Dawson Update: March 27, 2020
Dear Dawson Community,
I don’t know how you’re feeling in your home, but even though we are a full two weeks into our school closure, very little feels settled or routine to me. This “new normal” doesn’t feel anywhere close to normal yet, and I still find myself trying to anticipate on a daily basis when the next wave of information and changes may come to our city and our new way of life. It can feel like a futile task (the lesson here: don’t become too attached to plans), and yet absolutely necessary if we at Dawson hope to stay even half a step ahead. I don’t know what the right balance is of information intake for future projections and planning (and hindsight will always be 20/20), but I do know we are giving every aspect of school operations—from distance learning to remote administrative management—our total commitment, attention, and effort every single day. We are all doing our best to control and manage what we can under circumstances few have ever experienced, and I remain very proud of this community’s response. To pivot—in less than five days—from total classroom instruction to total distance learning is an enormous challenge, yet our Dawson families have continued to be supportive, patient, and trusting, and it means everything. Thank you.
Here’s what you need to know now:
- Distance learning challenges: I want to take a moment to acknowledge the challenges of distance learning, particularly for those families with younger children. No, distance learning is not the same as what your child receives here on campus. The very nature of the format we must use now—virtual—makes any comparison to recreating a Dawson classroom environment impossible, and the burden on parents to help and support their child with online learning is very real. In-class comparisons, then, are not the point; the better question is whether our faculty are creating an asynchronous distance learning curriculum that is both engaging and allows for a pace of instruction that is best suited to each child. Based on everything we know about distance learning, Dawson faculty are doing an outstanding job. Still, here is a relevant article on the nation-wide switch toward distance learning in schools that may be insightful. I encourage parents to continue to communicate with your teacher about your child’s experience and reach out for additional help. In addition, visit the MyDawson resource board on distance learning for additional resources and ideas to help you and your child adjust to this new learning environment. We know distance learning at these young ages has its challenges, but we are here to support your family.
- Summer Programming: I am very pleased to announce that the Alexander Dawson Foundation Board of Trustees has approved the School’s plans to provide four weeks of optional summer programming to all of our Dawson families—current families, newly-enrolled families, and our graduating class of 2020—free of charge. This summer programming will focus entirely on skill building in reading, writing, and math. Families can enroll for one week of learning or for all four weeks depending on the needs of your child, and instruction will be individualized to each student. More details to come in Roxanne Stansbury’s Monday update.
- Make-up School Days: I am equally pleased to announce that Governor Sisolak’s office has stated that all private schools in the state engaged in distance learning do not need to consider adding make-up days to the end of the school year. With the very real possibility that a school closure could extend beyond the current April 16 deadline, this is good news.
- Spring Break: Spring break is April 6-13, and while it is unlikely anyone will be able to do much outside of their home, I ask that our Dawson faculty and staff community use this time to relax and recharge. Distance learning will not take place during the week of spring break, and beginning April 6, I encourage families to consider delaying communication with your child’s teacher or Dawson staff members until after April 13 to ensure these hardworking individuals have the opportunity to take some time to be with their families and practice self-care.
While Governor Sisolak closed all Nevada schools until April 16, we are monitoring what other schools and districts across the country are doing, and we anticipate that our city’s school closure may be extended. When we receive an update from the governor’s office, whether it is to resume school or extend the closure, I will update the Dawson community immediately.
Until then, please take care of one another, continue to communicate with the School when your family needs additional support, and stay safe.
Carola E. Wittmann, Ph.D.
Head of School
The Alexander Dawson School