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Distance Learning Plan

Index

 I.  Introduction and Philosophy

II. Community Norms and “Netiquette”

•  Distance Learning Acceptable Use Policy
 

III. Communications

•  FAQ: Organizational structure
•  FAQ: Whom to contact
•  FAQ: When can I expect to hear from the school
 

IV. Distance Learning Pedagogy and Applications to Support Distance Learning

 V. Distance Learning Framework

•  Schedule
•  Instruction
•  Attendance
•  Advisory
•  Office Hours
•  Instructional Time
•  Academic Load
•  Assessment and Grading
 

VI. Co Curricular and Community Events

•  Philosophy and approach
 

VII. Athletics

VIII. Supporting Our Families

IX. Financial Policy

 


 

I. Introduction and Philosophy
The Gunston Distance Learning Plan (GDLP) aims to describe the institutional protocols and learning procedures that will result in the event of an extended closure of campus. Consistent with our core values of rigor, nurture, and personalization, the goal of the GDLP is to ensure that Gunston students maintain a high level of academic and community engagement, even if we are not able to gather together physically on campus. The GDLP is guided by four values:
 
  1. Preparation: Gunston works under the assumption that distance learning is part of our “new normal”; therefore, our planning is guided by the notion that the ability to deliver periodic distance learning is one of our essential institutional functions. In all situations, our goal is to adapt and thrive.
     
  2. Community: We believe that the value of community is central to our distance learning efforts. In all of our academic and non-academic planning, we will prioritize the values of relationships and connection. The impact of an extended campus closure can be as disruptive to the social and emotional fabric of students’ lives as it is to their academic progress. Therefore during the use of our GDLP, we will always prioritize the re-establishment of the nurturing relationships that are essential to the Gunston experience.
     
  3. Readiness: While during GDLP our academic mission remains the same—rigor, nurture, and personalization—the effective use of distance learning tools necessitates a high level of faculty expertise. As part of Gunston’s professional growth plan, we will prioritize the mastery and implementation of these tools by all members of our team.
     
  4. Support: Depending on the reason for campus closure, some members of our community may be disproportionately impacted. As such stresses emerge, we’re committed to personalizing our response with care and sensitivity, and maximizing our support of students, families, employees, partners, and the wider community.


In the event of the type of situation or crisis that may impede access to campus, the Head of School will confer with the school’s Leadership Team and Board of Trustees to determine if the GDLP needs to be invoked. In such cases, the Head of School will alert families and faculty/staff via email regarding the timeline of the GDLP’s implementation. If the closure is expected to be lengthy, the Distance Learning Hub will be activated on our website. Depending on the circumstances, Gunston may designate several faculty work/duty preparation days in advance of the GDLP’s launch, and students are not required to attend school during these preparation days. To maintain ongoing school, student, and family readiness for utilization of the GDLP, the school will seek to have periodic and pre-announced “drill days” during regular school sessions.

Circumstances will vary for the implementation of the GDLP, and may include viral pandemic (like COVID-19), civil unrest, natural disaster, or extended disruptions due to seasonal weather like snow. For instance, if the school has a particularly snowy winter, the school may move to implement the GDLP to avoid lengthy instructional interruptions. At the point where circumstances have stabilized for a return to campus, the Head of School will alert the community of the re-start date. In many cases, these decisions will be made in conference with the Board of Trustees and/or state and local authorities. Our campus reopening will be guided by a single factor: Can we reasonably ensure the health and safety of our students and employees?

During GDLP implementation, Gunston will use the Distance Learning Leadership Framework (DLLF)—described below in the Communications section—to lead our response to campus closure. While it is our hope that implementation of the GLDP will rarely be necessary, it exists for the purpose of sustaining our learning community in the face of challenging circumstances that are outside of the control of the school or our families.

The remainder of this document describes the specific policies and procedures related to the GDLP, and this document is regularly reviewed and revised, including during periods of extended campus closure where procedures herein may need to be adapted. Finally, in all situations, Gunston will work to accommodate individual family/student circumstances as they relate to the capacity to access our distance learning program.

