• E-News

  • May 7: Letter from Interim Head of School - Going Forward

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    We have reached the decision to stay with our current schedule for the remainder of the school year. This means we will continue with the option for in-person learning for both divisions on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and the Performing Arts rotation on Wednesday. We have five weeks left, and during the past two weeks, we have been able to establish a robust routine and helpful patterns, and both students and adults on campus have settled into their new routines.

    As we all learned at the beginning of this week, despite the key metrics used previously to determine a return to Phase 2, Governor Inslee conveyed that we will remain in Phase 3 for at least another two weeks. Metrics seem to have plateaued, and the hope and anticipation is that COVID case numbers will decrease over the next couple of weeks.

    More of our older students, parents, and guardians are either fully vaccinated, or in the process of becoming so. And certainly, the addition of 12- to 16-year-olds, next in line to be vaccinated, will be helpful and reassuring. After two full weeks, we have reached a level of comfort and feel confident that we are able to manage logistics, safety, and to run school for our average of about 300+ students from both divisions.

    It has been wonderful experiencing students on campus. They seem to thrive and clearly enjoy each other’s company and their connections with teachers and peers. Laughter, great energy, friendly banter, and a kind, mellow positivity fills the classrooms and halls of the House. I am so glad I get to experience school in this manner – it has been odd being part of a community yet spending so much time interacting with people via my computer screen.

    I want to emphasize that we are honoring the choice we have given to all of our families and our faculty pertaining to being in-person or remote. Everyone has their own comfort level, unique circumstances, and risk tolerance. We want to support everyone as best as we can. Barring things beyond our control, the main rationale for continuing our current schedule is that 300 students need and want school. They show up every morning with their Magnus app green good-to-go and/or ready to be screened and temperature checked.

    We continue to do our very best to embrace, adjust, and listen to our families, students, and faculty who are integral parts of our community yet are not physically with us at school. We have and will add additional and better technology, focusing on sound and experience. This has been a long, complex year, and we realize how challenging it is for families to navigate their own comfort level while students might prefer to be in person, or vice versa. Remote learning has been positive and flawless for many; for others it has been more difficult to find comfort and ease.

    Our spring sports teams are gearing up for their seasons, and starting next week, we will test all of our close-contact basketball players who have not yet been vaccinated. The following week, we will make free weekly testing available to all students who have not been vaccinated. You will receive specific information from your division heads regarding testing, which will occur Tuesdays and Thursdays. We strongly recommend that any student who has not yet been vaccinated participates in the weekly testing.

    On Tuesday, I briefed the Board of Trustees about our decision and approach for the next five weeks and also conveyed Northwest’s plan for the 2021-2022 school year. We have heard from a number of you the question, “What about next school year?” Barring state mandates or issues beyond our control, Northwest School will be fully in person next school year with both teaching and support faculty on campus. Please do not hesitate to let us know if you have questions, input, or suggestions.

    Let me end by saying thank you to all parents and guardians who expressed their sincere gratitude and appreciation by providing all faculty with an array of fancy coffee-chocolate drinks, a bag with the inscription “We Love Our Faculty,” chocolate, and, best of all, several pages of individual quotes expressing “I am grateful for…”

    I am grateful for my time here at Northwest School and in Seattle. This is a special community that has demonstrated its resilience, grit, and ability to adapt, be flexible, and not throw in the towel.

    With sincere appreciation, best wishes, and in partnership,
    Dennis

  • May 7 - Letter to Upper School Families: Mid-trimester Check-ins

    Dear Upper School Families,

    We started the morning today with a coffee cart and goodie bag from the 10th and 11th grade families for Faculty Appreciation Day. Thank you! I loved seeing the notes of appreciation the 10th and 11th grade families compiled on a Padlet. It is heartwarming to see the care expressed about this community in this challenging year. I am sharing the notes here.

    We will continue to have all grades on campus Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday with Performing Arts rotations on Wednesdays. It has been great to see students laughing and learning together. Our Upper School students need to continue to remember they are a bit big and scary to the middle schoolers and they need to be sure to give them space in the hallways. Teachers are continuing to do their best to support students both in the classroom and at home. Our synchronous classes continue in the evenings for our international students.

    Mid-trimester Check-ins

    It is mid-trimester already and teachers updated their Canvas gradebooks this week. They wrote mid-trimester comments for students with Learning Support Plans and any students they are academically concerned about. Advisors will be reaching out directly if they have information to share about your student. If you don’t hear from your child’s advisor, but would like a check-in, please reach out to that advisor.

    Vaccination Status

    Many of our Upper School students have been vaccinated and rumor has it more will become eligible next week. Please upload your students Covid vaccination to the Magnus app once they have been vaccinated so we can keep accurate records. Directions for uploading to Magnus are here.

    Summer Hosting Opportunity

    It has been fabulous to have students in the dorm this year. Some of these students may not be able to return home this summer. If you are interested in hosting a dorm student for part of the eight weeks the dorm is closed this summer, please let me know.

    I am excited for the prom this weekend. About 100 students and faculty will be celebrating this milestone together on Vashon Island. The planning team has been incredibly creative and adaptable in crafting a celebratory COVID-safe event. Let’s hope the sun stays out!

    Enjoy the weekend,

    Amy

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here. If you’d like to reply to me directly, please email me at amy.berner-hays@northwestschool.org.

  • May 7: Letter to Middle School Families: Mid-trimester Check-ins

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    I have not been able to reply to everyone who responded to my email on Monday that shared the particulars of the “scary incident” during 7/8 PE. I have read all the replies though, have shared them appropriately, and I’m so touched by the volume of care expressed for me in addition to the students. This outpouring along with my latte sponsored by the PGA this morning has confirmed for me what an amazing parent/guardian community we have in the Middle School at Northwest. Thank you so much.

    It’s been another week of having the majority of our Middle School students engaging in the program in person, 82% to be precise. Below are some program reminders for all, with one specific to the building. As Dennis communicated, we will continue to invite Middle School students to participate in person Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday next week.

    Mid-trimester Check-ins

    As is our practice in the middle of a grading period, teachers updated their Canvas gradebooks this week and wrote mid-trimester comments for students with Learning Support Plans and any students they are academically concerned about. Advisors will be reaching out directly if they have information to share about your student. If you don’t hear from your child’s advisor, but are desirous of a check-in, please reach out to that advisor.

    Supplies Needed

    This week on campus we had more requests to borrow headphones than we could fill. Please double check that your child has earbuds or headphones and knows how to connect them while at school. While you are at it, please ask about their water bottle. Our water fountains are not operational, but we have water bottle filling stations throughout the building. I do have cups in my office, if necessary.

    Words of the Week

    A parent noted that I haven’t been keeping you posted on the word of the week. Let me remedy that. Last week our word of the week was dignity and students offered behaviors that demonstrate recognition of a person’s dignity. Julia Freeman, 6th grade teacher and Visual Arts Chair, took the feedback and transformed it into our Pyramid of Care, Belonging, and Dignity. Students made such great suggestions.

    This week’s word of the week was grit, naming the actions that help further develop the ability to face and move through gritty challenges: taking interest, practicing, seeking purpose, and holding on to hope. Practice makes progress! Let’s all let go of the notion that practice makes perfect.

    Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend.

    Warmly,

    Sue

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here. If you’d like to reply to me directly, please email me at sue.maul@northwestschool.org.

  • April 30 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Finding Time to Relax

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    May is here, and although it is a bit gray and rainy today, we have been spoiled with gorgeous, warm weather recently. Yesterday, to recognize the dedication and work of faculty on campus, we held a surprise ice cream, brownies, and cookies gathering in the Farm and Garden. Although I have met many of our wonderful community members in person, one by one, it was a genuine treat to observe a group of colleagues simply enjoy each other’s company, relax and laugh together, while reconnecting and sharing life. The backdrop of 70+ degree weather and the sun beaming from a clear sky only added to the idyllic scenery.

    It was perfectly fitting that the end-of-the week social event took place in our Farm and Garden on the same day that Northwest School’s environmental sustainability program was featured in the lead article of the Net Assets Magazine as a nationally recognized program to learn from and emulate. Both Jenny Cooper, Director of Environmental Education and Sustainability, and Tony Kaufmann, Director of Facilities and Transportation, champions of our intentional, cohesive, measurable sustainability programs, were quoted in detail about Northwest’s initiatives, efforts, and strategies.

    Committed and passionate students, parents, faculty, and alumni ensure a consistent work force for Farm and Garden care – during the week, weekends, summers, indeed year-round. They are the mind, heart, and soul that make it all work. Of course, we cannot forget Bethany Fong, our superb Director of Food Services, and her incredible team. The harvest from the Farm and Garden helps supply our dining program as well as Seattle food banks with delicious, fresh produce. These past weeks I have witnessed the effective composting, recycling, and waste management up close. Impressive to say the least.

    It is all music to my ears. I apologize for this slightly forced analogy, but it provides the perfect segue to last night’s student concert. I am amazed how our performing arts department and our emerging and seasoned students have been able to not only navigate but overcome complex obstacles performing together, yet apart. And to make things a bit more challenging, last night’s performances included a number of collaborations with performers from other programs outside of Northwest. I was delighted and proud to listen to our students perform – a rich mixture of genres and styles, and who can possibly sit still during a version of Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk You Up”?

    I hope many of you will be able to join me this evening for our annual PIZAZZ Fundraising event that helps support our financial aid efforts allowing more students to take advantage of the rich Northwest School educational experience.

    Best wishes and in partnership,
    Dennis

  • April 23 - Letter to Upper School Families: Results from Survey

    Dear Upper School Families,

    I hope you were able to catch the Music Concert last night. It was a beautiful show, and I am so impressed with what the faculty and students have done. I was blown away. In my message today, I am going to share a few questions that have come in, and then I will share the answers that parents, guardians, and students who are joining the Upper School next year shared in our orientation call about what they are looking forward to in high school. It was inspiring to me to see how the hopes and dreams for the families joining the Upper School resonate with the work I feel we are trying to accomplish together.

    We continue to hear from families who are nervous about the rising case numbers and the increased number of students on campus. Simultaneously, we are hearing from families imploring us not to go back to fewer days on campus. We continue to do our best to manage the shifting guidance and be clear with you about what we can and cannot do to keep students physically distanced. Next week, we will again have all seven grades on campus Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

    I hope you have a lovely weekend.

    In partnership,
    Amy

    Would you consider allowing students with a free third period to eat after Middle School is finished?

    We are continuing to modify our lunchtime plans. US students need to wait until the US lunch period because the lunchroom needs to be sanitized after the Middle School has eaten. If they find they are hungry before lunchtime, they need to bring a snack, which they can eat outside between classes.

    Where should students plan to eat if their free period classroom has become occupied?

    Students can eat in the classroom assigned to them (the teacher should know, and it was sent to students by email), or they can eat outside. Once they have finished, they can stay where they are, walk around the block, go to the gym or rooftop, or go to the Upper Hall.

    Questions and Answers on the Upper School Orientation call:

    FOR PARENTS/GUARDIANS: What are your hopes for your students in their years ahead in Upper School?

    • Fun and joyful high school experience.
    • To have fun with friends in a great community.
    • That they learn how to do their homework without prompting.
    • I hope she finds her passion.
    • In person, every day.
    • I hope they find a wide variety of topics they fall in love with.
    • Takes on challenges.
    • Real learning opportunities, inclusive environment.
    • College readiness.
    • Still speaks to us.
    • I'm excited for my child to have a learning experience that's more tailored to her strengths.
    • Part of a community - make great friends - try new things - be happy.
    • Fun, friends, great learning experience.
    • Trying new things.
    • Love of learning, great friends, growth in areas of passion and finding new passions.
    • I hope our child strengthens his curiosity and critical thinking, explores new ideas and opportunities, and makes lifelong friends.
    • Time management. 😊
    • Making deep and lasting friendships, learning new things, finding passion.
    • To have a great educational foundation and a deep love of learning.
    • Hope our student is challenged and explores areas he has not explored in the past.
    • I hope my student will make great friends, expand their intellectual horizons, have tons of adventures and (sob) continue to rely on me less and less.
    • For student to know their own voice, be intellectually challenged, make new friendships, have great experiences with other students IN PERSON!
    • Meet new people, explore new topics.
    • Gain confidence and enjoy learning.
    • Hoping learning will fascinate, will be fun, and a challenge, too.
    • My hopes for my kid at Northwest are to experience a diverse range of people, and backgrounds and learning that will give them a greater sense of self, but also a whole new perspective of where they fit in the world. And, ultimately, where they want to go next. ❤️
    • To make friends, learn deeply, grow into themselves, build confidence, have FUN!
    • Find community and be engaged in learning.
    • I hope my daughter stretches herself by trying new areas.
    • Continued growth, make new friends.
    • Be a self-advocate, love of learning, increase self-esteem and self-confidence.
    • Great friendships, stimulating and challenging classes, supportive environment.
    • Make life-long friends, find inspiration, and has a joyful experience.
    • I hope my kid tries new things, meets new people, and tries things that may not be their most comfortable choice.
    • I hope to see our student try many of the incredible opportunities made available and to connect with a diverse group of students - thrilled to have our student at Northwest.
    • Great math and science education!
    • I hope my son has a fun time! I also hope he has many opportunities to learn and experience new things and meet some good friends.
    • Hopefully, students will have at least two in-person days/week.
    • I hope that my child finds something that is fun to them and motivates them to learn.
    • To have experiences outside his daily routine.
    • A supportive group of friends and teachers who truly want my child to succeed and use her boundless energy to understand the world as it is and help her be an empathic voice for change.

    FOR STUDENTS: What are you excited about as you are about to enter high school?

    • I’m excited to meet new people. Create new relationships. I’m also excited for the arts program.
    • I am excited to make new friends.
    • I'm excited to meet all the new students and make new friends.
    • Ethics class.
    • Some of my hopes for high school are meeting new people. And exploring new classes,
    • I am excited to meet new classmates and teachers!
    • Excited to meeting new people.
    • Free periods, more interest group time, more freedom.
    • New experiences.
    • Intellectual freedom and strength in linguistic expression.
    • The Ultimate Frisbee program.
    • I am excited to learn new things and meet new people.
    • I am excited to learn a new language.
    • I'm excited to explore the arts more and get more into theatre.
    • Meet new people.
  • April 23 - Letter to Middle School Families:

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    My time and energy went into supporting the Middle School being on campus all week so my communication today is a short one.

    I have shared before that I am a parent of older children. When my kids were in elementary school, I was a classroom teacher, which meant that I did not have summers off; I just switched jobs. I moved from being a middle school math teacher to a camp counselor at Camp Mommy. In my counselor role, I responded to “I’m bored” with “And what are you going to do with that?” Truthfully, it’s been my response in my teacher/administrator role as well. I was reminded of this this week when Middle School students were having lunch in the South Lot. There’s not much to entertain students in the South Lot, so when I came by on Thursday, we started to brainstorm about what could be added to the lot that would facilitate fun. The conversation prompted a faculty member to get the sidewalk chalk from their classroom, and when I returned, the students were playing four-square on the court they had created and with a nerf ball that had appeared out of someone’s locker. Boredom isn’t always a bad thing.

    As Dennis shared earlier in the week, the plan is to invite all seven grades to campus again next week on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Thank you for keeping us posted of your family plans.

    Wishing you and yours some unscheduled time this weekend to get bored and get creative.

    Warmly,
    Sue

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here. If you’d like to reply to me directly, please email me at sue.maul@northwestschool.org.

  • April 23 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Welcoming All Grades Next Week

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    I want to follow up Wednesday’s message about piloting both divisions returning to campus starting next week. We continue to find ourselves in complex territory and our community members – students and adults – have a wide range of responses and perceptions. After two weeks of having one division on campus two days at a time, we feel confident and comfortable with our safety measures, supervision, and practices.

    Next week will be the beginning of acclimating to and managing 300 students back on campus. Timing is everything as we all anticipate what Governor Inslee will convey May 3rd – the date set for his next message regarding the latest state of affairs, which phases different counties will find themselves in moving forward, and what mandates might be attached to those decisions.

    Yesterday’s two key metrics were: case count 213.7/100,000/2 weeks and hospitalization 4.9/100,000/2 weeks. Most adults at school have been vaccinated and an increasing number of our older Upper School students have received at least the first of their vaccinations. We have broken lunch into two periods; any free periods will be supervised study halls in designated classroom spaces; and transition times have been shortened to minimize any lingering in hallways.

    Students and adults wear masks at all times, except during lunch, when they will be six feet apart and are eating or drinking. Each week, we fill 95 separate time slots and designated areas to ensure that support faculty help with temperature checks and screening when students arrive, and monitor all transition times, lunches, free periods, and dismissal at the end of the day. Cleaning takes place several times during the day, and hand sanitizing dispensers are readily available in the buildings.

    As community members, we all have different levels of risk tolerance and comfort, and some students and adults have expressed apprehension about both divisions being on campus next week; others are excited. Because our hybrid model includes both in-person and remote teaching, distribution of students and in-person teaching may not be equal for all students. We are all navigating complex territory and have to make choices that feel right to each family or individual.

    We have safety procedures, cleaning practices, marked distance, reminders, and supervision in place, to help students travel from class to class and navigate campus as safely as possible. Thank you for your patience, for helping us be safe as a community, and for supporting teachers to be there for our students and families, whether on campus or at home.

    Best wishes and in partnership,
    Dennis

  • April 23 - Letter to Upper School Families: Questions and Answers

    Dear Upper School Families,

    It was another very full week with Upper School students on campus Thursday and Friday, a Zoom call last night to welcome the more than 80 new members of the class of 2025 and their families, prom and graduation planning, and the ongoing preparation for bringing all grades back to campus next week. Hopefully, you’re aware that all grades are invited to campus Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, with Performing Arts on Wednesday. I will share here some of the details for next week and answer some of the questions that we have received.

    Upper School Arrival Time

    Upper School students begin class at 9:15am. They may or may not have an advisory check-in meeting scheduled at 9:00am. The doors to the building open at 8:30am and classrooms open at 8:45am. Middle School students will arrive earlier, so in order to stagger entry, Upper School students should plan their arrival between 8:45-9:00am.

    Upper School Attendance App

    Next week, we’ll introduce Upper School students to a touchless electronic Sign-in/Sign-out system designed by SchoolPass. In place of the pencil and paper sign-in, students will sign in using a smartphone and the SchoolPass app or by using a pre-printed QR sticker. There will also be a manual PIN number option. This should allow for a quicker and more accessible attendance process. Upper School parents will receive a welcome letter from SchoolPass before we begin the rollout of the system. While some of us may be nostalgic for the long lines around sign-n, most will appreciate speeding up the process and avoiding the large groupings.

    Lunch Plan When All Grades are on Campus

    To accommodate the increased number of students on campus, we are adding an additional lunch period. Upper School students will go to lunch while Middle School students are engaged in their 3rd period classes, which shifts Upper School lunch an hour later. Canvas calendars should be updated for students learning from home. Students are encouraged to eat a breakfast with protein and bring a snack if they find they are getting hungry while waiting for lunch. If they want to eat a snack, they will need to do it outside, between class periods. The weather is not going to be as warm next week; students will need to remain outside if they are assigned an outside lunch space, so they should dress accordingly.

    How will we manage all the students during passing periods? What will Upper School students be doing during their free periods? At lunch, when students have their masks off, are kids three or six feet apart?

    We are anticipating that keeping all students, both middle and upper schoolers, apart while in between classes will continue to be a challenge. To that end, we will continue to have support faculty and Instructional Assistants present in the hallways, reinforcing the expectation that students practice physical distancing. We are also shortening the 15-minute screen breaks to 10-minute passing periods, with the goal of students moving through common spaces to their next class with less lingering. Lastly, based on the in-person attendance numbers from the last two weeks, we anticipate 200 fewer students moving through the hallways during passing periods than during the school year last year. As with everything else this school year, we will pay attention to how this goes and make needed adjustments.

    Upper School students have been assigned to classrooms during their free periods. At the end of the day, they are in study halls if on campus.

    All community members are expected to be six feet apart when their masks are off for eating during lunch.

    Upper School Students as Role Models

    A tremendous aspect of Northwest School is that we are a school with grades 6-12 so that younger students and older students get to engage with each other throughout their days. There are aspects of this reality that are challenging, too. The middle school students are going to be watching the behaviors of the upper school students and it is important that the upper school students are mindful of that reality, and act accordingly.

    What happens for Upper School students at the end of the day?

    When Upper School students are done with their classes they may leave. (This is where the new attendance app will be particularly useful). At the end of the day on Monday, there is Advisory/Grade Level Meeting that all students should attend either on campus or remotely, unless studying from abroad. Tuesday afternoon is dedicated to Office Hours/Study Hall, Thursday is Affinity Groups/Study Hall, and Friday is Interest Groups/Study Hall, all of which students can attend on campus, or by Zoom, as needed. If they stay on campus, they need to be in a study hall room, or they may be able to be on the West Court or Gym, as space allows. If students choose to leave campus, to go to the store or to get food before practice, they may not re-enter the school building, but can return to campus in time to be rescreened for athletics practice. We are trying to limit the comings and goings from campus.

    These are exciting and challenging times as we deal with the new processes and procedures designed to keep the community safe. Teachers are getting better at teaching to students both in the building and at home. It is an entirely new set of skills. The range of comfort among our students, faculty, and families, and all they are navigating, is as broad as it can be. We are trying to chart a steady course through it all, offering options to serve as many members of our community as best we can. We are continuing to adapt to the constantly changing information we have.

    I hope you have a restorative weekend.

    In partnership,
    Amy

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here. If you’d like to reply to me directly, please email me at amy.berner-hays@northwestschool.org.

  • April 23 - Letter to Middle School Families: Questions and Answers

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    As I hope you know, all grades are invited to campus Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Let me get right to the details of what will be different and what will be the same for Middle School students, as well as answer questions that have come in this week.

    Morning Meeting Every M/T/Th/F

    Middle School students are expected to join Morning Meeting either with their 1st period class on campus or individually from home, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday next week, from 9:00 to 9:10am. Morning Meeting will be held during this time every full school day that all Middle School students are on campus.

    Because of this start time, students learning on campus should arrive in time to be in their classrooms and ready to begin the school day by 9:00am, to be ready when Morning Meeting begins. While a lot of the announcements are related to in-person learning logistics, not all of them are. So students participating remotely should attend to hear the announcements relevant to all and to be in community with fellow Middle School students.

    Lunch Plan When All Grades are on Campus

    Middle School students on campus will follow the same lunch schedule they followed during the last two weeks. Upper School will go to lunch while Middle School students are engaged in their 3rd period classes.

    How will we manage all the students during passing periods? What will Upper School students be doing during their free periods? At lunch, when students have their masks off, are kids three or six feet apart?

    I am anticipating that keeping all students, both middle and upper schoolers, apart in between classes will continue to be a challenge. To that end, we will continue to have support faculty and Instructional Assistants present in the hallways, reinforcing the expectation that students practice physical distancing. We are also shortening the 15-minute screen breaks to 10-minute passing periods, with the goal of students moving through common spaces to their next class with less lingering. Lastly, based on the in-person attendance numbers from the last two weeks, we anticipate 200 fewer students moving through the hallways during passing periods than at the beginning of 2020. As with everything else this school year, we will pay attention to how this goes and make needed adjustments.

    Upper School students have been assigned to classrooms during their free periods. At the end of the day, they too are in study halls if on campus.

    All community members are expected to be six feet apart when their masks are off for eating during lunch.

    Feedback Received from Middle School Students

    Today we asked all Middle School students to share feedback by answering the following questions:

    • How safe have you felt in the building with 1 being "not safe at all" and 5 being "very safe"?
    • What are the things you are doing to make sure your peers around you feel safe?
    • What do you want your fellow students to know about the last two weeks of hybrid learning?
    • What do you want your teachers to know about the last two weeks of hybrid learning?

    Only students who indicated that they were on campus during the last two weeks were given the first question and the average of those responses was 4.2. That was good news to receive!

    Representative responses to what respondents want their fellow students to know are “It was great to be back on campus!” and “Social distance more.” I especially appreciated, “That I think we’re all nervous and its ok to be nervous/stressed a little bit.” And “You don't have to worry about getting lost if you are new or just don't remember the layout of the school that well because we will all stay in packs by sections and there will always be an adult around.”

    Many students who participated on campus wanted their teachers to know that they were happy to be learning in person and there were a good number of statements like, “I want them to know that they are doing a very good job!” Again, good news.

    Advisors will be able to break the results down by grade as well as remote/in-person participation to take a closer look at grade-level trends. There were a few comments that offered helpful suggestions, especially about how to incorporate students learning remotely more fully into the class.

    Thanks for reading another long email from me! For those of you picking up Middle School students in person, you won’t see me at the top of Summit holding the stop sign next week, a task under “other duties as assigned,” but the team and I will continue to work towards directing everybody in the right direction. Your questions and feedback continue to help our efforts.

    Warmly,
    Sue

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here. If you’d like to reply to me directly, please email me at sue.maul@northwestschool.org.

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

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    It is early morning, and I am looking out my window, seeing an increasingly gorgeous orange-reddish morning glow emerge. As many know, I love sunrises, sunsets, full moons, and the many other gifts nature provides us. Although I am certain artists will disagree, it is running joke with my own children that no matter what photo I take and send to them of one of these spectacular moments, they can never fully capture the pure essence of the magic displayed in front of our very eyes – the real magic. Because I have told them so over the years, Nicolas and Saudea are always quick to comment, “Nice try Dad, looks good – but the real thing – not quite there!”

    Yesterday, when many Upper School students arrived on campus, after making it through welcomes, screenings, and temperature checks, they encountered tables laid out with gifts for the Class of 2021. The individual bags thoughtfully prepared by Bonnie, Aya, and Nan – members of the Upper School PGA leadership team – may as well have been that unexpected win of the lottery. Seniors clearly appreciated these surprise sweet treats and small gifts. One senior immediately got down on the floor to put on the socks included in the goodie bag. Smiles, laughter, and “thank you” rang in the lobby of the House, yet I realize that unless you were there, my telling you does not fully capture this wonderful moment.

    This week has felt a bit like those first days we usually experience in September. A slight awkwardness, a fresh newness, and of course, many of us simply must get used to again being around more people. Although we encounter one another over Zoom all the time, the in-person experience is different. Many must relearn to navigate our new normal, and it will take some time to adjust. It is clear that many students and adults were exhausted by the end of the day, having simply gone through a “normal” school day.

    It is interesting, and I don’t know why, but apparently my mind ascribes height to the individual faces I have encountered numerous times on Zoom. In reality, meeting and seeing many students and adults in person for the first time these past few weeks, it is clear that my assumed inner-height barometer is way off. After we reflected and debriefed about our in-person experience, ironically via a late afternoon all-faculty Zoom meeting yesterday, all Instructional Assistants made it a point to add their height to their individual brief introductions: “I am 5’2”; 5’7” etc., and my name is….”

    It looks like we are heading into a spectacular weekend. I look forward to joining Sunday’s urban bike ride organized by our Outdoor Program Coordinator extraordinaire Nathan; I look forward on May 8th to be one of the chaperones at the Senior Prom; I look forward to sunshine and warmth this weekend; and I look forward to getting the chance to know the many members of The Northwest School community even better now. It is difficult to imagine the hallways and classrooms full of students, life, energy, and learning. You can imagine everything for your inner eye, but only seeing, living, and breathing the real thing captures the essence.

    Have a wonderful weekend. Best wishes, and in partnership,
    Dennis

  • April 16 - Letter to Upper School Families: Questions and Answers

    Dear Upper School Families,

    What a delight to have kids back on campus! It is strange to be experiencing beginning-of- the-year newness and fatigue at this time of year, and we are figuring things out as we navigate this time together. I loved seeing Jenn Allen’s science class talking about waves as they sat outside on the grass. It was exciting to see Randy Silver’s ceramics class working with clay on the West Court. I heard enthusiastic Humanities discussions coming from rooms with teachers present and with teachers Zoomed in and projected. It’s a fascinating new world. We still need to refine how we include the students from home with the students in the classrooms, and we are getting better at it. Faculty are sharing their challenges and successes to learn from each other.

    Logistics and Questions we have received:

    Schedule:

    Next week, we are repeating the schedule from this week, with Middle School Monday and Tuesday and Upper School Thursday and Friday. Performing Arts Wednesdays begin, and advisory/grade level meetings move to Mondays, and the other changes in the 2:35pm – 3:30pm offerings can be found here on the Campus Reopening tab of the website.

    Lunchtime:

    Can you please tell me about the precautions being taken during lunchtime regarding the groups of kids eating in the main dining room together? My student reports that this part of the day feels particularly unsafe. Is there an option for eating outside?

    Sierra Maxwell, Health Coordinator, received this question and responded, “… We are having lunch happening in several locations throughout campus, both indoors and outdoors, all marked with six feet of distance. All our indoor spaces have HVAC systems with medical-grade filtration and have been retrofitted with bipolar ionization technology, ensuring the gold standard for ventilation. If you would like your student to be assigned to an outdoor lunch space, please let us know.”

    I sent a survey to Upper School students asking if they preferred to eat outside. If they have not yet filled out the survey, please encourage them to do so. It is important they include their name so I can be in touch and communicate the changes (a few students did not).

    We are eating in shifts, and we adjusted the second lunch shift a little earlier in response to student feedback. We will continue to modify things as we go.

    I am thirsty in class, where and how can I drink? All students should bring a refillable water bottle to school, and ideally, one with a straw that can be slipped under a mask. If the bottle does not have a straw, students can quickly slide their mask down for a drink of water and then re-mask. This should be done more than six feet away from anyone.

    Attendance:

    Do I need to notify the school if my student wants to be flexible about what days he's on campus and what days he's remote? Is that such a thing? I know you've said students can switch to remote or hybrid at any time, but I didn't know if that meant being flexible within the same week.

    Students can make a decision each day. We will be taking attendance in both places. If your student is not going to be on campus or online, you should email: attendance@northwestschool.org.

