March/April 2020 Parent Newsletter
Updated: Apr 6
Inside this Issue
A Special Message to our Norfolk Families from Dr. Anna Eberwin-Tupper, Director of Student Support Services
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers related to distance learning and special education
Parent Education: Resources for talking with your children about recent events and changes they are experiencing and ideas for easing the impact that social distancing can have on families where routine, structure, and community support are crucial.
Winter 2020 Update and new SEPAC Partnerships with other Norfolk Organizations!
SEPAC Book of the Month: A new and exciting partnership with the Norfolk Public Library as well as a new book suggestion for families !
**Don't forget to follow us on Facebook!**
A Special Message
From the home office of Dr. Anna Eberwein-Tupper, Director of Student Support Services at Norfolk Public Schools
April 3, 2020
I hope you are faring well during this unparalleled time. We understand that the recent public health mandated district closures have been extremely challenging for all families and particularly complex for families of students with disabilities. We appreciate your understanding, collaboration and support as we navigate this difficult time as a school community. Let the learning continue both from the lens of students, from the lens of parents, and from the lens of educators...We are in this together!
As for the Tupper's...both college students are home. The dining room is UMass Amherst, the second floor Norfolk Public Schools, and the third floor, Roger Williams University. As you saw in my morning message last Wednesday, all of the pets are home including our bunny Sir Chesterfield and our spotted gecko, Mr. Bo. I have consigned to ordering baby chicks...bring on the project based learning and may it continue strong (sigh and yay in the same breath)!
While our school district is closed during this health crisis, we have developed a district website which houses our grade level academic calendars and offers enrichment resources and instructional support for all general and special education students. It can be found here: (https://sites.google.com/norfolk.k12.ma.us/npsdigitalesources/student-start-page). I hope you have been able to successfully access the District's Academic Calendars. I also hope you were able to access technology through the District if requested. If you have issues with either, please reach out to myself, your principal, or a special education provider. Any of these individuals will support you. Our school building is closed, but teachers, administrators, and support staff continue to prepare learning and serve as a resource during this time - email, send a video, or call with questions or concerns. We are here for you!
On March 21, 2020 (revised 3/26/20), The U.S. Secretary of Education released new information clarifying that federal law should not be used to prevent schools from offering distance learning opportunities to all students, including students with disabilities. Thus, the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) changed its initial guidance on the provision of services for students with disabilities during the school closure. It has now adopted the position that in order to receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), school districts must provide special education and related services, regardless of whether or not they are providing remote learning opportunities to general education students. In response to this new guidance, and supplemental to the current resources and support already being provided, the NPS special education department is now exploring the addition of individualized remote learning opportunities that are appropriate based on your child’s current IEP. An individual remote learning plan will be developed for your child, and will be emailed to you with a Notice of Proposed Action (N1) document by Wednesday, April 15th.
While the safety of students, families and staff is paramount during this challenging time, we realize we will not be able to provide educational services in the same manner as before the school closure. While this will undoubtedly be challenging, Norfolk Public Schools is committed to working with our students, families and caregivers to navigate this unprecedented situation. Feel free to reach out with questions...they help to elevate practice.
We have also received guidance from DESE to begin holding virtual Team meetings. On Monday, April 6th we will start by first reaching out to the parents of those students whose annual Team meetings were scheduled during this school closure period. If your child was scheduled for a 3 year re-evaluation, Mrs. Tara Oliveto, our District Team Chairperson, will call to discuss a course of action. Mrs. Oliveto will also have available office hours every Monday from 1 - 2:30 p.m.
Please know we are doing the best we can under the circumstances to ensure students have equal access to instruction, the weekly academic calendars, and resources offered through our district website. We appreciate your patience, understanding, and partnership in this process. We will continue to work hard to help families keep students engaged in practice of previously learned skills and materials and to make them as accessible as feasible under the circumstances. Special education staff are happy to connect with you on ideas about how to make the activities more accessible for your individual child. Teachers and providers are also available for check-ins and may answer questions about the materials and resources provided, as well. Communication with families and a continued connection with school during this challenging time is of paramount importance to us.