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II. Community Norms and “Netiquette”
1.  To maintain a serious, focused, and academic approach to learning students are expected to:
  1. Establish an office/workspace within the house that limits distraction and includes a desk, chair, lamp, and access to electrical outlets.
  2. Have Google tools set up including: Classroom, email, and calendar. Notifications for these features are to be turned on.
  3. Check email regularly throughout each school day and respond in a timely manner.
  4. Closely follow the published daily schedule.
  5. Be on time for synchronous appointments.
  6. Ensure the background that will show up behind you is appropriate for school.
  7. Enter each school day groomed and with the mindset of being on campus in appropriate attire: pants, shorts, tops, not pajamas.
  8. Be prepared with the appropriate supplies: computer, earphones, textbooks, notebooks, calculator, writing implements.
  9. Proactively reach out to teachers, advisors, and administrators with questions and/or concerns.
  10. Abide by the community’s academic integrity expectations: submit only original work, using only permitted materials and documented sources.
2. Distance Learning Acceptable Use Policy (DAUP)
The Distance Learning Acceptable Use Policy serves as an addendum to the school’s existing Acceptable Use Policy
 
  1. When in synchronous class sessions, video is to be on with microphone muted. The instructor will guide microphone usage. Each participant’s full face should be in view.
  2. When in synchronous class sessions or meetings, cell phones or other private means of communication should not be in use unless directed by the teacher for educational purposes.
  3. Chat functions within a videoconference should be used for the educational benefit of the class.
  4. Students are to disconnect promptly when a video meeting ends. If an individual is unaware of their camera or microphone being on, community members are expected to let them know.
  5. Without express and written permission from the Head of School and Assistant Head of School, users (including students) may not record, screenshot, share, re-post, or otherwise capture or disseminate digital content created via any of our distance learning platforms. Only representatives of the school may capture or post such content. Failure to comply with this directive may result in disciplinary action.
  6. Each platform that Gunston is employing for teaching and learning has specific user agreements. Families should review these agreements.
  7. Students may not manipulate digital apps or use digital tools in a manner that disrupts classroom objectives.

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III. Communications
1. In situations where a period of distance learning will extend for a lengthy period of time, the school will implement our
Distance Learning Leadership Framework:

The Distance Learning Steering Team is co-chaired by the Assistant Head of School and a designated Distance Learning Director. This team meets three times per week to ensure the smooth functioning of our transition to distance learning. This group also includes the Dean of Students, Director of DEI, our Communications Team, and the Head of School.

  1. The Director of Technology is available to offer technical support to students, families, and colleagues.
  2. If the closure is extended, we will appoint a Trustee-School Response Team to meet weekly. This group will coordinate the necessary health, safety, strategic, governance, human resources, and policy support.
  3. An Academic Conduit Team will be chaired by Distance Learning Director. This team is responsible for supporting academic departments and faculty professional development to integrate a best-practices distance learning program, consistent with the school’s emphasis on Educating for Sustainability and Mind-Brain Education Science.
  4. Our Admissions, Business, and Facilities Team meets weekly to ensure that our non-academic operations continue to flow smoothly. This team is chaired by our Business Manager.
  5. The Assistant Head of School will appoint and lead our Student/Family Support and Academic Accountability Team. This team ensures the continuity of the overarching academic program, college admission process, grade reporting, and future academic scheduling. In addition, this team will monitor student progress, performance, and online etiquette with the aim of providing direct support to our students, families, and faculty.
  6. Finally, for extended closures we will appoint a dedicated Fun/Wellness Team. This group is responsible for working with student leaders to offer creative ways to keep our spirits high, our laughter mechanisms functioning, and our minds and bodies balanced.
  7. Depending on the circumstances, the Head of School may appoint specific task forces or advisory groups to assist the school. 
2. Whom to Contact

 

Questions about a particular  assignment or class

 

Classroom teacher

 

Notifications about a child’s
absence from virtual class

 

External Relations Associate
(Trish Rudolfs)

Dean of Students (Mark Wiening)

 

Questions or concerns
about the virtual learning experience

 

Distance Learning Director
(Emily Beck)

