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Distance Learning Update and Summer/Fall Planning - 5.12.20

May 12, 2020

 

Dear NPS Families,

 

I write to share two important updates with you. The first is an update on our distance learning plan based upon both updated guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and survey feedback from families, staff, and high school students. The second update is on planning for summer and the 2020-21 school year.

 

Distance Learning

Thank you to all families who took the time to provide feedback on our distance learning plan. Below are some key takeaways from the staff, family, and high school student surveys:

 

Key Survey Findings

  • For staff, one of the significant challenges of distance learning is concern for vulnerable students and ensuring equitable access and engagement for all students.
  • The majority of parents/guardians responded that the amount of time that their child is interacting with teachers in real time is not enough.
  • The majority of parents/guardians at elementary and middle school responded that the amount of time their child is doing work or activities provided by teachers is just right. At preschool, the majority said it is not enough. High school parents/guardians were closely split between not enough and just right.
  • For high school students, 84% found the amount of work being provided as either just right or a bit too much. 58% of students are spending 2-4 hours per day “doing school.” 76% of all students find the challenge level of learning activities just right.

 

Updates to Distance Learning Plan

Given the state guidance, along with the feedback above, and working closely with our NTA partners, below is a list of the key changes that will be implemented as we proceed with our distance learning plan:

  • As many have already begun, teachers and staff will give students opportunities to learn new content and skills, while continuing to review and reinforce key concepts. The focus will be on a limited number of key topics and skills to prepare students for the next grade.
  • In our elementary schools, weekly schedules will be revised so that students will have at least four opportunities per week to connect live with a staff member, one of whom will be a specialist.
  • In our middle schools, we will add a weekly advisory or community meeting of 30 minutes at all schools to promote engagement and connection and to support students as they organize their work for the week.
  • At the high school level, the class schedule will be adjusted to allow classes to run for up to 30 minutes as educationally appropriate.

 

Our distance learning plan continues to place connection with school and social emotional support for students as a top priority. We know that families continue to experience this pandemic very differently and we seek to respect those differences. Providing regular connections with teachers and staff, as well as meaningful academic work, will be the focus of our plan for the remainder of the academic year. 

 

Summer and Fall Planning

We know that you have many questions about plans for both summer programming and the 2020-21 school year. While there are more questions than answers at this point, please know that our primary consideration will be the health and wellness of our students, staff, and school communities. We will be working closely with health officials to plan for school opening, while understanding that our plans will need to be flexible given the unknown duration of this public health crisis.

 

For the summer, we are awaiting state guidance on school programs, camps, and other services. We expect that some of our programs will need to be remote, with potentially some opportunity for in person interaction. We will provide you updates and information as we receive guidance and determine what is possible.

 

For the fall, we are creating planning teams to prepare for the many possible scenarios. One focus will be operations, including building cleaning protocols, bussing, food service, social distancing protocols, among many others. A second key area of focus will be our educational model and how public health considerations will impact scheduling, course content, and social-emotional support for our students. This team will develop a range of scenarios to accommodate the various guidelines that may be put in place to protect public health. We will continue to keep you updated as our planning moves forward.

 

As we embark upon the final six weeks of this truly unprecedented school year, I am struck by the creativity of our staff, the resilience of our students, and the kindness of our school community. While the past 8 weeks have been incredibly stressful, sometimes frustrating and sad, and always uncertain, I am hopeful that some of the life lessons learned by our children will serve them well. I hope you and your family are healthy and well.

 

Sincerely,

David Fleishman

Superintendent of Schools