• Welcome Back Letter

    August 17, 2020


    Dear Grout Students and Families,


    We have missed you!  You all have been in our hearts and minds.  It is our hope that you have stayed safe and healthy during this extraordinary time. Needless to say, we are really looking forward to seeing each of you and connecting, even through our computer screens. Moving forward, we honor and understand the uneasiness that comes with this major transition. Please know that we are keeping our students and families at the center of our next steps.  With that said, we appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through the details.  We also know that the situation we find ourselves in with the Coronavirus pandemic and continued civil unrest around racial and social justice in our city and country has shaken us all.  Katy and I are committed to the social and emotional wellness of our community, as well as working diligently to dismantle racism. Together we will work through this crisis and become stronger and more united because of it.


    This is the “robust” letter that we promised last week.  It is long, but has important information and we strongly encourage you to read it all the way to the end.  


    Staff Updates and Classroom Assignments

    As you know, we have a dedicated and caring staff who are committed to supporting the students and families at Grout.  You will see some familiar faces teaching new grade levels, as well as new staff members.  Staffing allocations were readjusted during the summer to meet the new budget realities. What follows is a list of our updated changes:


    • Kindergarten:  Julie Crouser, Kari Lindstrom, Chris Retherford

    • First Grade:  Sharese Jewel, Wendy Wager

    • Second Grade:  Angie Hawksford, Karen Liao

    • Third Grade:  Michele Mulvihill, Lisa Van Clock, Jamie Williams

    • Fourth Grade: Jackson Mowe, Michael Solitaria

    • Fifth Grade:  Jonathan Fischer, Karey Kirk

    • K-2 CB:  Susan Gaudreau

    • 2-5 CB:  Ruthie Finnigan


    In an email last week, you were introduced to our new Assistant Principal, Katy Vawter.  Katy and I have hit the ground running and are excited to be working together.  We have already started planning and coordinating our efforts to get Grout off to a strong start.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to either of us.  


    While some other staff assignments are still being determined, we can also introduce you to our new school social worker, Kate O’Brien.  Kate has a strong passion to support all students with a clear and vocal lens for equity.  Kate has a wide variety of experiences working with children and is looking forward to being a part of Grout’s team.


    Some of our staff have left Grout and we wish them all the best on their new adventures.  In addition to the retirements from last spring, Elizabeth Israel-Davis, Tyler Riggs, Brian Schalk, and Devin Gallagher will be teaching in new schools this fall.  We will also miss Sophie Collins, Sue Ledgerwood, and Gwen Welch, but we hope to see them again soon.  


    Classroom Placement

    Teachers, specialists, and administrators have worked collaboratively with thought and care to look at the needs of each individual student and place them in the classroom environment that we believe will help them to be the most successful.  There are many factors that go into these decisions and while we believe it is important to support families as much as possible, we will not be able to switch students into other classrooms.  We appreciate your understanding as we focus on continuity of care for each student.


    Commitment to Equity 

    In May 2020, Superintendent Guerroro shared the following statement regarding Racial Equity, “...my commitment as an anti-racist educational leader is that we will work to educate our students to be critical thinkers, prepared to lead in a more socially just world.”  These words continue to hold true as Katy and I prepare for the new school year.  A Racial Equity and Social Justice lens will be at the forefront of all we do, from curriculum, professional development, to community events.  During the summer, many of our staff read and discussed “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo.  We will continue to read, learn (unlearn) and grow in our collective anti-racism work, specifically amplifying Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) educators, thought leaders, and activists.  Katy and I are dedicated to this work and will be updating the Grout Community on our clear next steps and actions.


    Distance Learning Update

    Tomorrow marks three weeks since the district announced the decision to move to distance learning.  Many decisions and supports have been put into place behind the scenes.  As I write this, administrators and district staff are working on a revised and focused curriculum.  They are also figuring out logistics, such as technology use and distribution, nutrition and food services, and building access and safety. Teachers return on August 27 and we will then have their valuable voices and input on remaining decisions.  


