmed, please RSVP here.

    A question was asked about the safety protocols we are following so let me share them with you all. Leilani met with Tony Kaufmann, Director of Facilities and Transportation, who has been leading Northwest's efforts to keep us informed of safety measures and putting those measures to work in the building. I won't go into all the small and large projects that happened over the summer, but I will share the measures that Leilani and Tony have worked out for laptop distribution:

    • Groups will be limited to five (advisories with more than five students in attendance will be split into two groups).
    • The classrooms being utilized are our largest classrooms, so students will be distanced more than six feet apart.
    • Windows will be opened to maximize air flow.
    • Groups are scheduled with time between to clean and sanitize according to CDC and EPA recommendations.
    • Prior to arrival, all students will be required to complete a symptoms screening.
    • While indoors, everyone will be required to wear masks and wash or sanitize hands upon arrival.

    Some students and some advisors are not able to come to campus in person. Advisors unable to come to campus will be present virtually during the laptop orientation sessions and other grade-level faculty will be present in person. I will also be present. All advisors will be connecting with students who are unable to come to campus before orientation officially begins.

    The schedule can be found here.

    Technology Training and Resources for Parents Zach Groshell, Director of Educational Technology, and Frances Tee, Teacher and Ed Tech Coordinator, are offering two opportunities for parents and guardians. For all parents and guardians, here is information about Canvas, our new learning management system, and the system that students will utilize to access their classes. Zach and Frances are holding a Q&A about this material on Thursday, September 10th at 6:00pm. Here is the link for the session (this has also been advertised in E-news.)

    Since these school-owned laptops are coming home for the first time to our 6th grade families, Zach and Frances have created a guide for creating a family media agreement at home. While the school is the administrator on the laptops issued to 6th and 7th graders (which allows us to control what’s installed on the devices), your students will be able to access the internet and everything available there while using the laptop. Coming to agreements about where and when the laptops will be in use, and staying in regular conversation about how that is going, will help ensure that the addition of this laptop is in alignment with your family values and expectations. Zach and Frances are holding a Q&A just for new families to the Middle School on Tuesday, September 8th at 4:30pm. Here is the link: New Parents and Guardians Technology Q&A. New to Northwest parents and guardians: Expect an email from Zach with even more information about our 1:1 program!

    Returning 7th grade families, please note the change from students being the administrators on their laptops last year to the school being administrators of their laptops this year.

    Virtual Potlucks and New Family Q&A An opening year tradition at Northwest is holding grade-level potlucks during the first week of school for both parents/guardians and students. This year, we are inviting just parents/guardians to virtual potlucks beginning on Wednesday, September 9, for 6th grade families. The goal of this event is to allow parents/guardians a chance to meet or greet each other and to meet and talk with their child’s advisors. All potlucks will be held on Zoom and will begin at 7:00pm. Look for calendar invites coming this week.

    New to the Middle School parents/guardians: You are also invited to a Q&A with me on Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 6:00pm.

    Hiring Update For those of you returning to Northwest, I want to share that Megan Reibel, School Counselor, has made the difficult decision to spend the next few months at home with her family and is taking a leave from her responsibilities at Northwest. Megan worked with last year’s 6th graders and was scheduled to work with this year’s 7th graders. We have begun the hiring process for a school counselor this week and will have someone appointed as soon as possible. In the meantime, please reach out to Erin North, School Counselor, for counseling needs in all three grade levels.

    Thank you for reading all of this! Please reach out to me with any questions. I will email again this week.

    Warmly,
    Sue

    Sue Maul
    Middle School Director

  • Aug. 5 - School Opening Online Announcement

    Dear Northwest School Community – Students, Faculty, Parents, and Guardians,

    As I wrote to the faculty two weeks ago, the most important role I can play as a school leader is to put the wellness and safety of our students, families, and faculty in the center of our decision making, to demonstrate a profound commitment to care, and to practice radical compassion in a time that demands that we be responsive, loving, and supportive of everyone who crosses our paths, in and out of school. And to listen, carefully and with humility, to the ideas of my colleagues and team members.

    In the School Reopening Plan that I shared in July, I named our core values as connection, continuity, and community. I referenced the significant safety measures we have undertaken this summer in readying our campus for a safe return to school in a hybrid model (read about them here for more detail), which includes our hiring a Health Coordinator. And I outlined that we have designed our schedule to be adaptable and accommodating, and to provide spaces for routine, reflection, and individual attention. Since sharing that plan with you, we have continued to monitor the situation in Seattle and in our region. Our primary concern remains providing a safe and healthy learning and working environment for our students, faculty, and families.

    Due to the continued rate of spread of the COVID-19 virus in our local community, as well as the most current guidance from state and local health officials, we have decided that the situation does not meet the necessary criteria for safely reopening our campus to in-person instruction at this time. We are planning to teach first trimester online, through November 19, 2020. If conditions significantly change before then and it is safe to shift to our hybrid model, where cohorts of students will come to campus in rotations by division, we will do so.

    We know this news adds to the uncertainty our international families are experiencing and we have compassion for the confusion and disruption this creates. We will be reaching out to survey our families abroad about what makes most sense for their students' living accommodations and learning experience during the time that we are engaged in remote learning. We continue to prepare the dorm for a possible re-opening for students this fall and we will share more information next week about what this situation would mean. We are also developing plans for how we can more fully support and include international students who remain abroad in our remote learning, with support from teaching faculty and residential faculty in synchronous and asynchronous ways. We remain deeply committed to our international families and highly value their essential part of our community.

    We continue to monitor the situation daily to inform our capacity to make a safe return to campus as soon as possible. We remain hopeful and engaged in the work of teaching and learning, and we so long to be back together in the House.

    What’s next? Our dorm faculty will continue their online orientation and engagement with new and returning international students. We will continue to make our plans for welcoming new faculty and our new and returning students to school, beginning with a new onboarding program for faculty led by Department Chairs Chris Talone and Annette Galindo, and a vibrant and engaging orientation program for students that places Advancing Equity at its core. In the coming weeks, we will share our daily and weekly schedule with you, which follows the parameters I outlined in “Configuring the Schedule” in our School Opening Plan.

    When I was on campus this week, I walked down the upper hallway in the main school building. There I found painted on the wall the following quotation by Thurgood Marshall, writing in the 1972 Furman v. Georgia case, which asserted that the death penalty was unconstitutional: “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” It is my deepest commitment to the humanity, the wellness, and the safety of all members of our community that guides us through these difficult decisions in these difficult times.

    I welcome your feedback and ideas. And I appreciate your partnership and support.

    Meg Goldner Rabinowitz
    Acting Head of School

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