Distance Learning Plan 2020-21

Orinda Academy’s Distance Learning Plan describes the actions and approach that the school is taking while the campus is closed and face-to-face learning cannot take place.

This Plan:

  • Supports the entire community through creative communication and personal connections
  • Creates a path for students to continue toward learning goals and benchmarks of their coursework
  • Ensures that faculty are supported in maintaining courses that earn credit

Distance learning is, for most of us, an unfamiliar way to attend school. It cannot replace the learning and social environment that exists when we are all together on campus. However, we have created a new daily schedule that, based on our research and with a mindful approach to student wellness, is suited to distance learning.

We are delivering content electronically, using Google functions (docs, forms, etc.) and Zoom, a platform for face-to-face interaction. As technical tools are tested and as we learn more about each platform, changes to how we deliver classes and learning may occur.

Distance Learning Schedule

Distance-to-Hybrid for 2020-2021
Distance Learning Period – During an active Distance Learning Plan period, we will follow Orinda Academy’s Distance Learning Schedule. For each class, students should expect to attend classes for the first 40 minute block, and then use the second half of the class as needed to meet with the teacher or work on homework.

Assignments – Assignments for each class are posted in RenWeb where, each school day, students will find their list of courses and the associated classwork, discussion topics, or homework. Posts on RenWeb may provide the link to a Zoom meeting; give instructions for a group project; provide resources for independent work; link to other outside resources (such as Google Classroom); or give other instructions. Students are responsible for checking RenWeb each day for every class.

New Daily Schedule – Returning parents will notice that we have created a new daily schedule, one that resembles our regular schedule. You will recall that last spring we adopted a block schedule when we went virtual, which worked well, but as we planned for this year we had to consider what kind of schedule would work for both in-person and remote instruction. Based on your feedback, we wanted to stick with one daily schedule that will allow us to go back and forth from remote to in-person learning without changing our daily routines, and we believe the current schedule will do just that.

Distance-to-Hybrid Learning Weekly Schedule

Hybrid Schedule – When we are able to have students return to campus, it will be Freshmen/Sophomores on Monday/Thursday and Juniors/Seniors on Tuesday/Friday.

Class Transitions –  In order to help students with transitions, we now have a 10 minute break between classes. This will help us do staggered dismissal of classes when we’re on campus, so that students can remain socially distanced during transitions. It will also provide a good leg-stretch break between Zoom sessions during the remote school day.

Continuity – The schedule will also allow continuity for students, as they will see their teachers four days per week. We have left Wednesday as a Flex day, as we did last spring, however there is more robust programming on this day than there was in the spring. Science labs, music classes, and leadership class will all occur on Wednesdays, and there will be scheduled time for students to check in with teachers for tutorials and homework assistance.

"Orinda Academy continues to provide an educational experience that embraces both academics and personal growth during virtual learning. Thoughtful planning focused on community and attending to the wellbeing of the students were clearly key components to building the engaging virtual classroom experience for our students. Virtual learning has not changed Orinda Academy, it has only put a spotlight on what can be accomplished with a dedicated, creative staff."

Jill, Mom of 10th grade student

"She is simply a changed person. She already seems more mature, engaging in discussions at home more and is in all around much better spirits. She had a great first week...It's a big change and such a good one."

Juliana, Mom of a 9th grade student

Frequently Asked Questions

Everyone in our community participates. We invite our Board of Trustees, staff, families, grandparents, alumni, and other friends of OA to get involved.
How should I expect communications?
The community will receive weekly communications via email from cohort group leaders (see below.) The Head of School is available by appointment as needed. Students who are working with the Learning Specialist will have individual communications set up for them. Families can expect a greater volume of communications from the school during distance learning, and should expect that email is the preferred tool for communication.
What are Cohort Groups?
Last spring we created student cohort groups so that students and parents would be directly connected to a senior administrator who could help them navigate the terrain of remote learning. We felt the system worked so well that we decided to continue the program, and Cohort leaders (Sue, Mollie, Sara, Janet, and Laura) will connect with students and parents at leastonce per week.Parents are encouraged to contact their child’s cohort leader at any time with questions or concerns.
How is attendance accounted for?
Attendance will be taken for each class meeting. On Wednesdays, students will also be expected to attend the scheduled community meeting (all-school meeting, cohort meeting, or class-level meeting) where attendance will be taken. If a student is sick or otherwise unable to attend class meetings, a parent or guardian will need to excuse the absence as usual by emailing the school or leaving a message on the main telephone number.  Students are expected to be on time for their classes and will be marked tardy if they are not. If a student is facing technical challenges, they should let their teacher and cohort leader know via email as soon as possible.
How will co-curricular programming be held?
Because state and county authorities prohibit group gatherings, the following programs will be canceled or postponed until a make-up date can be determined:

