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2020-2021 School Year FAQs

2020-2021 School Year FAQs

What will a Remote Plus day look like?

Click here to read about A Day in the Life of Maria.

These answers are written to students, as much as possible, so “you” means the student!

When does school actually start? When will we get our schedules?

All students will come to campus for the Registration process on Wed, Thurs, or Fri (Sept 16-18) during an assigned two-hour window.  See Wednesday emails for more information.  You will receive a detailed plan for Registration, including what you will do while on campus and what we need you to bring with you, when you get your personal Registration time slot.  We are working hard to get this information to you as quickly as we can.

New students will come to campus on Thursday, Sept 17 from 2-4 for Orientation.  (See email dated September 1 for more information.)

Then, ALL students will have their first REMOTE advisory on Friday, September 18 at 2pm.  Instructions for how to access this advisory will be given at Registration.

Finally, the full class schedule will start on Monday, September 21 at 8:30am.  Students will receive their personalized schedules at Registration, but the basic daily schedule available here in the FAQs gives you a general sense of a day.  At Registration, everyone will be taught how to access their remote classes.

What will the daily schedule be as we start our remote year?

The schedule pictured here is a sample of a typical Parker schedule for Fall, 2020.  The day starts with advisory and then continues with six 40-minute blocks for classes, with five minutes of transition time in between blocks.  Division One and Two AH and MST each last for two 40-minute blocks.  Classes like 7th Seminar, Academic Support, Spanish, Flex (see explanation below), and all Division Three classes happen in one 40-minute block each.  Lunch, a one-hour time slot for all students and teachers, breaks up the class day.  The day ends for students with office hours from 2:30-3:30 – teachers and students will make appointments with each other during these blocks of time.  If you (as the student) do not have an appointment on a given day, you can use that time for asynchronous work time (or take a break and do your “homework” later in the day).  Not everyone has all the same classes in the same order as in this sample schedule, but this example of a single student schedule gives you a sense of the flow of a day and the week.

Parker usually starts the year with community building and get-to-know-you activities for all students (“orientation”) and especially for new and returning students in Division One. How will you do that in this remote year?

For the first two weeks of school, the time slot labeled “Office Hours” on the schedule will be used for orientation-style activities for students, led by their advisors.  In all divisions, for those first days, students can consider “Office Hours” to be additional Advisory time, where the focus will be on helping students get to know each other, understand the technology needed to do school remotely, and generally answer questions to help students feel like they understand the school year.  Parker teachers always do a tremendous amount of get-to-know-each-other-and-the-school activities in the first weeks of school, and that will be especially true as we start remote classes.  So, rest assured that everyone will have a chance to get to know their classmates, both new and returning, as well as be explicitly taught how to use the digital tools we will rely on this year!  New 7th graders also have a class called 7th Seminar, which always has “getting used to Parker” as its core task for the first weeks of school.

What do you mean by synchronous and asynchronous?

Synchronous classes are when you have a specific place to be and specific things to do during the time you are in that class (like your class schedule at school, but it’s on the computer).  Synchronous work is just another name for the classwork and class activities you will do during class time.  Students are expected to attend classes (they are not optional!), attendance will be taken in each class, and that is where the bulk of learning will happen. 

Asynchronous work is work that your teachers will ask you to do outside of the synchronous class time.  This will largely be independent work that allows you to prepare for class, practice what you learned, and complete medium-term and long-term projects in smaller process steps.  Asynchronous means that you will have some choices about when to do that work (you could do it in the evening as “homework” but you also have times available to you within the school days and school week to do some of this work).  Your teachers will be very clear about what they are asking you to do, how long they think it is likely to take you, and when it is due.  If your experience of doing asynchronous work doesn’t match what your teachers outlined, they want to know!  That is the kind of information they will want you to share with them when you have office hours, for instance.  Asynchronous learning is a key component of the overall remote learning experience at Parker this year.  By including some asynchronous learning time in the daily schedule, we’re allowing teachers to focus on the most essential components of instruction, student coaching, and facilitating engaging, collaborative learning during the synchronous learning time. 

One of Parker’s beliefs is that it is okay that students work at different paces, and that’s true of asynchronous learning as well.  For instance, how long it will take a student to read a text can vary widely from student to student.  Not all classes will have asynchronous work each day, and some of a student's asynchronous load will depend on how well time is managed and how successfully longer term projects are done in manageable chunks.  If you find that you are spending significantly more time or less time than your teacher has said an assignment should take, PLEASE TELL YOUR TEACHERS! 

Can you give some examples of what asynchronous work/“homework” might look like?

Asynchronous learning/homework comes in three main categories at Parker (even before remote learning!): 

1.   Formative assignments that ask students to practice or develop a skill to build capacity, “muscle memory,” and/or automaticity


  • Examples:
      • In Spanish, students are asked to listen to a podcast and identify as many familiar vocabulary words as they can.
      • In MST, students learn about balancing equations in class, so they are asked to do a few practice problems between classes and then have a chance to ask questions about the practice problems in the next class.

2.   Preparing to participate in class

  • Examples:
      • In AH, students are reading Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and the reading schedule asks them to have the next two chapters done by Thursday, when discussion on those chapters will happen in class.
      • In Spanish, students might locate visuals of family members to use when practicing with family vocabulary in class the next day.
      • In MST, students have a 15-minute video to watch in between classes so that synchronous class time can be spent discussing the content of the video rather than watching the video itself.

