October 1, 2021
Dear Northwood Families,
Fall has arrived! I hope you have enjoyed the transition of the seasons over the past few weeks.
As happens each year, our teachers and students have spent a great deal of time over this first month of school getting to know one another, building their classroom communities, and focusing on positive expected behaviors and routines for success. Teachers teach, model, practice, reinforce, and acknowledge expected routines and behaviors for the school environment. We have a school-wide Positive Behavior Intervention and Support system (PBIS) with the expectations that Northwood Owls “Be the Three: Be safe, Be respectful, and Be responsible to grow our hearts and minds.” Consistency of expectations supports students in their learning and comfort at school. When staff notice students displaying positive, expected behaviors, students are acknowledged with a positive personal connection and a Soaring Owl ticket to celebrate the good choices they are making each day. Great job, Northwood Owls!
The following topics are included in this message:
- Northwood Site Visit - School Board of Directors Special Meeting
- Equity Efforts, Past, Present, and Future
- Attendance Reminders
- Assessments to Support Student Learning
- Lunch at Northwood
- National Hispanic Heritage Month Reading List
- Fall Festival Parties - October 29
- Upcoming Events
Northwood Site Visit - School Board of Directors Special Meeting
The Mercer Island School Board will be holding a special meeting at Northwood Elementary on Tuesday, October 21, 2021. Each year, the Directors visit a few of our Mercer Island schools to tour classrooms, talk with teachers, staff, and administration, and connect with students and the parent community. The Directors will plan to meet with any interested parents from 11:00am-11:30am in the Northwood Commons. We hope to see you there!
Equity Efforts, Past, Present, and Future
Since its opening in the 2016-17 school year, Northwood has had a staff team working on issues of equity, access, and inclusion. Initially called the Diversity Team, now dubbed the Equity Team, this group of educators is led this year by two teacher leaders, Mrs. Elizabeth Melton-Grace (Kindergarten) and Mr. Sean O’Callaghan (Kindergarten) in close collaboration with our Administrative Team (Principal and Associate Principal). Over the course of the years, we have worked with several experts across the region to support development of staff knowledge and skills to support equity in our schools, including:
- Dr. Pedro Noguera, educator, speaker, and author of Excellence through Equity
- Dr. Caprice Hollins of Cultures Connecting, educator, speaker and author of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Strategies for Facilitating Conversations about Race
- Ben Ibale of WEA: Culturally Responsive Strategies, Culturally Responsive Classroom Management
- Rosalind Wiseman of Cultures of Dignity
- several other authors and thought leaders through book studies and video presentations.
Last year and this year, our team is continuing our school-based work, alongside the District’s Superintendent's Equity Advisory Council and the district Dynamic Social Justice group. Our goals include advancing our staff and community knowledge of the issues of race, racism, and whiteness in our culture; issues of gender identity and gender bias; issues of ability and neurodiversity; as well as looking at other issues of privilege and inequity that create barriers for marginalized people across our communities. As professionals, we are continuing to examine materials, programs, systems, and language with an eye toward disrupting systems of inequity and replacing them with more equitable, inclusive structures. We will continue our own ongoing staff and student learning and we plan to partner with our PTA Leaders in this work. Our Northwood PTA Director of Equity and Inclusion will also join the Superintendent’s Equity Advisory Council to help lead this work in the broader community. We look forward to this partnership with parents as we continue to learn and grow toward a more equitable future together.
We look forward to welcoming our students to school each and every day, and we know how much families value their children’s learning at school. As always, we ask that families keep children home from school when they are ill. In the era of COVID-19, it is very important for families to follow public health guidelines and to keep children home when they are ill or when they have been in close contact with a person with a known/suspected case of COVID-19. For COVID-19 illnesses or contacts within the household, please contact our school nurse so we can support your family and follow our protocols to keep the school community healthy and well.
As always, please call our ABSENTEE LINE at (206) 275-5879 if your child is going to be absent, and email your child’s teacher. Our attendance secretary, Bridget Haba, will contact you if the reason for your child’s absence is unknown.
Assessments to Support Student Learning
During these first several weeks of school, and periodically throughout the school year, teachers engage students in various assessment activities. These serve several purposes, including monitoring students’ learning and discovering any learning gaps. Our teachers are using the data gleaned from these assessments to inform instructional grouping and instructional planning across the curriculum.
Lunch at Northwood
Following the survey deployed to District elementary families in early September, we looked at the number of respondents and the level of interest in exploring an outdoor lunch option. At Northwood, the responses we received reflecting an interest in outdoor lunches totaled 30% of the student population. We subsequently explored whether an outdoor lunch option would be possible with the specific constraints of the Northwood facilities, schedules, and human resources. We determined that we are not able to accommodate two lunch environments (indoor and outdoor) due to barriers of the physical facility, the conflicts of competing elements of the Northwood schedule for use of shared common spaces, and the number of available supervisory staff.
We will continue to implement our current DOH guided mitigation protocols for our indoor lunches, and we will monitor their implementation and effectiveness over time. These protocols include physical distancing and other mitigation measures during lunch, including maximizing distance as much as possible and reasonable for lunches to occur. We have added more tables to our lunch rooms and have expanded the spaces used at Northwood for students to eat lunch. This means our students are spread out across the length and width of the dining commons and the appended space previously reserved for quiet dining. Fewer students will be seated at each table, and indicator dots will help remind students about where to sit to maintain distance. Students have been given assigned seats within their assigned classroom tables. Additionally, see-through trifold barriers are placed between students, adding another layer of mitigation. The doors that line the side of the dining commons are also propped open to allow for additional airflow, beyond that provided by our HVAC system. Students have been provided with instruction and reminders to focus on eating during lunch and to replace their masks when they are not actively eating or drinking. If a student has to get up from the table for any reason, they will also don their masks. Our expectations for the lunch room include: stay put in your seats; focus on your food; mask up when not eating; and mind your physical distance. We have adjusted lunch times and supervision schedules to allow for our staff to provide enhanced supervision during lunch and to reinforce physical distancing while students are eating and masking-up when students are finished eating. For additional information about COVID-19 mitigation measures, please see the FAQs on the COVID-19 Response/Learning Forward / Homepage.
National Hispanic Heritage Month Reading List
Northwood’s teacher-librarian, Ms. Harnish, has created a list of texts available in the Northwood library to support observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15 2021). This list has also been published in the Northwood PTA Parliament Press. Representation matters as we continue our on-going work of building and maintaining an inclusive, welcoming, and supportive school community. Ms. Harnish has been highlighting some of these texts when students visit the library, and many are on display in the Commons to entice young readers. Please take a look at the titles and see which you might want your child to check out so you can read and learn together!
Fall Festival Parties - October 29
At Northwood, we have built a tradition of a school-wide Fall Festival through common activities and classroom parties on or near October 31. This year, due to COVID-19, the PTA Leaders and I have been collaborating to reimagine the Fall Festival so that we can maintain some version of this tradition, while also staying safe and healthy. As plans develop, teachers will coordinate with their Room Parents regarding the schedule and plan for their classrooms. Please watch for additional information.
- 10/4 & 10/5 - Smarter Balanced Assessments for grades 4 & 5
- 10/8 - Half-Day for Students; School ends at 12:15pm
- 10/13 @ 6:00pm PTA General Membership Meeting
- 10/21 @ 11:00-11:30am School Board Site Visit to Northwood Elementary - Parents & PTA in Commons
- 10/28 Northwood PAC meeting
- 10/29 - Fall Festival class party - see teacher communications
Principal | Northwood Elementary School