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COVID Testing and 2021-22 Planning Updates

Dear NPS Families,

I write to you with a few updates on our operations for this year, as well as our planning for next year. 

Planning for the 2021-22 School Year

On Monday night at the School Committee meeting, I announced the formation of a planning group for the 2021-22 school year. The goal of this group is to develop a comprehensive plan for a full reopening of the Newton Public Schools for the 2021-22 school year.  Members of the group will include administrators, teachers, staff, and family representatives. It also includes an ad hoc medical advisory team to provide guidance on health and safety in our school buildings. You can find more information in this presentation. With a vaccine on the horizon, this team will also examine the possibility for additional in-person learning opportunities for the current school year. Please be assured their work will be communicated regularly to the community through multiple channels.

Testing

The testing working group continues their work to expand and enhance COVID-19 testing in the Newton Public Schools. Our first step is to expand our voluntary testing program for staff. Beginning next week, all staff participants will have access to testing once a week. 

The group is also working quickly to identify the best testing solutions moving forward for a district of our size and complexity. Their work currently is focused on analyzing surveillance testing for both students and staff and they expect to provide a recommendation by February 8th.

Calendar for the 2021-22 School Year

On Monday night, the School Committee reviewed the calendar for the 2021-22 school year. The calendar shows a late start date and a late end date for our school year next year. Newton is one of the few districts in which the first day of school is written into the teachers contract and therefore, any changes must be bargained. In our case, the first day of school for students is the day after Labor Day. However, this year, the day after Labor Day is the first day of Rosh Hashanah, a day in which school is not in session. 

The NTA declined our request to make a one time exception to this provision and start the school year prior to Labor Day. As a result, the first day of school for the 2020-21 school year will be Thursday, September 9. This start date will also avoid starting school on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, which we know is observed by some of our staff and families. This means the last day for students will be June 22 with no snow days and June 29 with 5 snow days. 

We are excited to begin looking forward to the 2021-22 school year and feel confident that thoughtful planning will allow a full return to school. While we recognize there are still many unknowns related to this pandemic, we believe the team members and advisory groups will guide us in a positive direction.

Sincerely,

David Fleishman

Superintendent of Schools