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COVID 19 Update – June 30, 2020

Hello Georgetown Friends and welcome to summer! After a challenging and busy spring of remote learning, we ended the school year on a very positive note. I want to thank everyone who participated in the Rolling Rally on the last day of school. While in many ways it did not feel like the last day of school, the Rally went a long way to helping to close the year for our students, families and staff in a very positive way. I had the pleasure to stop by every school and the sense of camaraderie and excitement to see everyone was another sure indicator of how much we all missed being together for the last three months of school! It exceeded everyone’s expectations and again showed the heart of this community. I was so happy and excited to be a part of it and I appreciate everyone taking the time to join in the fun!

It has been a busy end of the year and starting next week, we will begin our official planning for the reopening of school in September as we recently received guidance from Governor Baker and the Commissioner of Education Jeff Riley on Thursday of this week. I have included several attachments that highlight the medical information and the conditions under which schools can open in the fall. As you can see they are working off of a continuum understanding that towns and districts may be working with different resources and variations in the impact of the virus so there is more variation than we expected.

Our first step is to identify a work plan that includes getting information from and keeping all constituency groups involved in the reopening process. I anticipate that there will be some concerns on the part of staff and parents about the safety protocols but I also anticipate that there is a strong belief that if there is a safe way to do it, most people would like to see students and staff return in September. There may also be a need to continue remote learning for some who have medical conditions that make returning unsafe until there is a vaccine but we will consider this when we formulate our plan. We will be required to create three scenarios. The first and the most prominent will be a return to in class teaching, then a hybrid model which combines in school teaching and remote learning and finally a remote learning plan. We will receive additional guidance on transportation, restrictions on electives and athletics in the coming weeks. In order to prepare for the opening, I am looking for five parents from Penn Brook, five parents from Perley and three parents from Perley to join our working groups. Interested parents should contact me before July 3rd and if there is more interest, I will draw names from a hat. If not selected, there will be opportunities for feedback and I will continue to provide regular updates on the work of these groups as well as information from the state. If you have any questions, please contact me at jacobsc@georgetown.k12.ma.us.

Do not panic! There is a lot to figure out but we will be basing plans on safety first, specifically the advice of the medical experts, to determine what will work best in our schools to bring our staff and students back. I understand that with this new information coming out yesterday and many unanswered questions, there is a tendency to react emotionally like when schools closed for remote learning. However, as time went along, things ran more smoothly and we survived remote learning. It is my hope that over the next two months, we will have the chance to consider all of the precautions and adjustments that need to be made and people will be able to make a decision based on concrete facts and data. I like a good puzzle and am looking forward to exploring options and making concrete plans with input from all groups. Together we are stronger than any of us is alone. I have faith in us that we will do the right thing for our students, staff and families in the fall. Enjoy the summer break!

1. Remote Learning Survey
One of the first things we want to do while it is fresh in your mind is to get your feedback on remote learning. We have put together a short survey that will help us assess your perception of the strengths and challenges of remote learning in case we have to revert to it in the future should there be another spike in the virus. Here is the link to a google doc and we ask that you complete it by Friday July 10 at 8:00 PM. Thanks in advance for your help!

https://bit.ly/GPSremotelearningsurvey

2. All School Fields are Officially Open
The School Committee has officially opened all of the school fields for recreational use. In order to be consistent with the Phase 2 guidelines, there can be no organized games. The regulations for use of the fields are posted but include small groups of ten or less, social distancing, no sharing of equipment and supplies and mask wearing for coaches and others when not able to social distance. I am happy that our fields can once again be in use but I ask that everyone obey by the rules so we can keep these fields open and the virus at bay. While we will not be regularly monitoring the fields, if we see people not following the rules, we will ask you to leave the facility.

3. Town Budget Passed at Town Meeting June 15th.
At the town meeting on June 15th, the voters passed a budget for FY 21 that unfortunately means that the budget for the schools will be $364K less than we requested. We made reductions in three phases. First we took out anything new we added to the level services budget and that brought the budget down $114,626. Then we looked again at the budget and reduced items that are important but non-salary and we found $80, 300 to apply. The final step was to make $177, 308 in personnel reductions which of course we did not want to make. We requested a discussion with the town Finance Board but they did not grant our request. After much discussion and sadness, the following cuts were made.
Eliminate the job coach at the MHS (our plan is to have the new Compass teacher assume this role)
Reduce the business department by .6 FTE which will reduce the course offerings
Reduce the foreign language department by .2 which will affect the Mandarin program
Eliminate one Assistant Principal at the MHS (we will be providing .4 FTE administrative supports for the MS the details of which is currently being worked out. This part time administrator will help coordinate the day to day operations of the Middle School to assist the Principal and will also be a part time teacher. This will leave a full time Principal, one full time Assistant Principal, .4 Coordinator and a full time Special Education Coordinator for the Middle High School.

We all know that any cuts are painful because they affect people and require changes to the way we are used to doing business. Believe me, none of us wanted to be in this position and we are doing whatever we can to position the schools to avoid further cuts if the state budget reduces local aid to the town later this summer. This loss of state revenues from this virus is staggering but I believe that the legislature will try to protect Chapter 70 and local aid because they will not be able to fully reopen the economy if they can’t get students back in school.