    Here is what we know: 

    • Grout will be using a full-time distance learning model through at least November 5.

    • The newly designed model will include a more consistent schedule and daily contact with students.  Grades and attendance will be taken.  This model will meet more rigorous and specific instructional expectations.  It will look and feel different than this spring, but we are still committed to supporting students and families through the process.

    • School begins for Grades 1 - 5 on September 2.

    • School begins for Kindergarten on September 8.

    • School will begin with a “soft start” schedule.  This means there will be daily contact with the teacher in the form of a check-in lesson that is focused on supporting social emotional learning.  During this time, teachers will also be reaching out to individual families, planning, and participating in professional development. 

    • All K-5 classrooms will be using the platform Seesaw.  Grades 6-12 will be using Canvas.

    • Decisions about extending distance learning past November 5 will be made and communicated by October 10.

    • With this new model and schedule each student will need access to a Chromebook or computer.  Technology will be provided to students as needed.  


    As we move into this year, some families have asked about support in creating “learning pods.”  As parents, Katy and I understand the impact on families and the importance of creating a network of support.  From an equity lens, we, along with PPS and the Grout PTA, believe this opportunity would have to be provided to ALL students.  Grout administration, staff, and the PTA will work together to support all of our families, however, we are unable to take part in the creation and/or implementation of the learning pods.  


    Technology Needs

    Technology distribution will be site based and available directly from Grout.  We are currently trying to determine how many computers will be needed and working with the district to get this inventory on site.  After these numbers and dates are determined, we will communicate with families on where and when to pick up the devices.  This distribution will take place between August 24 and September 2.  We will have multiple times available to accommodate families’ chedules.  In the meantime, please send an email to dself@pps.net or call (503) 916-6209 and leave a message if you need to check out a Chromebook. Please include the name of the Grout student(s).  If you need a wifi hotspot or or have any other technology needs, please let us know.  


    Grout Parent/Guardian Orientation

    In addition to the district provided orientation for parents and guardians, we will have our own orientation for Grout families.  Families will learn how to use the virtual learning technology, hear suggestions for helping students be successful, and meet Katy and I.  This will also be an opportunity to ask questions and share your thoughts.  We will offer a morning and an evening session the week of September 3.  Please stay tuned for details.


    Nutrition Services

    Grout will continue to be a food distribution site with “Grab and Go” breakfast and lunch provided free of charge for Grout students.  Beginning September 2, lunch and breakfast will be provided on Mondays (2 meals) and Wednesdays (3 meals) between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm.  The last day for summer meal distribution will be August 20.  


    In the Works: 

    As you can imagine, with every solution we discover new questions.  Ideally, we would have every detail sorted out.  This is what we are still working on:  


    • We are scheduling a virtual Back to School Night on Thursday, September 24.  Mark your calendar.  More details to follow.  

    • Daily schedules are still being drafted.  While these schedules will be individualized by the classroom teacher, the district will be sharing a schedule that clarifies expectations for time and instruction. They are planning to share these schedules this week.  

    • With the virtual learning environment, we do not yet know what school supplies students will need.  As teachers return and get a better idea of what the new distance learning model looks like, they may have a request, but most students will be safe to start the year with paper and pencil.  We will support any student who needs school supplies.  


    Upcoming Dates

    • September 2 - Schools starts, grades 1-5 

    • September 2 - Grab & Go meals begin at Grout

    • September 2 to September 11 - Soft Start

    • September 8 - School starts, Kindergarten

    • September 14 - Full day distance learning begins

    • September 24 - Virtual Back to School Night

    • October 10 - District announcement about continuing distance learning

    • November 5 -  End of distance learning, unless extended by the district


    Again, we know this is a great deal of information and thank you for your perseverance.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.  Please know that at the center of all of this work is the safety and well being of our students and families.


    Stay safe!


    Denise Self                Katy Vawter

    Principal                     Assistant Principal

    dself@pps.net           kvawter@pps.net