    Vaccination:

    It is exciting to learn that many of our Upper School students have already been vaccinated or are scheduled to be next week. We have had success getting our dorm students registered and I am sharing here some of the sites that may be useful to you.

    I am headed to the boys’ soccer game today – I hope to see some of you there!

    Warmly,

    Amy

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here. If you’d like to reply to me directly, please email me at amy.berner-hays@northwestschool.org.

  • April 16 - Letter to Middle School Families: Questions and Answers

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    I wouldn’t describe Monday and Tuesday as a roller coaster ride (please see last Friday’s communication for the reference) but it was just as enjoyable. The school building felt vibrant and similar to a typical September, with community members both in person and through Zoom finding their classrooms and settling into a new way of engaging in school. For me, instead of working hard to get an appropriate number of steps for the week, I met my goal by the end of day Tuesday. I’m looking forward to next week!

    Speaking of next week, let me begin by reiterating: The week of April 19th, only Middle School students can participate in-person on Monday and Tuesday, while only Upper School students can participate in-person on Thursday and Friday. The schedule shift of Performing Arts Wednesdays, advisory/grade level meeting moving to Mondays, and the other changes in the 2:35pm – 3:30pm offerings can be found here on the Campus Reopening tab of the website.

    Here are some questions we received this week.

    Can you please tell me about the precautions being taken during lunchtime in regards to the groups of kids eating in the main dining room together? My student reports that this part of the day feels particularly unsafe. Is there an option for eating outside?

    Sierra Maxwell, Health Coordinator, received this question and responded, “… We are having lunch happening in several locations throughout campus, both indoors and outdoors, all marked with six feet of distance. All our indoor spaces have HVAC systems with medical-grade filtration and have been retrofitted with bipolar ionization technology, ensuring the gold standard for ventilation. If you would like your student to be assigned to an outdoor lunch space, please let us know.”

    This week we made the six-foot distancing more visually explicit in the indoor spaces that we can use for lunch. In addition, the classrooms used for lunch will have outdoor assignments that can be used when weather permits. As always, if your child must always eat outside, please reach out to me directly so I can make this assignment. If lunch in general feels too risky, it is also possible to pick up your child so that they can have lunch at home and participate in afternoon classes remotely.

    Can my child charge their laptop at school?

    Yes, and it’s easiest when students bring their chargers. If your student’s charger is missing or malfunctioning, please contact the Helpdesk. Starting next week, we will have charging carts on each floor so that students can utilize these during screen breaks or lunch.

    Who receives the current event emails from Dennis?

    This week’s communication from Dennis and the Advancing Equity Team in response to the Chauvin trial and the murder of Daunte Wright was sent to Upper School students and all parents and guardians. This is our protocol with all current events communication. Our intention is not to shield Middle School students from information about such events, none of us can really do that, but to allow you to read the school’s response or statement first so that you can lead the conversation at home and perhaps feel more prepared to do so. Our on-going work at school is to help Middle School students make sense of the news, to name and normalize the various emotional responses that current events evoke, and to point to action steps that even Middle School students can take to have a positive impact on the world.

    Let me end with sharing this from the New York Times since a parent shared it with me:

    Parents, Stop Talking About the ‘Lost Year’ - The New York Times (nytimes.com)

    I hope you have a chance to enjoy the warm weather this weekend.

    Warmly,

    Sue

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here. If you’d like to reply to me directly, please email me at sue.maul@northwestschool.org.

  • April 9 - Letter from Interim Head of School: 40th Anniversary Thoughts

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    Wednesday’s Community Meeting was devoted to recognizing and celebrating Northwest School’s 40th Anniversary. Several events have already taken place, and I have had the good fortune to meet some of the past 40 years’ alumni, parents, guardians, and board members. One unique event featured Cofounders Ellen Taussig and Mark Terry and many alumni who were physically present on opening day in 1980 and in the early years. It was wonderful to hear the group reminisce, share anecdotes, laughter, and background about the grand vision and the launch of the new educational start-up. In those early days, it was touch and go, and like many start-ups, the School saw its share of both magic and painful challenges.

    Yet, 40 years later, The Northwest School and the Haus not only stand, but with deep, strong roots, can celebrate significant milestones, great accomplishments, as well as successful alumni, change agents, and leaders in many arenas across the country and, indeed, across the globe. The April 7th Community Meeting exuded joy, pride, enthusiasm, and a deep love of The Northwest School. Three long-time faculty members, Kevin, Britt, and Tamara, regaled the crowd as they reflected and shared through stories, photos, and history. Kevin in part focused on the 40th year as one of both gratitude and grief as we have lived through particularly tumultuous, chaotic, and difficult times. Britt spoke about the early days of the athletics program that quickly turned into remarkable accomplishments: an ultimate team that managed to string together 117 consecutive victories, a powerhouse cross country team that dominated the competition for over four years, the soccer league’s MVP, strong basketball and volleyball teams competing for state and national championships, and the list goes on. Tamara spoke about the tradition behind the naming of rooms and spaces on campus. I am not sure I will be able to memorize all the spaces before I depart, but I know Ray Wilson will get to know every space when he takes on the leadership July 1.

    As was fitting, Ellen Taussig told the story of the very first graduation – yes, 13 seniors joined the school in its infancy and were the proud inaugural graduates to be celebrated. Seated were happy parents, guardians, and faculty lining both sides of the Upper Hall of the Haus as the 13 made their way through the crowd to receive their recognition and applause. Ellen shared that her favorite animal is the blue whale that can grow up to a length of 100 feet, exactly the length of the Upper Hall. Of course, no anniversary or birthday should occur without a Happy Birthday song, and brothers Carlo and Nico, who happen to be the children of alumni, performed and sang Happy Birthday in style, while playing the keyboard and drums.

    1980, the year the school opened, was the same year the Rubik’s Cube was released; the video game Pac Man became an instant success; John Lennon was killed in New York City; the U.S. men’s ice hockey team defeated the clear favorite Soviet Union in the semi-finals of the Winter Olympics; Mount St. Helens erupted; The Empire Strikes Back, the second movie in the Star Wars series, was released; Ted Turner launched CNN, the 24 hour news network; and, as I jokingly shared with the audience, most importantly, it was the year I graduated from my Danish high school. As part of these 40th Anniversary celebrations, you will soon receive the 40th Anniversary Timeline, a labor of love and tremendous time

    commitment and care by many and led expertly by Margie Combs. I so appreciated getting to know Northwest a little deeper – a school community with such richness, depth, and extraordinary passion and commitment.

    Best wishes and in partnership,
    Dennis Bisgaard

  • April 9 - Letter to Upper School Families: Updated Q&A

    Dear Upper School Families,

    Wow, what a pleasure to have students in the building! Like so many things in this last year, these last two days were a mix of so many emotions and feelings for all of us. It was energizing and exhausting. It is exciting to have the students here who are able to come, and it is sad that many of our international students are still not able to return to campus. We know it is challenging for those who are staying home and continuing remote learning to see their classmates in the building. This has been a year that continues to challenge us all. I am excited that everyone over 16 is now eligible for vaccination and am hopeful for what is to come. The first days back to school this week were a tremendous team effort. The students and teachers who came to school and navigated all our new protocols, the folks who continued to learn and teach from home, the support faculty who set up, supervised, and supported throughout the day, and the parents and guardians who continue to support their students, I am so appreciative of all the folks who helped make this next step in our pandemic journey happen.

    At our Community Meeting this week, where we celebrated the 40th birthday of The Northwest School, Kevin Alexander, Dean of Students, did a beautiful job naming the complexity of this time as he introduced the program. I highly encourage you to watch the recording. It is a powerful snapshot of the enduring values of our community.

    I am including some of the questions and answers we have received this week.

    Enjoy the weekend!

    Amy

    Is it possible for a student to attend only some of the hybrid days on campus per week? Yes. We have designed the program to offer flexibility to all community members. In addition, students may begin remote and then switch to in-person or begin in-person and then change to remote. We also are designing the program to make it possible, even easy, for students to stay home when they are feeling sick.

    What safety measures recommended by health authorities are in place and which ones are not?

    These are the safety measures (the slices of swiss cheese using the swiss cheese model) that are both in place and ones we are confident faculty and students will comply with:

    • Air circulation within the building
    • Mask wearing
    • Cleaning protocols
    • Physical distancing within the classrooms
    • High rate of vaccinated teachers and support faculty
    • Daily symptom checks of all community members. This will require diligence both at school and at home. If you have not yet gotten into the habit of taking your temperature and your student’s temperature every morning, start practicing now. Symptomatic students should always stay home and engage in the program remotely.
    • Weekly Covid testing of faculty working in the building.

    These are the safety measure that are either not in place or ones we are not confident that faculty and students will comply with:

    • Students in cohorts of 15. Students will be in sections ranging from 13 to 19 for some of their classes (e.g., Humanities and Science) but will be with different students in other classes (e.g., PE, Health and Wellness)
    • Physical distancing in the hallways or common areas. Adults will be on hand to reinforce the expectation that students are physically separated by a six-foot distance, but it is true what one faculty member said, “The kids have magnets in their bodies.” Once they are in proximity to each other, they often get closer than six feet.

    When can students come into the school building?

    The school doors will open at 8:30am and the last scheduled classroom activities on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday end at 3:30pm. Even though office hours, Interest Groups, Affinity Groups (held from 2:35- 3:30) will continue to be optional, students will be expected to remain in classrooms until 3:30 unless they get picked up early or have been given permission to leave early. If a student leaves before 3:30, they are not allowed to leave and then return to the school building. They can return to be rescreened by their coaches for athletics. Our Wednesday drop-off and pick-up plans for Performing Arts students from the week of April 19th to the end of the trimester are still being developed. Though the school day ends later than originally planned for hybrid, we are still offering bus service in the morning and afternoon. If you have any questions or your interest in the bus program has changed since completing the survey, please contact Tony Kaufmann, Director of Facilities and Transportation.

    What can students do during Free Periods?

    Upper School Students with First Period free can come to school late, in time for Second Period. If they come after 9:00am, they should come through the main entrance and check in with Reena Matsen at the front desk with their Magnus screening “Go.” If students are on campus for their free periods, they will be in an assigned classroom. Students who want to leave before 3:30pm should let Kevin Alexander know. Students will not be able to leave the building, hang out in the neighborhood, and then come back into the building. We are working on providing supervision for the 401 Rooftop, West court, and the Farm and Garden so students can spend time there on free periods.

    When are Upper School students on campus during Trimester 3?

    All Upper School grades will be on campus Thursday and Friday, April 15th, and 16th and remote for the rest of the week. If Covid cases remain low enough (below 200 per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period) all grades in both divisions will be on campus Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, beginning the week of April 19th. If case numbers remain high or continue to trend upwards, Upper School students, and only Upper School students, can attend in person on Thursdays and Fridays. We will begin the Performing Arts Rotation on Wednesday April 21st.

    Is it still okay for my child to participate in school remotely?

    Yes! All community members, teachers, and students may still participate remotely. We recognize that circumstances are still in place that may prevent someone from participating in person. Also, it is especially important that if anyone is experiencing cold-like symptoms, they stay home, participating in school remotely, if that’s possible.

    What is the school doing about testing?

    We are currently requiring all faculty to take a Covid test weekly. We are looking into whether we will add a testing requirement for students.

  • April 9 - Letter to Middle School Families: Hybrid Handbook and Other Updates

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    When I checked in with one of our new teachers this week, she said, “I feel like I’m at the front of the line, at last, to ride a roller coaster. I’m excited and a little trepidatious at the same time.” Are you feeling this way? Is your student? I am, but please know that the roller coaster is my favorite amusement park ride. Here we go!

    Next week, we officially transition from remote learning to hybrid learning (some community members teaching and learning on campus, and some community members teaching and learning remotely). The week of April 19th, we will shift our Wednesday schedule from various school activities to performing arts classes only. This shift allows for ensembles to safely gather to perform or allows singing and dancing to safely happen at home. We have 130 middle school students enrolled in performing arts classes and they should have all received the fine details of when, where, and how from their performing arts teachers. Lastly, if Covid trends continue to head in the wrong direction, we will remain with the hybrid schedule of middle school students coming to campus for the full day on Mondays and Tuesdays, and upper school students coming to campus for the full day on Thursdays and Fridays. We don’t anticipate a return to full remote learning.

    While our planning has focused on the in-person aspect of the program, I hope the following update and resources are helpful to all.

    Hybrid Handbook and Mobile Device Policy

    We shared the Hybrid Handbook in last week’s E-news, but I’m including it again here and requesting that if you haven’t gone through this yet with your middle school student, please do so over the weekend. We emailed some highlights to your students as well as this infographic of the Mobile Device Policy. I can only imagine that there are still lots of questions and that’s okay. Whether students are participating in-person or staying remote, we are engaging in another transition and we will support each other through it, hopefully with patience and good humor.

    Student Schedules

    If they haven’t done so already, students can access their schedules through My BackPack, Schedules include the classrooms that in-person students will meet in. Here is a map of the building to help learn or refamiliarize yourself (and your student) with classroom locations. The 40th Anniversary Celebration recording shared in E-news includes a explanation of why and how our classrooms received names instead of numbers!

    Screen breaks

    Speaking of the Mobile Device Policy, students will have 10 minutes of a screen break after classes and after lunch before being asked to move to their next class. We ask that students bring a choice book in addition to their school supplies to school, and they are welcome to bring their own screen free activities. We had an active Magic the Gathering group last year and it can get revived this trimester. When sharing games, students will be asked to sanitize their hands before handling cards or game pieces.

    More Questions and Answers

    Here is an updated Q&A of questions answered in the last month, which is still relevant to Trimester 3.

    The word of the week, or rather, phrase of the week was “fresh start”. Welcome to Trimester 3 and the next adventure in a roller coaster year.

    Warmly,

    Sue

    P.S. All of my weekly email communications will be housed on our website here. If you’d like to reply to me directly, please email me at sue.maul@northwestschool.org.

  • March 26 - Letter from Interim Head of School: NEW HYBRID LEARNING SCHEDULE

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    Before I provide key background and our deliberate thinking and solution finding behind the latest version of our Trimester 3 return-to-campus schedule, I want to wish all our students and faculty a restful and peaceful Spring Break, and of course the same holds true for parents and guardians if you are in fact able to slow down. This is a special time for many when they head into key holidays either during the break or soon thereafter, with deep acknowledgement, celebrations, and family gatherings. Easter, Passover, Holi, Qing Ming Jie, Ramadan, and others, depending on your faith and religion, will, I am certain, be of particular significance a year after the pandemic first set in.

    Although our teaching faculty are also off next week, they are right now busy writing reflections for all their students and, of course, cannot help but have their minds filled with ideas of how best to navigate the new schedule, ensuring success, learning, and engagement for students whether they are in person or continuing remote learning. The schedule we presented a few weeks ago has been tossed out entirely because of new information, new variables – so yes, another pivot. Please click here to see our new Trimester 3 schedule. Our ultimate goal of ensuring as much time on campus for our students as possible in Trimester 3 has now become a reality, and we are excited.

    As we anticipated in last Friday’s communication, CDC’s new guidelines scaling back the physical distancing from 6 to 3 feet was officially accepted and mandated yesterday by Governor Inslee. In fact, the news broke towards the end of our full faculty meeting discussing this new parameter. Of course, in the background, we must keep in mind that the new plan for on-campus learning is contingent upon transmission rates that must remain under 200 per 100,000 cases over a two-week period. Any change in this will inform how many of our students we can accommodate on campus. Also, please keep in mind that any travel out of state, by families or faculty, necessitates a 7-day quarantine upon return.

    Although we are making the adjustment for the option of full days on campus for all grades Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, we want to mitigate risk as we proceed. Making these changes to our daily schedule and our campus capacity necessitates that we adjust our classroom arrangements, transportation, and food service, among other details.

    Thus, in WEEK ONE after Spring Break, we will begin remotely, and then welcome back all 9th and 10th graders who have NOT traveled out of state and who have chosen in-person learning for a full day on Thursday 4/8, and similarly, all 11th and 12th graders for a full day on Friday 4/9. In WEEK TWO, after Spring Break, we welcome back all Middle School students who have selected in-person learning for full school days on Monday 4/12 and Tuesday 4/13, and all Upper School students for full school days Thursday 4/15 and Friday 4/16. The first two weeks, the Wednesday schedule will remain the way it is currently and will take place remotely.

    In WEEK THREE and onward, all Middle and Upper School students will be able to be on campus for full days Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. In addition, students will be able to participate in on-campus in-person learning, rotating through performing arts classes on Wednesdays. More details to follow as we finalize these plans.

    One important impact of this shift is that the House Specialty Remote Dining Program has ended so that we can pivot to providing lunch for students and faculty on campus. Additionally, we will provide you with information regarding transportation once those details are in place.

    Physical distancing is relatively easy to manage during actual class time. Where things become more challenging is during transitions between classes and lunch. I indicated to all teaching and support faculty that our approach must be all-hands-on-deck during lunch, passing time, study halls, and so forth. Of course, we will continue to use instructional assistants and substitutes when necessary. Please help us reinforce physical distancing with your students. We will remind them again, and again, and again, and be as watchful as humanly possible, but also know that students at Northwest tend to gravitate towards one another. I trust that you will be patient as we sort through the many, many layers of detail and logistics. There will be a few glitches initially – that is why we need two weeks to prepare for a full return to campus.

    At the risk of failing to mention someone who also contributed in significant way, I do want to extend a special thank you to Cecilia Tung, the mastermind behind the many intricate complexities of this new schedule, as well as Meg, Amy, Sue, the Curriculum Committee, the Directors group, Tony, and Sierra. And parents, guardians, and students, thank you for your patience, for your flexibility, for helping us learn valuable lessons during MOJO Days, athletics, and other activities both on and off campus. For those parents and guardians who attended our grade-level evening meetings, we are grateful for the questions you posed and the ideas you shared.

    Spring is here – take some deep breaths, enjoy the cherry blossoms – and soon many of us will get the chance to meet in person, and return to a semblance of normalcy. It has been a long year, but now, let’s look ahead rather than back, let’s remain optimistic and positive, and let’s celebrate that our wonderful community will soon be able to be together and to break bread together again.

    Happy spring, best wishes, and in partnership,
    Dennis

  • March 26 - Letter to Upper School Families: Questions About Hybrid

    Dear Upper School families,

    As Trimester 2 draws to a close, I want to thank the entire community for the extraordinary effort of a long Trimester 2 and the shared commitment to our students’ growth and education. Pandemic learning has challenged us all. Teachers are working hard to finish writing evaluations before taking a much-deserved break. I hope you all are able find ways to rest and restore before gearing up for the final trimester of the year. I hope you have had the chance to see the exciting revisions to our Trimester 3 plans.

    Tomorrow night, I am going to participate in my second Zoom Seder dinner. The cool part is, it will include folks from around the country. The sad part is, my next-door neighbors will be Zooming in. There is hope of being together soon. I want to share part of the “Joesch-Cohen Haggadah: The Corona Virus Edition, The Sequel.” This is the “script” we use at our Seder each year that is adapted to represent an ancient story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt and modified to acknowledge the ongoing recurrence and need to condemn oppression and tyranny in search of freedom and peace for all. I am sharing it here because it resonates deeply with me and represents what I try to bring to my life and work at Northwest School.

    Tonight, we tell a story. It's a story that began in a narrow, dark land where we knew our names but forgot who we were. A place where we couldn't stay where we were but didn't yet know how to leave. It's a story about last-minute hope. About a faith that pulled us forward and helped us take that first step towards freedom. It's the story of your great grandparents. It's my story. It's your story. Our stories don't end. They are passed from generation to generation, and each of us adds our own story.

    Tonight, we commit ourselves to:

    · Help each other and everyone around us to make it whole through the current pandemic.

    · Learn how to ask. Most great achievements in life begin with a question. Be curious. Speak up. Ask!

    · Take responsibility for each other. We invite all who are hungry to come and eat because we are responsible for one another. Some people are hungry for food, while others are hungry for wisdom.

    · Embrace challenges. Learn from them. Remember them. They brought us to this place today.

    · Take action. Matzah teaches us the importance of acting quickly when we know something is the right thing to do. We didn't wait for the bread to rise.

    · Practice gratitude. Tonight, we sing Dayenu. It would have been enough. This is the kind of gratitude that teaches us during the hardest of days that we have so much to be thankful for.

    · Understand the meaning of freedom. Some people think freedom means being able to do what we want whenever we want to. But the Jewish definition of freedom is the ability to create a meaningful life with authentic values.

    · As we gather around the Seder table, take this story that has been passed from generation to generation and make it your own. This Passover night, we tell a story that will never end. [Paraphrased from Sara Debbie Gutfreund 2015]

    Questions and Updates:

    When may I drop off my student and when should I pick them up once students return to campus?

    The school doors will open at 8:30am and the last scheduled activities on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday end at 3:30pm. Even though office hours (held from 2:35- 3:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays) will continue to be optional, students will be expected to remain in classrooms until 3:30 unless they get picked up early or have been given permission by parents/guardians to leave early. Though the school day ends later than originally planned for hybrid, we are still offering bus service in the morning and afternoon. Our Wednesday drop-off and pick-up plans for Performing Arts students from the week of April 19th to the end of the trimester are still being developed. If you have any questions or interest, the bus program has changed since completing the survey, please contact Tony Kaufmann, Director of Facilities and Transportation.

    When are Upper School students on campus during Trimester 3?

    Classes for Upper School students will begin remotely the week of April 5th. On Thursday, April 8th, any 9th or 10th grader who didn’t travel out of state over Spring Break can come to campus, and Friday, April 9th, any 11th or 12th grader who did not travel out of state over spring break can come to campus. All Upper School grades will be on campus Thursday and Friday, April 15th and 16th , and remote for the rest of the week. If COVID cases remain low enough (below 200 per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period) all grades in both divisions will be on campus Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, beginning the week of April 19th.

    Is it still okay for my child to participate in school remotely?

    Yes! All community members, teachers, and students, may still participate remotely. We recognize that circumstances are still in place that may prevent someone from participating in person. Also, it is very important that if anyone is experiencing cold-like symptoms, they stay home, and participate in school remotely, if possible.

    Prom and Graduation

    Prom is happening on May 8th at Open Space Vashon. Graduation is happening in person at the Museum of Flight on June 8th, with an online component for those unable to participate in person, including our families abroad. More details coming soon. We are so excited to celebrate our seniors!

    Amidst all the schedule revisions and normal end of trimester busyness, I have had the pleasure of seeing some of you in person at soccer or ultimate games this week and will see more at the cross country meet tomorrow. I have deep appreciation for the coaches, athletes, and families who have managed the necessary protocols that have kept these programs thriving this year. What a pleasure to see kids in action!

    Please continue to reach out with your questions. I will write again next week if there are updates to share. Otherwise, expect to hear from me again on Friday, April 9th.

    Amy

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

  • March 26 - Letter to Middle School Families: Questions About Hybrid

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    Happy Friday and official end to Trimester 2. I want to begin by expressing gratitude to all the stakeholders of this community, including you, for the support, flexibility, and engagement that has gotten us this far, and which will carry us through as most of us return to campus and all of us finish out the school year. Thank you!

    If you have not read E-news, Dennis’ letter, or visited the updated schedule for Trimester 3 on the website, I invite you to do so before continuing to read my communication. This week has been both a culmination of ongoing efforts to expand in-person opportunities for students and a call to pivot (the word of the year) from previous work in response to the most recent changes at the federal, and now state and county, levels. Though we, too, have experienced both elation and frustration, I continue to see the fruits of our collective labor and am looking forward to what’s ahead.

    Here are some Middle School-specific questions that have come my way this week:

    When may I drop off my student and when should I pick them up once students return to campus?

    The school doors will open at 8:30am and the last scheduled activities on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday end at 3:30pm. Even though office hours (held from 2:35-3:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays) will continue to be optional, students will be expected to remain in classrooms until 3:30, unless they get picked up early or have been given permission by you to leave early. Though the school day ends later than originally planned for hybrid, we are still offering bus service in the morning and afternoon. Our Wednesday drop-off and pick-up plans for Performing Arts students from the week of April 19th to the end of the trimester are still being developed. If you have any questions or your interest in the bus program has changed since completing the survey, please contact Tony Kaufmann, Director of Facilities and Transportation.

    When are Middle School students on campus during Trimester 3?

    Classes for Middle School students will be remote the week of April 5th. All Middle School grades will be on campus Monday and Tuesday, April 12th and 13th, and remote for the rest of the week. If COVID cases remain low enough (below 200 per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period) all grades in both divisions will be on campus Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, beginning the week of April 19th.

    Is it still okay for my child to participate in school remotely?

    Yes! All community members, teachers, and students, may still participate remotely. We recognize that circumstances are still in place that may prevent someone from participating in

    person. Also, it is very important that if anyone is experiencing cold-like symptoms, they stay home and, if possible, participate in school remotely.

    Please continue to reach out with your questions. I will write again next week if there are updates to share. Otherwise, expect to hear from me again on Friday, April 9th.

    Word of the Week

    I shared in last Friday’s communication that the word of the week would be community. Community-oriented words and behaviors create the foundation for safety, health, dignity, and any other pre-requisites to learning and living well. For those who requested, here is the recording from Morning Meeting, our response to the Georgia massacre, and how we situated our sharing in community.

    Finally, this Padlet was created by the 8th grade during their last MOJO event to give others a glimpse into pandemic in-person schooling. Enjoy!

    Wishing you the kind of break you and your family most need.

    Warmly,

    Sue

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

  • March 19 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Updated CDC Guidelines

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    During the last two weeks, Middle and Upper School administrators and PGA Leaders have met with each of the seven grade-level parent/guardian groups to focus on one grade at a time in a smaller setting. Faculty and grade-level coordinators provided brief updates regarding program and MOJO Days, as well as providing a preview of the latest Trimester 3’s hybrid schedule. Although that schedule indicated that we will be able to have both Middle and Upper School students on campus two days per week, quite a few parents/guardians have expressed the desire for more time on campus.

    As Governor Inslee, we, and others have emphasized, the mental health and well-being of our children are critically important. Students across the country found themselves suddenly confined to their homes last March, and the full year since then has clearly taken its toll on children, and indeed on all of us. The recent good news that all educators were eligible to receive the vaccine was welcome news. Warmer spring weather on the horizon and new CDC guidelines that the current six-foot distancing could be decreased to three feet are both positive developments that we now will incorporate in our thinking because they mean we would be able to accommodate more students on campus.

    One thing to keep in mind is that the CDC, in essence, functions as the recommender, whereas the state and local health authorities are the regulators who will have to adopt the recommendations before they can go into effect. With Governor Inslee’s mandate that school must be available to all school children 30% of the time and knowing that some schools will have space limitations, it likely makes sense to assume that the new guidelines will be implemented. We are in the process of thinking through all teaching spaces with the new three-foot distancing and will convey to you in the coming weeks as we solidify our plans whether we would in fact be able to accommodate all students on campus for four days a week. We have received several questions from you. Please bear with us as we think through schedule, food service, transportation etc. with the new distancing information in hand. Our goal is to maximize time on campus for students.

    Now let me shift gears entirely and take you to my personal Tuesday MOJO experience with 7th graders. Richard Ha, 7th grade coordinator, asked me last week whether I might be willing to lend a hand and participate in Tuesday’s MOJO Day. I responded, “of course,” in the back of my mind thinking that I would be a greeter, maybe direct “traffic,” or engage parents and guardians in small talk as they dropped off or picked up. Yet, before I knew it, my task would be to lead an activity seven times as advisee groups rotated through the day. I cleared my calendar, and although relatively little tends to throw me off, I must confess that I suddenly found myself a little nervous as self-doubt crept into my mind.

    Yes, I have led school communities for years, but I have not actually taught or led activities with Middle School students for a long time. Half-jokingly during an Executive Committee meeting, I told board members that it was easier to be Head of School than teach middle schoolers. To make a long story short, I prepared, arrived with plenty of activities and ideas, and thoroughly enjoyed my time with our students at my station on the rooftop. Our 7th graders were delightful, polite, supportive of one another, eager to engage, and clearly appreciated their time together. A few students who participated remotely were carried around on iPads, and tour guides made certain to explain activities and show their friends around.

    It was wonderful to witness our students very comfortable being their unique selves, at ease, and confident. Of course, there were some more quiet introverts; yet, there was a lightness in the air, and I sensed kindness, community, and collaboration. In the afternoon, some of the planned activities were interspersed with snack breaks. During the breaks, some students immediately took out their books and escaped to other worlds, others practiced their handstands, while still others tossed a frisbee or kicked a soccer ball. Before groups left, a few rounds of Green Light Red Light, and laughter and joy were infectious as some were unable to freeze and maintain their position. To spend a significant chunk of the day with our Middle School students felt like a real gift – far away from Zoom meetings, from urgent adult issues, from the general business of a day in the office. I highly recommend spending the day with fifty or so Middle School students in smaller groups – I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and hope that they did as well.

    Best wishes and in partnership,
    Dennis

  • March 19 - Letter to Upper School Families: Wrapping Up Trimester 2

    Dear Upper School Families,

    It was great to see so many of you on the grade-level Zoom calls this week. With the exciting new CDC guidelines about three-foot spacing in schools offered today, we are hopeful that we will have an update from Washington State in the next few days and can send a major update about Hybrid 3.0. We are working to figure out how to maximize the time on campus for students while complying with the state guidelines and keeping students safe. More information to come soon!

    Students are finishing their Trimester 2 work, with all final work due next Wednesday. Wednesday is also a day that students can set up meetings with teachers or participate in a great set of experiential education opportunities, learning from local organizations and parks, including Beacon Food Forest, Yes Farm/Black Farmer's Collective, Seadrunar Materials Recycling Facility, and Olympic Sculpture Park!

    Meanwhile, we continue to make plans for celebrating our seniors this spring. We have shared information with seniors and their families this week about the prom plans for May 8th and I am off to visit the graduation venue today to hopefully get the contract locked in. It has been a great partnership with the Senior Parent Planning Committee, and we will share more details with the entire community soon. I then get to be the administrative presence at the soccer game today, which is a lovely way to spend Friday afternoon!