Assistant Head of School
(Christie Grabis)

 

Issues with technology platforms or student devices

 

Director of Technology
(Tom Chafey)

Instructional Technology Coordinator (Juan Angarita)

 

Student and Family Support

 

Student’s Advisor

Dean of Students (Mark Wiening)

Assistant Head of School
(Christie Grabis)

 

3. How will TGS communicate with parents, students, and faculty/staff in the event of an extended campus closure? 
TGS will continue to use the same channels it employs for normal day-to-day communications. Email will always remain the primary mode of communication, and when appropriate, the communication may also be posted on the website and various social media channels. Urgent messages may be sent via ParentReach.

 

Channel

Audience

Description & Access

Email

Faculty, staff, parents, students, trustees

 

Email will remain the main communication channel for all major announcements. Faculty and staff will also use email to communicate, although they may use other approved platforms to interact with students and each other as well.

Google G Suite

 

All students

 

Google G Suite (including Gmail, Docs, Classroom, Hangouts, Meet, etc.) will be the platform used by teachers. For video conferencing in small or large groups, teachers and students will use Google Hangouts or Google Meet.

Zoom

 

Faculty, staff, trustees, and special events with students and parents

 

Zoom will be used primarily for virtual staff and faculty meetings. It will also be used to host special events that require more control than the G Suite can offer, e.g. Q&A sessions, virtual events such as Open Mic Night and more.

Gunston.org

 

Public at large, prospective families, current Gunston Community

 

TGS will continue to make approved information publicly available on its website and Distance Learning Hub.

Phone

 

Faculty, staff, parents, trustees

 

The Head of School and Assistant Head of School may be contacted via school phone (if campus is accessible), or cell phone (in situations where campus is not accessible.)

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IV. Distance Learning for Academic Continuity
High impact distance learning requires that Gunston leans in on the best practices we’ve learned from Mind Brain Education and emphasizes work that promotes student ownership. Each teacher will work to establish conditions where students have a clear sense of purpose, opportunities to express themselves, and experiences that allow them to work toward mastery. This will help students stay motivated and engaged in learning, even when they are not physically at school. In distance learning, faculty will be designing and delivering synchronous (face to face) instruction and asynchronous work (student-driven, independent, self paced, etc). These two components will be planned and delivered in coordination, rather than viewed as class time and homework. Students can and will learn content in asynchronous activities. The following offers a sampling of instructional technology used by faculty to aid instruction. The list is not comprehensive as new applications become available daily.

 

 

Instructional Components

 

What does it look like?

 

What tools do we use?

Engagement

Brainstorm
Ask questions
Access prior knowledge

  • Google Doc as a discussion thread
  • Google Classroom Question
  • Nearpod or Peardeck
  • Flipgrid or student Screencastify
  • Socrative

Exploration

Research
Watch videos
Read Articles
Offline Task
Discuss

  • Web Search
  • Google Classroom Question
  • Shared Google Slide Deck (Nearpod or Peardeck)
  • Analog assignment - write, draw, reflect

Explanation

Synchronous Sessions
Asynchronous Independent Work

  • Google Hangout
  • Google Meet (Shared Screen)
  • Screencastify (Chrome Extension)
  • QuickTime + YouTube
  • Edpuzzle
  • FlipGrid
  • Subject Specific LMS

Elaboration

Make connections
Apply learning to new or novel situations
Explain how
Student-created study materials and resources

  • Shared Google Docs, Slides, Prezis, Drawings, Spreadsheets
  • FlipGrid
  • Quizlet
  • Kahoot!

Evaluation

Formative assessments
Quizzes
Video reflections
Digital exit tickets
Student presentations

 

  • Subject specific LMS (IXL, AP Classroom, Mastering, etc)
  • Kahoot!
  • Flipgrid
  • Google Forms
  • Socrative
  • VoiceThread
  • iMovie
  • GarageBand

Table adapted from Global Online Academy

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V. Distance Learning Framework
In Gunston’s Distance Learning Plan, faculty will typically offer two synchronous and three asynchronous classes each week. The schedule of days for these meetings is determined by the teacher and will be shared in advance with the students.
 