Finally, as I continue to participate in statewide conversations I will provide you with ongoing updates. Our department appreciates your patience and support as we upload virtual learning platforms and we work to advocate for your children and our students, during this unprecedented period of time.
To close, I'd like to share one of my favorite quotes so far and adapted a bit by me: "School is NOT closed for the year. The building is. If you listen closely you can hear the hum of hard working parents, teachers, administrators, and support staff preparing to save the day in ways and means never seen before. Yes, we are brokenhearted, but these broken hearts will lead." Peyton Anderson
We miss the smiles and sounds of children ringing through the hallways yet, we will continue to lead the way and forge new territory to support learning. We are in this together! Please give your children a hug for us!
I wish you all good health.
Norfolk Public Schools: Individual Remote Learning Plan (Sample) Dear Parents/Guardians,
Our special education staff have developed an individual remote learning plan to provide to your child during this school closure period. This is a plan for how the District will provide your child's special education and related services to the greatest extent possible during this unprecedented school closure, in order to assist students with maintaining previously taught skills. The Norfolk Public Schools plan is consistent with both state and federal guidelines. When school resumes, your child's IEP will resume as the same program he/she received prior to the closure. Please see below sample of an individual remote learning plan and a further question and answer guidance.
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Who should be my primary contact during this school closure?
Your special education liaison. If you are not sure who your special education liaison is please email the District Team Chairperson (Grades K- 6)/Mrs. Tara Oliveto (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the Lead PreSchool Teacher/ Mrs. Alicia Whitehead (email@example.com) if you have a preschool student. Mrs. Oliveto/District Team Chairperson will be offering office hours on Mondays from 1 - 2:30 p.m.
What does remote learning look like for special education students during this time?
There are two Types of Remote Service Delivery Options offered to student during this time:
Model 1 is called the “Supports and Resources Model.” This model ensures accommodations and modifications are addressed in academic and enrichment-based learning activities designed by general educators or by special education providers. Additionally, special education providers are being asked to provide supplemental resources and materials for families to use at home.
Model 2 is called the Instruction and Services Model. This model includes supplemental materials/strategies/activities provided by the special educator and related service provider for you to do at home with your child. Approved methods to deliver services:
Online virtual instruction with general or special education teacher and class (lessons with whole class or small groups)
Pre-recorded Lessons by special education provider
Telephone or Internet Based Parent Consultation
Is consent required to provide support and services remotely?
No. According to the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, consent is not required.
Can I expect an individual service/lesson (i.e. Fundations, Wilson Reading, or a related service) to be administered remotely during the closure?
In these circumstances, services will be provided differently than they are when school is fully operational. Staff will continue to target IEP goal areas with learning activities designed to impact that area. You will hear directly for your special education provider about specific times/days. Some instructional service will be starting this Monday, April 6, 2020.
Will the special educator and related service provider match the frequency and duration as provided in the IEP?
In these circumstances, services will be provided differently than they are when school is fully operational.
How will summer services be addressed?
NPS will provide more guidance in the upcoming weeks regarding summer services.
How much time should I expect will be allocated for instruction and services?
Frequency will vary depending on program and grade level. Adhering to state and district guidance, you can expect your child to receive a remote learning experience that encompasses half a day (approximately 3 hours) of learning activities. It will be a combination of general education and special education service; online learning and project-based learning. Please note: This is not all teacher directed. Students can engage in self-directed learning.
Can I record the lessons?
Parents are strictly prohibited from video or audio recording any virtual instruction provided by the Norfolk Public Schools. Exceptions may be made on an individual basis due to special circumstances, with the express consent of all parties involved.
How will my child’s social-emotional and/or behavioral needs be addressed during this time?
Your child’s liaison will work with you to address any concerns you may have about social-emotional/behavioral challenges. Office hours will be offered by our school psychologists and other support staff. Those will be identified specifically in your child’s individual remote learning plan. Mrs. Oliveto/District Team Chairperson will be offering office hours on Mondays from 1 - 2:30 p.m.
Will NPS hold IEP meetings during the emergency closure?
NPS will be holding annual team meetings that were scheduled during school closure to update those IEP’s that have expired. If your child’s IEP has expired, “stay-put” services are in place.
Will the Team reconvene to make changes to the IEP with regard to the individual remote learning plan?