    Best regards,
    Amy

  • March 19 - Letter to Middle School Families: Discussing Anti-Asian Violence

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    It was another week of extremes: horrifying news events of racist violence and wonderful events at school that included having middle schoolers on campus and listening to an inspiring guest speaker during Community Meeting. How do we as the adults in our kids’ lives, the keepers of hope as Sarina Natkin shared during “Parenting in the time of Covid,” acknowledge and walk with our Middle School students in navigating the unacceptable as well as the good?

    First, it is important that we help students make sense of the news of rising anti-Asian words and actions and the shooting in Georgia of mostly Asian women. Middle schoolers developmentally are moving from concrete thinkers to abstract thinkers and they care about justice. Part of this developmental shift requires making distinctions like the difference between anger and hate, humor and ridicule, criticism and dehumanization, protest and bias-motivated violence. For example, at school we talk about the difference between name-calling and naming the impact of words and actions. Subtle but so important.

    During Monday’s Morning Meeting, Tamara Bunnell, Acting Assistant Middle School Director and Dean of Students, introduced the word of the week: connections. She shared, “I want to start this morning by touching base about last week’s special Community Meeting, which was called to acknowledge and inform our community about rising violence against the Asian American community in general, and specifically, an incident in which some of our dorm students were harassed and frightened by someone who was making racist statements and acting threatening toward them, when out on a walk last week. This event and the larger issue is a more serious and complicated problem than can be fully explained or addressed in this short meeting today, but I want to first restate that if any of you have any questions or need to connect about this, to please reach out to an adult you trust in the community. The second thing I want to acknowledge is that some of you weren’t there at the meeting. I think part of that was a result of last-minute communication, which is a reminder to you to check your Teams messaging and emails throughout the day. I also understand some of you saw the information and wondered if it was something you should have attended only if you identify as Asian American. The answer to that is no. When anyone is made unsafe because of some aspect of their identify, it is especially important for those outside that identity to be present, minimally, to learn what’s happening and ultimately, to be an ally. It can be hard to know to know to do that, how to be an ally, but the first step is showing up and showing you care and being ready to learn.”

    Next week our word of the week will be community. I’m going to introduce or reintroduce the pyramid of hate in part to make clear the very real role that a community can play in keeping community members, in this community and in our larger communities, safe and supported. This moment in history is asking all of us to examine the base of the pyramid, the actions that we must name and interrupt in our communities. It also can help, especially in our collective work with Middle School students, to name and promote the actions that contribute to a pyramid of dignity, a pyramid of care and belonging.

    Our guest speaker at Community Meeting this week was photographer Nate Gowdy, who shared one of his projects, the American Superhero. Gowdy was inspired by Vishavjit Singh, Sikh Captain America, and both are working to challenge stereotype and expand our collective idea of who are American heros. So inspiring! You can watch the full Community Meeting presentation here. Ask your students about it and what they learned.

    Know that while we are iterating our plans for Trimester 3, we are still actively ending Trimester 2 and engaging your students in their subject areas and in current events doing our best to help them thinking deeply and compassionately.

    Here is an answer to a question that came my way this week. Please see Dennis’s letter for more answers to questions that he has received but also know that with the recent changes at the federal and state level, our Hybrid 2.0 may become a Hybrid 3.0 shortly.

    What safety measures recommended by health authorities are in place and which ones are not?

    These are the safety measures (the slices of swiss cheese using the swiss cheese model) that are both in place and ones we have compliance confidence in:

    • Air circulation within the building
    • Mask wearing
    • Cleaning protocols
    • Physical distancing within the classrooms
    • High rate of vaccinated teachers and support faculty
    • Daily Symptom checks of all community members. This will require diligence both at school and at home. If you have not yet gotten into the habit of taking your temperature and your student’s temperature every morning, start practicing now. Symptomatic students should always stay home and engage in the program remotely.
    • Weekly Covid testing of faculty working in the building

    These are the safety measure that are not in place or ones we do not have compliance confidence in:

    • Students in cohorts of 15. Students will be sections ranging from 13 to 19 for some of their classes (e.g. Humanities and Science) but will be with different students in other classes (e.g. PE, Health and Wellness)
    • Physical distancing in the hallways or common areas. Adults will be on hand to reinforce the expectation that students are physically separated by a 6-foot distance, but it is true what one faculty member said, “The kids have magnets in their bodies.” Once they are in proximity to each other, they get closer than 6 feet.

    This was another long email. If you made it to the end, thanks for reading.

    Warmly,

    Sue

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

  • March 12 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Taking a Stand Against Asian-American Racism and Violence

    Dear Northwest School Students, Families, Faculty, and Board,

    In my weekly reflections, I tend to focus on Northwest School’s mission and core values, while keeping things as upbeat and positive as I possibly can – all in the midst of continuing complex times. Luckily, we are slowly re-emerging out of the firm grips of the pandemic. A brighter future, a return to our new normal—at least a partial “regular” school, a daily life, and a sense of community, connectedness, and joy—now seem real and visible on the horizon.

    While the focus of this week’s entry is far from positive, it does reflect the Northwest School’s mission, core values, and all we hold dear, stand for, embrace, and raise our voices to defend. Although the media only recently has drawn closer attention to the horrific atrocities and news about the ugly, national rise in harassment, violence, and hate crimes against Asian Americans and Asians from around the globe, we must not only condemn these xenophobic acts that violate the very human rights we so firmly believe in, we must do our part to engage in cross-cultural work, interracial solidarity, and vocal support wherever we can. Also, we should not forget that this national rise is not a new phenomenon. Anti-Asian discrimination has a long-standing history in our country.

    As many of you know, my biological and adopted siblings are spread across the globe, and two of my sisters were born in South Korea. Thus, the racist violence and vitriol for me hits home in a very personal way. No one should be afraid simply to venture out of one’s home, to get onto public transportation, to head to school or work, or to take a stroll in the park. Yet fear, anxiety, and worry about potentially being targeted is a very real daily experience.

    We have seen it all over the country, in cities everywhere including Seattle, the anti-Asian sentiment, the perpetual foreigner syndrome—no matter whether you were born here or not—fueled by racist language describing the coronavirus. The rising cycle of bullying, name calling, harassment, discrimination, and physical violence that has resulted in beyond-severe injuries and even death, must be pulled into the forefront of the American conscience. We cannot again become the nation of the Japanese internment camps. Let us reach out to our Asian sisters, brothers, and fellow human beings, lend our support, and speak out against injustice.

    I finished the letter above this morning (Thursday, 3/11), yet now, I unfortunately am forced to add to it. It is with genuine sadness and with tears in the corner of my eyes that I must report a very scary and traumatizing experience two of our own international students and one of our RAs fell victim to around 3:00 PM yesterday, right outside the Seattle University campus. A male stopped his car, got out and proceeded to verbally abuse, attack, and threaten the group, hurling racial slurs, profanity, and derogatory remarks at them. Our RA positioned himself between the male and our students before the group quickly made their way across a skybridge. The male got back into his car and drove away. What should have been a relaxing, beautiful, casual conversation on a sunny afternoon walk on Capitol Hill instead turned into an ugly, menacing, cruel experience at the hands of an ignorant, callous racist. The anti-Asian hate crimes are real, and this afternoon they reared their ugly heads in our very own backyard.

    With sadness, with anger, and in partnership,
    Dennis

  • March 12 - Letter to Upper School Families: Trimester 3 Updates

    Dear Upper School Families,

    It has been fabulous to have Upper School students on campus this week for MOJO days and trying out hybrid learning. Teachers and students who were in the building together had a great time. Now it is with great excitement that I share some updates about Trimester 3 as we continue to make iterations of our schedule.

    Trimester 3 Updates

    The latest schedule keeps the blocks the same, with students attending their first three classes before lunch, with the Arts block in the afternoon.

    The changes to the schedule are as follows:

    We will begin with the on-campus option for Upper School for students who have not travelled over Spring Break, on Thursday April 8th for 9th and 10th grade, and Friday April 9th for 11th and 12th grade. Students or faculty who travel over break will need to quarantine before returning to campus. For the rest of Trimester 3, beginning the week of April 12th, we will have all four Upper School grades on campus on both Thursdays and Fridays. We will continue to have a remote option for students choosing not to return to campus. Fortunately, the availability of the vaccine for educators will mean more of our faculty are able to come to campus. We are continuing to work on other ways to safely accommodate students on campus and will continue to update you.

    We are continuing to explore the possibly of arts offerings on Wednesdays. We are looking at ways to accommodate students on campus in the afternoons.

    This is a reminder that we really need you to fill out the survey letting us know about your plans for Trimester 3.

    Parent Guardian Grade-level Calls

    Please join us for Parent Guardian Grade-level Calls next week, March 15th, and 18th. Join with other parents and guardians, faculty, and school administrators. The intention for these meetings is to gather as a grade level and to get an update about what is happening in the curriculum and grade level. Here is a form for you to submit any questions you may have ahead of time so we can be prepared to address them.

    The dates and times of these Grade-level Calls:

    • 9th grade, March 18th at 6:00 PM on Zoom.
    • 10th grade, March 18th at 7:00 PM on Zoom.
    • 11th grade, March 15th at 6:00 PM on Zoom.
    • 12th grade, March 15th at 7:00 PM on Zoom.

    Trimester 2 Ends March 24th

    Because the wall calendar is incorrect and because there have been additional calendar changes this month, I want to remind you of how the trimester will end. Friday, March 19th will be the last day for tests and other graded assignments. Classes will be held on Monday and Tuesday, March 22nd and 23rd. We had originally planned for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week to be set aside for the opportunity of students meeting 1:1 with their teachers and time completing re-dos, re-takes, or anything else that enabled them to meet their academic responsibilities and end the trimester well. While this will still be our goal for these last three days of the trimester, we are keeping the structure of classes on Monday and Tuesday to offer greater support and structure to all students. Monday and Tuesday will begin as they usually do. On Wednesday, students will be able to set up appointments with teachers, finish their responsibilities, or opt-in to a variety of educational experiences, both remote and outside. Here are the offerings for Wednesday, March 24th. No Community Meeting this day.

    We acknowledge that some of you made family plans for March 22nd and 23rd based on previous information and calendar iterations. There is no need to change those plans. Though we hope to see everyone and ask that students who can't be in remote classes on the 22nd and 23rd check in with their teachers about any potential missed work, students will not be penalized for missing those days.

    I shared at Community Meeting today that I recognize the great complexity of trying to process as a school community the continued racial violence perpetrated against people of color in this country. What I fear when I engage in these conversations is that I will do more harm than help. What I hold in my heart when I write my weekly letters or address the community always is the desire to help more than I hurt. It is complicated in a community of vastly different needs. It is always my desire to help more than I hurt. If you were not able to attend Community Meeting today, I encourage you to watch it and talk about it as a family. The link to the Community Meeting is here.

    I will list some resources we have compiled at the end of this letter. Thank you to those of you who have sent these in. Many of you have asked about ways you can support our international students and dorm students in particular. You are welcome to send notes to the dorm community. The dorm is not allowing visitors inside at this time as a COVID precaution, but students are welcome to go for walks in the neighborhood or on visits, provided they are following all safety guidelines. You can reach out to Justin Peters to help facilitate this connection.

    My best to you, Amy

    Copies of my letters can be found here.

    Resources if you want to learn more:

    Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • March 12 - Letter to Middle School Families: Grade-level Calls

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    I read a headline this week that started with “the lost year.” As we recognize the one-year anniversary of responding and living with a pandemic, I hope we will not call it “the lost year.” It has been a hard year, for some folks a tragic year, but it has not been lost. It has certainly been different. It has presented unexpected challenges and forced new learning that we may not have wanted but, in the end, may prove invaluable. As the adults in our students’ lives, our words and our actions in response to this year communicate to and model for our kids how to respond to adversity. Yes, be honest about the sadness, the frustration, and disappointment, but also continue to be intentional about looking for the gifts. One reason I begin Morning Meeting with a word of the week is because we all have agency in setting intentions and allowing those intentions to shape our experience.

    People have been asking me what my plans are after leaving Northwest. I share the truth that my immediate plan is to take a self-funded sabbatical. I am weary. I am not, however, without hope, determination, joy, inspiring partners, good ideas, and important and worthwhile work to do before I go. And wow, has this been a year of growth! Certainly not a lost year for me.

    Today’s Called Community Meeting and Anti-Asian Violence

    If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to read Amy Berner-Hays’s letter to the Upper School community, share the email sent to you last evening, view today’s called Community Meeting (if your child missed it), and look through the resources provided with your students. It is in community and through community that we can stand in solidarity and against oppression.

    Parents and Guardians Grade-level Calls Last Week

    Thank you to the parents/guardians who were able to join these calls, the PGA co-chairs who helped facilitate the discussions, and the administrators and grade level coordinators who helped host and answer questions about transitioning to hybrid learning. Below are answers to some of the questions asked during these events and here are the links to the full recordings of 7th grade and 6th grade. My apologies to 8th grade for not remembering to hit the record button. Finally, here is a link to the most recent Q&A created to capture all the questions I’ve been answering related to hybrid learning.

    • What needs to change to extend the time that Middle School students can be on campus?
    • What metrics are you using to make your decision?
    • Is it possible to send a student for only one of the two hybrid days per week? Yes. We have designed the program to offer flexibility to all community members. In addition, students may begin remote and then switch to in-person, or begin in-person and then change to remote. We also are designing the program to make it possible, easy even, for students to stay home when they are feeling sick.

    For Northwest to extend the time that Middle School students are on campus, these questions need to be answered: Where are they going? What are they able to do while they are there? Who will be supervising them? We don’t have the answers to these questions yet because of space constraints, current safety protocols, and planning priorities in executing the current schedule plan well. Iterative work requires trial and error and, in a pandemic, it feels irresponsible to have students and faculty “try” an extended day until we feel assured that our plan minimizes risk that we as an institution can both stand behind and confidently communicate to the community. Please know that we are working on answering these questions and looking for any and all opportunities for students to be engaged in organized worthwhile educational in-person activities.

    The metrics and guidance we have received from the CDC, state, county, and other authorities continue to evolve. You may recall that in the fall we were using the metric of not resuming in-person activities until the number of reported cases per 100,000 residents for the last 14 days was below 75. 75 changed to 200 and then it changed to over 300. Emily Oster’s research findings at Brown University (schools not being significant sources of COVID-19 spread) prompted independent schools to shift from waiting for a specific case number threshold to be reached and began bringing students back to campus. We continue to utilize the guidance coming from the CDC, state, and county as we make program decisions that minimize risk, allow learning to continue, and create opportunities for some of that learning to be in person.

    More questions, answers, and discussion are included in the recordings. Keep asking questions!

    Second MOJO (Mask On Join Others) Orientations starting Monday

    As a reminder, the second round of MOJO days are:

    • Monday, March 15th, 9 AM - 12 PM, for 8th grade students
    • Tuesday, March 16th, 9 AM - 12 PM, for 7th grade students
    • Thursday, March 18th, 9 AM - 12 PM, for 6th grade students

    During these gatherings, we will reinforce safety protocols, have some fun, and also conduct lessons that will help students get oriented to and practice being a student in hybrid learning. Grade Level Coordinators will send out a separate email to students, parents, and guardians, of each grade level with more specific details about what to bring and what to expect.=

    Trimester Ends March 24th

    Because the wall calendar is incorrect and because there have been additional calendar changes this month, I want to remind you of how the trimester will end. Friday, March 19th will be the last day for tests and other graded assignments. Classes will be held on Monday and Tuesday, March 22nd and 23rd. We had originally planned for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week to be set aside for the opportunity of students meeting 1:1 with their teachers and for time completing re-dos, re-takes, or anything else that enabled them to meet their academic responsibilities and end the trimester well. While this will still be our goal for these last three days of the trimester, we are keeping the structure of classes on Monday and Tuesday to offer greater support and structure to all students. Monday and Tuesday will begin as they usually do (Morning Meeting on Monday, Advisory check-in on Tuesday.) On Wednesday, students will be able to set up appointments with teachers, finish their responsibilities, or opt-in to a variety of educational experiences, both remote and outside. Here are the offerings for Wednesday, March 24th. No Community Meeting this day.

    I acknowledge that some of you made family plans for March 22nd and 23rd based on previous information and calendar iterations. There is no need to change those plans. Though we hope to see everyone, and ask that students who can't be in remote classes on the 22nd and 23rd check in with their teachers about any potential missed work, students will not be penalized for missing those days.

    Warmly,
    Sue

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

  • March 5 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Vaccines

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    It was wonderful to finally meet and greet some of our many Middle School students this week as they ventured onto campus for their MOJO days. The energy was palpable and shifted immediately, and it was so good to hear how students on campus reached out and pulled in students who participated from home. Any initial nervous jitters or butterflies seemed to quickly dissipate and turn into laughter and joy. Although the day was short, many students were exhausted by the end, which makes sense since many have not been able to exercise their social group muscles for quite a while. One parent reported back that their child had sore feet because they had not worn shoes for this long for a while, and I am sure there are many other stories out there.

    It is clear to me that a number of students, parents, and guardians were disappointed in the latest ideation of the Trimester 3 Hybrid Schedule because they were hoping for more and/or longer time on campus. Please know that we will continue to explore and work through options of increasing days and duration. In an ideal world, we would love to open campus for all students several days each week. Given capacity, we are clearly unable to have everyone back. The Middle School with fewer students is a little easier to accommodate than the Upper School. People much wiser than me who understand schedules, spaces, students, patterns, and the many domino effects are hard at work. One thing to keep in mind is that certain activities cannot take place on campus – choral music, orchestra, band – because of continued strict guidelines.

    And then of course, the good news many of us educators and others have waited for many months: Governor Inslee’s announcements that all individuals working in K-12 setting were now eligible for the vaccination. After the initial jubilation by some who quickly were able to schedule their first vaccine, for others it was like finding a needle in a haystack, a mad race, navigating through this or that site, or waiting patiently on the phone only to be added to a waitlist with no indication as to when. Others again traveled or are traveling long distances. This morning we were in touch with two different providers, and it looks like we will be able to set up a vaccination site soon, right here at school. The vaccination will be a game changer and a new variable to embrace as we continue to explore and problem solve.

    The other day, I heard someone say that during this pandemic we all seem to have foggy, slightly distorted lenses and are not able to see quite as clearly as usual. Wearing glasses and a mask at the same time certainly makes that ring true. Spring will soon be here, many of us are not far away from our first dose, and there finally seems to be a little light at the end of the tunnel. It has now been a full year of this madness. Let’s cross our fingers that the hope in the air this time is real as we navigate the next stretch of our journey.

    It’s Friday, late afternoon, the end of the week, yet I already know that the absolute highlight is yet to come. How do I know? I will be a greeter and helper at the JV and Varsity girls’ volleyball matches this afternoon. I used to both play and coach volleyball, so it is very fitting that my first live sporting event in over a year will occur right here at Northwest, watching a sport that I love. I wish you a wonderful weekend.

    Best wishes and in partnership, Dennis

  • March 5: Letter to Upper School Families: Reflecting on the Last Year

    Dear Upper School Families,

    It has been a year since we closed our campus. This time last year, we were sending the dorm students home and closing campus for what we thought would be a short time. It was about this time a year ago that I unofficially, then officially, took over as the Acting Interim Upper School Director. It has been a challenging year, and yet we have a lot to celebrate. Our faculty have learned a lot of new technology and are delivering a powerful online program. I know and appreciate how hard they are working and am blown away by their creativity and passion for educating our students. And it is working.

    Last year at this time, our attrition from the school among students and faculty was high. This year, 9th grade admissions far exceeded the best expectation. Faculty attrition is the lowest it has been in years. We hired an amazing new group of faculty over Zoom, many of whom have only recently ever come to campus, and they all want to return. They are doing excellent work and partnering with long-tenured faculty in new and exciting ways. All our veteran faculty are also wanting to return, except for a few with changing family circumstances. The partnerships in departments and new infusion of ideas have re-energized people while at the same time, teaching online in a pandemic has been challenging and exhausting for everyone.

    In the fall, we identified as our focus this year the “3 Cs” of Community, Continuity, and Care. The entire faculty has contributed to the lived experience of those goals for our students in online classes, performances, Advisory, Interest Groups, Affinity Groups, dorm connections, meetings with students and families, athletics, meal program, book delivery, outdoor outings, and evening speaker series. The PGA Co-chairs and Leads have done beautiful work to build community and connection among the parents and guardians, both in Seattle and abroad. In Zoom land, when we each have a narrow view of what is going on, it is hard to know what others are doing. From my vantage point, I have had a window into a lot of it and it is awesome. The community effort has been spectacular.

    Vaccines just became available to educators, and we are about to step into the next phase of learning together as we move into hybrid. We have shared our starting schedule, which has all academic classes occurring on campus in the first three blocks of the morning, and we are working on ways to increase the amount of time on campus for our Upper School students. Stay tuned for updates. While the vaccination of teachers will help us a lot, we are still constrained by the size of our campus, our cozy classrooms, and the requirements for proper distancing among students, which is even more complicated for performing arts classes.

    Your students have been sent two important surveys we need them to complete. Links to both were re-sent to them today and can be found in their NWS email. One is about MOJO (Masks On Join Others), which starts next week and has an option for the second half of the day. The other is about Trimester 3 and has questions about possible afternoon engagement opportunities. Please encourage your student to fill these out as soon as possible for our planning purposes. Students will receive an email the night before MOJO, reminding them about which door to use, what to bring, and where to go. MOJO details are also listed in E-news.

    Parent/Guardian Survey for Hybrid Planning

    Thank you to those of you who have completed Parent/Guardian Survey: Tri 3 Plans. If you haven’t, please do so this weekend. The survey includes important planning questions such as, “Does your family need or want to participate in a morning and/or afternoon bus service during Trimester 3 on the days your students are on campus?”

    Parent/Guardian Grade Level Meetings

    Please join us for our upcoming Grade Level meetings, March 15th, and 18th. These gatherings are hosted by PGA Leadership, Grade Level Faculty, and School Administrators. The intention for these meetings is to gather as a grade level and to get an update about what is happening in the curriculum and grade level for the students. We will also send a form closer to the date, asking for any questions you may have.

    The dates and times of these grade level calls:

    • 9th grade, March 18th at 6:00 PM on Zoom.
    • 10th grade, March 18th at 7:00 PM on Zoom.
    • 11th grade, March 15th at 6:00 PM on Zoom.
    • 12th grade, March 15th at 7:00 PM on Zoom.

    Video Games + Online Communities + Anti-Racism

    There was a presentation Wednesday evening about how to be vigilant about white nationalism in video games and online communities.

    Dennis shared with you that the school is beginning the search for the next Upper School Director. I have appreciated the opportunity to lead the Upper School this last year and look forward to the final months of my tenure.

    In partnership, Amy

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

  • March 5: Letter to Middle School Families: MOJO Reflections

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    What a week! Middle school students were on campus or participating online in MOJO orientations, getting introduced to safety protocols, getting re-introduced to each other through “Would you rather” questions, and seeing the changed building that will allow us to shift to hybrid learning Trimester 3. It was so great to see everybody! And then there was the vaccine news that educators are now eligible. Some of our teachers will be getting their first doses as soon as this weekend. Tim Egan in his New York Times column today shared the phrase “endorphins of possibility.” I was indeed feeling the positive feelings of progress and possibility. I hope you were too.

    Let me share some updates on our road to returning to campus.

    Parents and Guardians Grade Level Calls Next Week

    The administration, PGA Co-chairs, and the Grade Level Coordinators will host grade-level parent/guardian calls/meetings next week. The goal will be to answer remaining questions about hybrid learning, offer program updates, and be in conversation together about the transition and progress towards Trimester 3. Here are the dates and times of these calls/meetings:

    • 8th grade, Monday, March 8th at 7:15 PM on Zoom.
    • 7th grade, Monday, March 8th at 6:00 PM on Zoom.
    • 6th grade, Tuesday, March 9th at 7:00 PM on Zoom.

    Second MOJO (Mask On Join Others) Orientations…please sign up.

    Whether or not your child participated in MOJO last week and whichever way (In-person or remote) your child will participate in the next round of MOJO, it’s time for all of you to RSVP. RSVP here. The second round of MOJO days are:

    • Monday, March 15th, 9 AM - 12 PM, for 8th grade students
    • Tuesday, March 16th, 9 AM - 12 PM, for 7th grade students
    • Thursday, March 18th, 9 AM - 12 PM, for 6th grade students

    During these gatherings, we will reinforce safety protocols, have some fun, and also conduct lessons that will help students get oriented to and practice being a student in hybrid learning.

    Please complete this survey. Answers needed for hybrid planning.

    Thank you to the 55 Middle School families that have completed Parent/Guardian Survey: Tri 3 Plans. For the 88 of you who haven’t, please do so this weekend. The survey includes important planning questions such as, “Does your family need or want to participate in a morning and/or afternoon bus service during Trimester 3 on the days your students are on campus?

    Video Games + Online Communities + Anti-Racism

    I had the pleasure of attending Wednesday’s parent education event, “Video Games + On-Line Communities + Anti-Racism.” In fact, I keep thinking about normality described as both descriptive (what we observe) and prescriptive (values we teach and communicate). For example, we can teach our students that racism is wrong but if they see everyone around them exhibiting racism then their sense of what’s normal is affected by both. This gem of wisdom, plus a greater understanding of how to be vigilant about white nationalism in video games and online communities, is available in the full presentation. View it or dig into the resources offered.

    Word of the Week: courage

    “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain

    Warmly,

    Sue

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

    P.S.S. Please note: no school for students, Wednesday, March 10th. We have cancelled classes this day for professional development in preparation for shifting to a hybrid schedule.

  • Feb. 26 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Being a Lifelong Learner

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    Being an educator means being a life-long learner who embraces curiosity, wonder, uncharted territory, dichotomies, new insights, and novel lessons. This week, in between meetings and work, I attended the annual NAIS Conference, which featured some remarkable keynotes as well as relevant workshops about current trends in education and the world at large. Wednesday’s keynote was computer scientist Tristan Harris, Co-founder and President of The Center for Humane Technology, and former design ethicist at Google. Tristan Harris is part of the documentary The Social Dilemma that focuses on the rise of social media and the damaging effects. Tristan is not anti-technology, but rather, anti-the-business-model behind social media platforms that he argues equates exploitation and manipulation. Thus, the not-for-profit Center for Humane Technology strives to broaden understanding and minimize the negative impacts of technology. We have likely all experienced going down a rabbit hole and finding ourselves “suddenly” having spent a couple of hours on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, or another tech platform. I encourage you to listen to Tristan Harris’s 17-minute TedTalk.

    Another learning experience for me occurred last night when a group of Northwest alumni scientists spoke about their research and careers. The alumni spanning the years 1996 to 2014 included a Ph.D. in chemistry, nanotechnology, and co-founder of Nonlinear Materials Corporation; an MMA from UW, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs; a Fulbright Research Award recipient at Lund University in Sweden for Alzheimer’s research; another Ph.D. in chemistry and current engineer at Intel; and finally, a professor of paleontology in the Department of Geology at the University of Cincinnati.

    Knowing Northwest School and understanding how strong the Humanities and the Arts are, the panel last night demonstrated that a Northwest education is deep and broad, and that scientists of the highest caliber clearly are also being “churned out” by our fine school. Hearing from the professor of paleontology, in particular, brought back sweet memories for me. My son, Nicolas, went through a phase when he loved everything dinosaur, and even as a four- or five-year-old, long complicated names of dinosaurs that I had a very hard time remembering rolled off his tongue with ease. At the time, Nicolas even had a favorite paleontologist, and when anyone ever picked him up from school apart from Monica and me, they would have to know the safe word, “deinonychus,” or Nicolas would know not to go along.

    Curiosity, life-long learning, broad interests, and passion are wonderful companions as our students and we continue to grow.

    Best wishes and in partnership,

    Dennis

  • Feb. 26 - Letter to Upper School Families: Reflecting on MOJO

    Dear Upper School Families,

    I am so glad the days are staying lighter, and spring is beginning to show in the blooming of the trees. I am excited by the increasing numbers of in-person activities we can do, and I wish there were more. We are all past ready for a return to normal. I want to share this inspiring video of the Upper School Beginning Choir. Christian Stallworth says that “At the beginning of the year, our classes discussed how COVID is impacting us as individuals, a community, and globally. We talked about dreams that are delayed don't mean dreams don't come true – so whatever your dream may be, always work toward realizing that dream.”

    A Million Dreams is a selection from the movie, The Greatest Showman. This piece is performed by our Upper School Beginning Choirs.

    This has to be the most complicated school year in our lifetimes. The ongoing nature of the pandemic, the prolonged closure of schools, and the continuous navigation of disappointment and loss has challenged us all. The complexity is increased by the uneven impact of serious illness and death, differing risk factors, the impact of staying at home, and differing comfort with risk. The messaging from Washington State officials has consistently advised that staying home is the safest thing to do, and that masking up and staying distanced is the best way to mitigate risk if you must go out. There are huge variations in the way people have assessed the risks based on their own circumstances. Unlike many risk analyses that we do in our lives, a challenge of this pandemic is that each of our behaviors as individuals has an impact on our direct communities and the community at large. There are no clear answers about how to navigate opening schools to eliminate risk. The research shows that schools can mitigate risk, and the incidence of COVID in schools is comparable to the incidence in the community. The messaging from the CDC has been to open schools, particularly elementary schools, which can be more easily cohorted with a single group of kids and one teacher.

    It is far more complicated in the higher grades where it is more difficult to cohort kids. At Northwest School we are prioritizing that kids continue in the appropriate math, language, and arts classes, which means our students and faculty are exposed to more people. It is also more likely that Upper School students participate in outside jobs, as well as sports and activities that further increase exposure. Teachers have not yet been classified as essential workers so they have not been vaccinated, and do not yet know when they will be. There are a series of tradeoffs we are facing in our decision making as the data continues to change. We are doing the best we can to understand all the variables, be as clear as we can about what we are doing to mitigate risk as much as possible, and then leaving it to individuals to make the choice that is best for their unique circumstances.