1. Typical Schedule

  1. 9:00 am - 4:00 pm, same class order daily
    1. Faculty may confer and meet with students outside of this framework, Teachers are not required to be online with the students during an asynchronous class period
    2. Students are encouraged to use this framework as a guide for their day;
       

9:00-9:40

Class 1

9:45-10:25

Class 2

BREAK

-----

10:35-11:15

Class 3

11:20-12:00

Class A/B

LUNCH

-----

12:45-1:25

Class 4

1:30-2:10

Class 5

2:15-2:55

Lab Classes:

Middletones (Tuesdays)
Yearbook (Wednesdays)
Wood Sculpture (Thursdays)
Gunston Experience 9 (Lab 1, Mondays)
Gunston Experience 10 (Lab 2, Tuesdays)
Gunston Experience 10 (Lab 3, Thursdays)
Gunston Experience 9 (Lab 5, Fridays)
College 101 (Lab 1, Mondays)
College 101 (Lab 2, Tuesdays)
College 101 (Lab 3, Wednesdays)
College 101 (Lab 4, Thursdays)
College 101 (Lab 5, Fridays)

3:00-4:00

Daily office hours and advisor check-ins

2.  Typical Instruction

a. Synchronous instruction (Face to Face, F2F)

  • 2 synchronous meetings per week with the full class or small groups within the class to be scheduled via Google Calendar invite/Hangout - Meet; Meetings can be scheduled within the class period framework or “after hours” when faculty have extenuating circumstances
  • F2F meetings are posted at the beginning of the week so that students can plan accordingly.
  • For educational purposes, teachers may opt to record and post to Classroom for students’ reference. Per the DAUP, students may not record or capture images from these sessions.

b. Asynchronous Instruction (independent work, student-led work)

  • Faculty will post clear instructions (i.e. a daily agenda, task description and/or and class notes) in Google Classroom for asynchronous classes
  • Faculty will post assignments with clear due dates and instruction
    • Each assignment will provide comprehensive instructions for the task(s) and for how students should submit completed work.
    • Since remote learning will make it harder to delineate “homework” from “in-class work,” faculty will take into account how much time will be required for students to complete the work. If the work is expected to take more than 40 minutes, the work will be due the next time class meets.

c. Attendance: the policies adhere to MSDE Continuity of Learning attendance guidelines.

  • A student absence is considered excused if it adheres to the guidelines outlined in our Student-Parent Handbook
  • The Dean of Students will communicate home and/or convene the student support team if a student is not meeting attendance expectations.
  • For attendance purposes, asynchronous work must be submitted by the date and time required by the teacher.
  • Attendance is recorded daily by each teacher from either synchronous class meetings or asynchronous independent work. For asynchronous days, students are counted present if they submit required work by the date and time required by the teacher and/or if they exhibit appropriate progress on activities where their engagement is expected in an asynchronous context.

d. Advisory/Other Meetings

  • Advisors host two formal advisory meetings per week, and will connect with advisees as individuals and in small groups, as necessary.

e. Office Hours

  • Faculty will maintain published standing office hours when they are accessible to their students for extra help.
  • Meetings are scheduled via Google Hangouts/Meet and or Google Appointments Calendars
  • Faculty will be available to respond to questions via email or Google chat.

f. Academic Load

  • On average, each class should offer 3-4 hours of work per week, including class meeting times (synchronous or asynchronous). We understand that students work at different paces, so these are general guidelines. In addition, students with a large number of Honors or AP courses may have workloads that exceed these general guidelines.
  • AP courses may offer supplemental synchronous meetings and additional homework in the weeks leading up to AP testing.
  • Faculty will check regularly if the workload assigned meets these expectations, and the school will regularly survey students and parents regarding workload.
  • The school will work closely with families to support students with documented learning differences, adjusting the program as necessary.

