Dear STEP Academy Families,
It is our sincere hope your family is healthy and safe at this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 outbreak. We miss our students, and have been diligently preparing numerous methods for keeping in touch with you, and continuing every student’s education through quality distance learning. This letter will outline what distance learning looks like for our students.
Distance Learning and Online Communication
In response to Governor Walz’s initial announcement three weeks ago that Minnesota’s teachers must prepare for the possibility of distance learning, STEP Academy’s entire staff reported to school for several days to determine ways to make at-home learning a reality.
STEP Academy’s Distance Learning Program starts Monday, March 30, 2020, for all students, and will continue through May 4, 2020 per a recent directive from Governor Walz. We anticipate the Governor will review the May 4th end-date in the days to come, with the understanding that this timeline may be extended. We will keep you informed of any changes.
Students’ Learning Platforms
Classroom Teachers are utilizing Google Classroom and Google Meet as the primary online tools to teach and communicate with students. Google Classroom has been active in many classrooms since the start of our school year. Teachers will present instruction via class meetings, videos, tutorials, assignments, and other online resources. Methods and requirements vary by teacher and by grade. Please visit the STEP Academy website (www.stepacademymn.org) to see specifics for your children.
In addition, students and families are encouraged to communicate with teachers if they have any questions, feedback, or need any type of support. Teachers are your direct line of support.
Students who do not have online access, or have not yet picked up their Chromebooks and learning materials from Step Academy should immediately contact the school by email (email@example.com) or phone (651-289-6120) during regular school hours. At the end of this letter is a list of internet providers offering assistance to families of students who do not have a home internet account.
During this online learning time, it is important to note that students can receive unexcused absences. Attendance is recorded each day, and students must be available to connect with their teacher in order to be marked present. This means different things at different levels. Please visit the STEP Academy website (www.stepacademymn.org) to see how attendance will be recorded for each of your children. In general, early elementary students will have a scheduled online or phone call with their teacher each day. Intermediate students will have a live online meeting with their teacher. Secondary students will have a check in with their first hour teacher between 8:30 and 12:30 to be marked present.
If your child is unable to “do school” you still need to report the absence and reason for the absence as usual by calling the school attendance line (651-289-6120).
We are not asking parents and guardians to teach any lessons. We are simply requesting that parents, babysitters, caregivers, and older siblings provide support to elementary students to access Google Classroom and any videos or activities that will be posted by their teachers and encourage them to stay engaged in their learning activities to completion. We understand that many parents work during the “school day” and realize that some students will need to complete their daily work during evening hours. If this is the case, parents are asked to contact the teacher that same day. It is not considered an absence, if your child is completing work at a different time, and you are communicating with his or her teacher about it. Please work with your child’s teacher to let them know what your home situation is so that we can best serve your child during this time. Emails for teachers can be found on the school website (www.stepacademymn.org).
Students’ Online Expectations
Teachers will continue to expect students to show respect and responsibility while participating in STEP Academy’s Distance Learning Program. Expectations regarding dress, language, and behavior will be the same as if students are in their school classroom. If possible, we recommend that students have a specific place to “do school” where distractions can be minimized. It is also important for students to take care of the Chromebook that has been assigned, and abide by school internet expectations.
Talking to Children About the COVID-19 Virus
Children are overwhelmed with information regarding the COVID-19 Virus. Many of the messages and pictures may bring discomfort. Please spend time talking to your children to help them make sense of what is happening in the world around them. The link below is to a website with tips for parents when having these conversations with their children.
The entire STEP Academy Team is committed to working closely with every family to build a successful Distance Learning Program. We ask you to be in touch with any questions and feedback. While we may experience challenges at the onset of this effort, we are confident that partnering with you to provide a strong online learning plan will result in a celebration of extraordinary collaboration, and we thank you.
Here is a list of internet providers offering assistance for the families of students who don’t have an at-home internet connection.
Xfinity WiFi Free For Everyone Xfinity WiFi hotspots across the country will be available free to anyone who needs them, including non-Xfinity Internet subscribers. For a map of Xfinity WiFi hotspots, visit www.xfinity.com/wifi. Once at a hotspot, consumers should select the “xfinitywifi” network name in the list of available hotspots, and then launch a browser.
Your Mobile Phone Data Plan Several cell phone providers are offering unlimited data to their customers during the pandemic. If your plan and phone allow it, you can set up your phone as a WiFi hotspot and connect other devices, including student chromebooks. Check with your provider to ask: “Is data speed throttled after a certain amount of data is used?”
Comcast Internet Essentials Comcast is offering its Internet Essentials package to qualifying households for two months starting March 16, 2020. This program is normally available for $9.95/mo. In addition to making the service free, they are significantly increasing download speeds for Internet Essentials customers.
Apply online at https://www.internetessentials.com/.
Free for two months. Cancel or continue as a paying customer after that. No term contract or credit check and no shipping fee for equipment.
- New customers only
- Household must have students in grades K-12 and/or college
- One or more members of household must be eligible for public assistance programs such as: National School Lunch Program (NSLP) (Fee/Reduced Price Lunch), Housing Assistance, Medicaid, or Snap
The site also includes an offer for low price computers. In 7-10 days you will receive an easy to use self-install-kit that includes a cable modem with a WiFi router.