    In our first round of Upper School MOJO days, we brought students and faculty who felt ready to be together to campus for some social activities. Some students and faculty participated in Online MOJO days. Some came to campus and stayed outside only. Some felt comfortable touring the building inside. It was strange to be together while needing to stay six feet apart. This is clearly going to require a huge behavior change as we return to the building. Many of our students love being close with each other and casually lounging about. To be safe at school we are not going to be able to be as casual. Students who went into the building experienced hallways with arrows on the floor like traffic lanes, separated by desks that provide a center lane. It is strange to see the Valentines and Black History Month artwork on the walls from last February 2020. We experienced sitting in Raymond, one of the large lecture rooms that typically holds an entire grade level with up to 90 people crammed in, now holding only 18 to meet the recommended safety standards. Windows are open and fans and air purifiers hum. Some students found the room far more comfortable than in a typical year. Some of our smaller classrooms are only suited for five or six students with the required spacing. Some of the groups sat in the Commons and reminisced about last March, sitting in the same room and learning that school was closing, and saying to their friends they’d see them in a couple of weeks.

    The next round of Upper School MOJO days will be preparation for Hybrid. There will only be a Remote or On Campus Inside option. Students will have two classes and will see what it is like to have some students taking the same class from home while others are in the classroom. We will also practice safety protocols and have some fun!

    Meanwhile, the “fall” athletics season has begun, and we have had volleyball, ultimate, and soccer games this week and a cross country meet on Saturday. There are walks, hikes, and outdoor adventures planned so students can get together and socialize outside. There are garden work parties and chicken tending. Please encourage your students to sign-up for these activities. I am going on a walk at Seward Park tomorrow, and hope we get some more sign ups.

    Upcoming Events

    Parenting in the Time of COVID Back by popular demand, Sarina Natkin, LICSW, Parent Coach, and NWS parent, and Peter Berner-Hays, former NWS counselor and retired Head of School will co-facilitate a conversation about the ongoing challenges of parenting in the time of COVID. As families who are continuing to navigate ongoing isolation and the risks of returning to more in-person gatherings, join others in talking through the challenges this presents.

    Monday, March 1st at 7:00 PM (middle school will have a session at 6:00). Here is the Zoom link.

    Transition from remote to in-person learning

    The Trimester 3 and hybrid learning schedule was announced on Friday, February 12th. If you missed it, you can find it and other information about returning to campus here: Returning to the House, a newer tab on our website.

    Please complete this survey to be used for hybrid planning:

    In case you did not see the announcement in E-news, here is the link to Parent/Guardian Survey: Tri 3 Plans. It includes important planning questions like, “Does your family need or want to participate in a morning and/or afternoon bus service during Trimester 3 on the days your students are on campus?”

    We have received questions from parents and students about our decision-making process. We are in the process of writing answers and will be sharing them with you. We are also going to be hosting a series of grade level “Town Halls” where we can talk more about the experience your kids are having in their classes and about our return to campus.

    Grade Level Town Halls

    The administration in partnership with the PGA Co-chairs will host grade level parent/guardian meetings the week of March 8th. The goal of these meetings is to give a programmatic update, answer questions about the return to campus, and spend some time building community and connection at the grade level. The dates and times of these Town Halls: 9th grade, March 18th at 6:00 PM on Zoom. · 10th grade, March 18th at 7:00 PM on Zoom. · 11th grade, March 15th at 6:00 PM on Zoom. 12th grade, March 15th at 7:00 PM on Zoom.

    In partnership,
    Amy

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

  • Feb. 26 - Letter to Middle School Families: Starting Up Our MOJO Days

    Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    I want to begin with the invitation to attend Monday’s Parenting in the Time of COVID event (details below). As some of you know, I am a parent to a 23-year-old and a 20-year-old. One child graduated from college last spring, unceremoniously, while the other was able to return to a hybrid model on campus this fall after completing the spring of sophomore year at the dining room table. While the benefit of parenting older children is being able to say with confidence that their pre-frontal cortexes are well developed (which makes negotiating a lot easier), parenting in the time of COVID has been hard for me and my husband. We’ve had to revisit and recreate the ways we care for ourselves so that we can turn around and offer the care our kids need to meet the unexpected challenges and impacts of the pandemic. We haven’t always gotten it right. Luckily, we haven’t been facing this challenge alone.

    I will be joining the conversation on Monday with my parent hat on as well as my educator hat on, and if joining others to revisit and recreate what you need to meet the parenting challenges ahead, I hope to see you on the Zoom call.

    Parenting in the Time of COVID

    Monday, March 1st at 6:00 (upper school will have a session at 7:00). Here is the Zoom link.

    MOJO (Mask On Join Others) Orientations start next week

    We have been hard at work this month preparing for our upcoming MOJO days, and we look forward to seeing your students either in person or online. Below is some helpful information for all three grades, and Grade Level Coordinators will be emailing each grade on Monday with more specifics, including where to drop students off in the morning. As a reminder, the MOJO days are:

    • Wednesday, March 3rd, 9 AM - 12 PM, for 8th grade students
    • Thursday, March 4th, 9 AM - 12 PM, for 7th grade students
    • Friday, March 5th, 9 AM – 11:30 AM, for 6th grade students.

    Things everyone should know:

    • All students who plan to be on campus must sign the student health pledge available through My BackPack.
    • All students who plan to be on campus will be given a temperature and health screening at the door.
    • All students who plan to be on campus must wear a tight-fitting mask that covers both nose and mouth. Those whose mask is not deemed acceptable will be given an alternative mask to wear. There will be plenty of hand-sanitizing stations throughout the building.
    • It is possible your student will spend a portion of the day outside. Your student should dress with that in mind.
    • Any student who plans to walk, ride their bike, or take public transportation to get home that day should reach out to me or the Grade Level Coordinator so we know this information in advance.
    • There will be no afternoon classes on MOJO days. In other words, 8th graders will not have afternoon classes on Wednesday, March 3rd, and likewise for 7th graders on the 4th and 6th graders on the 5th.

    Please complete this survey to be used for hybrid planning

    In case you did not see the announcement in E-News, here is the link to Parent/Guardian Survey: Tri 3 Plans. It includes important planning questions like, ”Does your family needs or wants to participate in a morning and/or afternoon bus service during Trimester 3 on the days your students are on campus.”

    Transition from remote to in-person learning

    The schedule for Trimester 3 and hybrid learning was announced on Friday, February 12th. If you missed it, you can find it and other information about returning to campus here: Returning to the House, a newer tab on our website.

    In the last two weeks, I have received questions and feedback that represent the range of parent/guardian responses that I would describe as “Why are you being so conservative?” to “Why aren’t you being more conservative?” My answer to both groups is that I and we are trying our best to address the health, academic, and social-emotional needs and necessities as well as the tensions between these in order to care for every member of our community. It has required compromise and difficult decisions. The process has been and will continue to be benefitted by questions and feedback. Thank you to those of you who reached out. In hopes that it helps all of you, below are some of the questions I’ve received and my answers.

    • Why are students going back two mornings a week instead of one week on, one week off? Other schools who have more students are doing it this way. We looked at both versions of a hybrid schedule, middle schoolers attending every Monday and Tuesday and middle schoolers coming Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday every other week. In both scenarios, Wednesday was going to be remote for all students. Since both versions yielded the same number of days on campus every two weeks, we chose the Monday/Tuesday version in hopes that it would provide middle school students and families a more consistent schedule, one easier to plan transportation, child-care, and work schedules around.
    • Why are you waiting until April to start the hybrid schedule? Other schools are shifting to hybrid now. We recognize that some independent schools shifted to hybrid during
    • Why are they not going a full day when they are there? For example, SAAS will be returning on a hybrid schedule but the kids will be there all day and will eat lunch in their classrooms. Just like there is a swiss cheese model of measures that reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19, there is a swiss cheese model of practices that increase exposure. Serving food or allowing students to eat food that they bring to school is one of those practices. Instead of mitigating the additional risk, and knowing that we would not be able to teach most performing arts classes in person, we chose to have students return home for lunch. This choice allows us to continue to run the remote dining program, a program serving all families regardless of if they choose to return to campus or continue remotely.
    • Art classes all online? One of the reasons that we have to utilize a hybrid model is because of the physical distancing required to minimize risk of exposure. The physical distancing requirements for our performing arts classes is even greater and we do not have the physical spaces to accommodate this well. Time to utilize off campus spaces and to conduct necessary sanitization was also a consideration. Based on this and given our schedule of all arts classes happening at the same time, we chose to continue to run these classes remotely. If circumstances change between the beginning of Trimester 3 and the end of the school year, we will revisit both lunch and holding these classes on campus, but I am skeptical that circumstances will change.
    • Why are there NO sports for middle schoolers but the high schoolers have them? The independent school leagues that we are a part of made the decision to start upper school athletics, including competitions, but the middle school league decided not to hold competitions this school year. Since middle school athletics is part of the PE Health and Wellness class (unlike in the upper school) we will offer choices like Ultimate and other "athletics" during trimester 3, but we won't be able to compete with other schools based on the league's decision. We were able to have middle school students join cross country practices this fall and winter because those teams were not training for actual competitions.
    • Will this schedule change once teachers get vaccinated? Or will this be what it is until the end of the school year? We have created a schedule that will allow us to pivot to more in-person if allowable, but we will have to wait and see if we are able to do so. Vaccines, lower or higher case numbers, an outbreak in our community, and/or new guidelines will all play factors in how we progress through Trimester 3. their academic term and at least one is making the same choice that we did of waiting until the trimester break, though their trimester begins sooner than ours does. Any shift is a disruption and we felt that waiting until this natural break in the academic calendar would cause less disruption to all stakeholders while also allowing us time to offer two orientations that we feel are necessary prior to beginning a hybrid program.

    Grade Level Town Halls

    The administration in partnership with the PGA Co-chairs will host grade level parent/guardian meetings the week of March 8th. The goal will be to answer any remaining questions about hybrid learning, offer brief academic program updates, and create space for parents/guardians to connect with one another. Here are the dates and times of these Town Halls:

    • 7th grade, Monday, March 8th at 6:00 PM on Zoom.
    • 8th grade, Monday, March 8th at 7:15 PM on Zoom.
    • 6th grade, Tuesday, March 9th at 7:00 PM on Zoom.

    Word of the Week/Month: Love

    This week’s love word was the love we have for family, storge. Share that with your student as you give them an extra hug this weekend.

    This was a long email! Thanks for reading. One last offering: as we finish February, Black History Month, here is the link of Let Every Voice and Sing that was shared during this week’s Community Meeting.

    Warmly,

    Sue

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

    P.S.S. Please note: no school for students, Wednesday, March 10th. We have cancelled classes this day for professional development in preparation for shifting to a hybrid schedule.

  • Feb. 12 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Get Some Rest

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    You just heard from me yesterday, so I will make this pre-mid-winter-break message brief. I was poised and hopeful that I might be able to call a Snow Day today – yes, even during remote learning. There is nothing like that unexpected Snow Day, the sense of a surprise gift, freedom, sheer joy. However, the weather did not cooperate. It looks like we will get heavy snow but not until this evening. And what good is a Saturday Snow Day? Awful timing 😊

    You would have enjoyed the many text messages back and forth among King Country heads of school last night. “What are you thinking?”; What will you do?”; “I will call a snow day by 5:30 AM tomorrow – kids and teachers will be ecstatic!”; “We are having a virtual PD tomorrow, and students are already off.” This morning’s texts starting before 5:00 am simply stated, “We will have school today.”; “Same.”; “Going ahead with regular plans!”

    Having been awake since 4:30 AM allows for a great head start to the day and, believe me, I have had plenty of these mornings during my tenure as head of several schools for the past 15 years. Once the call has been made, you sit back and relax. One constant is that no matter what call you make, some will be overjoyed and agree; others will point out why the decision was wrong. Students, on the other hand, tend to fall exclusively in the first category.

    I hope that students and you may be able to enjoy some rest, peace, and time for self-care during next week’s Mid-winter Break. Before then, enjoy your weekend and take advantage of tomorrow’s snow day. Build snow people; engage in a friendly, family snowball fight; make snow angels; read A Snowy Day to younger family members; go skiing or snow shoeing; or simply stay inside under a warm blanket with a hot cup of chocolate.

    Best wishes and in partnership,
    Dennis

  • Feb. 12 - Letter to Upper School Families: Prepping for Trimester 3

    Dear Upper School Families,

    It was an exciting week filled with lots of community connection. Upper School Seattle-based students spent the week in MOJO Days, either online or in person. It was a beautiful thing to see the students and faculty who came to campus reacclimate to being together and flexing their social muscles that have been underutilized over the last 11 months. We learned a lot about how to keep each other safe when we are together and are looking forward to our next rotation to campus the week of March 8th. We will plan to do more of an academic focus on the next round.

    Community Meeting has been filled with celebration lately. Last week, the BSU leaders, Makeda C., Aaron T., and Brooklyn J. announced what Black History Month means to them. They spoke of the importance of seeing their culture and heritage represented throughout the curriculum and community as a way to celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of the Black community and how this helps them envision their own futures. These students are outstanding role models for our younger community members.

    Much love is also being shared with our international families who are celebrating the Lunar New Year. Patricia Taraday, International Parent Chair, writes that “Last Friday, our international parent representative leadership team met virtually with 32 of our international families from Shanghai, Tokyo, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hanoi. It was clear that even though our international families are thousands of miles away, we all share the same gratitude toward NWS, the pains of the pandemic, and the hopes that we return to a new "norm" soon.”

    Parenting In the Time of COVID Call February 24th at 7:00 PM. Back by popular demand, Sarina Natkin, LICSW, Parent Coach, and NWS parent, and Peter Berner-Hays, former NWS counselor and retired head of school will co-facilitate a conversation about the ongoing challenges of parenting in the time of COVID. As families continue to navigate ongoing isolation and the risk of returning to more in-person gatherings, join others in talking through the challenges this presents.

    Transition from remote to in-person learning

    Here is a link to the latest information about Returning to the House, on our website. As announced in E-news, this page has been updated with the schedule that we will use for Trimester 3 and for hybrid learning. Upper School students will rotate, two grade levels at a time, on campus on Thursday and Friday for three of their four classes. Students will leave after three classes, have lunch at home, and engage in their fourth class (arts) remotely in the afternoon. According to guidelines from the state, we are unable to conduct most of our performing arts classes in-person safely, which is why students will continue to take these classes remotely.

    To help answer questions and prepare for this transition, the administration and the Upper School PGA Co-chairs will host grade-level meetings the week of March 1st. Stay tuned for specific days and times.

    Please note: No school for students, Wednesday, March 10th. We have cancelled classes this day for professional development in preparation for shifting to a hybrid schedule.

    During next week’s February break, I’m going to take some time away from my work and my computer. I will write again on Friday, February 26th.

    I hope you all find ways to share some love this Valentine’s Day with people you care about and have some carefree fun in the snow.

    Amy

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

  • Feb. 12 - Letter to Middle School Families: Prepping for Trimester 3

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    I enjoyed those couple of days of “false spring” when the temperature and sunshine gave us an experience of what’s ahead. Even though I’m looking at snow forecasts as I write this, the moment of reprieve did my mind, heart, and soul good. Spring is indeed around the corner, metaphorically, and we still have some work to do to get there.

    Adaptive change (think trying to write with your left hand after writing with your right hand for many years) takes time and it’s hard. We have had students on campus this last week and while the mask wearing was pretty easy for them, the physical distancing was not. Staying six feet away from peers, friends, after being away from them for so long, is hard! It’s hard for me. Making this important adaptive change takes and will take willingness, practice, communication, and persistence. I emailed Middle School students today that they should start practicing now.

    Here are some updates.

    Sign up for MOJO (Mask On Join Others) Orientations

    For planning purposes, we need to know how many of our Middle School students will be attending in person for the first round of orientations. Please complete this sign-up form by Tuesday, February 23rd at 8:00 AM. As a reminder, the MOJO days for Middle School are:

    • Wednesday, March 3rd, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM, for 8th grade students
    • Thursday, March 4th, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM, for 7th grade students
    • Friday, March 5th, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM (subject to change to 9:00 – 11:30 AM), for 6th grade students.

    The goals of these orientations are:

    • Introducing and practicing safety protocols
    • Creating or re-establishing community agreements that include holding each other accountable for following the safety protocols and minimizing harm/risk
    • Getting to know or getting reacquainted with the physical space
    • Getting acquainted or reacquainted with peers and teachers
    • Having some fun together in person

    Transition from remote to in-person learning

    Even though I included this in last week’s email, I want to make sure you have been alerted to the information, Returning to the House, on our website. As announced in E-news, this page has been updated with the schedule that we will use for Trimester 3 and for hybrid learning. Let me highlight that the schedule has Middle School students on campus every Monday and Tuesday for three of their four classes. Students will leave after three classes, have lunch at home, and engage in their fourth class (arts) remotely in the afternoon. According to guidelines from the state, we are unable to conduct most of our performing arts classes in-person safely, which is why students will continue to take these classes remotely.

    To help answer questions and prepare for this transition, the administration and the Middle School PGA Co-chairs will host grade-level meetings the week of March 8th. Stay tuned for specific days and times.

    Please note: No school for students, Wednesday, March 10th. We have cancelled classes this day for professional development in preparation for shifting to a hybrid schedule.

    Arts Registration for Trimester 3

    7th and 8th grade students and families received information and instructions for Trimester 3 Arts class registration via email on Monday, and the deadline for submitting is today. Please check in with your child to make sure the form has been submitted.

    Word of the Week/Month: Love

    Middle School students should be receiving something else this week, too; a hand-delivered surprise Valentine gift with a custom-designed NWS related coloring page. It looks like we've got some good coloring weather coming up, and we'd love to see photos of the finished products. Please send them to tamara.bunnell@northwestschool.org.

    Keep Going

    In response to last week’s email that included a link to the Keep Going Song, community members sent me emails of appreciation, their own insights into surviving this pandemic, things that motivate them to “keep going,” and some very enjoyable videos. Thank you!

    I hope your break allows you fun or restoration, whatever is needed for your family. I’m going to take some time away from work, and I will write again on Friday, February 26th.

    Warmly,

    Sue

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

  • Feb. 5 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Focusing on a Student-directed Play

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    I want to join Board President Cynthia Tee and many others in congratulating Northwest School with the appointment of our permanent Head of School, Ray Wilson, who will officially begin on July 1. Ray, who brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and wonderful qualities, will be a superb leader, and I know he is beyond thrilled to join our community. Ray and I have already been in touch several times, and I can guarantee you that it WILL be a peaceful “transfer of power.” Ray’s deep knowledge of Seattle and the competitive independent school landscape will be of particular significance and an advantage. Ray and I will begin our regular conversations and collaboration very soon. Congratulations Northwest – I know Ray will serve you very well.

    As we gradually return to school beginning next week, with initial remote learning opportunities for students on campus, visits by grade levels in the Upper School, and heading towards hybrid learning Trimester 3, I have been asked by some, “What about next fall? Will Northwest be in person?” My answer to that questions has been, “That is my full expectation, and I cannot imagine we would not be back to a semblance of normal school.” Obviously, even after the vaccine we would have to follow whatever health guidelines may be in place in August and September, and mask-wearing and some distancing may still have to be part of the new normal. Currently, we are waiting in anticipation for concrete news when we as faculty members will be in front of the line for our first vaccination.

    Today, I intend to focus on one specific student-directed Upper School Play, Spirochete, that will be performed and can be viewed this evening, at 7:30 PM, via this link. Contents of the play, including syphilis, political turmoil, and suicide, will be too heavy for some and parents and guardians will have to determine whether they deem the play production suitable for their individual family. However, whether the play (directed by Senior Isaac L-D.) is one your family will watch or not, I want to frame what I believe is brilliant about the choice and why it, in many ways, is the perfect reflection of the deep, profound, integrated, and sophisticated Northwest School education.

    It is not merely a student-directed play like you find at so many other high schools. The selection of Spirochete, from 1938, is the final choice after nuanced, sophisticated comparative research, including the humanities (yes history and literature), the arts, the sciences, political systems, deep reflection about social justice and inequity, and ultimately about being a change agent, making a difference in the world, and conveying insights and knowledge to others. I don’t know about you, but when I was a senior in high school, I seriously doubt that I would have been able to contain all these intricacies, connecting the dots, making these inferences, linking events from the past to the here and now, while producing a student performance with deep, serious content, and yet, as a comedy. This just might be one perfect example of what The Northwest School education allows our students to do as they soon embark on their next journey and head to college. I know I will be watching Spirochete this evening.

    Best wishes and in partnership,
    Dennis

  • Feb. 5 - Letter to Upper School Families: Upcoming MOJO

    Dear Upper School Families,

    As we head into the weekend, there is going to be more information coming your way about the upcoming Upper School MOJO (Masks On Join Others) days that begin on Monday, Feb. 8. Look for an email tomorrow with details about your assignment for your grade-level day. Faculty have been busy planning for these exciting opportunities to be together. We started preparing students for this new “normal” in Community Meeting and Advisory with videos, PowerPoints, and conversations about how we can be together and keep each other safe. We will be sure to share lots of pictures!

    Tonight, which will be Saturday morning for our international families, the International Parent Reps, International Parents, Dmitry Sherbakov, Justin Peters, Jack Lloyd, and I are meeting together for a Zoom gathering to further strengthen the connections between these communities. As we head into the most unusual celebration of the Lunar New Year, I want to wish all our families health and happiness in the New Year!

    Transition from remote to in-person learning:

    I hope that you have visited the updated Reopening Plan on our website with the details for our return to in-person school events schedule. This page includes a calendar of the next two months, with the specific dates for the Upper School MOJO orientation days.

    Last weekend, I had the opportunity to go on a five-mile walk at Seward Park with seven students and two other faculty members and we all enjoyed strolling together, outside, and being in community. I highly recommend you check these out! Here is the link that takes you directly to the Outdoor Program webpage to see more detailed information about outdoor opportunities.

    Next week, we begin Remote Learning on Campus for those students who are truly struggling with remote learning from home to engage in remote learning here on campus. This is not hybrid learning because all classes will still be taught remotely. We will offer the space and instructional assistants who will supervise and support students engaging in their remote classes. If this is something that you think would benefit your child, please let us know using this Remote Learning from Campus Form.

    Finally, I want to share with you a message one of our Upper School students wrote on a Padlet to be shared with newly accepted students as a way of welcoming them into our community.

    Welcome to Northwest! My favorite part of NWS is how the teachers are not only experts in their subjects, but are also inspiring, funny, and care about students. I have never had a Humanities teacher I didn’t really like. They have helped me become such a better writer and now I am good at thinking from different perspectives and asking questions. Another highlight is the Outdoor Program, which includes trips like backpacking on the Olympic Peninsula, building snow caves at Mt. Baker, and biking in the San Juans. I’ve made friends with people in other grades through these trips and I hope to meet you soon!

    What an incredible opportunity it is for these students to learn and grow together in this community.

    Enjoy the weekend,

    Amy

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

  • Feb. 5 - Letter to Middle School Families: Transitioning to In-person Learning

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    Those of you who read my Friday emails last spring, when we first pivoted to remote learning, know that I started taking morning walks prior to beginning my remote working in part as another tool to mitigate the stress that the pandemic was and is still putting on all of us. I shared some pictures of morning sunrises. I also shared some pictures of the various things my neighbors were doing to lift our collective spirits. Like many of my neighbors, I have taken down the stuffed animal in my window, but some of my neighbors are not only still offering gestures of support, but they have also modified what they are doing for the long haul, the marathon that we all are running. I share some of those examples below, and I offer you what someone offered me recently, the Keep Going on Song. We are not at the end of this marathon, but fortunately, we are not at the beginning either. Upper school begins MOJO (Masks On Join Others) orientations next week with Middle School beginning the week of March 1st. We have more outdoor offerings for students to partake in. We are finalizing the plan to transition to hybrid learning Trimester 3. The days are getting longer actually and metaphorically.

    As I shared last week, I will continue to use these Friday emails to update you on our progress and to answer the most frequently asked questions that come my way. These updates will include corrections and some answers that include “stay tuned”. Bear with me!

    Transition from remote to in-person learning:

    I hope that you have visited the updated Reopening Plan on our website with the details we have in place at this time for our return to in-person school events schedule. This page includes a calendar of the next two months with the specific dates of Middle School MOJO orientation days. Also, let me provide the link that takes you directly to the Outdoor Program webpage to see more detailed information about outdoor opportunities.

    Next week, we begin Remote Learning on Campus for those students who are truly struggling with remote learning from home to engage in remote learning here on campus. Remote Learning From Campus>span class="gzsstd"> Form.

    Keep Going

    Here are those pictures I mentioned above. The “Iso-chair” is still out, and my neighbors have added a flower box and a table that new things get added to regularly. The table on the right usually has rocks to take and sayings to be inspired by. Even though it was in between displays this last week, I took the picture because last spring, it was just a table. Now it has a roof because these folks are determined to provide this gift in all weather conditions until the end of this marathon of responding to the pandemic. I found it inspiring.

    Warmly,

    Sue

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

  • Jan. 29 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Reflecting on the Week

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    Happy Friday and I hope you may enjoy a peaceful and restful weekend. Our gradual return to school is launching soon, and we are excited to having some of our students on campus beginning the week of February 8. Apart from ongoing athletics and residential programming, additional regularly scheduled optional outdoor offerings and activities are also planned, at least one taking place this weekend.

    Yesterday was another long day, mostly spent in front of a computer screen in my office at the Haus. Luckily when I finally did head home, I could do so with my weekly amazingly delectable selection of food in a bag from Chef Bethany. After enjoying my meal with plenty to spare, I knew I had a few more meetings ahead of me.

    My seven o’clock appointment was an Upper School Admissions event that drew close to seventy people. Although it was late, the gathering was profoundly inspirational and uplifting. Faculty members and Upper School PGA leaders introduced themselves and spoke with such passion and sincerity about our school and experience.

    We fielded question about the academic program, about student agency and growth, about college advising, range of learners, community, core value, and social justice. What made the evening particularly impactful for everyone present were four of our students, two seniors, a sophomore, and a freshman.

    As so often is the case, students stole the show. Poised, confident and speaking with authenticity, depth, and nuance that more clearly – than any publication or adult presentation – conveyed that the Northwest School offers a compelling and joyful, social justice centered education of high caliber. Students were thrilled to see and thank teachers who had taught them in the past. “That was one of my favorite classes!”

    Seniors spoke about their rich experiences during terms abroad in Spain and Thailand, respectively. The new freshman who described herself as shy said that she no longer felt any pause in speaking up because her teachers and peers cared about her contributions and drew her in. One senior said how much she appreciated the depth and richness of her humanities and arts classes, but that she is heading to college to study engineering.

    The other senior spoke about the comprehensive college advising process and how he would be thrilled with any of the schools that were on his list of opportunities. Both of the sophomore who joined a little later just returning from swim practice and the freshman spoke about the many choices, wanting to be involved, immersed, and do it all.

    All students spoke about, “Our teachers don’t just want to hear the right answers; they care about us as individuals, as contributors.” They also spoke about having a voice, feeling prepared, their leadership roles, their participation in climate change demonstrations and affinity groups, their projects, and being stretched and challenged in meaningful ways along the way.

    I had to leave the meeting at 8:00 pm for one final check-in of the day, but my spirit was lifted, I felt a surge of energy, and I was beyond thrilled to witness our students speak so eloquently about the school they clearly love. Their anecdotes, examples, and answers to questions were so compelling because they came with such ease from theirs hearts.

    Best wishes and in partnership,
    Dennis

  • Jan. 29 - Letter to Upper School Families: End of Trimester Clarification

    Dear Upper School Families,

    Like many of you, I have spent a full week in Zoom meetings. Two in particular stand out for me in exciting ways. This week at the Environmental Speaker Series, Abbey Brown, NWS alum from 2007, spoke about her work in environmental policy. Near the end of the program, Abbey spoke about the importance of storytelling. She said:

    “I think one of the most important things I've learned is that the connective tissue between the hard skills are soft skills, like communication. You can make change by telling a really good story because stories are how we learn empathy, and so, if you connect the science and the technology to human beings, that's how you create change. If people take something to heart, that's how you create change. So, I would just say to value that in yourself, never undervalue soft skills, even though the world might tell you that they're less valuable or less useful.

    All of this has to go together, the science, the economics, the technology and the humanity of all of this, it all has to go together.”

    Abby’s ability to connect the hard science of chemistry and climate science, and tell the story in a way that connects to people’s hearts and empowers them to act, is what a Northwest School education is all about.

    On an Admissions Zoom for prospective families last night, some of our current students beautifully articulated that same level of passion, knowledge, and appreciation for their well-rounded education.

    The integration of Arts, Sciences, Humanities, and activism is what our students are immersed in and inspired by as they spend their days with the incredible Northwest School Faculty.

    Updates and Upcoming Information

    Transition from remote to in-person learning: The website will be updated next week with the return to in-person school events schedule. For now, please know that Upper School will begin in-person grade-level orientation activities the week of February 8th, starting with the 12th grade, and Middle School will begin after Mid-winter Break the week of March 1st. A second round of in-person grade-level orientations for Upper School and Middle will follow. Sign-up forms and detailed safety protocol information will be emailed to Upper School families on Monday, after the in-service.

    End of the Trimester Clarification We will be holding classes on Monday and Tuesday, March 22nd and 23rd. Following Community Meeting on Wednesday, March 24th, students will be able to set up appointments with teachers, finish their responsibilities, or opt-in to a variety of educational experiences, both remote and outside. Stay tuned for more details about the Wednesday offerings. Thursday and Friday are evaluation writing days for teachers. The following week is Spring Break.

    Graduation and End-of-Year Senior Planning We have begun planning for end-of-year senior activities, including graduation. Senior families should have received an invitation from Kathryn Wallace for a Zoom call on February 9th.

