Virtual Model FAQ

Technology

With remote learning, will my child take part in the K-8 virtual school?
No. All middle school students will be served by their neighborhood schools. In other words, there will not (at this time) be a K-8 virtual school. Instead, ALL Merrill students will be in virtual classes with other Merrill students and served by Merrill teachers, regardless of the original model (hybrid or virtual) students and families selected.

How will remote learning be different from the online learning that took place during the school closure last spring?
Your child’s virtual experience this fall will be mandatory and graded. The schedule and virtual experience are explained in the Schedules section below.

I was not able to attend the computer rollout on Wednesday, September 2nd to pick up my child’s computer. How will I be able to obtain a computer before classes begin?
Based on who checked out a computer from Merrill last spring, we will be able to determine who is still in need of a laptop this fall. Please contact administration at (515) 242-8448 at your earliest convenience. Information regarding distribution day (computers, learning materials, school supply kits) for students who placed on order will be available later in the next newsletter.

How can my child receive learning online when we do not have internet access?
Families still in need of internet access are encouraged to explore the partnership between DMPS and Mediacom.

I have yet to register my child for virtual (or hybrid) learning. How will I be able to do so, and will I be able to make the choice or does the district choose for me?
Families who did not register by July 31st have been placed in the hybrid model. If you have questions about this, please contact Jane Schumann (Office Manager) at 242-8448.

Who do I reach out for technology support?
Students and families can call (515) 242-8221 for technology support. A printable version of the Student Device Guide can be found in the August 26th issue of the Merrill Minute.

What school supplies are needed for the virtual learning model?
It is linked on our website (Merrill.dmschools.org)

Schedules

What will my child’s virtual schedule look like?
All ten DMPS middle schools worked together to develop a similar virtual experience for all students across the district:

  • 5-6 periods per day (40-minute classes)
  • A later start time to accommodate adolescent sleep schedules and teacher collaboration time:
  • Screen time limited to 3-5 hours per day
  • ELA and Math are offered each day
  • Time allotted for student breaks
  • Extended lunch hour for students who may need to walk or have their family drive them to the nearest meal site for “grab and go” lunch

What does a 40-minute class period look like?
Class periods will be chunked into synchronous (live) virtual whole class instruction, virtual small group/individual instruction, and independent work and practice

Will students enrolled in accelerated programs (i.e. Central Academy, Talented and Gifted) still have the option to select the virtual option and remain in the program?
Students enrolled in 8th Grade Central Academy will join Merrill virtual classes for 1st – 3rd periods before transitioning to Central Academy virtual classes from 12:30 – 3:30. Students enrolled in 7th Grade Prep Academy will join Prep Academy virtual classes from 8:30 – 10:00 before transitioning to Merrill virtual classes for 3rd – 6th periods.

How will my children connect with their classmates through the virtual learning model?
Explain breakouts, chats, etc.

How will PE and Visual/Performing Arts classes be taught in the virtual model?
Just as the other courses, they will be teacher-led and will include a variety of educational activities.

How will ELL programs be outlined and/or worked out for my child?
ELL families can contact Susan Stringer with questions

Will World Languages (Spanish) be lost with the virtual model?
I explained World Language in one of my publications this week.

Participation

What are participation expectations?
Participation is defined as a student’s active engagement with instructional content. Teachers will mark daily student participation no later than noon the next business day in the attendance module of Infinite Campus. Teachers will enter the primary method of participation in the comments. To be marked as participating, students must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Synchronous learning participation (student participated in a group lesson, either synchronously or participated via recording)
  • Canvas module participation (student participated in Canvas module(s))
  • Work submission (student-submitted evidence)
  • Office hour meeting (student met/spoke one on one with a teacher regarding instructional content)

What about parents who work during the day? If I have to “pause” the virtual learning during the day to go to work, how will my child catch up? Will the teachers be available online in the evening?
We will work with you just as we would if students missed a day of school

What about families where both parents work full-time or single parents that work full-time, five days a week? Will the child be counted absent?
We will work with you just as we would if students missed a day of school

What happens if my child is sick or if we have internet connectivity issues, resulting in him/her not being unable to attend synchronous Teams meetings? Will he/she be considered absent and can alternative arrangements be made?
There are multiple ways a student can demonstrate participation with their classroom content. If a student is unable to join a synchronous class meeting, they will have access to a recording of the lesson. Course materials and assignments will also be available on Canvas. Teachers will be available during office hours to work with students on an as-needed basis.

Family Resources

Will there be on option for checking out library books?
Yes, DMPS is working on a curbside library service set to begin in October.

What will be the process for obtaining Grab and Go lunches?
Lunches may be picked up at any DMPS school weekdays from 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM. At Merrill, we will also be serving an evening meal from 4:00-6:00 PM.
The person picking up the meals will need to know the students’ ID number. This is a change from the spring. You can find your student’s ID # in Infinite Campus.
Merrill Middle School will not be providing weekend meals this fall.

Is there going to be a weekly and/or monthly overview so parents can keep up with the needs of their kids with the virtual model?

The teachers will create one shared document with information in a pod (and admin/support staff) that will go out to parents each week instead of multiple emails from individual teachers. The document will include a brief overview of the previous week and preview of the upcoming week. They will be updated by Thursday afternoon so the team leaders can get it sent out to the pod roster of families Friday morning.

How can I meet with my child’s teacher if I need help?
Teachers will be working from home and we will do everything we can to support. Teachers will use Teams for face-to-face meetings with students and families as needed.

How will you address social emotional or mental health concerns?
School counselors will be collaborating with Ms. Brandy Sage (Health Teacher) to address topics with 6th graders that include Managing Stress, Healthy Relationships, and Refusal Skills. They also created a Bitmoji Virtual Office where students can “Request to See Their Counselor” along with other resources.
If students and families requests School-Based Therapy (courtesy of NewSight), they can reach out to Kimber Foshe (A-L) or Cait Denning (M-Z) and they will start the referral process for them.

District School Counselors are finalizing a monthly calendar of Social Emotional Topics and corresponding lesson plans which will be available to teachers and staff soon.

What extra-curricular activities are offered in the virtual model?
Can be found in the August 26th edition of the Merrill Minute.

We will be offering a Fall Skills Academy at each middle school. This will be a camp style program for football, volleyball, cross country, and cheer.

These are scheduled for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday beginning September 14 – October 28 for 7th and 8th grade students only. We anticipate activities to start around 3:30 and end around 5:30.

More information and a link to sign up will be released in the next few days.

Also, as soon as we get settled into our new routines, we will be hosting virtual clubs for all grade levels. Stay tuned for more information in mid-September.