  • All-School Retreat
  • Educational Adventures
  • Music Performances
  • Clubs (except clubs who can meet virtually)
  • Prom
  • Graduation

PE will continue with a program of individual fitness that will be communicated to students in PE classes at the beginning of distance or hybrid learning.

How will community connection and the Wednesday schedule continue?
During any period of distance learning, we will make an effort to prioritize the social and community connections that we value highly at OA. On Wednesdays, we will hold a community meeting during lunch that will be an all-school meeting, a cohort group meeting, or a grade-level meeting. Wednesdays will also include class meetings for several elective classes, science labs, and tutorials in content areas that students can attend for extra help from teachers.

Alternative Community Events — In order to maintain that sense of community we will instead offer events including but not limited to:

  • Weekly All School Meeting
  • Drop-in chats with Dean of Students
  • Virtual Talent Shows
  • Faculty versus Student Game Nights
How will the students receive support?
While the Distance Learning Plan is in effect, academic and social-emotional support for students will continue. Students can expect to access tutorial periods to work with teachers outside of class time; group cohort meetings and individual support from cohort leaders; help from the Learning Specialist; support from the school counselors; and meetings with the Dean of Students and the Director of Academics are all available to students who have questions or need support. To contact teachers, support specialists, or administrators, email is the best point of contact.

Student Oversight Team (SOT)–We have created the Student Oversight Team, which consists of the Cohort Leaders plus Chloe, School Counselor, to oversee the daily workings of remote learning. This is really important when we’re not able to see everyone in person on a daily basis. The SOT will meet at least once per week to discuss the general tone of the community, address specific problems as they arise, and plan for hybrid learning. The SOT also makes referrals to the SST (see below).

Student Support Team (SST)—The SST takes over where the SOT leaves off to closely monitor students who need extra social/emotional support. It is comprised of our Assistant Head of School, our Dean of Students, our Learning Specialist, andour  Counselor. The group meets once per week to provide referrals and support planning for identified students.

Faculty Guidance–Mollie will be working fours additional hours per week this year as she continues her work with faculty to support remote instruction.During a recent meeting with faculty, Mollie and I discussed with teachers how to prevent student Zoom fatigue, for instance. Mollie is also working with faculty to calibrate homework load. Teachers are eager and committed to working with students and hearing parent feedback about how remote instruction is going.  Mollie will lead the effort to ensure that our remote instruction is rigorous yet responsive to student needs.

Executive Functioning Support–Many of our students have executive functioning challenges and we are committed to helping them remain engaged in remote instruction. Danielle teaches a StudySkills Class to the 9th grade and is available to all other students to provide EF support and guidance. Danielle and Laura work as a team throughout the year to monitor student workloads and schedules to ensure students are staying on track.

Academic Watch–Students who require additional academic oversight will be placed on Academic Watch, and Laura will check in with each student’s teachers and then report to parents each week on student progress. Academic Watch is a first step in a multi-tied response system to help students remain on track academically. When we are on campus, students on Academic Watch must attend Study Hall, which is a teacher supervised period during which students work quietly on homework. Students may also check in withteachers to get extra help during Study Hall.

When will school reconvene on campus?
When the state and county authorities inform the school that it is permissible to return the community to campus, the Head of School will notify the community of the schedule for returning and how we will implement the current schedule in hybrid mode. Families should expect a gradual return in hybrid mode when we have been given permission to do so.

Expectations for Students

Connection: Students will need reliable access to a stable internet connection; Zoom video conferencing installed on a functioning device; students checking email regularly; a quiet place to sit with minimal interruption; and regular interaction with RenWeb.