    Remote Learning on Campus Families that have indicated interest in Remote Learning from Campus will be receiving more information early next week, and an invitation to a Q&A session.

    Use this link for the full Q&A of questions received so far. If after reading the full Q&A, you have more questions please continue to use this Questions About Returning to School Form. We are doing our best to get your questions answered, though as I shared above, our plans may shift.

    As part of our MOJO efforts (Mask On, Join Others), I am excited to go on a walk with students at Seward Park tomorrow. Please see the E-news for information about these walks and sign-up information.

    In partnership,
    Amy

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

  • Jan. 29 - Letter to Middle School Families: Transition to Hybrid

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    I am writing with excitement and joyful energy because of the good work going on to bring our Middle School students back to campus. I shared with the PGA Leads this week that so much of this work is the joining together of the work of different groups who have all been planning for months for our eventual return to campus. Of course, as has been true throughout the pandemic, new questions arise at every turn. But we have a team of creative thinkers, puzzlers, and planners. It’s quite a time. But exciting and joyful!

    As we begin to communicate the specifics of our transition plans, I want to ask for your patience and partnership in supporting our students through this transition. Not all students will be able to come to campus. How can we collectively continue to support connection to and inclusion in the community? New practices will seem counter cultural to some of our returning students. How can we insist, with love, on obedience and making peace with inconvenience and less individual freedom? Mornings will be disrupted with temperature checks and health screening questions, in-person learning will be compromised by physical distancing, and lunch may need to be eaten outside. How can be we continue to embrace flexibility and new demands with grace and good humor?

    I will continue to use these Friday emails to update you on our progress and to answer the most frequently asked questions that come my way. These updates will include corrections and some answers that include “stay tuned.” Bear with me!

    Transition from remote to in-person learning

    The website will be updated next week with the return to in-person school events schedule. For now, please know that Upper School will begin in-person grade-level orientation activities the week of February 8th, and Middle School will begin after Mid-winter Break the week of March 1st. A second round of in-person grade-level orientations for middle schoolers are scheduled for the week of March 15th. More details will be included in next Friday’s communication.

    Correction to information shared last week

    In my answer to Why is hybrid learning, actual classes not happening on campus until April? from last week’s communication, I stated that Trimester 2 ends on March 24th with final classes being Friday, March 19th. The correction is that we will be holding classes on Monday and Tuesday, March 22nd and 23rd. Friday, March 19th, will be the last day for tests and other graded assignments. We had originally planned for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of the next week to be set aside for the opportunity of students meeting 1:1 with their teachers and time completing re-dos, re-takes, or anything else that enabled them to meet their academic responsibilities and end the trimester well. While this will still be our goal for these last three days of the trimester, we are keeping the structure of classes on Monday and Tuesday to offer greater support to all students. All three days will begin as they usually do (Morning Meeting on Monday, Advisory check-in on Tuesday, and Community Meeting on Wednesday) and following Community Meeting on Wednesday, students will be able to set up appointments with teachers, finish their responsibilities, or opt-in to a variety of educational experiences, both remote and outside. Stay tuned for more details about the Wednesday offerings.

    Use this link for the full Q&A of questions received that we are able to answer right now. If, after reading the Q&A, you have more questions, please continue to use this Questions About Returning to School Form. We are doing our best to get your questions answered, though as I shared above, our plans may shift.

    Word of the Week

    Word of the month: LOVE. Type of love of the week: PHILIA. Tamara Bunnell, as Acting Assistant Middle School Director and Dean of Students shared the following with students during Monday’s Morning Meeting:

    The Northwest School used to have a tradition we called the Quint of Love. We don’t have quints anymore because now we have trimesters, but for the next month or so in our Morning Meetings, we are going to explore a different type of love using the classical Greek forms, and the first type of love we will examine is PHILIA or friendship love.

    We often think first of another type of love, EROS, as associated with Valentine’s Day. Eros is the word the Greeks used for romantic I-have-a-crush-on-you kind of love, but the Greeks valued PHILIA more. PHILIA is about bonding with another person more platonically, perhaps over a shared experience or common value or interest. In an ideal state of PHILIA, we are trusting, supportive, honest, kind, and focused on the well-being of our friends and our connection to them.

    This week to celebrate PHILIA, I encourage you to seek and appreciate friendship in your lives.

    Tamara offered students, through the Morning Meeting Padlet, these ideas for showing love (the Padlet offers specific guidance and encouragement) :

    • Write a note, card, or even a text or email to a current friend.
    • Reach out to someone new you think you might like to be friends with.
    • Start a casual, regular online meet-up with friends or classmates.
    • Start an online game or other interest club.
    • Read! Check out this article from Teen Vogue that features 51 ways to cheer up a friend. Or check out these recommend titles about friendship from the NWS library team:

    o Raymie Nightingale - Kate DiCamillo,So Done - Paula Chase, Darius the Great is Not Okay - Adib Khorram, The Poet X - Elizabeth Acevedo, Harry Potter series

    I’m grateful to have love as my own word of the week and word of the month. Love in action!

    Warmly,

    Sue

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

  • Jan. 22 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Thoughts About Inauguration Day

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    Last night, a large group of alumni, past parents, and current faculty gathered for a virtual walk down memory lane as Ellen Taussig and Mark Terry, two of Northwest School’s founders, spoke about the early days of turmoil, and yet ultimate success, of their educational start-up in 1980. Apart from sharing anecdotes, laughter, and a genuine and palpable sense of community and appreciation, the far-ranging conversation focused on the strengths of our mission, core values, and key elements that have stayed consistent: an educational learning organization that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion; curiosity, scholarship, and essential questions; the uniqueness of everyone to be their full selves; the importance of the arts; globalization; and environmental stewardship. Of course, we spoke about the complexity of navigating the pandemic and education, about how a strong school always evolves and adapts to the current reality, new innovations, and new knowledge. Honoring the past while shaping the future became evident in this particular conversation, recognizing our 40th anniversary. We will have several events later this year to celebrate this milestone.

    Our school is still young. With the recent Inauguration, only eight Presidents have served during our existence since 1980. The Inauguration – a pivotal and remarkable cornerstone of our Democracy and peaceful transfer of power – was this time around surrounded by fear of violence and anticipation of the worst. It will be difficult to erase from memory the image of thousands of national guard troops, fencing and roadblocks everywhere, empty streets, and hundred of thousands of flags replacing the massive crowds that usually cheer from the Mall. In the days before the Inauguration, Monica worried a great deal because D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser during a press conference speculated that violence could spread into D.C. neighborhoods. Monica had grab bags ready for the family, several escape routes planned, how to get to her mother and so forth. Not the kind of worries you want to occupy your mind the days before the swearing in of a new President and Vice President, the first woman ever to hold the office, which is astonishing. We had to wait till 2021!

    As we now know, Inauguration Day was peaceful, the transfer of power occurred, and a new era is beginning. Monica and I have attended several Inaugurations in the past, and I was proud to cast my first vote when I became an American citizen several years ago. When we attended Inaugurations in the past, we had to travel and make our way. Obviously, the pandemic would have made attendance virtually impossible, yet it does not escape me that living in D.C. in close vicinity of the Capitol and the Mall, Monica this time around would not have felt safe to attend in her own city. What gives me hope during it all is that Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman stole the show through her powerful words, through the arts, through her youthful energy, sense of optimism, and always seeing the light. When I observe or interact with our own students and alumni, I see the same fierce commitment to making a positive difference and to making our world a better place. Our forty-year-old school with a core commitment to social justice, equity, and peace has and will continue to graduate the Amanda Gormans of the world. Peace makers. Change agents. Social Activists. Artists.

    Sincerely and in partnership,
    Dennis

  • Jan. 22 - Letter to Upper School Families: Transition to Hybrid Learning

    Dear Upper School Parents and Families,

    On this beautiful, sunny, Saturday morning I am writing to share more information about the “Road to Return” to campus as we navigate the ongoing pandemic. It is an extraordinarily complex task to navigate the ever-shifting landscape. We are steadfast in our commitment to care, and we are working to balance the varying needs of all our constituents. Most of us are feeling a need for more social connection, and some are experiencing significant mental health challenges due to the prolonged nature of the pandemic. There are very real health and safety concerns that are graver for some than others. Our faculty are delivering an excellent online educational program. It is not yet clear when faculty will be eligible for vaccination. There is a push to get schools open. Meanwhile, there are new variant strains. Community spread of the virus is still high. We are trying to take all these realities into consideration and provide safe options for our community. There will be trade offs and compromises. Amanda Gorman shared this line in her Inaugural Day Poem, “When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” We are working hard to provide light for our community. We will get through this together!

    We are taking a stepwise approach to returning to campus. The dorm has been open to about 10 students since September. Upper School Sports have been successfully practicing most of the fall. We have begun holding volunteer opportunities in the Garden and hosting Outdoor Program events. We are now ready to add more optional opportunities.

    We are adding in these next offerings to provide more in person connection for those who opt in.

    Remote Learning On Campus

    This is the opportunity for students who are truly struggling with remote learning from home to engage in remote learning here on campus. This is not hybrid learning because all classes will still be taught remotely. We will offer the space and instructional assistants who will supervise and support students engaging in their remote classes. All safety protocols of symptom checks, temperature taking, hand washing, masking, and physical distancing will be followed. If this is something that you think is essential now for your student, please let me know using this Remote Learning From Campus Form.

    Outdoor Ed Experiences

    In addition to the snowshoe trip advertised in this week’s E-news, the Outdoor Ed program is organizing neighborhood walks. Be on the lookout for these additional outdoor opportunities for students to gather.

    Upper School Athletics Fall Sports

    Now is the time to register for fall sports (sports we traditionally play in the fall, that is 😊)! Please complete the Upper School sports registration by this Sunday, January 24th. The form may be completed by students or parents/guardians. Please contact Britt Atack if you have questions.

    In-Person Opportunity for Upper School Students the week of February 8-12

    The week of February 8th we are offering optional in-person gatherings by grade level. We are calling these opportunities MOJO- or Mask On Join Others! There will be alternative grade level offerings online for students choosing not to participate in person. When it is not your student’s grade level day for MOJO, they will be participating in regularly scheduled remote learning.

    The goal for these MOJO days are to:

    ◦ Build Connection and Have Fun

    ◦ Address Issues of Social Isolation

    ◦ Orient Students to New Safety Protocols to Prepare for Hybrid On-Campus Learning

    ◦ Creating or re-establishing community norms that included holding each other accountable for following the safety protocols and minimizing harm/risk.

    ◦ Practice Being Together Again and Acclimating to Being on Campus

    ◦ Provide Optional Opportunities to Come Together For People Who Are Ready To Do So

    There will be options both on campus and at area parks. These will be half day sessions. We will follow all safety protocols including Symptom Checklists, Temperature Taking, Masking, Hand Washing and Physical Distancing. We will not include lunch in these first rotations. More details and sign up will follow soon.

    We will start with Seniors on February 8th, Juniors on February 9th, Sophomores on February 10th, and Freshmen on February 11th. Friday, February 12th is remote for everyone.

    There will be further rotations to campus after the February break with a week of remote learning for everyone in case families have travelled. Middle School will have their grade level rotations the week of March 1st. Upper School will return to campus again the week of March 8th.

    Here is a schedule that outlines the next few weeks for the Upper School

    Week of Jan. 25 Remote Learning All Grades

    Week of Feb. 1st Mon 2/1: Inservice no classes. T-F Remote Learning All grades

    Week of Feb. 8 Orientation for grades 9-12 as outlined above. Remote Learning MS.

    Week of Feb. 15 Mid-winter break no classes

    Week of Feb. 22 Remote Learning all Grades for travel quarantine

    Week of Mar. 1 Mon 3/1: Inservice -no classes. T-F Orientation for Middles School. Remote learning Upper school

    Week of Mar. 8 US on campus...more details to come

    Last week we provided a form for you to ask questions about the Return to Campus. This link

    will lead you to the Questions we have received and Answers we have provided so far. Please feel free to add questions here and we will continue to try to answer them.

    I hope you are able to get outside on this glorious day.

    In Partnership,

    Amy

  • Jan. 22 - Letter to Middle School Families: Questions About Returning to School

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    As Dennis announced in E-news, this is my last year at Northwest. I am so grateful for my 15 plus years of personal growth and joyful work on behalf of the school’s mission and the students and families I’ve had the honor of working with. In addition to being grateful, I am committed to being fully present and engaged in the challenges and opportunities in front of us for the rest of this school year, including supporting the transition of Maria Moses into the role of Interim Middle School Director. Maria has been a true partner as she has served in the role of Middle School Dean of Students (and lately, Assistant Middle School Director and Dean of Students,) and I have only confidence and enthusiasm for her leading the Middle School next year.

    Now, on to the work of the moment! We’ve received questions related to Dennis’s communication about transitioning back to in-person learning. Let me provide some of the answers we have at this time.

    Questions from Parents/Guardians about Returning to Campus:

    The communication listed Middle School Groups return for on-campus activities the week of February 22nd (Now March 1). What does on-campus activities mean? Our plans are to bring middle schoolers to campus by grade level for half a day in the morning beginning with 8th grade on Tuesday, March 2nd, 7th on Thursday, and 6th on Friday. These half days will be orientations, or rather re-orientations, to being middle school students in the House. Our goals for this time:

    • Getting to know or getting reacquainted with the physical space
    • Getting acquainted or reacquainted with peers and teachers
    • Introducing and practicing safety protocols
    • Creating or re-establishing community norms that include holding each other accountable for following the safety protocols and minimizing harm/risk
    • Having some fun together in person

    These orientations (and any in-person experience this school year) will not be mandatory. Also, we will not be serving food during these half-day gatherings. Grade levels will be fully planning these events, so stay tuned for more details. The move from the week of February 22nd to March 1st is in recognition of the impact of community members traveling during the Mid-winter Break.

    Why is hybrid learning, actual classes not happening on campus until April? Our 3rd trimester begins April 5th. Using this natural break in the academic schedule will allow shifting to a new mode of instruction for both teachers and students to be less disruptive. Any change is disruptive, so we are looking for all the ways to minimize and/or mitigate the costs of a transition away from remote to hybrid while also making the most of the benefits. Reminder: Trimester 2 ends on March 24th, with final classes being Friday, March 19th. Spring Break is still scheduled for March 29th through April 2nd.

    Is it certain the Hybrid schedule will alternate between Upper School weeks and Middle School weeks? A Hybrid schedule (some days in person and some days remote) to de-densify the campus and allow for the necessary safety protocols, is extraordinarily complex. What we know is that we will not have both divisions on campus at the same time. We are finalizing a schedule that provides as much consistency and routine as possible for both divisions.

    What’s above represents the most frequently asked questions. Use this link for the full Q&A of questions received so far. If, after reading the full Q&A, you have more questions, please submit them in this Questions About Returning to School Form.

    Remote Learning on Campus

    Another offering mentioned in Dennis’s mailing last week is the opportunity for students who are truly struggling with remote learning from home to engage in remote learning here on campus. This is not hybrid learning because all classes will still be taught remotely. We will offer the space and instructional assistants who will supervise and support students engaging in their remote classes. If this is something that you think is essential now for your student, please let me know using this Remote Learning from Campus Form.

    Outdoor Ed Experiences

    In addition to the snowshoe trip advertised in this week’s E-news, the Outdoor Ed program is organizing neighborhood walks. Be on the look out for these additional outdoor opportunities for students to gather.

    Word of the Week

    We didn’t offer a word of the week since we didn’t meet as a middle school on Monday, January 18th. However, my own word of the week has been “possibility.” I cried more than expected during the Inauguration seeing a woman of color being sworn in as Vice President and seeing rituals and ideals that stood in stark contrast to scenes from two weeks ago. We need to remain aware and vigilant, but I was swept up by possibility. And then with every departure, including my own, there is an opportunity, new possibilities.

    Warmly,
    Sue

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

  • Jan 15 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Return to School

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    I appreciate your patience and understanding. I know everyone has been wondering, “What are the School’s plans beyond MLK Day? Are we going to stay online or gradually return to campus in some hybrid form? And what dates(s) are we looking at?” I ask that you please do read the entire letter carefully or you may miss some of the rational and complexity of the decision.

    Even after today’s E-News, I anticipate you will have plenty of questions, will want further clarification, or want to express unique needs or concerns. However, I hope the following timeline will get you a sense of what lies ahead.

    Between the end of January and the beginning of Trimester 3, we will initially make outdoor activities available, and then gradually reintroduce students to campus, first in small numbers, then one grade level, then two, as everyone learns to navigate health screening, new safety procedures, and practices.

    Our hope is to transition to a full hybrid model at the beginning of Trimester 3, likely alternating the Middle and Upper School every other week.

    Surveys of both families and faculty range from a sense of complete comfort regarding a return to school with the appropriate safety measures in places to astonishment that we would even consider doing so before everyone has received the necessary vaccinations.

    I am in touch with King County and vicinity heads of school regularly, so I am aware of their current plans, their questions, and their individual concerns. One of our own parents is a head of an elementary school that has been in session most of the time since this past summer. All campuses and circumstances are unique, so capacity, safety, and retraining are of the essence.

    I understand the push and pull in the midst of very high COVID-19 numbers and indicators, the very real fear for life, while also reading other research that COVID-19 outbreaks are not driven by in-person classes in schools. Wearing masks, frequent handwashing, distancing, and other mitigating safety procedure do work.

    Key questions raised revolve around, “How do I know that others will take all the necessary safety precaution outside of school?” Transportation. Equity. Multiple children in different grades. The mental well-being of students. Multi-generational families. Focus on grouping and cohorting.

    In our thinking and planning we are trying to accommodate and meet needs as best as we can, while working through layers and layers of logistics, thinking about the wellbeing and added pressure on faculty in a hybrid model, with students in person and online at the same time.

    We know that a number of both families and faculty have expressed that they will not be able to return physically to campus in the near future, or maybe for the rest of the year, while others are eager to connect in person.

    We are creating a pool of subs and TAs who will be able to supervise classroom spaces while some teachers continue to teach online. We are acquiring technology that will better accommodate a hybrid setting.

    Some families and students are desperate to connect, meet their peers, or even experience the Haus in person. Director of Outdoor Activities Nathan Franck, and Director of Environmental Education Jenny Cooper are planning optional outdoor in-person activities such as neighborhood walks, a snowshoeing trip, farm and garden volunteer days, with faculty who do feel comfortable chaperoning.

    We realize that some students have had a particularly difficult time navigating the online space. We are prepared to offer supervised remote learning on campus, following all safety and screening protocols, beginning the week of February 8, possibly sooner.

    Our wise Health Coordinator Sierra Maxwell will be the first of us to get her vaccine next week. She is a wealth of resources as is our Director of Facilities Tony Kaufman. Please do not hesitate to reach out to them with questions. We hope that many of our teachers who are considered essential workers will be able to get in line for their own vaccinations.

    Please know that people internally are working deliberately through all details to ensure safety, care, and compassion for our students, families, and faculty as we continue down the path of returning to the semblance of normalcy.

    Let me end on a high note. Today we held our annual MLK program, and I urge you to watch the recordings of our two speakers Lyla June and Yolanda Wisher, both of whom lifted our spirits through powerful speeches, song, and poetry. Please enjoy your Martin Luther King, Jr., weekend, and I hope we will experience a peaceful transfer of power next week.

    With appreciation and in partnership,
    Dennis

  • Jan. 14 - Letter to Upper School Families: MLK Day Celebration and Inauguration

    Dear Upper School Families,

    I am writing my letter today so you have the information about tomorrow for your students. Dennis will write tomorrow with updates about hybrid and our planning for a return to the building.

    We are following our tradition of using the Friday before Martin Luther King Da for a half-day focus on the legacy of Dr. King, the civil rights movement, and its relevancy now. No regular classes will be held this Friday, January 15th. There will be programs offered both in Seattle and Asia. Students are expected to attend the full program. Students have received this information in their emails and should let their advisors know which sessions they attend.

    Information for Students to Access MLK Day

    Here's info about the sessions for students abroad

    Workshops:

    • Anti-blackness in Asian Communities
    • Culture Sharing at NWS
    • Making “You Soup”: Exploring Our Social Identities
    • What the Heck Is Happening in the US?
    • Why It’s Important to Talk about Race

    Time Zones:

    • Seattle/Vancouver: Thursday, January 14 at 7pm
    • Vietnam: Friday, January 15 at 10am
    • China/Taiwan/Hong Kong: Friday, January 15 at 11am
    • Japan: Friday, January 15 at 12pm (noon)

    Access Link:

    Here is the full schedule for Friday for students attending in Seattle!

    Students are expected to attend the opening guest speaker, to choose a workshop to attend after that, and then to re-join the larger community for the closing guest artist. The schedule provided has all the Zoom links needed to participate.

    Reminder: there is no school on Monday, January 18th in Seattle or abroad.

    Next Week is the Inauguration The Presidential Inauguration begins at 9:00 PST on Wednesday, January 20th. As we witnessed last week and as perhaps you’ve been reading in the news, this event may not be merely a celebration of democracy and the transition of power. Because there may be more violent actions from white nationalist groups, we want to give students and families the option to watch the event together as a family. If students want to login to Community Meeting on Wednesday morning, we will provide an alternative activity or activities and be ready to engage students in reflecting and understanding the event later in the day during their classes.

    We are engaging in all that is happening as a school community, and we know it is a lot to navigate for everyone. To support your efforts at home in utilizing strategies to restore emotional balance for your kids and for yourself, our school counselors put together the attached resource.

    Forefront Training for Parents and Guardians Saturday, January 23rd

    It is always important, but now more than ever, that we learn together to prevent suicide. Our Parent Trainers, in partnership with our school counselors, put on a fantastic evening several weeks ago and are holding an additional training January 23rd. It is a unique opportunity to learn from other parents about proven strategies and communication skills. More information will be in this week’s E-news.

    Finally, I will share that we called an Upper School Meeting of students and faculty last Monday to talk about our lack of a full community response to the insurrection in Washington last week. Below, I will share the remarks I made “in person” at the meeting and then shared with the students by email. Several other faculty members spoke as well. We also asked students to share with us what they need from us to navigate this time. We are working to accommodate the many different needs of our students and faculty in this time.

    Monday Remarks from Amy to Upper School:

    As some of you know, I have two kids, Rachel and Max. When they were teenagers, and even now as young adults in their 20s when they leave the house to go meet up with their friends, their dad and I always say, “Remember who you are and what you stand for.” We always say it in a loving and almost joking way, but it is a gentle reminder to be thoughtful about their actions and to act with integrity.

    That is what we are here to do today as an Upper School, remember who we are, and what we stand for.

    Last Wednesday I was ecstatic to wake up to the election results in Georgia. The Black voters of Georgia, led by Stacey Abrams and supported by young people throughout the country, got people out to vote in record numbers. Reverend Raphael Warnock was elected to the Senate. The Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, the parish of Dr. King and a hub of the Civil Rights Movement, was elected to the Senate. Georgians also elected Jon Ossoff, the first Jewish Senator in Georgia’s history. Wednesday was also to be the day that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the first woman, and a woman who is Black and East Indian, were to be certified by the House of Representatives as President and Vice President.

    Instead of a day of celebration, Trump supporters, white supremacists, launched a violent insurrection, a coordinated act of terrorism as they stormed the capitol building brandishing swastikas, nooses and weapons. What is particularly obscene is the complete lack of response to the mob. When you compare that with the Black Lives Matter protests only weeks before, it is clear that the lack of response and even complacence was a result of the insurrectionists being white. In the words of Michelle Obama, “True progress will be possible only once we acknowledge that this disconnect exists and take steps to repair it. And that also means coming to grips with the reality that millions voted for a man so obviously willing to burn our democracy down for his own ego.”

    Last week as a school we were not our best. We were slow to respond. We were not quick to take a stand or offer support. As the adults in charge, we don’t have all the answers. We make missteps. An important part of our work is to show care for this community. As white people in this community - me, our white faculty and students - we need to do the work so we are more prepared when this violence against communities of color occurs. We are fortunate to have faculty members who are extremely knowledgeable about the white nationalist movement and are willing to teach us. Our school counselors are here to support us with the tools to take care of ourselves and each other. We are committed to doing better. I am committed to doing better. We need to work together as faculty and students to acknowledge the disconnect Michelle Obama speaks of and take the steps to do the repair in our own community.

    We will continue our work together every day and in Community Meetings, Grade Level Meetings, classes, and next Friday at MLK Day and beyond. We need to be clear about who we are and what we stand for.

    My best to you,
    Amy

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

  • Jan. 14 - Letter to Middle School Families: MLK Day Celebration and Inauguration

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    I am writing a day early because I want to make sure you have information about tomorrow’s MLK celebration as well as an update on our plans for next Wednesday’s Inauguration. I know that there are lots of questions about the school’s plan for transitioning to hybrid learning in-person in the building, and Dennis Bisgaard, Interim Head of School, will write tomorrow responding to the questions raised recently and sharing where we are in the process.

    MLK Celebration TOMORROW

    I shared last week that we are following our tradition of using the Friday before Martin Luther King Day for a half-day focus on the legacy of King, the civil rights movement, and its relevancy now. No regular classes will be held this day, with the day beginning at 9:30am and ending at 12:30pm. The full schedule was shared with students through email, and advisors are following up with their advisees, helping them to choose interesting and appropriate workshops. It is an expectation that students are participating in this school event, so please contact Attendance@northwestschool.org, if your student will be absent. Here is the timetable for tomorrow:

    • 9:00- 9:10 Advisor check-in
    • 9:30am-10:30am (Introduction to day & Lyla June Talk with Q & A facilitated by students)
    • 10:30am-10:45am (Screen Break)
    • 11:00am-11:45am (Faculty-led Workshops) Advisors are making clear to advisees which of these workshops are designed well for Middle School participation.
    • 11:45am (Screen Break)
    • 12:00pm-12:30pm (Closing poem with Yolanda Wisher)

    Last week’s communication has more details about the presenters. Reminder: there is no school on Monday, January 18th.

    Next Week is the Inauguration

    The Presidential Inauguration begins at 9:00 PST on Wednesday, January 20th. As we witnessed last week and as perhaps you’ve been reading in the news, this event may not be merely a celebration of democracy and the transition of power. Because there may be more violent actions from white nationalist groups, we want to give students and families the option to watch the event together as a family. If students want to log-in to Community Meeting on Wednesday morning, we will provide an alternative activity or activities and be ready to engage students in reflecting and understanding the event later in the day during their classes.

    We know from best practice that the best support we can give middle schoolers in grappling with challenging current events is helping them make sense of the news and helping them name and process through the emotions that come up in response to the events. We will stay vigilant in working with our students with these goals. To support your efforts at home in utilizing strategies to restore emotional balance for your kids and for yourself, our school counselors put together this helpful resource. Please put it to good use!

    Forefront Training for Parents and Guardians Saturday, January 23rd

    I want to make a plug for this opportunity to participate in building a culture of suicide prevention by attending this parent training. It’s a unique opportunity to learn from other parents about proven strategies and communication skills. More information will be in this week’s E-news.

    Word of the Week

    Wisdom. One becomes wise by learning and experiencing and making sense of the world. Wisdom comes from the practice of taking the lessons from yesterday and applying them to today. May we all wake up each morning with this goal.

    Warmly,
    Sue

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

  • Jan. 8 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Time to Process

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    You heard from me yesterday, reflecting about the insanity we witnessed from our capital on Wednesday. And, at last night’s Town Hall meeting with Dr. John B. Lynch and Health Coordinator Sierra Maxwell, I told the 139 participants that I would provide an update about the surveys we sent to families and faculty. The day is slipping away, and I find myself in meetings all day. Please give me till next week to provide the update and reflect further about what we learned at last night’s important meeting.

    If you were unable to attend last night’s meeting, I encourage you to listen to the recording of the meeting. On behalf of the Northwest School community, I want to extend a sincere appreciation and thank you to Dr. Lynch and Sierra Maxwell. To have access to this level of health and preventative expertise is a real luxury for all of us.

    A week into 2021 has not exactly brought the calm and new beginning that we so had hoped for, but a brighter future is on the horizon.

    Have a peaceful and restful weekend,
    Dennis

  • Jan. 8 - Letter to Upper School Families: Reaction, MLK Day Preview, and International Schedule Changes

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    I was ecstatic to wake up to the election results in Georgia on Wednesday. Hints of change. The Black voters of Georgia, led by Stacey Abrams and supported by young people throughout the country, got people out to vote in record numbers. I find it hopeful that Reverend Raphael Warnock was elected to the Senate. I am inspired that the Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, the parish of Dr. King and a hub of the Civil Rights Movement, will be representing Georgia in the Senate. I find it hopeful that Georgians have elected Jon Ossoff, the first Jewish Senator in its history.

    I am angry that the actions of Trump supporters attempting to overturn the election derailed from what should have been a day of celebration. Many were not surprised by the events in the Capitol on Wednesday. It was the logical conclusion to four years of unchecked hatred and division from the office of the President. The tepid response to the rioters juxtaposed with the Black Lives Matter protests only weeks before clearly illustrates the structural racism embedded in our nation. In the words of Michelle Obama, “True progress will be possible only once we acknowledge that this disconnect exists and take steps to repair it. And that also means coming to grips with the reality that millions voted for a man so obviously willing to burn our democracy down for his own ego.”

    These are hard times for our kids. These are hard times for all of us. Our faculty continue to work together, to support our students to make sense of what is going on and build the skills needed to make a difference. We are committed to doing better. I am committed to doing better. We are working together as a faculty and with our students to acknowledge the disconnect and take the steps to do the repair in our own community that Michelle Obama speaks of. We will continue our work together every day and in Community Meetings, Grade Level Meetings, classes, and next Friday at MLK Day.

    MLK Day Celebration

    This year’s MLK day will look a lot different – like everything else. But we’re hopeful for a wonderful day. We have an engaging day planned for Friday, January 15th.