g. Grading

  • To maintain consistency and clarity for students and faculty alike, Gunston will continue with standard numeric and effort grades during distance learning.
    • Measures for academic intervention remain in place: tutoring, tutorial, progress reporting, faculty/parent/student meetings.
    • Flexibility remains paramount as teachers assist students with time management, slipups in schedules, or issues related to devices or connectivity.
    • Teachers retain the autonomy to offer students opportunities for improvement.

h. Assessment

  • During extended implementation of the GDLP, Gunston will maintain our established grading system.
  • Blended and alternative forms of assessment will be implemented
    • Formative to collect in-process evaluations of student comprehension, progress, and need for clarification during a lesson or unit
    • Academic integrity guidelines remain in force for all types of assessment.
    • Projects, presentations, collaborative work to engage students with the subject matter and with one another.
    • Summative to assess the outcomes of learning at the end of a unit.

i. Semester Demonstrations of Mastery (not required for 12th Grade in second semester)

  • In situations where distance learning coincides with semester or final examinations, in lieu of the traditional, cumulative semester examinations, teachers will design creative, alternative assessments or projects to have the students demonstrate their learning and the degree to which they have attained the objectives of the course.
  • Teachers will prepare the students in advance and provide instruction and guidance.
  • When the demonstration of mastery is time-limited, the schedule will follow the same format as with the Semester 1 Examinations: a 2-hour block in the morning, lunch, a 2-hour block in the afternoon.
  • Teachers may use the block of time to suit the chosen demonstration of mastery.
  • Demonstrations of mastery will count as 20% of the semester grade.

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VI. Co-Curricular and Community Events
During times of campus closure, Gunston is committed to maintaining those activities that build interpersonal connection and reinforce a sense of community purpose. In addition to academic programs, this includes offering opportunities for involvement in ACT Period Clubs, Student Government and NHS, and the various school-wide events that are such a big part of what students, faculty, and families share together outside of the classroom.
 

To that end, synchronous meetings for student organizations will be regularly scheduled by their faculty advisors, following a period of adjustment to the new routines of academic study in distance learning. Due to a variety of demands and circumstances, individuals may experience greater or lesser impact from campus closure and its root cause. Therefore, these opportunities should be made available with the primary intent of supporting student wellbeing and belonging; as such, care should be taken to consider whether participation is optional or required. Time demands are different in a distance learning setting, and student involvement in an advisory meeting, tutorial session, or faculty office hours may preclude participation in a given session.

Typical potential meeting times for “virtual clubs” include:

  • prior to the start of 9:00 classes
  • over the 12:00 lunch period
  • during the 3:00-4:00 office hours.

Depending on the reason for campus closure, it may be possible for fundraisers, community events, and other gatherings to take place at an off-campus venue. In cases where that is not safe or not feasible, faculty advisors will work in coordination with student leaders and school administration to determine whether an event might be (a) canceled, (b) postponed, or (c) reconceived in a manner that fulfills the original intent of the scheduled activity. All such decisions must be approved by the Head of School.

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VII. Athletics
Staying active during periods of extended campus closure is vitally important for each student’s physical and mental well-being. Even though we are not together physically, Gunston remains fully committed to our educational philosophy of “emphasizing the balanced development of the whole student—intellectually, morally, culturally, and physically.” Gunston remains committed to requiring students earn two athletic credits each academic year.
 
Therefore, in the event of an extended campus closure, there will be a Remote Sports Requirement (RSR) for students. Students that are currently on an athletic roster during that extended closure will be required to complete the RSR.
 

a. Remote Sports Requirement (RSR)

In order to satisfactorily earn an athletics credit, students must complete the following

  • Three strength and conditioning workouts per week from an approved partner program (i.e Volt Athletics) with an accountability function.
  • Two supplemental activities per week exceeding 20 minutes in duration. These activities are encouraged to take place outdoors and may include running, walking, kayaking, skiing, etc. These workouts will be recorded using the Google Suite.

