Monday, April 13, 2020

World Stops, School Goes Online, Pass / Fail

Michael Williams Chosen to be Vice Chair of ORCSD Board

In some non-Corona news, at the first online school board meeting newly reelected board member Michael Williams was chosen as vice chair by the board. Congratulations Michael.

This was a contested decision; incumbent vice chair Denise Day, newly reelected for a third three year term, tried to retain the title. Chair Newkirk and member Cisneros supported Day, with members Howland, Klein and Rotner supporting Williams.

This made me a bit sad. Denise did a fine job running meetings when chair Newkirk was absent, which is pretty much the only function of the vice chair. Thank you for your service as vice chair, Denise.

Perhaps this indicates that vice chair Williams may become chair in the future.  Chair Newkirk served a couple of terms as vice chair before becoming chair in 2014.

World Stops

The spreading Coronavirus / Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in widespread closures of businesses, government offices and schools.  Governor Sununu declared a state of emergency in NH on Sunday March 13.  This banned gatherings of 50 people or more, onsite eating at restaurants (drive-thru, take-out and delivery OK), visits to nursing homes and limited travel of government workers.  On Sunday, March 15th, four weeks ago as I write this on Easter, Governor Sununu ordered schools closed for three weeks, which has of course been extended.  Beginning March 28 non-essential residents were ordered to stay home.

You don't need me to tell you all this; everyone's life has been disrupted. It feels like we've entered a long, dark tunnel and no one knows when we'll get to the other end or what the world will be like when we get there.

The governor gave the schools a week to prepare for online instruction.  ORHS incredibly got online learning with meetings via Microsoft Teams and the usual Schoology content hosting in time for test classes on Thursday and Friday, with official online instruction beginning March 23.

District Communication

District Coronavirus emails
Our school district has been a leader in responding to the crisis, acting ahead of our municipal, state and federal governments.  I'd say the district is doing an excellent job of communication.   We get around an email per day updating us on unfolding crisis.  Click to enlarge the image showing 47 email subjects. This doesn't include the additional emails from teachers, counselors, case managers and the athletic director my kids have been getting.

Because of the leadership the school has shown, many of us have been sheltering at home since March 11th, over two weeks ahead of the governor's order.  Let's hope it pays off in the end.

April Vacation Cancelled

April Schedule
The board voted to eliminate April Recess scheduled from April 27 through May 1.  The thinking was everyone would likely be stuck at home anyway so school should continue.  Monday June 8 is the (tentative) last day of school; that's moved up about ten days from the three snow day June 18th end (range 6/15 - 6/21) we were headed for.  The hope is those June days will be more enjoyable than an April vacation at home.

The board is mindful that three months of solid school would be stressful, especially in the new online environment.  The current plan is light Fridays.  Friday has been designated as a day where the teachers will not introduce new material. They will however be available for student queries.  Member Day's suggestion that three day weekends be built into the schedule as well was warmly received.  The board will discuss the schedule at this Wednesday's board meeting, April 15, 7pm.

Fourth Quarter Pass/Fail at ORHS

There was a long discussion about grading at the high school level this year.  Principal Fillipone proposed a credit / no credit model for the fourth quarter, which starts this Wednesday, April 15. The idea was the fourth quarter will be pass / fail.  Teachers would attempt to cover the usual curriculum, but there would no grades beyond pass or fail for the fourth quarter.  The proposed plan has the students to getting their average of the first three quarters as their letter grade for the full year, if they pass 4Q.  For semester long classes the student can choose between their 3Q grade for the semester or pass/fail for the semester.  They get to choose after they see their 3Q grade.  Pass/fail quarters and semesters are omitted from the GPA calculation. 

Some board members explored an option where the students could elect to get 4Q grades.  The principal thought this was a bad idea because in the current remote learning model it was impossible to assure that all students had equal access to school resources in a conducive learning environment.  A survey was sent around to parents, students and teachers and the matter will be discussed at the Wednesday board meeting.  Interested citizens are encouraged to send public comments in advance to and to tune in at 4/15 7pm to TV channel 95, live stream or by telephone 603-766-5646 ID 461362#.

District Delivers 1200 Meals 

The district buses are still employed delivering 1200 meals to ORCSD children.  I'm not sure if that's daily or every two days.  The federally funded program is available to provide school day breakfast and lunch to district students and any child under 18 in the district.  Thanks to Nutrition Director Doris Demers and all the food service and transportation staff delivering meals in these tough times.  You need to fill out an order form for each child by Wednesday to get meals for the next week; contact Director Demers at if you don't already have the form link in your email inbox.

I have to believe that if kids need meals, so do the other folks in the households.  I'd support and even donate to the district going beyond the federal subsidies of children's meals.

The End 68 Hours of Hunger Oyster River program providing food on the weekends continues.  Food donations can be delivered to the Maintenance building across from the SAU office and monetary donations are welcome; please make your check out to Oyster River End 68 Hours of Hunger.

Third Quarter Ends

That's about it for district news.  ORHS students have Monday and Tuesday to finish up any work and retake any assessments for the third quarter.  It's extra important to get that work in as the first three quarters will make up the full year grade this year.  

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