    Our first speaker for the day is Lyla June. Lyla is an Indigenous environmental scientist, doctoral student, educator, community organizer, and musician of Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) and European lineages from Taos, NM. Lyla will be speaking with us on actionable ways to build more inclusive and equitable school communities. Some of us had the pleasure of hearing Lyla speak and perform during this year’s People of Color Conference. We are thrilled she will join our school community for MLK day.

    Enjoy these performances:

    All Nation’s Rise
    Lyla June Speech @ MIT

    The morning continues with faculty-led workshops covering a variety of equity issues. At 12:00pm we will gather again as a whole school for a closing celebration featuring Yolanda Wisher, an African-American poet, educator, and spoken word artist.

    Our day ends at 12:30pm.

    International Sections

    We have revised the program for our international students studying abroad. Sunday night, we will be launching additional synchronous classes for our students who have been unable to return to Seattle. This change will allow our students abroad the opportunity to engage with their teachers and classmates more fully which is an essential element of a Northwest School education. The classes will be taught in the evenings, Seattle time, so students abroad can come to class during their daytime! We are pleased to welcome to our faculty: Ross Colebrook teaching Global Ethics, Christophe Chagnard teaching the Music of Film, and Walter Manny teaching Science. They will join Clare Prowse teaching science, Mike Moss teaching Health, and Nathalie Hall teaching Visual Art, along with Gus Garces, Priscilla Lindberg, Mercy Hume, and Maiensy Sanchez who have been teaching synchronously all year.

    Respectfully, Amy

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

  • Jan. 8 - Letter to Middle School Families: Reaction, MLK Day Preview, Maria Moses on Maternity Leave

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Words and actions matter. This is a common theme in Middle School as we ask students to learn about history, examine current events, and as we all interact with each other in this community. The violence, racism, disrespect, and disregard represented by the words and actions on display in our nation’s capital on Wednesday stand in opposition to our school’s mission and values and stand in opposition to our nation’s democratic ideals. It is not possible for me, for us, to be neutral in examining and educating our Middle School students about Wednesday’s events, the events since the presidential election, and the other events of the past prompted by lies and misrepresentation. It is critical for us to help our youngest students distinguish the difference between political differences and unacceptable words and actions. I feel both passionate and humble, mad and grateful, but steadfast in the importance of walking alongside our students in making sense of a complicated now. I am so grateful to the Middle School teachers who lovingly meet our students where they are and engage them in the important and necessary conversations that fulfill our mission of graduating students who think and act with integrity, believing they can have a positive impact on the world.

    What follow are some updates and answers to questions that have come my way this week.

    Wednesday Schedule

    What are the goals and expectations for the Wednesday schedule change? The goal of the schedule shift was to respond to feedback received and needs identified from all of our stake-holders. While the feedback and needs are varied in our community, it felt necessary to reduce the amount of time spent in Community Meeting, create more time during the day for teachers to be available to each other and for students to have independent work time, and to maintain the structure of half-hour classes. The expectations for Middle School students during independent work time is to complete their course work, study, practice, or pursue other academic opportunities offered by their teachers.

    What guidance will students be given in using this time productively? By moving Advisory to the morning, advisors were able and will continue to coach and guide their advisees in using the independent work time constructively.

    MLK Celebration next Friday

    We are following our tradition of using the Friday before Martin Luther King Day for a half day focus on the legacy of King, the Civil Rights Movement, and its relevancy now. No regular classes will be held this day, with the day beginning at 9:30am and ending at 12:30pm. The full schedule will be shared with students next week during Community Meeting, inclusive of Zoom links.

    The first speaker of the day is Lyla June. Lyla is an Indigenous environmental scientist, doctoral student, educator, community organizer, and musician of Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) and European lineages from Taos, NM. Lyla will be speaking with us on actionable ways to build more inclusive and equitable school communities. Some of our faculty had the pleasure of hearing Lyla speak and perform during this year’s People of Color Conference.

    To learn more about Lyla June, enjoy these performances:

    All Nation’s Rise

    Lyla June Speech @ MIT

    After this opening presentation, faculty will lead workshops covering a variety of equity issues. At 12:00pm we will end the morning as a whole school for a closing celebration featuring Yolanda Wisher, an African-American poet, educator, and spoken word artist.

    Maria Moses is going on maternity leave

    Maria Moses, Middle School Assistant Director and Dean of Students, gave birth to Kendryk last year, but did not utilize the full leave she is entitled to. Maria will finish her leave beginning Monday and return to work at the beginning of Trimester 3. Tamara Bunnell, 7th grade Humanities Teacher and Humanities Department Coordinator, stepped in for Maria last school year and will be doing so again on Monday. Suzanne Bottelli, former Northwest Humanities teacher, will be Tamara’s replacement in 7th grade Humanities. Welcome, Suzanne! Thank you, Tamara! Best wishes, Maria!

    Word of the Week

    Hope. This is what I shared with students on Monday: “I have a tiny sheet of paper taped to my computer monitor that reads, ‘Hope is a discipline, not an emotion.’ I have it there to remind myself that hope is not just something you feel, it’s an intention, and its intentional words and actions are about looking for and creating the good and worthwhile in the situations we are facing and in the people we are in relationship with.”

    Maria shared “During the Civil Rights Movement, in one of his speeches in the February of 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated that “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” These words remind us that the challenges and setbacks that we experience should not deter us from imagining a better, more just, and equitable future, so we can do the work to get there.

    The quote and Maria’s words make clear that hope is not about ignoring what’s wrong, or hard, or maddening but working hard not to get stuck there. To ask: Where is the good and worthwhile, and how can our words and actions work towards making things better for ourselves and others?

    Warmly,

    Sue

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

  • Dec. 31 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Surveys and New Years Traditions

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    I send you warm New Year’s greetings from my family to yours on this last day of 2020. It has likely been the most complex, challenging, and perplexing year most of us have ever experienced, yet here we are about to greet the first year of a brand-new decade. The year 2020 did not bring with it that perfect 20/20 vision; instead, the year, at least since last March, was a complete distortion of reality, life, school and in-person connections without worry, masks, and distance. New beginnings, high hopes, and the anticipating of a slow return to at least the semblance of normalcy are on the horizon, and 2021 promises to be a much, much better year we will embrace, cherish, and enjoy.

    PLEASE COMPLETE and RETURN YOUR SURVEY by TUESDAY, JANUARY 5!

    Enclosed in this letter, I urge you to take the necessary time to respond to the survey we have prepared for you to gauge your comfort level and hopes of having students gather in smaller groups to socialize and of returning to school in person when the time is right with all possible safety and precautionary measures in place. As we have indicated in the past, even when we return to school in person, we will ensure to have a hybrid model in place for the remainder of the school year to accommodate students and families for whom a physical return to school is not feasible at this point. Please complete and return your survey Microsoft Forms (office.com) to the School by Tuesday, January 5. The more information and detail we have, the easier it will be for us to plan deliberately and carefully.

    THURSDAY, JANUARY 7, 7:00 PM, TOWN HALL MEETING with DR. JOHN B. LYNCH and DENNIS BISGAARD: LATEST INFORMATION AND DATA REGARDING COVID-19 for PARENTS/GUARDIAN/FACULTY, and Q&A.

    On Thursday, January 7 at 7:00 PM, Dr. John B. Lynch has graciously offered to follow up on the Town Hall meeting that he and Dr. Mithya Lewis-Newby conducted for parents/guardians/faculty on October 27 that drew a crowd of more than 100. I would not be surprised if we beat that number this time around as we are all eager to fully absorb and understand all the facts, the Governor’s and local health authorities’ latest guidelines, the results of the vaccine thus far, the anticipated post-holiday spike in cases, and other related issues and questions. From what I have gleaned so far, we will have families eager to return and families who worry and prefer to continue in the online learning environment. And I know our faculty also find themselves on a similar continuum. Just like we are surveying all families, we of course are also surveying all faculty. By next week, we will have a more complete picture, which will guide our next steps, continued preparation, and decision making.

    Please submit your Town Hall questions by January 7, at 7:00 AM here.

    TWO NEW YEAR’S TRADITIONS in the BISGAARD HOUSEHOLD!

    Let me end this final letter of the year on a lighter note by sharing two traditions that have become corner stones on the last day of the year. One I invented when my kids were very small, and one I was first introduced to in Denmark on December 31, 1970. I had joined my Danish adoptive family in August of that same year I traveled from and moved from Germany where I was born and had lived my first eight years.

    The day begins with a Scavenger Hunt: At least 10 clues and our children, not so young any more at 17 and 22, must solve the riddles (that over the years have turned into rhyming riddles), find the right hiding spots somewhere inside or outside the house, before they are met with a gift of some sort at each place. Some riddles are hard (and yes difficulty has increased over the years), but laughter, joint problem solving and guessing – and maybe a little prodding at times – will in the end result in success.

    Then there is the end-of-the-day tradition – literally, the last-second-of-the-year tradition – that, this evening, I will have faithfully executed for a total of 50 years in a row! I should buy a commemorative gift for myself! Just before midnight, we each step onto a couch or chair – and then as the ball is about to drop at Times Square, we count along. 10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1 and JUMP. The Danish tradition is that you jump into the new year. This year – for me the 50th time – I am more than ready to leap into 2021 and leave 2020 far behind.

    In partnership and wishing you the best possible New Year!
    Dennis

  • Dec. 18 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Happy Holidays and New Year

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    I want to wish you and your families, near or far, a wonderful holiday season and all the very best the remainder of 2020, and also a Happy New Year that hopefully will bring a sense of normalcy back to us soon. One of our faculty members, Frances Tee, recently brought the Northwest School Holiday and New Year Celebrations Padlet to life. Padlets are often used internally as an electronic platform where we share experiences, kudos, photos, and so forth. It has been beyond fascinating to read through the many traditions and celebrations reflecting our diverse and global community. It is not too late for you to add your own tradition.

    Having lived in Germany, Denmark, Canada, and the U.S., my family has melted several traditions together, which our children still benefit from. The holidays start December 1. In Denmark there is a tradition of receiving a small gift each day in December through the 24th. If you have NOT been good, you will receive a rock or piece of coal (neither my kids nor I ever received one :-)). We celebrate Danish/German Jul/Weihnachten (Christmas) on the 24th in the evening and light one candle each of the four Sundays of Advent. At lunch on the 24th, younger children receive one gift to “take the edge” off the impossible long day of waiting – the real Jul (Christmas) is in the evening. Of course, we then also do American Christmas the morning of the 25th, and then shortly afterwards we head right into Kwanzaa (something my daughter Saudea, now an 11th grader, added to our December celebration repertoire years ago). So basically, the month of December is celebratory, gift-rich, and blessed with candles and holiday spirit. And yes, we added Diwali earlier in the year. Three years ago, I learned that my biological Grandmother on my Trinidadian father’s side was from India.

    At Wednesday’s Community meeting, I elaborated a little further on our holiday celebration by introducing the Danish concept of HYGGE and a few other details. Danish homes are filled with live candles, and even the tree has live candles with special candleholders suspended from branches all over the tree – something you are not likely to see in the U.S. (where I must confess that our own candles have been exchanged with plugged-in lights). When we were children, everyone would gather in my Dad’s office in complete darkness while my Dad would light all the candles on the tree. When he was done, we emerged from complete darkness to the magic of the flickering flames and the decorated tree with gifts underneath. Danes concept of safety is a bucket of water in the corner – just in case. Not sure how much that one bucket would have helped if…but nothing ever happened.

    After admiring the tree and candles, we surround the tree (two adults, six children, and often other older family members), holding hands and “dancing” while singing carols – each family member chooses one song, and after each, we change direction. If the song is long, then we sing just a few stanzas. We finish by “sprinting” around the tree, singing “Nu er det jul igen, og nu er det jul igen, og julen varer lige til påske” (“Christmas is here again, and it will last all the way to Easter!”) Then it is time for gifts, though not quite as elaborate as these days with my own children. With six children growing up, our gifts tended to be more on the practical side, although there would usually be one or two good surprises. Then afterwards, cookies, tea, and coffee. Somehow, no one ever told Danes about decaf or that one would not be able to sleep after drinking coffee close to bedtime. I have been in the U.S. long enough that even I am astonished when my Danish or German family members drink strong coffee at 10 PM or later! During the holidays in Denmark, there is lots of baking of a multitude of julesmåkager (holiday cookies), gløg, and many origami activities, games, and just being together. All are part of family HYGGE – being together and treasuring that time fully.

    Wednesday during Advisory, a number of us volunteered to meet with a group of students offering an activity. My activity was julehjertefletning (paper braiding of Danish holiday hearts) that can be hung on the tree or elsewhere in the home. While students and I made the paper hearts, we traded holiday traditions and laughter. One student, whose Mom is Danish, and I even got to speak Danish and were able to challenge others to pronounce the impossible version of vowels and consonants of a desert that Danes delight in: rødgrød med fløde på!

    Then of course there is the other Danish tradition, although the desert (rice pudding) must originate in France riz à l'amande. I still vividly remember us six children and adults sitting around the table enjoying our desert, looking around, laughing, and anticipating with poker faces on. Inside the desert were two whole almonds. Whoever had an almond in his/her/their desert portion would not reveal it until everyone was finished. Then, “voila” – two winners (or one year, the impossible – only one with both almonds!) would triumphantly raise their arms in the air to claim the chocolate prize that came along with the sweet taste of victory.

    The year 2020 has been (or at least it seems so) a much longer year than most. I encourage you to bring some of your old holiday and new year’s traditions back to life. If you remember some from your own childhood you have not yet shared with your children, now is a great time for that “brand-new” experience. There is something to family hygge and simply being together. And I cannot forget one final “holiday tradition” that at this point is not popular among our own children anymore. Once we have passed Thanksgiving, Monica and I insist we watch Elf (with Will Ferrell) multiple times during the holidays. Our kids are no longer amused when Monica and I quote lines from the movie while laughing out loud. If you have not yet watched it, enjoy, and tell me your favorite lines from the movie when we return. “Best cup of coffee in the world” is one of mine.

    Best holiday wishes from my family to yours,
    Dennis

  • Dec. 18 - Letter to Upper School Families: Happy Break

    Dear Upper School Parents and Guardians,

    There are three more days until the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, and for me, a much-welcomed move back towards longer days filled with more warmth and light. My husband and I have celebrated the solstice with our friends over the last thirty years by sharing stories from the year of moments of darkness or light. These stories have encompassed metaphoric and literal darkness and the power of moving through it, back to light.

    This year at Northwest I have found light in the profound care and energy our faculty bring to their work with students and each other; when I have had the opportunity to engage with parents and guardians in partnership in the challenging work of supporting our students through these unprecedented times of prolonged loss, uncertainty, and growth; and when I have had the opportunity to see our students in action in the classroom, on the virtual stage, at Community Meeting, and in Advisory. These moments of light help carry me through and keep me going.

    I am looking forward to some time away from my computer and the chance to sink into a blanket on the couch with a great book. I hope you all find ways to rejuvenate and find joy in the days ahead. I look forward to being back with you in January as we find ways to connect online and in person.

    I have added a direct link to my email because I do enjoy hearing from you.

    All my best,
    Amy

    amy.berner-hays@northwestschool.org

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

  • Dec. 18 - Letter to Middle School Families: Happy Break

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    It felt ambitious choosing “wonder” as the Word of the Week and sharing with students the definition of wonder as a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable. After all, it’s the last week before the solstice, the last school week of a challenging year, and the last week before a needed break! There’s too much that’s unfamiliar. And yet, I and we continue to be committed to leading and working with hope as our stance, intentionally looking for and naming what’s good, and saying thanks when we experience it, and a feeling a surprise. I hope for moments of wonder for you and yours as we step away from remote learning for a couple of weeks.

    I’ll be back in touch on Friday, January 8th.

    Yours on the journey,
    Sue

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

  • Dec. 11 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Wednesday Schedule Change

    Dear Northwest School Families, Faculty, and Support Faculty,

    As you will recognize in my initial salutation, I feel the need and want to address our entire community at once this time. Why? Last week, after feedback and internal deliberation, we held multiple meetings for faculty, parents, and guardians. The main topic of discussion focused on a potential adjustment to the weekly schedule, more specifically Wednesday, which is the most flexible of the five days. To be honest, the meeting generated some confusion and questions as to the reasons why this adjustment was being considered and whether a final decision had been reached. For that, I apologize.

    Although many students have been able to navigate the online space well, and wonderful lessons, engagement, and meaningful connections occur every week, it is clearly not the natural school environment we all prefer. Input from students, families, and faculty about Zoom overload, too much screen time, faculty fatigue, and not having enough time to collaborate and plan together are just some of the reasons.

    Nothing has been normal since last March. Everyone is going stir crazy; virtual space fatigue is kicking in; and the normal end-of-year and December frustration and tiredness are palpable. As one of my NWS colleagues recently said, “I am tired of being tired!” We all navigate complex territory, and some of us deal with a multitude of challenges, even greater than the average.

    “How do I teach and engage my students when I also have to take care of my little ones who themselves are doing remote learning?” “I am worried sick about my child who is struggling in this online space.” “The pace is too fast!” “The pace is too slow!” “Are all of my students even there – not all screens on?” “I hope Grandma will be safe and OK.” “I can’t do another Zoom class or meeting! I’m done!” “Please let us go back to school!” “I am scared and don’t want to leave the house at all!” You can fill in many other sentiments.

    I have worked in enough schools that I know it is impossible to please everyone or meet everyone’s specific needs, no matter how hard one problem solves or tries. After listening and hearing input, we hope to signal that we hear you, and that our intention is to support our students, our families, our faculty, and our support faculty. The adjusted Wednesday schedule will go in effect when we return in the new year.

    The adjusted Wednesday’s highlights will be reduced Community Meeting time; AM Advisory to connect, launch, and plan the day; a block of time that allows faculty to plan and collaborate while students work independently, in smaller groups, and also have the opportunity for some socializing; continued learning and connection in four 30-minute classes; and finally, the opportunity to gather and connect within Affinity Groups. For comparison, here is a copy of the current Wednesday schedule. The only other slight adjustment is that Office Hours will move to Thursday afternoon from 2:35 to 3:30, and Interest Groups will meet on Friday afternoon from 2:35 – 3:30 PM.

    This week’s E-news will contain comments from the two town hall chats, and answers to the questions raised. Sue’s and Amy’s letters will also summarize and reflect upon the Trimester 1 Parent/Guardian Survey results. Next Friday, Amy, Sue, Meg, and I will meet with the PGA Leadership Team to together reflect and engage in dialog about survey results and how we can best continue to partner to support our students and build community together.

    And let me end on an important note. Namely, students. Wednesday, I had the chance to meet with the senior class – I wanted them to get the chance to know me better and to get to know them better. I shared my story, I showed them photos and I asked them for advice and input as the oldest students at Northwest. Students had interesting questions, such as, “So what exactly is the role of a head of school – of an interim – and what are you and the board trying to accomplish?” Students emphasized the desire to ensure that their voices and input are sought out, and they expressed a genuine, heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for their teachers.

    As Interim Head of School, my role is to help ensure that Northwest School’s mission and core values are upheld, to help build and bring the community together – and for now, to do so during a pandemic and distance-learning environment, which, as we all know, is complicated and complex. That said, I have been so impressed by the resilience, flexibility, and generosity of spirit even during frustration and setbacks. Students, parents, guardians, faculty, and support faculty are leaning in, encouraging, supporting, and offering their help wherever they can, through questions, observations, or a simple, “Thank you for all you do!”

    With appreciation and in partnership, Dennis

    Announcement about two Northwest School departures:

    Beth Mulvey, Director of Development, accepted a position at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham. Beth joined Northwest in August of 2019 and helped Northwest School navigate successful fundraising efforts in her year here, during a time when she and her team had to re-invent their approach to work and events! Beth is returning to Alabama to an institution she knows intimately and to be with family there. I have asked Julie Lombardo to serve as Interim Director of Development. Please reach out to Julie if you are interested getting involved with our development and outreach efforts.

    Mahlon Williams, our Transportation Manager, accepted a new position in Michigan to be closer to family there. Mahlon joined Northwest in 2018, and during his tenure, brought the school’s transportation program to new levels. Mahlon designed and launched the school’s new morning bus program and introduced a GPS system to the Northwest fleet. His efforts will keep our students safe for years to come. Vicki Woodhead, our current Transportation Coordinator, will step in while we search for Mahlon’s replacement.

  • Dec. 11 - Letter to Upper School Families: Trimester Report Reflections

    Dear Upper School Families,

    This week’s letter is primarily to report back the findings from the Trimester 1 Parent/Guardian Survey that some of you completed. Thank you to those of you who completed the survey, and I would love to hear from those of you who did not feel this survey represents your perspective. There are definitely aspects of our program that we need to continue to work on and improve, and there is a lot to celebrate as well. That said, I could not be more proud of the creativity, effort, and care our faculty demonstrate daily. This ongoing pandemic is not what any of us would choose. Our students and faculty, and all of you who support them, are building incredible resiliency in the face of prolonged challenge and loss. I am heartened by the many ways our community is working together to find our way through and am thrilled a vaccine is on the horizon. I hope we can be together in person, soon.

    PGA Trimester 1 2020 Upper School survey response rate:

    25/64 (39%) people responded in 9th grade 31/75 (41%) people responded in 10th grade 25/82 (31%) people responded in 11th grade 27/85 (32%) people responded in 12th grade

    We would like to improve our response rate so it is a more accurate representation of our entire community. It is harder to identify trends when the numbers are small.

    About the survey itself: There were some questions about the clarity of questions, and concerns about the scoring systems. Some were 1-9, others 1-10. That was something we just missed on editing.

    General Satisfaction: Approximately 85% of respondents would recommend or highly recommend NWS and approximately 15% are unlikely to recommend. This is a 5% improvement over last year when the same question was asked.

    Classroom Experiences:

    One of our goals with remote learning this fall is to provide continuity in order to move the academic program forward in shifting circumstances. How would you rate Northwest on our goal of providing academic continuity during trimester 1 on a scale of 1 to 9, with 1 being poorly and 9 being extremely well?

    9th grade

    10th grade

    11th grade

    12th grade

    Mean

    6 67%

    7 78%

    7.76 86%

    7.70 85%

    Median

    6 67%

    7 78%

    8 89%

    8 89%

    Some sample responses are:

    “Remote school doesn't hold a candle to in-person school, but nevertheless, I think NWS is doing a good job at providing a good-as-possible academic experience. Teachers have made a good pivot and Canvas helps a lot! It has felt more 'normal' than I would have expected, despite the challenges. I especially appreciate faculty efforts - it's clear they are working so hard and care deeply about providing a good academic experience that's balanced with the human side -- what kids need during this tough time.”

    “Amazing conversations and interactions that I'm privy to now that my child is at home. Given the circumstance, we cannot be more pleased with the academic quality and engagement that we are seeing.”

    “The experience is going pretty well, all things considered. However, I do not think it is sustainable to continue the schedule of being inside on zoom from 9-3, 5 days a week, with a few breaks. I would really like to see some more creative solutions to keeping education going but in ways that get the students off of their computers. I know it’s a lot to ask but there really needs to be more diversity of learning experiences.”

    “Miserable.”

    “NWS is doing a commendable job in a very challenging situation. What attracted me to NWS was the genuine, the personal, the real connection - between teachers and students, among students, and with the community. It is impossible to recreate that in our current virtual world. But I believe that you're trying to hang onto threads of the connection - we just need to continue to hold those fraying threads until we're able to be back together.”

    An interesting part of remote schooling is that parents and guardians have a much larger window into the lives of their teenagers than in normal times, which can complicate dynamics. Many of the issues adolescents work through with their peers and faculty at school are now in your homes. School is different this year. Courses will not cover all the same material as if we were in person. Teachers are working to identify the essential skills and content that needs to be covered to prepare students for their next steps and engage them in deep thinking, analysis, and expression. We are also trying to help students find moments of awe, wonder, and joy. Teachers are working incredibly hard to learn how to best teach in this new modality. They are bringing amazing enthusiasm and energy to each class period and it is exhausting for students and teachers. A lot of the fun parts of school, the personal engagement and connection for kids and adults, does not translate as well over the computer. We are continuing to find ways to build connection, and to build in time for rest and rejuvenation.

    There were lots of wishes and hopes for in-person learning, a real aching for some activities, small group, outdoors, something! We all want to return to in-person learning as soon as it is safe to do so. The COVID crisis lands on different people disproportionally: for some it is an inconvenience and for some it is life or death or financial ruin. What qualifies as “safe” is different for different people, and even among the experts. At this point, the infection rate that has been identified for more in-person programming is 75/100,000 positive cases over the last 14 days in King County. When we added athletics and Outdoor Program events and were beginning to plan for more social events, countywide, the numbers dropped to a low of 68/100,000, and then the numbers began to rise. We are currently at 422/100,00, with the Thanksgiving Surge predicted to keep numbers high. We continue to watch the metrics and plan for how we will move to Hybrid once the numbers are in the safer range.

    When we are able to move to Hybrid, it will likely involve smaller groups of students coming to campus for in-person engagement, while others are at home, engaging in remote learning. All families will have the option to remain at home. There is increased complexity in offering both an on-campus option that maintains physical distancing and safety protocols while also offering classes remotely. We are in regular conversations about how to do this the best way.

    There were varying degrees of specificity about quality of instruction: some great, and some red-flags, highlighting the need for supervision, mentorship, and accountability. We continue to support faculty in need of growth. Our Ed-Tech faculty have provided and will continue to offer a lot of group and one-on-one support for faculty to continue to improve their use of technology and the tools we have adopted. When a particular faculty member is identified as needing improvement in their teaching, we support them with a coach to provide direct feedback and direction.

    We had some parents say their students have too much time on screen and some say too little.

    We have a value for fostering and maintaining our community with parents and guardians, even while being physically distant. The PGA has Leads communicating and offering parent/guardian coffees, in addition to efforts to help connect students to the school with welcome gifts to new students and on-line social events. The school has offered things like weekly communications from division directors and Wednesday evening parent/guardian events. How would you rate Northwest on our goal of maintaining community during trimester 1, 1 to 10, with 1 being poorly and 9 being extremely well?

    9th grade

    10th grade

    11th grade

    12th grade

    Mean

    7.24 80%

    7.35 82%

    7.76 86%

    7.37 82%

    Median

    7 78%

    7 78%

    8 89%

    8 89%

    There is a lot of communication coming from the school. Too much for some but appreciated by many. E-news and Friday letters from Dennis and Amy are the most read. The challenge of building community and keeping in good communication is even more complicated with remote learning.

    Some sample responses are:

    “We are new to the school and don’t know other families. Zoom meetings are a difficult way to meet and connect with new people. I don't know that there is a good solution other than to wait this out.”

    ”I'm inundated with links and emails from so many different groups trying to stay connected...it's hard for all of us. The social stuff on zoom that is organized by school isn't something my student is excited about. when she does have time/energy to engage she's really just interested in her friend group. Weekly, regular newsletters from Amy and Dennis and the kitchen are great ways to feel connected. PGA has reached out an organized 2 coffee hours, put together an AMAZING welcome kit for freshman, arranged a snack kit for movie night. I feel the school is really trying to make the first year of high school meaningful and welcoming.”

    “Even in COVID times, the engagement is greatly improved over the past few years.”

    “I appreciate the weekly communications and opportunities to connect with the school community.”

    We have a value for fostering and maintaining connection between teachers and advisors with students. How would you rate Northwest on our goal (given the current context), on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being poorly and 10 being extremely well?

    9th grade

    10th grade

    11th grade

    12th grade

    Mean

    7.24

    7.71

    7.96

    8.59

    Median

    7

    8

    8

    9

    Some sample responses are:

    “The big topic among the parents is the inconsistent practices in classrooms among teachers with regards to having students have their cameras on during class. This seems to be an area of concern across a wide range of students. Particularly for students who are new to the school, the lack of engagement continues to make building connections to fellow students a challenge. This is difficult to understand. What are the expectations of teachers and why does there seem to be so much inconsistency? If this is something that the school wants the students to lead, what is being done to foster discussion and student-led action in this area?”

    “I believe that my daughter's advisor is trying really hard to maintain a connection - via daily sessions with the advisory group. I don't think she has needed to bring any issues to him, but I don't think she would hesitate to if anything arose.”

    “Teacher engagement and positivity is very noticeable and is appreciated by our student who is happy to go to class every day. Teachers are also very responsive to our child's emails and very helpful and positive at office hours.”

    “I don't see [my student] connecting directly to advisors or teachers. I've occasionally encouraged him to reach out during office hours; I think the potential is there, but some sort of activation energy is missing.”

    Like many of the questions we asked, there is a wide range of experiences represented in the responses. We will continue to work on how we encourage “cameras on” and get buy-in from the students. It is actually more complicated than just making a rule. I do agree that cameras on will increase the feeling of connection. I learned today how to “Hide Self View,” and I will share that with the students and faculty as a tool that may help with camera use. We will continue to encourage faculty to share best practices and successes that will benefit the Upper School program. We also know we need to continue to work to help our newest students and families feel connected to the school community. Our 9th graders also need more support learning to navigate Office Hours, organization, and general transition to high school that is more difficult when managing from home.

    There were some additional comments that were not identified as trends but were interesting takeaways from the survey:

    “Group Projects, which are hard to learn how to do effectively in person, are even harder remotely. Some comments expressed frustration over group projects and others asked for more as a valuable opportunity for student interaction. When we are in the building teachers spend a lot of time helping students navigate group dynamics so all students participate and benefit from the group process. It is a great reminder that even more support needs to go into managing this online.”

    “There seems to be much appreciation for Canvas and its value as a learning tool. It is also clear that to be most effective it needs to be updated consistently. We are working as a faculty to learn more about best practices providing meaningful feedback to students in Canvas.”

    “The remote asynchronous classes for international students are not as effective as we want them to be. We are working on ways to change that in January.”

    “Our program has always worked best for extroverted, verbal kids as is true in most schools. Online learning provides exciting opportunities for more introverted kids to participate via chat or in writing. This makes me wonder how we can carry that back more fully into the school program.”