*Independent Sports athletes are subject to earning their athletics credit with approval from the Athletics Department.

b. Accountability

  • The athletics credit requirement remains in force during the GDLP, unless waived by the school. In the event a student does not satisfactorily complete the RSR, that student will be required to earn an additional athletics credit in the following academic year.

c. Competition Schedules

  • Gunston will work closely with governing athletic leagues to make the best decision regarding competition for our student-athletes regarding competition schedules for the regular and postseason.
  • During prolonged campus closures, athletic contests will be postponed with the intent to reschedule those later in that athletic season. If the remaining athletic season is too condensed, conference and rivalry games will be given priority for rescheduling.

d. Return to Competition

  • Upon return to campus, student-athletes will be required to complete multiple practice days before the first competitive contest. This ‘return to play’ protocol provides a degree of personal safety and accountability for the student-athlete.

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VIII. Supporting Our Families
During GDLP, our academic mission remains the same: nurture, personalization, and rigor. Our goal is the delivery of content and skills that keep our curriculum on pace with what it would be if Gunston was in session on campus. We will do this by increasing student ownership, offering multi-modal instructional delivery, and utilizing distance learning tools. This is a big shift and will involve adjustments and upskilling in instructional approaches on the part of our faculty.
 

A few tips for success when school happens at home:

a. Structure

  • Help establish a location for learning - we recommend a desk or table, headphones, and space for notebook
  • Our school day runs from 9 am - 4 pm, students should be engaged with academic work and meetings throughout that time (please note, some meetings/classes may fall outside of that timeframe, if extenuating circumstances necessitate)
  • Attendance is taken daily for each class, students should check Google Classroom for assigned work or check-in forms.

b. Support

  • Acknowledge struggle: "Online [and independent] learning is really hard for a lot of people. It requires a lot of self-regulated learning skills," says MIT education researcher Justin Reich. (NPR)
  • If your child is struggling, please direct them to their advisor, who can suggest appropriate school personnel to contact for further support if needed.
  • Our Student & Family Support Team will be in touch promptly if your student misses synchronous (F2F) classes or fails to turn in work in a timely fashion.

c. Connection

  • Follow Gunston’s Good Vibes Challenges, check out the Atrium on Gunston’s Distance Learning Hub
  • As a family, take time to talk, play, and take breaks from the news.
  • Engage your student(s) in a conversation on what work their courses are requiring and how they are planning to get that work done.

d. Encourage kids to remain socially connected


@ virtual Gunston


@ Home

 

  • Join club meetings
  • participate in class discussions and threads
  • organize your advisory to complete fun challenges, lunch meets with friends, etc
  • Do homework within a Hangout
  • Share Spotify playlists
  • Connect on social media, but ask yourself if you feel better or worse afterward?

e. Reflect and find meaning

  • Gratitude journals
  • Civic engagement — food drives, sewing face masks, reading to siblings or relatives
  • Consider a meditation app — Gunston’s Mental Health Awareness Club loves Calm

f. Find Motivation

  • Attendance is taken daily through synchronous classes and the timely submission of asynchronous class work
  • Try a focus timer - there are plenty out there from a timer on your phone to ones that let you earn streaks
  • Chore charts, family celebrations, and future awards

In every transition, there is a honeymoon period. Dress down days every day! Sleeping late! As we move further into distance learning, the initial buzz may wear off. We are asking you and your student(s) to approach distance learning with a growth mindset (remember, things you can’t do now are really things you can’t do YET). We recognize that students learn differently and some may have challenges in this new learning environment. Encourage them to keep trying, to utilize their resources (teachers, peers, tutorial videos, etc).

Supporting Faculty and Staff Families

During times when Gunston’s Distance Learning Plan is enacted, we know that many of our faculty and staff will be caring for other family members while maintaining their duties for the school. With this in mind, we support faculty in scheduling advisory, classes, club meetings, or office hours outside of the typical distance learning schedule.

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IX. Financial Policies
The implementation of GDLP is considered part of the regular operations of the Gunston School, and the school continues to be governed by the policies and procedures outlined in the school’s enrollment agreement and our parent-student handbook.
 

Should the school face an extended campus closure, the Board of Trustees will work closely with the Head of School and Business Manager to determine if there are pathways to minimize the impact of the closure on families. In cases where a family’s economic circumstances are significantly affected by an extended campus closure, the family should immediately reach out to the school’s Business Office.

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