Create workspace: Make a space for yourself in your house that you use just for school.

Show up: Be on time for class, dress appropriately, have your materials ready to go, and sit upright during class (don’t lie down in bed). Set alarms for classes and meetings.

Get help: Be ready to ask questions or get clarification from your teachers during your Zoom meetings. Use office hours and teacher planning periods – but be sure to make appointments.

Move your body: Get some exercise every day. Inside or outside. Your brain will need the break.

Stay connected: Come to all-school meeting and cohort check ins. It is important for your classmates to see you there.

Keep in touch: Check your email at least three times a day; once in the morning, once at lunch, and once at the end of the day. Put reminders in your phone and calendar. Email is our primary communication tool now.

Recommendations for Parents

Create workspace: as much as possible, help your student settle on their own dedicated “school” space for distance learning that is as free from distractions as you can make it.

Establish routine: using the school distance learning schedule, help your student create a personalized schedule that includes class times, study time, breaks, and exercise time.

Make connections: encourage your student to maintain connections with classmates and teachers by using cohorts, office hours, and other planned activities. And, support other families’ decisions around social distancing and screen time.

Encourage exercise: help your student to create at least 20 minutes per day of physical activity, outside if possible.

Use resources: please alert counselors, cohort leaders, the Learning Specialist, and/or the Dean of Students if you need help with student anxiety around distance learning.

Communicate: communication with families will be primarily through email and occasional video conference. Teachers and administrators will likely be communicating with students and parents many times a day, so we ask that any communications to the school be mindful and concise.

Support student autonomy: we understand that every family will have a unique circumstance around implementing distance learning, and we will help to support your student within your family’s routines. As much as possible, allow your student to advocate for themselves and to regulate their own interactions with teachers and peers.

Contact Information for Distance Learning


Availability & Contact Information


Email attendance@orindaacademy.org or leave a message at (925) 254-7553 if your student is absent for the day or will miss an individual class. Attendance will be taken for each class session and logged on the student portal.

Admissions Office

Contact Director of Admissions Janet Harrison with admissions inquiries or follow up questions.


Team Sports and Pickleball students: contact Chris Booth for questions about requirements for those classes

Weights/Fitness students: contact instructor Tiffany Aubrey

Business Office

Susan Neylan is available via email for business-related inquiries.

Coyote Coast Counselor

School Counselor Chloe Jhangiani, has returned from maternity leave and will be available an additional day per week (four days, up from three) to provide emotional support to students and to work with teachers to support students in the classroom. Chloe will work closely with the admin team to provide general oversight of the student body and to help keepa pulse on the emotional health of the community. Chloe is available by appointment via email.

College Counselor

Cyndy Gifford-Palermo is already working hard to support this year’s seniors and their parents through what will be a unique college/planning-for-the-future process. Cyndy is monitoring the college scene closely and will provide families with important information about standardized testing, changed or modified application procedures, etc.

Cyndy will also work with seniors on their college essays in their English class. For those seniors not planning to apply to college immediately, Cyndy has alternate plans to help these students with skill building.


Juvenal Bermudez will be onsite at the campus as needed and when safe to do so in order to maintain our facility.

In anticipation of our students’ return to campus, we are preparing our parking lot to be converted to outdoor meeting areas with socially distanced seating and shade covers. Additionally, our new building for Art and Music will be ready in October.

Learning Specialist

Danielle Jaynes will be available Monday through Thursday by appointment and will schedule individual check-ins with students based on the daily schedule.


To reset email or for issues with RenWeb, please contact Janet Harrison. We will be unable to help with technical issues with your devices while we are not on campus.

Dean of Students

Sara Hall-Kennedy is available via email and Zoom conference during the school day.

Academic Affairs

Laura Turnbull is available by appointment via email and Zoom conference during the school day.
19 Altarinda Road, Orinda, CA 94563
(925) 254-7553

Orinda Academy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Federal Tax ID 94-2692929

Our bright and creative students thrive in our nurturing, small class environment. Through a combination of academic support, executive functioning skill development, and social/emotional balance, every student reaches their full potential.

Orinda Academy does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, gender identification, sexual identification, or family composition in the administration of its policies, procedures, or admissions process.