    I hope it has been useful to share this information with you. We read and consider all the feedback you share and do our best to build a program that meets the needs of the entire community. If you find your individual student’s needs are not reflected here, and you have concerns or questions, please reach out to your child’s teacher or advisor, or to me if your question is more broadly about the Upper School Division.

    Frances Tee introduced at Community Meeting a Padlet for us to share our end-of-year holiday traditions. In my family this time of year, we celebrate the Winter Solstice. The marking of the shortest day of the year and the turn back towards the light always carries so much significance for me, and this year, even more profoundly. I hope you and yours are finding ways to mark this time together.

    With gratitude for your partnership,
    Amy

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

  • Dec. 11 - Letter to Middle School Families: Trimester Report Reflections

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    We opened Morning Meeting this week by naming and honoring the students, families, and faculty who would begin lighting the menorah (chanukiah or hanukkiah, as shared by one of our 8th graders) in celebration of Hanukkah this week as well as the students, families, and faculty who are celebrating the second week of Advent by lighting the candles of hope and peace. We invited everyone on the call to think about the rituals that celebrate this time of year and/or help fortify us in meeting the challenge of cold days and long nights. Hot chocolate might have been the most prevalent response.

    This week’s email primarily focuses on the data received from parents and guardians at the end of Trimester 2. The Word of the Week is at the end.

    TRIMESTER REPORT

    We had 86 responses to the Northwest School Trimester 2020 PGA Survey for Middle School, representing 54% of 6th grade families, 68% of 7th grade families, and 57% of 8th grade families. Last Friday, I shared the statistics from the numerical data, and it is provided again below, right after the questions that we asked:

    Academic Program

    One of our goals with remote learning this fall is to provide continuity in order to move the academic program forward in shifting circumstances. How would you rate Northwest on our goal of providing academic continuity during Trimester 1 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being poorly and 10 being extremely well?

    6th grade

    7th grade

    8th grade

    Mean

    8.38

    8.11

    8.56

    Median

    8

    8

    9

    I would say that music classes and PE just don't work well remotely…perhaps it's better to try and offer something different until the students are back in class again.” While another family wrote, “Arts classes are happening and going well. The rotation of PE teachers has kept it interesting.”>span class="gzsstd"> Your child’s individual experience matters, so if there are problems to be solved in your child’s academic experience that you are worried we may not be aware of, please reach out to the teacher or advisor so that a problem-solving conversation can begin.

    Here’s a representative comment of families who answered with a 7 or above, “Overall going pretty well. She has been challenged just the right amount this trimester. They like online school! They like all their teachers.” For the families that answered with 6 or below, the reasoning was consistent: remote learning is not working for their child. As stated above, we know that the program is landing differently for different students and that barriers exist for all kinds of reasons. Since it is not possible to change the reality of remote learning right now, we continue to be committed to making our remote program accessible and worthwhile and want to problem solve how best to do this. For families that feel reluctant to reach out, I offer this comment, “My student struggled this term. She found it much harder to stay engaged in remote learning and was overwhelmed by the homework. But the school and teachers really couldn't have been more supportive or responsive. They were just terrific and I think NWS is running a solid program; she struggled less for their great engagement and care.”

    Of concern to us are comments like these, “Sadly, with a long Zoom day, my student is not participating in Interest or Affinity Groups.” And “I think you’re doing a wonderful job in a very difficult situation. Even so, my student is overwhelmed with homework. It takes hours each weekday and prevents family activities, like taking walks together or hiking in the mountains, which we do greatly need right now.” This is some of the data we drew from in thinking about how to change the Wednesday schedule to create room during the day for students to get their independent work done.

    Referring back to the range of experiences, there are also students seeking more challenge: “…we feel expectations are a bit too lax for our student in terms of homework load and expected quality of work.” And some that are in a “just-right” place: “My student’s experience has been engaging and challenging in the best way. She is working hard, but not to the point of being overloaded. She knows how and where to get support and actively does so. She’s proud of the work she’s producing and excited about the knowledge she’s gaining. I am consistently blown away by her teachers and could not ask for better.” Again, your child’s individual experience matters so if there are problems to be solved in your child’s academic experience that you are worried we may not be aware of, please reach out to the teacher or advisor so that a problem-solving conversation can begin.

    We are all in agreement that remote learning, remote teaching, and remote school are not ideal, and this comment captures what both students and teachers are feeling: “We realize the teachers are doing all they can to make this work. It’s just Hard. She feels like school is not real. She is missing the relationships with students and teachers that are so important to her.” It’s important to name that, practice self-care, and then to turn back to the tools and resources available to help us persist. This is part of the curriculum right now. I’m so grateful for your partnership in this work!

    Finally, from this section of comments, some good advice from one respondent: “Our student feels good about the academic experience. She suggests some consistency with cameras on/off policy. She thinks it's important to have some of both, so if teachers can make it clear that this is a "cameras-on" time, and then a "cameras-optional" time, since it can be draining. Also, from our optometrist and other scientific studies, encouragement to look away from the screen and stretch from time to time. A good guideline is the 20-20-20: every 20 minutes, look away from the screen to an object about 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give the eyes and brain a rest.”

    Community and Communication

    We have a value for fostering and maintaining our community with parents and guardians, even while being physically distant. The PGA has Leads communicating and offering parent and guardian coffees, in addition to efforts to help connect students to the school with welcome gifts to new students and on-line social events. The school has offered things like weekly communications from Division Directors and Wednesday evening parent/guardian events. How would you rate Northwest on our goal of maintaining community during Trimester 1, 1 to 10, with 1 being poorly and 10 being extremely well?

    6th grade

    7th grade

    8th grade

    Mean

    7.81

    7.39

    7.52

    Median

    8

    8

    8

    There were a lot of comments about recognizing and appreciating the efforts by both the school and PGA and that it isn’t translating into the kind of community that is typically created in non-pandemic times. “Not much else you could do....” “I think the school has done a fine job, but everything is just overwhelming right now… there are opportunities to engage but no pressure if it hits your family at a time when you just can't add another thing.” “I really appreciate the effort here. It's not easy in this environment, especially with everyone being tired of Zoom and screen time.”

    Another common sentiment shared is represented by this comment: “It would be nice if school organized some casual, outdoor experiences at school in small groups (maybe when COVID-19 numbers and weather get better) in the garden or rooftop sport court. I think seeing other students and teachers would be very powerful. I know everyone is feeling overwhelmed, but it would be nice.” We are in full agreement. A lot of time and energy went into getting the remote program up and running with the goal of offering students a robust program of classes, advisory, community gatherings, and opt-in experiences like Interest and Affinity Groups. We were able after Curriculum Night to expand the Middle School Program to include in-person cross country and an in-person Outdoor Ed experience, with more to follow. Our next endeavor will be grade-level, in-person experiences that are modeled on our beginning-of-the-year orientation activities. Orientation-type activities will be necessary to help students transition back to being in each other’s company and in the building prior to actual in-person classes. As has been shared, the timing of these opportunities will be dependent on the key indicators of COVID activity in King County.

    The number of comments from 6th grade families have been particularly comforting and affirming to me, such as, “I am pleasantly surprised at how well [my child] has adjusted to the NW school as a new 6th grader. I think the morning advisories and close contacts with teachers have really created a sense of community and have helped her to learn.” I agree that our 6th grade team has taken their experience and wisdom in transitioning students to Middle School and creating a class culture and translated it well to the remote setting.

    In regard to communication, while one person wishes my Friday email still came on its own, a number of respondents expressed that including the three emails from the Head of School and Division Directors into one has been helpful and much easier to read. Also, I’m glad to know that 63 out of the 86 respondents read and value my Friday communications. For you, I’ll keep at it!

    Connection

    We have a value for fostering and maintaining connection between teachers and advisors with students. How would you rate Northwest on our goal (given the current context) on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being poorly and 10 being extremely well?

    6th grade

    7th grade

    8th grade

    Mean

    8.81

    7.71

    8.37

    Median

    9

    8

    8

    As in all the categories, we had a range of responses with a higher number in the “satisfied to thrilled” category. For example, one respondent from the low end commented, “I don't see the students feeling challenged by the teachers, they feel very coddled.” And on the high end, “I would have rated higher if I could have. Teachers have been incredibly warm, compassionate, and engaging with my daughter. In a time where she’s hungry to connect with people outside of our house, teachers (who are working incredibly hard) have been so welcoming, present and real with her.”

    There were several comments requesting support in students attending office hours and initiating contact when they need academic help. For example, “Our son is well connected to his advisory, and he is connected to his teachers while in class, but office hours are much too difficult for our son to figure out on his own. 2 platforms with 2 email accounts and 2 calendars are overwhelming.” While we will not be “requiring” all students to attend office, we will continue to offer direction in managing the barriers to attending office hours, like walking students through the steps of making appointments through Canvas. We will also continue to strongly encourage students who especially need to utilize this resource, and will follow up, as an accountability measure, on their success. As mentioned above, asking students to do the work in this area gives them the needed practice to move from dependent to independent learners. Even in a pandemic.

    Engagement in general was mentioned in a number of comments. “More is needed. Much more. The cutting off of physical interactions means there needs to be a dramatic increase in one-on-one time between students and teachers in the strictly online context. Emails and texts are clearly not enough.” And “I wish teachers, advisors encouraged students to join them for "lunch" once a month or so. The students might not elect to come, but if it's done in a fun way, what a great chance to get to do the informal chatting that students would have done (with each other and) with faculty. My kid would not appreciate this idea, but I am trying to be creative about manners for students to connect more directly with faculty ...” What I love about this last comment is the recognition that even when we create an opportunity for engagement, like socializing during lunch as Maria Moses has been offering to 6th graders, they may not come. We are determined to keep trying though! The grade-level teams meet once a week to plan and reflect about the program and to name action steps with the goal of addressing the barriers they observe exist for students - barriers to achievement, engagement, and connection. They will utilize advisory or facilitate the use of online tools (or lunches) to meet existing needs.

    Remote Dining

    One question we didn’t ask is How is the Remote Dining Program going? Even so, we received these comments in response to how the program is not only providing delicious food, but is contributing continuity and connection:

    Comments about community engagement:

    • The meal program is great!
    • Also, the dining program has been a wonderful way for us to feel a part of this community. It's an important physical touch point in this socially-distanced world.
    • We appreciate the various efforts made to help make community - coffee hour, meal pickup days.
    • In addition to the items mentioned in the question, the Dining Program has really helped to maintain community as well! Plus - a huge perk - a healthy meal with plenty of leftovers. And finally, being able to enjoy the food our kids have been talking about over the years is just another great way of connecting us to our children's experience! Thank you!!

    Comments about communication:

    • Following the kitchen on Instagram has been fun and super informative! We love how the Dining Program evolved into a takeout model. The food is delicious and it is fun to read the handout.
    • Sending meals home is brilliant idea and something we look forward to.
    • We have really enjoyed the weekly meal from NWS kitchen. I think sharing of the recipes, so kids can cook their favorites would be a way to feel more connected with school and be a good community builder. [Bethany does this! See last week’s flyer!]
    • All your time and energy spent to give students the best experience possible, in these challenging times, is greatly appreciated. And thanks for the Wednesday dinners.

    Any final comments?

    Thank you for reading through this Trimester Report and thank you, 86 respondents, for giving us your feedback. While you may not see your comments or themes mentioned above, please know that Dennis, Meg, and I have read every comment and are taking seriously the insights, concerns, and observations shared there.

    Word of the Week

    And just because I can’t go a week without sharing the Word of the Week, here it is: Action. Maria Moses shared a parable of a child being given the job of securing a bottle of oil, dropping the bottle on the way home, and losing half the oil. She shared,

    The oil in this story can represent many things. When we compare this year to years past, many of us may be feeling half-full or half-empty. Either way, it is important to be grateful for the “oil” we have, but it’s equally important to take action to refill the “oil” we’ve lost. And in a pandemic, we need to get creative with what that action looks like, knowing that there is always some action we can take.

    This Friday you will be leading a conference with your family and advisor. I encourage you to name what has been challenging, whether it’s being away from friends, looking at a screen, missing playing on a sports team, asking questions in Zoom, internet connection, communicating with teachers online, or learning in a new way in general. And then, I encourage you to find a way to fill your bottle; make a plan to improve the situation. Get creative and be persistent. Ask for help if you need to. But most importantly, take action.

    I wish you a wonderful weekend and hope you can light candles, drink hot chocolate, or engage in the winter ritual that brings you solace and joy.

    Yours on the journey,

    Sue

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

  • Dec. 4 - Letter from Interim Head of School: People of Color Conference Reflections

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    I am currently attending the National Association of Independent Schools’ annual People of Color Conference. I am 59 years old but, at heart, feel very young, full of life, and with so much growth, learning, and experiences ahead of me. Yet, I am reminded when 25-year-old teachers speak or contribute in conference sessions that I have actually attended this particular conference 28 times since 1989. The very first conference occurred in 1986 and I was there in ’89. It was a small gathering of about 150 people from across the country; few people of color were part of the independent school landscape – students yes, but teachers and administrators not so much.

    Now in 2020, we have close to 6000 participants, at some levels a milestone, yet some of the same issues from 30 years ago still come up. An annual tradition is to invite heads of school who happen to be people of color onto the stage. When I first joined that particular group, we were about 15 in 2003. Today, heads of color are about 70 out of 1700 NAIS headships – or a little more than 4%. Women and people of color are still way underrepresented, and when you look at schools with high school students that number is even smaller. The annual People of Color Conference for many educators of color who find themselves in a significant minority at schools across the country is an annual feeding of the soul, of connection, of being with like-minded people who know and understand.

    Personally, I am very appreciative of this annual gathering. I was introduced to Monica by a mutual friend in Philadelphia in 1995. “Dennis, Meet Monica;” “Monica, meet Dennis”– and the rest is history. Our children as babies “participated” in the annual conference and therefore have family across the country who saw and witnessed them grow up. My son, Nicolas, attended one of the Student Leadership Conference Conferences. Each year, I am trying to think about which adult Affinity Group is the right one for me? International? Multiracial? Transracially adopted (TRA)? After all years, I found that my “home” group really was the TRA group.

    All of us need to see ourselves. To be recognized. Known. At the table. The fact that Northwest School’s mission includes social justice, inclusion, and diversity is significant and important. It is 2020, let’s play our part and improve the world!

    Best wishes and in partnership,
    Dennis

  • Dec. 4 - Letter to Upper School Families: A Short Note

    Dear Upper School Parents and Guardians,

    Welcome to December! It has been a very full week and my email this week is going to be quite short. I will write a more complete letter next week when I share the feedback from the Trimester 1 survey.

    Student/Parent/Guardian and Advisor Conferences

    A reminder that there will be no classes on Friday, December 11th.

    Parents and Guardians of 9th grade students who have not yet signed up for a conference or have any questions related to sign-up, please email JoAnna Hanks, Academic Administrative Assistant.

    Parents and Guardians of students in grades 10-12 who would like a conference should reach out to their student’s advisor directly to schedule. Conferences are a great opportunity to hear from your student and their reflections on the Trimester and how they plan to move forward into Trimester 2.

    As I look out my window and the sun begins to set, I hope you are all able to find some time this weekend to take in the beauty outside.

    Be well,

    Amy

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

  • Dec. 4 - Letter to Middle School Families: Parent Guardian Survey Results

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    Welcome back! If you are like me and you didn’t really go anywhere, I welcome you back to these Friday emails and Trimester 2.

    We had 86 responses to the Northwest School Trimester 2020 PGA Survey for Middle School, representing 54% of 6th grade families, 68% of 7th grade families, and 57% of 8th grade families. Next Friday’s email will contain a longer reflection of the results, but if you are anxious for a preview, the statistics to the numerical data is below. Overall, there is a lot of appreciation for the school, the larger community, and the teachers and advisors for offering a robust remote Middle School Program.

    Student/Parent/Guardian and Advisor Conferences

    A reminder that there will be no classes on Friday, December 11th and students will only “attend” school for their conference.

    If you have not yet signed up for a conference or have any questions related to sign-up, please email JoAnna Hanks, Academic Administrative Assistant.

    Substitutes

    Some of our Middle School faculty attended the People of Color Conference or other professional development opportunities this week. As a reminder, if a teacher is “absent” during class time, the expectation is that they create an asynchronous lesson for students. It takes us a few days to enable a substitute teacher to access all the necessary technology to conduct a class, and we believe the challenge of subbing remotely outweighs the benefit for short periods of time. Unless you are the Middle School Director and are available to step in! Thank you to Mr. G. for asking and giving me the opportunity to see the 8th grade Humanities presentations!

    Statistics of Numerical Data for PGA Survey

    Here are the questions and results:

    One of our goals with remote learning this fall is to provide continuity in order to move the academic program forward in shifting circumstances. How would you rate Northwest on our goal of providing academic continuity during Trimester 1 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being poorly and 10 being extremely well?

    6th grade

    7th grade

    8th grade

    Mean

    8.38

    8.11

    8.56

    Median

    8

    8

    9


    We value fostering and maintaining our community with parents and guardians even while being physically distant. The PGA Leads communicate and offer parent/guardian coffees, in addition to helping connect students to the school with welcome gifts to new students and online social events. The school has offered things like weekly communications from Division Directors and Wednesday evening parent/guardian events. How would you rate Northwest on our goal of maintaining community during Trimester 1 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being poorly and 10 being extremely well?

    6th grade

    7th grade

    8th grade

    Mean

    7.81

    7.39

    7.52

    Median

    8

    8

    8

    We value fostering and maintaining connection between teachers and advisors with students. How would you rate Northwest on our goal (given the current context) on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being poorly and 10 being extremely well?

    6th grade

    7th grade

    8th grade

    Mean

    8.81

    7.71

    8.37

    Median

    9

    8

    8

    Word of the Week

    Curiosity. This is what I shared with the students on Monday during Morning Meeting:

    Taking a stance of curiosity opens a door in a way – a door of possibility, opportunity, challenge, or some other adventure. I’m encouraging you to be curious about yourself, other people, new ideas, and new activities. For example, most of you are starting new arts classes and all of you are starting new PE classes. You might have a new teacher or a teacher you haven’t spent much time with…new peers or peers that you don’t know well. Where’s the opportunity there? What’s there to learn?

    This week, all of you will work with your advisor to reflect about the evaluations your teachers wrote for you and to prepare for the conference with your parent or guardian and advisor that you will be leading in a week from Friday. What’s in that evaluation that points to actions that have been successful to your learning? What actions are you being encouraged to try? What academic risks might be good for you to take? Be curious about the direction and encouragement offered in those evaluations.

    One last thing that I want you to know is that I take this word of the week seriously, too. I’m taking a stance of curiosity this week and am looking forward to it opening doors for me.

    Yours on the journey,

    Sue

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

  • Nov. 23 - Letter to Upper School Families: Evaluations and Graduation Information

    Dear Upper School Parents and Guardians,

    In a “normal” year, last week we would have celebrated our Dorm Thanksgiving where each member of the dorm community goes around and shares something we are thankful for. These celebrations of the dorm community are always so moving, when the students share their gratitude for the sacrifices their families make to send them to Northwest School and for their friends and faculty members who support them while they are here. I would also be preparing to leave on Sunday with a few other school administrators to travel to China and Vietnam to meet with our Parent/Guardian Associations there. I will miss that time of connection with our international families. Instead, in the spirit of ongoing adaptation, the students and dorm faculty currently in the dorm have created a fun menu for the week and will share in the food preparation, and allow our kitchen faculty the opportunity to take a break. Our new facility with Zoom allows our international families the chance to engage more holistically with the local school community. In my own family, we are moving from a huge gathering of extended family and friends to a small gathering of the four of us. We are thinking of creative ways to express care for those we are missing. I wish you and your family well this holiday season as you adapt your traditions to find joy where you can in this ongoing challenge to keep each other safe and healthy.

    Here is some final information about trimester 1:

    Evaluations

    Now that classes are over, teachers are writing a narrative evaluation for each student representing the work of the trimester. Evaluations are scheduled to be released to students and parents/guardians on Friday, November 27th and will be available for viewing through MyBackPack.

    This fall, learning on-line has been challenging for many students. Your student’s evaluations may or may not be similar to their performance in a more typical year. Remember that it will be noted that this trimester occurred remotely during a global pandemic. It may be useful to look at the evaluations and reflect on whether there were any surprises for your student? Are there consistent patterns that emerge? Are there action steps to be taken? Are there things to celebrate? Students will also review their evaluations with their Advisors at the beginning of Trimester 2.

    Course Evaluations

    Students have been doing anonymous course evaluations in many of their classes the last few weeks. They will complete them for the rest of their courses early next Trimester. The teachers will use this feedback to adjust their classes appropriately.

    Student/Parent/Guardian and Advisor Conferences

    All 9th graders and any other Upper School family who want one has student/parent/guardian/advisor conferences scheduled for Friday, December 11th. Conferences are designed to place students in the center of their educational experience and to give them a leadership role in the conversation between parent/guardian, advisor, and student. Of course, parents/guardians and advisors may ask questions, share concerns, and actively participate in the conversation! Also, advisors are available for follow-up conversations if that would be useful to parents/guardians. Reminder that there will be no Upper School classes this day. Students will only “attend” school for their conference.

    All 9th grade families were sent information to sign up for a conference. If your student is in grades 10-12 and you want a conference please reach out to the Advisor directly. If you have any questions related to sign-up, please email JoAnna Hanks, Academic Administrative Assistant after the fall break.

    Graduation

    I have heard questions about our plans for graduation. We don’t yet know how the pandemic will be in June, but our plan is to make the spring special throughout the third trimester and celebrate our seniors in many ways. Our sincere hope is we will be able to do most of our traditional gatherings and festivities. We do not yet know if that will be indoor or more likely outdoors. We will begin talking about this with seniors and their families early on in the next calendar year.

    I’m taking next Friday off and will write again on Friday, December 4th.

    Happy Thanksgiving,

    Amy

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

  • Nov. 20 - Letter to All Families from School Counselors: FCD Follow-up

    Dear Parents and Guardians,

    On Wednesday evening, November 18, we welcomed Prevention Specialist Corinne Brisbois, from Freedom from Chemical Dependency (FCD), to speak with parents and guardians about the latest research and strategies for supporting youth in delaying substance use. FCD consistently brings current research on brain development and the impacts of alcohol and other drugs on developing brains. They are rooted in Social Norms Theory and discuss the influences that misinformation and exaggerations can have on youth substance use, as well as the importance of lifting healthy practices and accurate data to help normalize abstaining and delaying of risky behaviors. FCD also highlights how, perhaps now more than ever, it's important to attend to the protective factors that research has shown contribute to freedom from chemical dependency.

    Some of the protective factors FCD addressed with us include:

    • Demonstrating and teaching self-control
    • Setting clear expectations, structures, limits, and demonstrating engagement by parents and guardians about behavior and values
    • Setting strong partnerships between family, school, and other community institutions
    • Involvement in extracurricular activities – finding ways to experience pleasure in multiple activities and ways
    • Supportive relationships with family

    Corrine shared the effectiveness of having “sixty 1-minute conversations” over time instead of “one single 60-minute conversation,” with the goal of consistently revisiting these conversations with honesty and openness.

    We will be welcoming FCD back to The Northwest School from April 12 -14 for student programming. An FCD Prevention Specialist will speak about these topics and be available to talk with students in grades 6-12. Their conversations are tailored to the developmental needs of each grade level and the NWS climate, and will address how to uphold the healthy habits and practices many of our students have.

    If you are interested in listening to Wednesday’s recorded event, please see check your email for the link. It includes the PowerPoint developed by FCD for caregivers, as well as questions from NWS parents and guardians. The presentation is one hour and eighteen minutes in length; if you are pressed for time and would like to move directly into the presentation by the specialist, we recommend you begin at minute 3:46, with Q&A beginning at minute 39:53.

    Wishing you all a restorative Fall Break,
    Erin North and Lynn Heramis

  • Nov. 20 - Letter to Middle School Families: Segueing to Trimester 2

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    How did we get so quickly to the end of Trimester 1? This feeling reminds me of one of my favorite parenting phrases: the days are long, but the years are short. Congratulations to all of us for reaching this marker of a school year!

    Northwest School Trimester 1 2020 PGA Survey for Middle School>span class="gzsstd"> as of this writing. Seventh grade surpassed 6th grade on Wednesday regarding the percentage of families represented! There’s still time though, 6th and 8th grades. If you have not completed the survey yet, it will remain open until Monday morning at 8:00 AM. At the risk of stating the obvious, the higher the completion rate the more representative the data will be of the parent/guardian community in the Middle School.

    Here is some final information about Trimester 1:

    Evaluations

    Now that classes are over, teachers are writing a narrative for each student representing the work of the trimester and stating the grade that students earned in their courses as part of the end of trimester evaluations. A reminder to 6th grade parents and guardians that 6th graders will receive credit/no credit instead of letter grades in all their classes. Seventh and 8th graders may receive credit/no credit in some of their arts classes and will receive letter grades in all other courses. Evaluations are scheduled to be released to students and parents and guardians on Friday, November 27, and will be available for viewing through My BackPack. Middle School students received an email from the NWS IT department this week with instructions and log-in information on accessing My BackPack.

    As I have shared before, our goal at Northwest is to normalize receiving feedback, reflecting on that feedback, and naming next steps in the process of learning. Your conversations at home about evaluations support this effort. All news is good news when it comes to learning and growing, even when goals set at the beginning of the year are not yet being met and grades are lower than preferred. As you are reviewing the evaluations at home, I encourage you to be ready with questions you can ask your student that will help begin their reflection of the feedback offered. I offer some here:

    • Was the feedback expected or was any of it a surprise (either positive or negative)?
    • Do you see any patterns when looking at the feedback from all your teachers?
    • Does any of the feedback leave you with questions, and how can you get your questions answered?

    Let your student take the lead in naming the next actions that they can take. Students will bring what they gain from these conversations at home to the conversations that they will have with their advisors during the beginning of Trimester 2. Together, advisors and advisees will identify next steps for making progress and/or building on success.

    Student/Parent/Guardian and Advisor Conferences

    In addition to identifying next steps suggested in evaluations, students will work with their advisors in preparing to lead the student/parent/guardian/advisor conferences scheduled for Friday, December 11th. Conferences are designed to place students in the center of their educational experience and to give them a leadership role in the conversation between parent, guardian, advisor, and student. Of course, parents, guardians, and advisors may ask questions, share concerns, and actively participate in the conversation! Also, advisors are available for follow-up conversations if that would be useful to parents and guardians. Reminder that there will be no Middle School classes this day. Students will only “attend” school for their conference.

    If you have not yet signed up for a conference or have any questions related to sign-up, please email Academic Administrative Assistant JoAnna Hanks after the Fall Break.

    chedule Change for Trimester 2

    The schedule for Trimester 2 will not change dramatically and Middle School students will remain in the same academic sections that they were in during Trimester 1. The Wednesday schedule will be slightly modified and will include more independent work time. Middle schoolers will be given guidance through a supervised study hall in planning on how to best use their independent work time and will reflect with advisors on their success in using the independent time productively.

    Word of the Week

    We returned to two of our words of the week for our last week of the trimester: compassion and gratitude. I continue to believe that the more we practice compassion for ourselves and others and the more we actively name what there is to be grateful for, the better able we will be to meet the challenges ahead. I’m grateful that I work for a school that embraces these values.

    I’m taking next Friday off and will write again on Friday, December 4th.

    Yours on the journey,
    Sue

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

  • Nov. 20 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Board Identified Goals

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    Thursday, I addressed the entire teaching and support faculty at Northwest School. My intention was to convey to everyone how much I have enjoyed my first six weeks in Seattle and to share my initial observations, interpretations, and thinking. I was quick to encourage everyone to take what I had to say with a grain of salt, to push back, or to help deepen my understanding and knowledge. After all, it has only been six weeks, I do not have a magic wand, and despite arriving with 30+ years of experience, I certainly do not have all the answers. What is clear, however, is that all answers and solutions can be found right here at Northwest, among faculty, students, parents, guardians, alumni, and the board. I can also promise that I care deeply, will listen and engage, and commit to and do whatever I can to be as helpful as humanly possible.

    I have spent significant time meeting with virtually all internal departments, offices, and groups, as well as with parents (current and past), board members (current and past), area heads of school, and a number of individuals who used to work at Northwest. The combined mosaic of data points, narrative, and anecdotes shared have been rich, profound, and eye-opening. Northwest is a special school with a strong mission, and core values that have deep roots in the early beginnings. It is a learning organization that does not intend to rest on its laurels but to continuously improve its practices and effectiveness in supporting and guiding our students’ educational journey towards college and far beyond.

    At last Thursday’s meeting, I shared the five key goals that the Board of Trustees have identified for me. I want to share them with you as well, so you are aware of what I intend to focus on in the near future. As always, I welcome your input and a continued dialog in the months ahead.

    Board-Identified Goals:

    • Build sincere trust and strong connection within the NWS community:
    • Among Students, Families, Faculty, and the Board
    • Establish clear purpose and outcomes of an NWS education
    • Help plan for the long-term viability and financial health of the school
    • Hire, grow, and retain the strongest possible faculty, with a particular focus on increased diversity
    • Build the strongest possible effective leadership team within the school

    And now let me shift gears entirely to next week. I realize that the misleading narrative surrounding the original Thanksgiving is both controversial, painful, and very complicated. And I must confess that this annual U.S. family-and-friend tradition of breaking bread, gathering, and enjoying each other’s company has become one of my favorite annual times. As you can imagine, Thanksgiving is not recognized or celebrated in Europe where I grew up, yet the annual long weekend, Thanksgiving shopping (which I do not partake in at all but which is a favorite of Monica’s and her mom’s), the break before the longer winter vacation all seem to arrive when they are needed most. During the current pandemic, even as many of us likely are traveling far less than usual or adapting our regular get togethers, the time that is focused on family and a good meal is special. Many years ago, in 1990 to be precise, I was present at a lively Thanksgiving dinner in Baltimore. The company was excellent and joyous, and the food was tasty, delicious, delectable. Yet what I remember best is the camera, which was suspended above the table to take photos of the increasingly slimmer and fitter turkey at 25-second intervals. Click…Click…Click... I do not remember the intricate details about this particular school project, but the unusual image of the suspended camera and accompanying sounds make me smile each year.