No. DESE has shared that there is not a need to reconvene the Team and make changes to the IEP.
Will the individual remote learning plan change the IEP or impact “stay put” rights?
This does not change the IEP or impact “stay put” rights. Upon return to school, your child’s full special education programming will be reinstated.
Are the platforms (i.e. Google Hangout) secure?
Google Hangout provides a more secure educational environment within the NPS GSuite for Education Domain. The G Suite for Education core services includes hangouts/meets, google classroom, calendar, drive, and other related google apps and are in compliance with FERPA and COPPA. Furthermore, these core services do not contain any advertising.
What are the behavioral expectations for my child while participating in virtual learning?
Be ready to meet - Make sure you have any things your teacher has asked you to gather
Identify a quiet space for learning in your home, which has materials easily accessible
Mute when not speaking so as to remove background noise from the home
Be mindful of the group- Listen to how the conversation is flowing, who is speaking, and when your mic should be mute
Be present when presenting - Face the camera and unmute when it is your turn to speak. Check your background to minimize distractions
Be curious - If you have a question, use the chat sidebar
Be respectful of others, be respectful of the technology being used
Be respectful of privacy - No photo or video recordings of the meeting allowed
An adult should be monitoring behavior during the lesson
Is my child’s confidentiality secure during this time?
Yesterday, you received a REMOTE LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES NOTIFICATION AND GUIDANCE from Dr. Allardi. This document highlighted while parents/ guardians are permitted to observe online instruction in a non-disruptive manner, to the extent that remote learning opportunities provide access to confidential student information, parents are asked to refrain from disseminating any confidential student information about other student participants with any and all third parties. By participating in the remote learning opportunities, you are agreeing to the terms of the remote learning consent. You do have the right to have your child “opt out” of remote learning. If you choose to do this, please contact your child’s building principal.
Linda Balfour, H. Olive Day Principal firstname.lastname@example.org .
Lisa Altham-Hickey, Freeman-Kennedy Principal email@example.com.
We would like/encourage all children to access our remote learning activities during this period of school closure. So, treating other families/children the way you would like your own child(ren) to be treated, is emphasized in this situation.
MCAS is considered testing still being considered?
NPS is still waiting for guidance from the state.
With so much information being shared, discussed, and watched daily about current events it is hard to filter the right amount of information to our children and help them process it appropriately. It is challenging to help them become comfortable with an environment that can feel uncertain and is changing quickly. Also, many children thrive on the routine of a classroom and can feel very uncomfortable with shifts in that routine, particularly when the alternative may feel confining and isolating. We have compiled some resources that may help you overcome these challenges and ease into this transition of time spent at home as you practice social distancing.
Resources for children about the Coronavirus /COVID-19
Brains On Podcast: https://www.brainson.org/ Discusses what the Coronavirus /COVID-19 is and how viruses spread (released March 10, 2020). There are also many other Brains On science-based episodes that might be of interest during the school break at this site!
Article on how to talk to children about Coronavirus: Click Here!
National Public Radio Audio story for kids, plus printable comic strip: Click Here!
Free, printable social story about the Coronavirus: Click Here!
Resources for encouraging a smooth transition into an extended period of time at home
Set a Schedule
Experts suggest establishing a visual schedule for children that mirrors what they might see at school. This example emphasizes getting outside, having structured academic time, and working together to keep common areas germ free.
(Credit to Jessica McHale Photography for this excellent graphic!)
Do Academic work both on and off electronics
Many children require practice to sustain skills they learn during the school year and long breaks can make sustaining growth difficult. While at home, integrate some fun and structured ways to practice skills your children may need using these resources below.
Many of our children are familiar with the apps on the Student Start Page on the Norfolk Public Schools website. There are lots of fun apps and games for kids to practice everything from math facts to typing! Also, of course, continue to use the Enrichment Calendars and resources provided by the amazing Norfolk Administration and Teaching staff.
Amazing Educational Resources is a Facebook Group dedicated to providing resources for online learning during these weeks of school shut down. Join the Facebook group here. Check out a growing list of online learning resources compiled by this group: http://www.amazingeducationalresources.com/.