3.   Making incremental progress toward completing a medium-term or long-term project

  • Examples:
    • In AH, students are working on a research project over a three week period; the project is broken up into small chunks and steps, some of which are done during class time and some of which are expected to be done outside of class time (students might take notes on a source one night and then the next night pull together their bibliography).
    • In MST, students are working on their COW (“Challenge of the Week”) – it was assigned on Friday and is due the following Friday.  Students work on the COW in class, but they also have some work to do each day outside of class to make progress on the COW in small steps and be prepared with questions for their teachers the next day in class.
How will I know where to be for class or my appointments each day?

All classes and appointments will be scheduled within the Teams environment, which will automatically populate your daily Teams schedule with the classes you should go to and the appointments you have made!  The sample day schedule included above might look like the image below in the Teams calendar.  Students just click on the blue box and it takes them straight to class/their meeting login.

Will we be in front of screens all day?

We worked hard to create a schedule that did not have you on screens straight through your whole day.  There are breaks in everyone’s day to get off a screen, exercise, take a break, stretch, and/or go outside.  Lunch is long, on purpose; we want everyone to have a break midday.  Though we hope to facilitate some student lunch groups (on screens) for those who are interested, we also encourage students to get away from their computer for the lunch hour.  Classes themselves will also be structured so that students will not always be on their screens.  Sometimes, your class will start together but then you will do independent work for the class time.  When you are on the screen, the goal of synchronous classes is to foster collaboration and interaction – so we also are working hard to make sure that “screen time” doesn’t mean passive, “sitting and watching” time.  Teachers are planning dynamic and engaging experiences that allow students to think creatively and actively, connect with their peers, and use their minds well.

What opportunities are there to come to campus as the year begins?

Besides Registration (and – for new students only – the Orientation on the afternoon of Thursday 9/17), we do not anticipate being able to offer on campus activities (the ‘Plus’ part of Remote Plus) until October at the earliest.  We are concentrating our efforts right now on launching the remote part of the school year well, with robust, interactive online classes for everyone.   We hope to offer some opportunities for students to come to campus once or twice in early-fall (for advisory, for instance) once the year is underway.

Can my students do her remote classes from campus as the year begins?

At this time, no.  We are exploring a pilot option for ‘priority students’ (as defined by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education - DESE) to be able to access their remote learning from campus, but it will be several weeks before we can provide more details about this possibility to families.  When we know more, we will share it with you.  Note that being able to do school “from campus” simply means accessing remote classes from campus (rather than from home).  Daily live classes that happen on campus are not part of the current plan for anyone.  Nonetheless, we realize that for some students, doing their remote classes from the school building may be an important factor for success, and we are actively exploring options for how to make this possible while still offering a robust, interactive remote experience for all.

(New) Can you explain how Flex time, Office Hours and Wednesdays are being used in the first few weeks of the year?

Click here for an explanation of how Flex time, Office Hours and Wednesdays are being used in the first few weeks of the year.

What will happen during Flex time?

There are a variety of things that might happen during Flex time for a student.  Sometimes you will have an appointment with a teacher, sometimes you will meet with your Wellness teacher, and sometimes you can use it as a stretch/exercise break in the day.  It can also always be used as asynchronous work time.  As the school year begins, we will support students in setting goals for using this time well (which might just mean going for a bike ride, as long as you are back for your next class!).

What happens on Wednesdays?

Wednesday’s schedule is different than the rest of the week.  The programming available on Wednesdays will be ramped up over the course of the fall, so this explanation describes the offerings we intend to build up to over the first few weeks of remote learning.  Wednesday morning is dedicated to asynchronous work time (working on independent assignments your teachers have given you in class).  Teachers are in faculty planning meetings on Wednesday mornings and are not available to students.  We will also encourage students to develop student-led clubs during this time.  At 11:30 each Wednesday, students have extended advisory, followed by lunch.  Wednesday afternoon contains two additional Flex blocks, where students have opportunities to engage in teacher-led and student-led activities that used to be found in “Community Block” (back in the pre-pandemic schedule).  These include groups such as Community Congress (student government), GSA, and book clubs.  Health class also happens on Wednesdays; lessons will be available asynchronously to be completed in the asynchronous block on Wednesday mornings.  (See related question about Wellness in these FAQs.)  Wednesdays end with Office Hours, just like all the other days, so teachers are available for consult and appointments.  It is our hope that once the school year is launched, Wednesday afternoons may also be a time when students can come to campus to do some “Plus” activities, both social and academic.  [Wednesday will not be the only day for this, but it is likely to be used in this way when possible.]

What will Wellness look like this year?

Wellness in the remote environment will be a mix of synchronous and asynchronous experiences.  Students will have a synchronous small group class every other week.  The substance of that synchronous conversation will be informed by two asynchronous experiences they have each week: a Health "class" and a personal BWell contract (explained in greater detail soon).  There is time for asynchronous Health/Wellness work on Wednesdays.

Our internet at home is unreliable. What should we do?

If you have already indicated to us that reliable internet access is a concern for you (via the survey from early September), we have been or will soon be in touch with you to better understand your concerns and offer some solutions.  If you have not yet informed us of this concern, please reach out to Monique Beganski ( to indicate that you need to talk with one of our tech folks about accessing reliable internet.

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