Principal's Corner

2/19/2021

Greetings Panthers,

We hope that this message finds you well.  We are very excited about the next big transition in our school year. Starting the week of March 1st, we will begin welcoming back students to the RCMS campus for in-person instruction. Whether your student opted to take part in-person instruction or your student selected to remain fully virtual, these changes will impact all students. For this reason I am writing to share some adjustments to our upcoming schedule that will enable us to support a successful return to RCMS throughout our first few weeks of in-person instruction.

  • 8th grade in-person students will return to the building the week of March 1st.
  • 7th grade in-person students will return to the building the week of March 8th. 
  • For both grade levels, students with last names A-K will attend in-person classes Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Students with last names L-Z will attend in-person classes on Thursdays and Fridays.  These students will attend classes on-line on the opposing days of the week.
  • Students who elected to remain all-virtual will attend their classes on-line Tuesday through Friday.

One notable change is that our teachers will be engaging with students in a concurrent instruction format. This means our teachers will be facilitating classes with students who are in the building and at home simultaneously. Students who are at home will continue to use their BBCU links to access their classes, while in-person students will connect with their teachers face-to-face. As with many other moments this year, this transition will involve new learning for all of us. To help navigate the onset of concurrent learning we made a few adjustments to the first two weeks of school which are outlined below.

 

  • Wednesday, February 24th: During 4th Period Panther Time Connections, all students will view presentations that explain the changes that are in place to support our return of in-person students.
  • Thursday, February 25th and Friday, February 26th: Both of these days are county-wide asynchronous-independent learning days/teacher planning days for middle and high schools. The intention of these days is to provide time for teachers to further prepare for concurrent instruction in anticipation of students’ return. Students should work independently on tasks assigned by their teachers these days.
  • Starting Monday, March 1st: Mondays will be asynchronous days for students. The purpose of moving to an asynchronous schedule is to provide additional time for teacher planning and collaboration. Students will continue to log in to their Panther Time Connections class to complete a brief, asynchronous check-in. Teachers may also hold optional office hours and meet with students for interventions as well.
  • The weeks of March 1st and March 8th: These are our first two weeks of our in-person student return. We are providing a student orientation for each in-person student group on the date of their first day in the building. This will occur through the Panther Time Connections class.  In order for this to be the first experience that a student has as they enter the building, we are adjusting the order of our class periods for these two weeks.  Please note that the day of the week and timing for 1st period and 4th period have been swapped during these two weeks.
    • This adjustment of the schedule applies to all students, allowing for everyone to remain on the same schedule.
    • All students will participate in the orientation activities during Panther Time.  These activities include an overview of the changes and procedures on the RCMS campus and students will engage with a FCPS lesson, “Stop the Spread” that highlights social distancing and safety measures.

*Please note that Friday, March 5th is a county-wide two-hour early release day.

Beginning on the week of March 15th, we will resume with our regular class schedules, following the standard A Day/B Day calendar.

While the next few weeks will bring new changes to our schedule, we are confident that these adjustments will provide the necessary means to support a successful transition as we move to a concurrent learning model. We are proud of the flexibility and resilience that our students and families have shown in these types of situations throughout the school year.  

As a reminder, we are holding a Virtual Parent Town Hall on Monday, February 22nd at 6pm to provide an overview of our return plans. The information that will be shared is mainly intended for students and families who have selected in-person instruction.  If you have not registered, you can do so with this link. (If you already signed up, there is no need to re-register).

Thank you so much for your attention to these changes and for your ongoing support during this school year.

Sincerely,

Gordon Stokes

Principal, Rachel Carson Middle School

 

November 17, 2020

Important Update to

Thanksgiving Week Schedule

Dear Families,

I am writing to announce an adjustment to next week’s schedule.  We have made a decision to designate next Tuesday, November 24, as an asynchronous day for students.  We recognize that our students are continuing to do their best to keep up with the many changes brought on by the virtual learning environment.  The intention of this adjusted day is to provide time for students to connect with teachers to get beneficial supports.  In addition, teachers may also reach out to invite students to office hours for individual or small group help.    Office hours will occur from 8:30-10:30AM.  The remainder of the day is set aside for students to complete and submit any outstanding tasks to their teachers.  We hope that the time will be best used on Tuesday so that the remainder of the week can be devoted to rest and time with family.

Sincerely,

Gordon Stokes,

Principal

October 26, 2020

Dear Rachel Carson Middle School families, 

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is planning to bring additional student groups back to school for in-person instruction in the near future. We will follow strict safety and health protocols to minimize health risks for students and staff. To learn more, visit here.

Select student groups have already begun the phase-in process.  School staff have already contacted students and families who fall into these specified groups.  The content of this letter outlines the phase-in process for Group 8 (all 7th-12th grade students).  All RCMS students fall into Group 8 - with a tentative in-person start date of January 26th, 2021.   