Bring academics into your daily life! Baking, measuring, science experiments, treasure walks, sensory bowls, and even making slime can be turned into ways to integrate math, reading, science, and writing into daily routines.
Accessible Chef is a collection of free visual recipes and other resources to help teach cooking skills to individuals with disabilities: https://accessiblechef.com/
GoNoodle® engages 14 million kids every month with movement and mindfulness videos created by child development experts. Available for free at school, home, and everywhere kids are! https://www.gonoodle.com/
Day-by-day projects to keep kids reading, thinking, and growing. https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html?caching
Read! Read! Read!
The Norfolk Library may be closed but their online access is not! Visit https://sails.overdrive.com/ and sign in with your library card to access thousands of e-books, audiobooks and more.
Check out https://www.norfolksepac.org/books-we-love for a list of parent and child-focused books on many related topics including the ones below.
Choose a series or a chapter book to read and set a goal to get through one book per week during the school shut-down period. Younger elementary school children can follow simple chapter books and older children still love to be read to!
SEPAC Book of the Month
Norfolk SEPAC Library Display and Book List
In addition to highlighting a book of the month, we are happy to announce that beginning this month, the Norfolk SEPAC will be partnering with the Norfolk Public Library to obtain and feature our monthly SEPAC Book of the Month! Stop by the NPL when it re-opens to check out our new SEPAC display!
Book of the Month
The Day the Lines Changed: An Inspiring Story about a Line, a Pandemic, and How Change Shapes us All, by Kelley Donner
Without ever saying “Coronavirus” or “Pandemic,” The Day the Lines Changed explains what it means to live through a viral outbreak and gives children a much needed, optimistic view of the future. Through the use of ripped paper and basic shapes, Kelley Donner takes a frightening and complicated pandemic and turns it into an uplifting, easily understandable story about the life of a green line. The Day the Lines Changed, a picture book for children between the ages of 2 and 8 should be a welcome resource for parents, teachers, and caregivers who are trying their best to explain the pandemic to worried children.
Winter 2020 Update
We were busy this winter! Since the holidays our SEPAC team hosted multiple events for parents and students in Norfolk.
We are also thrilled to announce that we have begun partnering with the Norfolk Lions, the Norfolk Community League and the Norfolk Public Library to build awareness and support inclusion for all families in the community and during multiple popular Norfolk events this year!
SEPAC Winter 2020 Event Summary:
Social Skills Parent Training
During three Monday evenings in January and February, 15 families joined us and Dr. Carolyn Kuehnel for an in-depth training on how to support social skill development for children who experience social interactions differently and may struggle to interpret social cues, respond appropriately, and build meaningful relationships. This support-group style workshop allowed parents to support each other by sharing stories, suggestions, and resources during 3 evening sessions where Dr. Kuehnel shared insight and specific steps to teach skills such as:
Slipping In and Out of conversations
Handling Embarrassing Feedback
Music and Art Therapy with Mr. Ken DoRosario -
Many of Norfolk's younger students have had the lucky experience to learn and sing with Ken DoRosario MT-BC (aka "Mr. Ken") during preschool and Kindergarten at HOD. This winter, Norfolk SEPAC partnered with Mr. Ken to make his specialties - Music and Art Therapy - available to all ages of Norfolk students.
A special Thank You goes out to the administration and staff at both the H. Olive Day and Freeman-Kennedy Schools for their support, supplies, and logistical help that made all four of these these events hugely successful!
Music Therapy - In music therapy our younger students learned to say "hello" in many languages, throw and catch scarves to music, and follow directions in a group while singing many fun and familiar songs! Our older student used hand drums to learn how to listen with their whole bodies, come together as a team to create sound, and interact with each other through music.
Art Therapy - Our older students also got a chance to express themselves artistically through artistic self portraits and work as a team to create an artistic masterpiece.
Scroll to the right on the photo below to check out some photos from Mr. Ken's events!
The Norfolk Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) strives to collaborate with and advise the school committee and administration to continually improve the education opportunities for all children in and outside of our school district. We promote improved education and success for students with disabilities, ensuring they receive equal access to education opportunities within our school and community. The Norfolk SEPAC provides a network for parents of children with disabilities to access resources, gain support, and share ideas. SEPAC encourages families to be involved in all district policy discussions.