Java with Jim

Warmup your cup of coffee and hear the latest news and events from Blackwell.  This morning gathering is designed specifically for parents to hear directly from Mr. Eaton about what's happening here at Elizabeth Blackwell.  Mr. Eaton will also be available to field questions about our school, remote learning, the district, and the state of education in Washington.

It's also a great time to virtually meet other parents and hear from the PTSA.  We will be meeting quarterly at 9:30 A.M.  Our fist Java with Jim will be on Wednesday, Sept. 30th.  Join the meeting via Teams...links will be published in our weekly newsletter.

Month Information Presented Questions & Answers

september 30

Please click here to view the information presented by Mr. Eaton



Question:  Concerning the features and functionality of Microsoft Teams, can the teachers give their students the ability to share their screens?  Similarly, do teachers have the ability to mute all students?

Answer:  Our staff is still learning the features of using Microsoft Classroom and these will be used by staff as they become more familiar with the product.  Our teachers continue to learn new skills and incorporate these into their online classrooms.

Question:  What will be the lead time for prepping before kids go back to in-person learning?

Answer:  We have a loosely-structured timeline.  It's vague on purpose because of all the moving pieces required to open.  We want to have firm dates with lead time to allow staff and families to plan for this transition.  Wishfully thinking, dates would be coming soon with at least a week's lead time.  It would be no sooner than mid to late October.  LWSD has become a leader across the nation in thoughtful and methodical "return to school" planning.

Question:  For remote learners, are there any plans for socializing during breaks?

Answer:  Yes, we are exploring possibilities to offer that.  These will need to be monitored by a staffer.

Question:  With the transition to in-person and remote learning options for Blackwell students, is there thinking about how we can maintain our Blackwell community with our remote students?

Answer:  We are always searching to maintain ways to stay connected as a school.  We have "some" control at the building leve, but much of it is structured by the district.  We will try our best to keep Blackwell students and classes together and cause the least disruption to students and families.  Unfortunately, we just don't have any good firm answers quite yet regarding our in-person and remote classes.

Question:  Regarding curriculum; if remote students are mixed together with others from other classes or schools, will they all be at the same place?

Answer:  Yes, they should be somewhat at the same point in their curriculum.  The district standards include a pacing guide for continuity within grade levels.  This year's curriculum is tighter than in past years for consistency across the district as well as across classrooms at the same grade level.

Question:  Will teachers and grouping for Quest be maintained?

Answer:  As much as possible, we will try to keep them the same, but still, remote learners will be paired with remote teachers and in-person students with our in-person teachers.

december  Please click here to view the information presented by Mr. Eaton

Question:  What is the specific work and purpose of the Equity Team?

Answer:  Three years ago, the district tasked each school to look at issues of equity, especially in the face of our changing demographics.  Our school system is comprised of primarily Caucasian, female staff.  Eight years ago, Blackwell’s student body was about 80% Caucasian, now it’s about 40%, with 60% of our population coming from all over the world. 

The Equity Team looks at our practices with an eye to ensure they are equitable to all our students.  We also critically look at historically marginalized groups of students to overcome opportunity and achievement gaps. The end goal, of course, is to serve our students the best we can.  Our current team had some professional learning and as a result, we have become better at applying what’s been learned.  We lead professional learning for all our staff to increase awareness around issues of race and act in ways promoting equitable practices. We are seeking parent voice and  perspective to the Equity Team and feel these new voices will enhance our understanding and abilities of our staff and students.

Question:  A concern was expressed over people not wearing masks or social distancing on the playground.

Answer:  Currently, we have no signage on the playground regarding the rules, but we can fix that.  We hope that everyone knows the rules and follows them, but we can’t enforce them.

Question:  How can we better handle activities which require increased parent involvement in the remote setting or reading by the youngest students? 

Answer:  We have some awareness that some activities (PE and Music, especially) are “text-heavy”.  Our teachers work to provide lessons that can be done independent of adult support whenever possible.  However, this is not always possible. We so appreciate the work of parents in helping their students and advise parents to provide feedback directly to teachers to express difficulties. To some degree, the partnership between home is school has increased more than in traditional school. Our families need to assist us in some of the day to day experiences as best they can.

Question:  What is the expectation of remote recess?

Answer:  It’s meant for more social interaction in a less formal setting.  It’s not meant to be physical.  We will be adding some new things to facilitate these casual interactions and are working with other schools to share ideas on how to make it fun.

Question:  Are we getting new computers?

Answer:  The district has ordered 6000 more computers to replace our oldest ones.  They have arrived in district and being prepared for distribution.  We’ll be contacting families who have those older models to swap them out.  The plan is to do this in January.

Question:  What do you (Mr. Eaton) wish you had more feedback on?

Answer:  We want to know what are the hindrances to full participation by students?  Are there obstacles the school can remove and address to make things easier or better for our families and students?


march  Please click here to view the information presented by Mr. Eaton.

Q: How much will the actual learning change going to in-person from remote?  Will it be comparable?

A: When the district planned the hybrid in-person model, they knew there would be some differences in content and pacing.  They left the choice up to parents, knowing each family would factor in the intangible benefits of in-person and remote learning models.  Teachers do have the ability to broadcast their live teaching to the remote group if they choose.  We are still focusing our instruction on the core content of reading, writing and math.  Our curriculum spirals, so concepts will be repeated over time.  5th grade rotations may not be possible for in-person learning based on several factors. Our 5th grade team and I will decide our plan moving forward.


Q:  Being new to the school, wondering how the parking lot and crossings will be affected once 2nd-5th grade students return?

A:  In a typical morning, the drive-thru is very full and people must park on side streets.  With the return of 2-5, it will be busier, but not nearly as crowded as when we are at full capacity.  We will roughly have 165 students on campus each day as compared to our normal 550.


Q: Playground Zones question (Does the school need additional equipment for the Playground Zones?)

A:  Playground zones are running fine.  We have plenty of equipment (balls, jump ropes, etc.) for kids to use.  The goal is to stay 6’ apart, but the reality is they really can’t at recess.  The criteria of not exceeding the 6; fule for more than 15 minutes is basically being maintained.


Q: Are students required to use the lanyards with their masks?

A: No, masks are required, but the lanyards are just a convenience to help keep the mask clean when eating and drinking.


Q: Concern over Specialists, specifically Music and PE being too text heavy, especially for younger students.

A: Our specialists are receptive to new ideas, so parents are encouraged to reach out to them directly to ask for alternative activities.  Our remote learning model does rely on parents supporting their students instruction in new ways.  In addition, some families have opted out of specialists for this year.


Q: What is the Iowa testing we hear about?

A: Each fall, screenings are offered to test for our highly capable programs.  The Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) is the next step for those who have passed the initial screening test.  All 1st graders take the screener test (CogAT).  Parents can opt in for their students in other grade levels to be part of the highly capable testing.


Q: Are there any changes coming to the Quest program?

A:  It’s always evolving…the best information can be found on the Accelerated Programs page of the LWSD website.  5-6% of our families qualify for our highly capable programs.  Families can try each year to qualify for the program.  Details are on the Accelerated Programs webpage on the district website.


Q: Is there a standard amount of time students should be spending on Lexia?

A:  Parents should check with their teachers as to their expectations and how teachers use the data.