Group 8:  Grades 7-12; January 26– tentative start date

We will be using concurrent instruction for students who receive in-person instruction. This means that students who select in-person instruction will receive two days of teacher-led instruction in the school building and two days of teacher-led instruction at home. In order to ensure social distancing for our in-person students, we will establish two student groups that are divided based on student last names.  Once our adjusted student preferences are confirmed, we will provide more specific details on the breakdown of these two groups.  

Students who elect all-virtual learning will continue to receive four days of teacher-led instruction at home.  

Some schools are already piloting concurrent instruction. The Superintendent will report his findings on the pilot program at the November 12 School Board work session.  

Here is a video that demonstrates how a concurrent classroom will look.

We will honor the choice you made in the FCPS July survey to determine the setting for instruction. If you intend to maintain your student’s selection of setting from July 2020, there is no need to submit any changes.  If you chose in-person instruction, we will assume your student(s) will return to in-person instruction in accordance with the schedule above. If you chose all-virtual instruction we will assume you will continue in that format. If your circumstances have changed and you want to indicate a change in setting for instruction, please go to this enrollment link provided below and update your choice by Friday, November 6th, and we will try to accommodate your request based on the availability of staff and space.

Link to update setting for instruction

If you are indicating a change of preference for your child’s setting for instruction, please know that we cannot guarantee that their current class schedule will not be significantly altered to accommodate the change in setting. 

We will strive to minimize the impact of this transition; however, students may experience a change in schedule or class/teacher assignment as we work to accommodate everyone’s preferences.

To assist with providing information, we are holding an RCMS Parent Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 28th from 6:30-7:30PM.  The meeting will focus on sharing information about instruction, scheduling, safety guidelines, and to answer questions submitted from the community.  If you are interested in attending, please complete this short registration form: https://forms.gle/RZfBSgHWQZNpcfim7  For those unable to attend, the meeting will be recorded and content will be posted to our website.

Thank you for your support and cooperation as we continue on this journey to deliver the best instruction for all FCPS students. 

Sincerely, 

Gordon Stokes

Principal, Rachel Carson Middle School

 

October 13, 2020

Greeting Panthers.  On behalf of the entire RCMS staff, I want to extend well wishes to each of you.  We are passing the one-month mark of the school year.  Let’s take a moment to think about what you are accomplishing this year.  You started a new school year, met new teachers and classmates, gained understanding of your schedule, and began the exploration of seven different content areas.  Even more impressive, all of this happened without us being in the same physical space together.  Our 7th grade students faced the additional challenge of never having the full in-person experience at RCMS.  I want to share a tremendous kudos to each student for your presence and positivity in our online classes.  Learning how to access your classes and develop an online routine is no easy task.  I recognize that learning from your home may present challenges that you have not experienced before.  It is very encouraging to see your daily attendance to class.  It is also inspiring to know that you are adding your voice and ideas to your classes when you participate in the lessons.

Thank you to our parents for your support.  So many of you have shared positive and constructive comments about the work of our staff.  We hope that our return to school events (our Town Hall meeting, Back to School Night website and parent gathering, and our first virtual Parent Coffee) provided useful information and different forums to be together with other community members.  If you missed any of these events, please visit http://carsonms.fcps.edu  Please continue to reach out to share questions, concerns, or positive comments.  Also, please continue to read our News You Choose messages where we share important announcements and updates.

The bulk of the school year is ahead of us.  Let’s use the positive momentum from the past month to propel us into the next portion of the school year.  For students, sustaining that momentum comes down to effective habits and practices.  I encourage all students to:

  • Be an active participant in each of your classes.  Teachers plan different structures and activities centered around student discussion and collaboration.  Whether in a whole group setting or in breakout groups, add your voice (or your words in the chat) to the conversation. 
  • Use our Monday Panther Time Connections check-in to plan your week.  All students are expected to log-in to their Panther Time on Monday at 9AM.  This a great moment to examine what needs to get done for the week – whether completing certain tasks or visiting with teachers.  Students should frequently re-visit the weekly organizer that they complete on Mondays.
  • Take advantage of office hours.  On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, teachers are ready to field questions and provide more tailored assistance during office hours.  These are great times to have closer interaction with a teacher.
  • Submit tasks and keep an eye on your grades.  Unlike last spring where participation was voluntary, students must complete and submit all tasks assigned by their teachers.  Teachers use what students are submitting to provide feedback about understanding.  Moreover, all students can view their progress by viewing their grades in SIS.  This year, we are using a rolling gradebook, where students can see their progress as it accumulates throughout the school year.  Every assignment is important and will benefit your performance for the year.

We are all learning and finding different ways to thrive as each week passes.  I am confident that we will continue to grow together.  Remember, we can do virtually anything at Rachel Carson Middle School. 

Sincerely,

Gordon Stokes

Principal