    I wish you and your family, whether together or apart, the best possible time you can have next week. I hope you will find some rest and peace and are able to take your mind off the hectic day-to-day. Most importantly, I encourage you to stay as far away from Zoom and all tech devices as possible.

    Have a wonderful weekend. Best wishes and in partnership,
    Dennis

  • Nov. 13 - Letter to All Families from Safety Coordinator

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    I hope you all are enjoying a safe and healthy transition into the winter months. We can all acknowledge that our holiday breaks and celebrations will look quite different this year amidst the pandemic. Nationwide COVID-19 case numbers are climbing at an alarming rate, near or beyond previous peaks in some areas. It is essential that we double down on our efforts to protect our families, friends, and communities. With holidays around the corner and many eager to gather with loved ones, I wanted to take a moment to highlight some key behaviors that can keep the virus from spreading.

    Some simple, but important actions you can take to keep your community healthy this fall are:

    • Face Masks. Face masks are worn over your nose and mouth when around those outside of your household. You should be wearing a mask even around those you see regularly and in your smallest social circles, and anytime you are using shared transportation, including while in your own vehicle with other people. Masks should be washed after each use, made from double-layer fabric, and not have a one-way valve. See here for the CDC’s guidance on masks.
    • Physical Distance. Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from people who do not live in your household.
    • Holiday Celebrations. Gathering in groups, even with those we know, may spread COVID-19. The more people we interact with at a gathering, and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the risk of spreading COVID-19. Keep gatherings small and hold them outside whenever possible. Try to avoid gathering indoors, but if you must participate, wear a mask, and ensure windows and doors are open to maximize ventilation. Keep in mind, King County is currently in Phase 2 of Washington’s Safe Start Plan, which states you should not gather with more than five people outside of your household per week. Feel free to review these recommendations from the CDC for holiday celebrations and small gatherings.
    • Hand Washing. Wash your hands often and properly with soap and water throughout the day. Avoid touching both your face and mask with unwashed hands.
    • Stay Home when Sick. Pay attention to your family’s health and take illness symptoms seriously. It is important to stay home if you are sick or if you have been exposed to COVID-19 within the last 14 days. If anyone in your household becomes sick, seek out COVID-19 testing.
    • Seek COVID-19 Testing. COVID-19 testing is available at many locations even for those who are not symptomatic. King County has several high-volume walk-up or drive-through testing locations. Visit this link to find a testing location within King County. For those seeking testing outside of King County, visit this link to find a testing location near you. Please choose a testing location that appropriately meets your needs.

    These core strategies will help us mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 to the best of our ability. Although these may seem like small acts that require such a little amount of effort, it truly is what makes the difference and what has helped us “flatten the curve” before. I know many of us have been at this for months on end and are beginning to feel some form of pandemic fatigue, but we must not let up now. Let’s continue to band together and commit to making our community a safe place for everyone! Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have.

    All the best,
    Sierra

    Sierra Maxwell
    Health Coordinator

  • Nov. 13 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Honoring Veteran's Day

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    Wednesday was Veterans Day, a day for celebrating, recognizing, and honoring American veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice. Monica’s dad, who passed away 10 years ago, was a veteran, yet he, like many others, did not often share his own experiences or dwell on the past. It is hard for me to fathom how one can even begin to process and make sense of personally being thrust into warfare, fear, life and death, utter despair. One can never fully compare one situation to another, yet I am certain that essential workers and medical personnel on the frontline during the current COVID-19 pandemic must feel they have entered a war that currently seems to have no end in sight.

    The older I get, the more I realize how little I know. Wednesday, I happened to catch a brief segment of the unveiling of the newest monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. I learned that the monument has been 25 years in the making and recognizes generations of military service by Native American veterans. Throughout time, Native Americans have enlisted at the highest rate per capita of any other group in the United States. It is 2020, and yet I had absolutely no idea. I am glad I now have this newfound knowledge and sense of appreciation.

    As a former English and Humanities teacher who has read thousands of books, my all-time favorite novel happens to be Ceremony by Leslie Mormon Silko, a Laguna Pueblo author. Protagonist Tayo, in fact, is a World War II veteran, and although Tayo and I seemingly have very little in common apart from both being biracial, his character and Silko’s eloquence and intricate story-telling, weaving narrative and Native American spirituality together, spoke directly to me. I could relate to Tayo: I felt his pain, his sadness, his spiritual awakening, and his yearn for identity and peace.

    This week, Charlotte King-Mills, librarian and member of the Advancing Equity Team, shared that November is officially recognized as and celebrates Indigenous People’s Month. As Charlotte reminded us all, “As we honor this time, we also remember that the Northwest School is on Indigenous land. These are traditional unceded territories of the Coast Salish people, specifically the Duwamish people.” Our library, both physical and online, offers a rich array of resources, primary sources, and information, so further research or taking a deep dive are always possible, no matter what our current interest, curiosity, or passion is.

    As our country is still divided trying to absorb the election while carving out a path forward, it is worthwhile for us to contemplate and wrap our minds around the fact that the veterans we recognize and celebrate today were or are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents; men and women; individuals representing multiple ethnic and racial groups, many faiths and belief systems, different sexual and gender identities, raised in large cities and small towns, in the South or in the North. And the list goes on. Our own core values of respect, integrity, and safety, when embraced and committed to fully, have the power of unifying and bringing a community together, even when we disagree, see things from different angles, or through different lenses.

    With appreciation and in partnership,

    Dennis

  • Nov. 13 - Letter to Upper School Families: Inspiration from the Week

    Dear Upper School Families,

    I hope you were able to watch the Dance Showcase last night. What an incredible testament to our community. I loved seeing the students share their beautiful dancing. I was inspired by the teachers and the wisdom and humanity they are helping their students explore and express through their bodies. I was heartened watching all the families and faculty share in the experience together, even getting to dance together near the end. If you did not see it, I encourage you to view the recording.

    We received the following email from a parent, Jutta von Stieglitz, after she watched the Community Meeting video created by our international students who are studying from home. Her reaching out is another reminder of the strength of our amazing community in this unprecedented time, and also how impactful it is to take a moment to share appreciation, support, and gratitude.

    Hello all International Students,

    Thank you very much for making this wonderful video on your life as an International Student with the Northwest School. I am so glad that even though many of you are so, so far away, you continue being an essential part of the Northwest Community. It is a testament to how connected we can all be, even if we span the whole wide world.

    I very much enjoyed getting a little impression on your daily school life and I am impressed how each one of you keeps up their motivation and engagement. Please each one of you keep up the positive spirit, you will carry your strengths into your future.

    Best to each one of you, Jutta von Stieglitz

    In this time when we are all feeling depleted, I find these moments of community help sustain me.

    I had the pleasure of attending Chemistry class this week with Olivia Heater and some 11th graders learning about valence electrons. Having enjoyed chemistry many years ago, it was great fun to see how computer graphics, and Olivia’s creative use of Breakout Rooms, Jamboard, and Class Kicks, allowed her to present material and have students work in small groups to fill orbitals for elements, and learn about electron configuration. There was lively engagement and deep learning happening. Olivia also shared her enthusiasm for the Standards Based Grading that the science department is using. She said the quality of the conversations she has with students has shifted, and rather than focusing on points towards a grade, students are asking questions to deepen their understanding. Below is information about Standards Based Grading from Cecilia Tung, in her capacity as Science Department Chair.

    All Upper School science classes are using Standards Based Grading (SBG) system this year. This assessment practice utilizes a simplified numeric system (0=beginning, to 3=proficient) rather than traditional points for assignments. Students are assessed on their progress toward specific Learning Outcomes and are continually reassessed as the term progresses. SBG limits teachers' implicit biases on subjective skills, like participation, effort, and perseverance. SBG has been shown to be more accurate, bias-resistant, and motivational. We hope this way of assessing students will encourage students to see learning as a journey and allow helpful and specific feedback. Because the grading system is out of a maximum of 3 points, the overall grade percentage that appears in Canvas for students might seem particularly low. If a student earns 2 points out of 3 on a Learning Outcome, they demonstrate competency. This translates to 67%, but is actually a B! Science teachers have configured Canvas to give the accurate letter grade that the student can see in their view of Canvas. Science teachers have been educating their students about this new practice, but it takes a little bit of time to adjust. Please encourage your student to look at the letter grade rather than the percentage and focus on how to make progress on the Learning Outcomes.

    Here is a Prezi (by Kathryn Wallace) which explains the system in more detail and the reasons we have decided to use it, using the Biology class as an example.

    We are very excited about implementing this grading system in the Upper School science classes, which Olivia pioneered last year. Please reach out to any of us with questions if you would like to know more!

    Cecilia, on behalf of Kathryn Wallace, Clare Prowse, Olivia Heeter, Flora Weeks, Jeremy DeWitt and our newest addition, Jenn Allen

    Moving from Remote to a Hybrid Model We do think the hybrid model is a viable option and all the work that's been done and is happening on campus (e.g. upgrading the ventilation system, re-doing the wood floors, posting signs to make clear the allowable occupancy of classrooms while maintaining six-foot physical distancing) is to make it possible to bring smaller groups of students to campus for classes in alternating cohorts like grade levels or divisions. We are not considering an in-building model until case counts of Covid-19 are closer to the moderate range (25 to 75 per 100,000) and the effective reproductive number is below one. We have been listening closely to experts and guidelines, including the mixed data on outbreaks in schools, and hoping that our date of shifting to some form of hybrid on January 18th will be doable and in line with safety protocols. If we make this shift, we will need time to transition.

    I’m also thinking deeply about how to make the most of the benefits of a hybrid model and how to mitigate the costs. The obvious benefit is the positive impact on our health and well-being from being in each other's company. Some of the costs involve the time and effort on everyone's part to follow the necessary safety measures, including modifying classes that still won't be allowed to be taught in person (e.g. band and choir). All teachers will have to modify their programs again since things like group work, 1:1 conferencing, and physical contact will still be off the table most likely. Also, not every faculty member will be able to teach in person since they too are caretakers of elders, parents, spouses, and/or at greater risk due to pre-existing conditions. I hope this doesn't sound pessimistic, but rather thoughtful and realistic! We want this to work.

    In the meantime, we are offering the outdoor experiences of cross country and the day hike (a very accessible hike!) being run by the Outdoor Program for next weekend in hopes that these in-person experiences are both safe and connecting for students. Our safety measures for these outdoor experiences seem to be working, and I will report on expanded opportunities next week.

    Fall Survey and Upcoming Parent Guardian Association Survey Coming We will be sending an end of trimester survey on Monday. The results will be reviewed by me and other administrators. I will also host a conversation with Parent Guardian Association Leads when we return from the break. A follow-up report will be sent to all parents and guardians. Knowing that a lot of communication goes out from the school, this survey will come in an email from me with the subject line: Please complete this survey.

    Freedom from Chemical Dependency (FCD) Parent Guardian Event on 11/18/20 We have had a partnership with FCD for several years. They are the “leading international nonprofit provider of school-based substance abuse prevention services. For decades, FCD has worked worldwide to provide students and the adults who care for them with the knowledge, understanding and skills they need to make intelligent, healthy choices about alcohol, tobacco and other drug use.” Being in conversation with your kids about drugs and alcohol is an extremely important protective factor for them, and FCD can help prepare you for this. Please join us for Wednesday’s presentation from FCD. They will work with our students later this school year.

    I hope you have a restorative weekend.

    In partnership, Amy

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

  • Nov. 13 - Letter to Middle School Families: Reasons for Staying Remote

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    And to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourself in a way that others might not see you, simply because they’ve never seen it before. And we will applaud you every step of the way. – Kamala Harris

    It was a pleasure to read this quotation to our Middle School students during Morning Meeting this week and to start the week with a greater sense of certainty. Certainty is still in short supply when looking at the immediate future, but I hope this week’s email provides useful content.

    Moving from Remote to a Hybrid Model

    A parent emailed this week, “I wanted to understand the school's current thinking on the hybrid in-school model…I'm curious if the school still thinks this is a viable option in the future.”

    We do think the hybrid model is a viable option and all the work that's been done and is happening on campus (e.g. upgrading the ventilation system, re-doing the wood floors, posting signs to make clear the allowable occupancy of classrooms while maintaining six-foot physical distancing) is to make it possible to bring smaller groups of students to campus for classes in alternating cohorts like grade levels or divisions. We are not considering an in-building model until case counts of Covid-19 are closer to the moderate range (25 to 75 per 100,000) and the effective reproductive number is below one. We have been listening closely to experts and guidelines, including the mixed data on outbreaks in schools, and hoping that our date of shifting to some form of hybrid on January 18th will be doable and in line with safety protocols. If we make this shift, we will need time to transition.

    I’m also thinking deeply about how to make the most of the benefits of a hybrid model and how to mitigate the costs. The obvious benefit is the positive impact on our health and well-being from being in each other's company. Some of the costs involve the time and effort on everyone's part to follow the necessary safety measures, including modifying classes that still won't be allowed to be taught in person (e.g. band and choir). All teachers will have to modify their programs again since things like group work, 1:1 conferencing, and physical contact will still be off the table most likely. Also, not every faculty member will be able to teach in person since they too are caretakers of elders, parents, spouses, and/or at greater risk due to pre-existing conditions. I hope this doesn't sound pessimistic, but rather thoughtful and realistic! We want this to work.

    In the meantime, we are offering the outdoor experiences of cross country and the day hike (a very accessible hike!) being run by the Outdoor Program for next weekend in hopes that these in-person experiences are both safe and connecting for students. Our safety measures for these outdoor experiences seem to be working, and I will report on expanded opportunities next week.

    Fall Survey and Upcoming Parent Guardian Association Survey Coming

    In October we sent surveys to students as well as parents and guardians asking what has been effective in the remote setting and what has been challenging? While only 40 families responded, the responses from parents and guardians were in alignment with what we heard from students. There was recognition of “creative teachers working hard to make remote learning engaging,” and support for the advisory program: “The advisory process and interest groups have been helpful for establishing connections.” There also was appreciation for Canvas, our new learning management system: “Canvas is a big improvement - having the assignments and grades visible; having one place to get Zoom links.”

    The challenges have been “managing work from home and making sure kids are staying on task,” and also “Internet outages.” A number of parents worry about the amount of time on screens and ensuring enough screen breaks and time spent outside. And of course, students are missing being with their friends and teachers in person. This feedback is what led to expanding cross country to middle schoolers and the outdoor education program to in-person outings.

    This was also nice to hear, “I am surprised how happy the weekly meals from school make me. At first, I felt a weekly pickup added one more thing to my day. Now I’m excited to meet the bus, say ‘hi’ and eat the meal with the family. It really connects us back to the school.” The weekly meals make me happy as well!

    We will be sending an end-of-trimester survey on Monday. The results will be reviewed by me and other administrators. I will also host a conversation with Parent Guardian Association Leads when we return from the break. A follow-up report will be sent to all parents and guardians. Knowing that a lot of communication goes out from the school, this survey will come in an email from me with the subject line: Please complete this survey.

    Freedom from Chemical Dependency (FCD) Parent Guardian Event on Wednesday, November 18th

    It is not too early to be in conversation with each other and with your middle schooler about understanding and preventing chemical dependency. I encourage all Middle School parents and guardians to attend Wednesday’s presentation from FCD. We have benefitted greatly from our partnership with FCD and look forward to students working with their educators when they are “on campus” later this school year.

    Word of the Week

    Turning to one of our “core values,” the word of the week was respect. As a noun, respect is a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by, inspired by, their abilities, qualities, or achievements. I have deep respect for the hard work that our Middle School phone bankers and activists put into this election, and we took time to recognize these efforts during Morning Meeting. We also shared that, as a noun, respect is the admiration we should have for people or institutions; things like respect for our elders, respect for democracy. As a verb, respect is actively admiring, or working to demonstrate admiration, appreciation, and care. We asked the students, ‘How can you practice and demonstrate respect for yourself, for the people in your circles of community, and in the systems and institutions that you are a part of?’ I encourage you to circle back to these questions with your students this weekend.

    Yours on the journey,

    Su3

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

  • Nov. 6 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Finding Relief

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    At the moment I write this letter, we still do not have the final results of the Presidential election; COVID cases are on a significant rise; our heads continue to spin with questions, anticipation, anxiety, worries, and concerns; and our hermit existence, mostly at home for many, is proving increasingly difficult.

    Last weekend, I participated in a 90-minute session named Transcending Chaos, with guides from Seattle Zen Dojo. The session focused on breathing, mindfulness, staying in the moment, leaving this in the past, quieting our minds, and trying not to worry about the unknown in the future. Without significant practice, that is easier said than done, but the 90 minutes did bring peace, quiet, comfort, and a sense of at least temporary relief.

    Often, we are so caught in the hectic pace of life, responsibilities, to-do lists, and clearly, the pandemic and the politically divided country do not help us get to a place of equilibrium and feeling in control of our own destiny. The individual we speak with the most during out lifetime is ourselves, and many of the narratives and worries that seem to be part of our DNA may be flawed, false, or need examination.

    The best way for me personally to quiet my inner voice, the constant chatter in my mind, is through physical activity, working out, shooting hoops, going for long walks. A beach, a sunrise or sunset, nature, radiant fall colors, the arts, music, a board game, a 1000-piece puzzle, a comedy show and laughter, a pod cast, all have the power to pull me away into a neutral, quiet, and positive place.

    Last weekend, when the weather was beyond gorgeous, sunny and warm, I decided to become a Seattle tourist and walked for four to five hours. I made it to the Sculpture Park, the Space Needle, the Aquarium, Chinatown, and the many neighborhoods and streets along the way. In several places, street musicians and vendors added to the general good, warm, sunny vibes. The sun, the walk, the many visual and aural sensations along the way helped me to restore a sense of well-being.

    I encourage everyone to identify and find something that gives you momentary peace and solace, renewed energy, and hope. Perhaps music and art are that place for you. I recommend almost any activity that does not involve a screen, an iPhone, or technology of any sort. A family technology timeout can be a wonderful thing, and these days we can all use a mental health day or at least block of time.

    Best wishes and in partnership,
    Dennis

  • Nov. 6 - Letter to Upper School Families: The Final Two Weeks of the Trimester

    Dear Upper School Families,

    At the end of another extraordinary week, I marvel at all the Northwest School community is doing to extend support and care for each other. Our Community Meetings, Wellness sessions, and Affinity Spaces have been powerful. I have also had the opportunity to drop into classes where students and teachers are deeply engaged in discussions and explorations of their subject areas.

    As we enter the final two weeks of the trimester, it is a good time to check in with your students about where things stand in their classes and whether they have any missing assignments that need their attention. Teachers are in the process of updating Canvas as they receive new work. Please reach out to your child’s advisor if you have any questions or concerns.

    A friend shared the following poem this week which resonated with me. I want to share it with you.

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    I hope you are all able to find some time for restoration this weekend amidst the ongoing challenges.

    With care and gratitude, Amy

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

  • Nov. 6 - Letter to Middle School Families: Word of the Week - Care

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    There is knowing that a particular outcome may occur, and then there is facing the reality and even the surprise when it does. We’ve worked hard to prepare and engage our community in this election, stressing the need for flexibility with an uncertain outcome. All the same, some students and adults were challenged by the reality of non-closure and the combative response to that non-closure. We’ve been doing a lot of deep breathing this week. We’ve been doing our best to meet students where they are. For you, I offer this article from the parenting section of the New York Times with the hope that it might be helpful to your conversations at home.

    The only program update I have for you this week is to announce the word of the week. Maria Moses shared the following with Middle School students at Monday’s Morning Meeting:

    The word of the week this week is “care.” How do you care for yourself, so you can care for the people, places, and things in your life? Tomorrow is election day. People across the country will be voting for candidates who, as closely as possible, align with the things they care about. The people elected into office will hold the power to make changes to our laws and policies, having short-term and long-term impacts on things like human rights, the environment, climate change, the economy, and social programs.

    The uncertainty of the election can cause people to feel worried, stressed, and overwhelmed, whether you can vote or not. It’s important that we all take the time to take care of ourselves, so that we have the energy, stamina, and mental clarity to take action for the things we care about. In Community Meeting last week, Lynn and Erin mentioned several strategies for self-care, including being outside, exercise, deep breathing, meditation, a gratitude practice, and getting enough sleep. Pick three strategies for self-care this week. Experiment with a new strategy for self-care and see if you like it. Build self-care into your daily routine and schedule.

    Sue and Amy referenced the Civic Engagement Guide, which was sent to students and families last week, and includes both resources and a variety of ways to be civically engaged, such as fundraising, phone banking, letter writing, educating yourself and others, and protesting or supporting people who are protesting. You don’t need to be in the streets protesting to take action for the things you care about. I encourage you to read through the Civic Engagement Guide with your families and find a way to get engaged.

    At Northwest, it is all of our responsibility to create a culture of care and belonging. You’ve heard us remind you to take care of your laptop, to make sure the camera and microphone are working. You’ve heard us remind you to take care of the environment, whether on campus or in remote learning, to leave a place better than the way you found it. And you’ve heard us remind you to demonstrate care for your peers and teachers by being respectful, inclusive, and compassionate. Although none of this is new, it’s critical if we are to live into the mission of our school.

    Demonstrate care for others, take care of yourself, and take action for the things you care about. And if you need help doing any of those things, reach out to me, Sue, your advisor, your teachers, or any trusted adult.

    Yours on the journey,
    Sue

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

  • Oct. 30 - Letter from Interim Head of School: Experiences from the Last Week

    Dear Northwest School Families,

    We had the opportunity and privilege to hear from two experts within the field on Tuesday evening as Dr. John B. Lynch, Medical Director, Infection and Prevention Control, Harborview, and Dr. Mithya Lewis-Newby, Director of the Cardiac Critical Care Fellowship, Seattle Children’s Hospital, provided a comprehensive oversight of the current state regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing specifically on Seattle. The session assembled more than 100 people despite the late 8:00 pm start. Here are both slide decks (1 and 2) and click here to view a recording of the event if you were unable to attend or want to revisit the important information shared. It is our hope to have a follow-up town hall meeting in mid-December.

    Apart from Tuesday’s parent and guardian meeting, I have had the opportunity to engage with parents in three separate sessions, and I also had the chance to meet with the PGA leadership group to learn more about their goals for the year. Everyone provided me with insights and ideas as I got to engage in smaller settings. We are heading into the weekend with Halloween for the ones who recognize it – it will be different with no trick or treat, but I know many will have their costumes ready. Sunday is day-light savings. And Tuesday is the election.

    I want to emphasize that the Civics Resources & Safety Guide and the Protest Guide Infographic we sent recently are NOT intended to encourage our students to demonstrate. It is critically important to us that our students, faculty, support faculty, and families are as safe as humanly possible. The guidelines, although updated, were developed in connection with climate change demonstrations that Northwest students participated in to provide input about how to be as safe as possible if they participated. With worry about potential violence on election night or beyond, I would much prefer that all our students and adults stayed home or in a safe space. Yet, in anticipation that some may choose otherwise, the guidelines will be helpful. Emphasized in the guidelines is that one can be active and engaged in many alternative ways than heading into the streets.

    Because we do not know exactly what to anticipate next week, we hope everyone will approach the week with some flexibility as we may have to adapt. Sue and Amy are sending out more specific information about how the two divisions are planning for next Wednesday. Most importantly, we want to make sure everyone is safe.

    I want to end with two wonderful experiences I had with 6th graders yesterday;

    For a project in a Spanish class, small groups of 6th grade students interviewed several faculty members about their language acquisition, growing up speaking several languages, or how they learned a new language. One of our faculty members, without a word, engaged with them through sign language. Students’ were curious and asked great questions as we shared both insight and laughter. In my small group everyone had their own experience with another language at home – Hebrew, Mandarin, and Punjabi – so it made for a great conversation. Later in the day, for something entirely separate, I received the sweetest thank you note, also from a 6th grader.

    I wish you a wonderful weekend.

    Best wishes and in partnership,
    Dennis

  • Oct. 30 - Letter to Upper School Families: Supporting Our Students

    Dear Upper School Parents and Guardians,

    I am sharing much of Middle School Director Sue Maul’s fantastic letter this week instead of writing my own reflections, since she captured the week so well. My dad died this week and I am collaborating with colleagues to get things done. There is Upper School-specific information included, so please read on.

    From Sue:

    “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor Frankl

    Here is the recording of the meeting and here are some important take-aways from the self-care portion of the presentation:

    • Our school counselors, in addition to teachers and advisors, are available to support the well-being of our students.
    • Students (and parents/guardians) are feeling all kinds of emotions these days, and naming them can help tame them.
    • Common wellness strategies include movement, controlled breathing, positive social interaction, affection, creative expression, being with pets and in nature, laughter, and crying.
    • Everyone is an individual and needs to create the self-care plan that works for them.

    I suspect that these take-aways sound or are familiar and we need to keep coming back to them. Revisit and repetition support our efforts to create healthy habits. Here is a PDF of the counselor’s presentation.

    Also, find the Zip Code Connect resource we sent at the beginning of the school year to help families make connections with other families in their same zip code or nearby zip codes on My BackPack, in the Message Center. Now that the school year is up and running, I encourage you to re-look at this resource if you are interested in making connections with Northwest neighbors.

    Other updates:

    Election Week Planning for the Upper School

    The school day will begin at 9:30 (a half hour later than usual) on Wednesday, November 4th. This is to allow our Community Meeting planners to adjust plans if necessary, since the outcome of the election and the country’s response are unknown. Community Meeting will be a half hour in length and the regular class schedule will follow. We know the stress of this election week is challenging everyone’s already maxed-out systems. We also know that some people take comfort in routine, and others need to break from routine. We want to accommodate and support everyone as best we can. There will be a combination of Advisory and Affinity Group meetings. The counselors are also ready to support students and provide resources. Please encourage your student to let their advisor know what they need. Students should also monitor their emails for updated information next week.

    Laptop Camera Policy

    The Upper School policy on laptop cameras is that students are expected to follow their teacher’s instructions regarding when cameras should be on and when it’s okay for them to be off. Students should be in communication with teachers if there are any barriers to following instructions regarding cameras, and should be emailing Helpdesk@northwestschool.org if those barriers involve the functionality of their cameras. Teachers, advisors, and those of us in support roles are working behind the scenes to support students in addressing camera barriers.

    Lastly, the word of the week in the Middle School was mindfulness, and we gave the students this definition: paying attention to what's happening right now with compassion and curiosity. I (Sue) shared that my current mindfulness practice is centered in my morning walk and bringing my attention to what I hear rather than see, since the change of seasons means I’m walking when it’s dark. I had a later walk than usual, though, this week, and got to take in the beautiful sunrise. I offer it as a deep breath if you need one right now.

    Yours on the journey,

    Sue, and Amy

  • Oct. 30 - Letter to Middle School Families: Supporting Our Students

    Dear Middle School Parents and Guardians,

    “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor Frankl

    Here is the recording of the meeting and here are some important take-aways from the self-care portion of the presentation:

    • Our school counselors, in addition to teachers and advisors, are available to support the well-being of our students.
    • Students (and parents/guardians) are feeling all kinds of emotions these days, and naming them can help tame them.
    • Common wellness strategies include movement, controlled breathing, positive social interaction, affection, creative expression, being with pets and in nature, laughter, and crying.
    • Everyone is an individual and needs to create the self-care plan that works for them.

    I suspect that these take-aways sound or are familiar and we need to keep coming back to them. Revisit and repetition support our efforts and create healthy habits. Here is a PDF of the counselor’s presentation.

    Also, find the Zip Code Connect resource we sent at the beginning of the school year to help families make connections with other families in their same zip code or nearby zip codes on My BackPack, in the Message Center. Now that the school year is up and running, I encourage you to re-look at this resource if you are interested in making connections with Northwest neighbors.

    Other updates:

    November 4th Schedule and Slight Schedule Change:

    The school day will begin at 9:30 (a half hour later than usual) on Wednesday, November 4th. This is to allow our Community Meeting planners to adjust plans if necessary, since the outcome of the election and the country’s response are unknown. Community Meeting will be a half hour in length and the class schedule for middle schoolers will be unchanged for the rest of the day. Flexibility is the theme of the week, though, so teachers and advisors will communicate directly with students if any other community time during the day will be used differently.

    Middle School Athletics

    Last week, I shared that in-person cross-country practice opportunities, with middle schoolers joining upper schoolers, started the week of October 26th. We chose to begin with cross country because this activity falls into the lowest risk category as determined by the WIAA. Unfortunately, I listed the wrong email address for Lulu Hays. Thank you to the parent who brought that to my attention! If your student is interested in joining in, no experience necessary, have your student contact Lulu Hays to sign up for practices.

    See last week’s email for more details on this and the Outdoor Ed opportunity this month and next.

    Laptop Camera Policy The Middle School policy on laptop cameras is that students are expected to follow their teacher’s instructions regarding when cameras should be on and when it’s okay for them to be off. Students should be in communication with teachers if there are any barriers to following instructions regarding cameras and should be emailing Helpdesk@northwestschool.org if those barriers involve the functionality of their cameras. Teachers, advisors, and those of us in support roles are working behind the scenes to support students in addressing camera barriers.

    Lastly, the word of the week was mindfulness, and we gave the students this definition: paying attention to what's happening right now with compassion and curiosity. Advisors might have shared with your students the Viktor Frankl quote above or other Frankl quotes. I shared that my current mindfulness practice is centered in my morning walk and bringing my attention to what I hear rather than see, since the change of seasons means I’m walking when it’s dark. I had a later walk than usual, though, this week, and got to take in the beautiful sunrise. I offer it as a deep breath if you need one right now:

    Yours on the journey,

    Sue

  • 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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