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Well it hit us. We have two students with probable cases of h1n1. The Westchester County Dept. of Health requested we close for two weeks and we are complying ... and APs started today. Oy.

The ning that I set up last weekend for some far distant possible closure is all of a sudden up and running with teachers starting to create groups for their classes.

We will try and make use of any and all digital tools that can help us keep educating the kids over the next two weeks.

I'll try and keep a journal of what we try, what works, what doesn't, and how the whole thing shakes out.

We have our fingers crossed that no one gets really sick. The kids with the flu are responding well to medication.

Who knows, now that the CDC is changing their recommendation about school closure time we may not actually be closed for two weeks.

Some local TV news coverage from ABC.

Stay tuned.

Fred

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Day 2

It was quite a whirlwind yesterday evening. The news went out in an email blast from the headmaster at 6:58 pm. FirstClass (our email/conferencing system) has a session monitor which shows logged in users and the subject field of the message they are currently viewing. I watched this for a while and you could almost see the shockwaves move through the community. I'm quite certain we had a record number of concurrent logins for an outside of the school day period. This actually points up how central FirstClass is to communication in our school community, and how well FC is working for us in this situation.

One of the more powerful features of a well-designed FirstClass system is that messages can be easily targeted to different audiences. Each of the division heads posted messages to their division conferences with information about the closure specific to their divisions. It will be interesting to see how FC serves our needs as the closure progresses but it has served us very well at the start.

Last night I was exchanging emails with one of our more tech savvy teachers. He twitters and has quite a few students following him. He is also following many of these students. He was providing me with updates on some of the more amusing twitter chatter about the closure. It was pretty clear from the delays in his responses that he was multitasking so I asked how many "feeds" he had going. This was his response:

I wish I had kept a list. At the peak I had, I think, five IMs (three AOL, one Facebook, one Gmail) going at once, along with Twitter, First Class, Gmail, and the phone.

I'm writing this while IMing with JL, of all people. News travels fast in this day and age.

I'm a bit overwhelmed by any one conversation. Going to bed, where they can't get at me.

Got my USAP ning going, though.


Speaking of the school ning. We had about 40 students and teachers join between 8:30 pm, when I posted an email about the site on FirstClass, and this morning. The ning folks declined my request to remove the ads so I just paid the $24 monthly fee to have them removed.

We do not provide school email accounts to students in grades below seven. We are not particularly concerned about lower school (k-4) communication, which will be mostly handled by the classroom teachers exchanging information with parents, but we would like to facilitate teacher/student communication in 5th and 6th grade. Luckily we have wikis in place for both grades on which all students have accounts. With a little tweaking we should be able to make these work effectively.

That's it for now. I'll provide updates later today.
Fred - thanks for posting these updates. We are all keeping an eager eye on the news and doing as much planning as possible. I'll be interested to hear how your k-4 experience goes - that's something that is up in the air for us. We plan on relying on parent communication for that age but I'm not sure how much we can do beyond that. Are your teachers and/or staff allowed to come to school? Business office? Maintenance? That's something we are also trying to figure out.

Good luck and stay well,
page
Hi Page,

We are taking a similar approach to your plan for K-4. I'll work on getting some information about how that is going.

No one is supposed to go to school today, at least not yet. We are waiting for further instructions from the admin team who are planning next steps. They are trying to work something out where a few people at a time can come to school to pick up books and other resources.

Fred
Thanks for posting this discussion, Fred. Our school nurse talked to the students today about precautions to take while at school (handwashing, etc.) and what the school is doing to reduce risk. Our administrators are working on a readiness plan. So far no cases here.

I'd really love to hear more about how you're continuing classes online, as it progresses.
Do you think the dep't of health will relent and you'll re-open now that the feds are recommending that schools NOT close?
Sarah,

The hints that are coming from the admin team are that we will open at the latest next Monday, and very possibly before. I'm viewing this as a VERY intense professional development exercise. I actually hope we stay closed a few days because the faculty are making tremendous progress with a bunch of social networking tools. Our school ning went from 3 members yesterday to 212 as of right now. We have students on the ning who have volunteered to be guides to help teachers, we have a sample course modeling how to run an online course, and 30 other groups/courses created by faculty. All in less than 24 hours. Pretty cool.

This is great, Fred! Wow. It looks like students and faculty have really stepped up. It's kind of a mixed blessing - a great exercise in professional development. Keep it going!
Thanks Page. If nothing else we now have a lot of kids and teachers who have had an exciting and positive educational experience with a social network. I'm sure we will see benefits from that in the future. We also developed some confidence that we could keep courses moving forward should we ever have a long closure.
You know, I'm almost (almost) envious of the professional development opportunity. My compliments too, you've managed this so beautifully!
Good luck. You are on the cutting edge. I would be curious on how you are handling the crises on a division level. I would imagine that it is easier to stay connected on the high school level, but how is the kindergarten keeping connected?
OK, so at around 4 pm today we received word that the Westchester County Health Commissioner has rescinded his recommendation that the school be closed. We will reopen tomorrow morning and get back to face-to-face education. I'll say this, it was a great one-day professional development experience. I'll post a longer reflection later to wrap up this thread with the lessons we learned.
Fred, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. Although short-lived it was fascinating to see the pace at which faculty and students took to it. Kudos

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