4. Celebrating Learning and Students!
I hope you had the chance to check out all of the wonderful posts including pictures and videos depicting the wonderful end of the year celebrations of growth and learning. In addition, our students were honored with awards and scholarships, we recognized the important process of moving on ceremonies and our seniors were celebrated in a variety of important ways. Thank you to all who posted and shared and to those who took the time to watch and enjoy the work of our students, staff and families. It was a true team effort and we are very grateful for all who made this happen.

5. Shining Star Awards
The SEPAC will be awarding their annual Shining Star Awards at a ceremony on July 7 at Penn Brook . This is the 4th Annual Shining Stars Award ceremony Many thanks to the SEPAC for recognizing our staff . Congratulations to the following award recipients for this year!
Cathleen McManus
Kristin Kennedy
Debbie Gray
Whitney Collins
Elizabeth Daly
Amy Wahl
Hayley Flint
Meghan Kelley*
Susan McCarter
John Crossman
Alise Rittershaus

6. So Long Seniors! We Will Miss You
On June 13th, the senior class graduated with grace and style in a celebration they will not soon remember. On a glorious weather day, these great kids and their families were treated to an in person ceremony while their families watched from their cars which was followed by a parade through the streets of Georgetown. The crowds that came out to cheer them on brought a tear to my eye more than once. It was so special how this community came out to celebrate them! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts and we wish our seniors the very best in their next step in life. They are ready so fly high and proud seniors. The best is yet to come!

Until the next time, enjoy time with family and friends and the respite summer offers! Miss you all!
Carol

 

Initial Fall Reopening Guidance

Initial Fall School Reopening Guidance was shared publicly on Thursday, by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or DESE.It outlines numerous restrictions and plans to bring students and teachers to reopened schools with minimized risks for COVID-19 based on input from the Return-To-School Working Group, infectious disease physicians, pediatricians and other public health experts. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE DOCUMENTS.

School Committee Meeting Cancelled for Tonight June 25th

The Georgetown School Committee meeting scheduled for tonight Thursday, June 25th is cancelled and rescheduled for Tuesday June 30th at 6:30 on zoom. The agenda and meeting information is posted on the town and district website. We are sorry for the inconvenience but look forward to seeing you next week. Enjoy the weekend!

Coronavirus Social Story

Please feel free to share this social story with your children to help them better understand the end of the school year.  I’m hoping it may help certain students better cope with the school closure, and transition back in the fall (or summer, for some).

Take care, and be well.

Jack

Corona Social Story

 

COVID Update #18 June 9, 2020

Hello Georgetown Friends,
I hope you are all well and continuing to hang in there. I am so sorry this posting is a little later than usual but I hope it will still be useful to you. We have 9 days of school left and I know it is tempting to just call it quits. We will be wrapping up next week with an opportunity to finish up last minute assignments and end of the year festivities virtually. Keep watching our Georgetown MA Public Schools Facebook page for postings. Right up until the last day of school, we will continue to celebrate student growth and we are very excited to announce that we will officially conclude the year at all schools with our long awaited Rolling Rally on the last day of school Friday June 19th from 9:30- 11:00 am. Staff who will be participating at each school should arrive at their respective schools between 9 and 9:15 to get set up where you will physically distance outside of the schools and families may drive by waving and honking horns ( signs and decorations are optional) to say goodbye to the staff as they are rolling by. Parents: If you have children at multiple schools, you should have plenty of time to go by each school during this time frame should you wish to do so. This fun event is being coordinated by Joe Pittella, Hope Doran and Paul Swaim so I will probably have more information next week to share with you but please SAVE THE DATE! I know the staff and students will love to see each other one last time before we begin the summer break. Enjoy the rest of the week!

Sad Times in America
My intention is not to be preachy but as the leader of our schools, I think it is appropriate for me to make a statement regarding the events of the last couple of weeks. I don’t think there is an American alive who can condone the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer who was abusing the power of his position. I still get tears in my eyes each time I see the footage of that event and doubt that I will ever get the image out of my mind as it represents for me the worst of human nature. Acts of blatant racism like this must be denounced and the cries for peace and social change that are happening throughout this country must be heard. It is time for the silence to end and for all of us to speak out in support of equal rights and inclusion for all in both our words and deeds. I hope we can all agree that no person should live in fear or be treated as less because of their race or the color of their skin yet it happens every day in this country. In every profession there are great people and there are some who do not represent their profession well. In this case, the officer who committed this murder should not have had the opportuity to do so. Personally, the police officers I know and have had the chance to interact with are professional, competent and they know their role. Many of them are my friends and colleagues and I am grateful for that but what happened to George Floyd is not an isolated event and it is completely unacceptable. These protests can not be an end in themselves or nothing will change. It is important for people to continue to come together as they have for almost two weeks now to push for positive and substantive change in our institutional norms, policies and practices. I personally do not believe people are born racists and that is why I believe that education is key to combating this insidious problem but it must be a shared responsibility since our choices and attitudes begin with us. If we are to help change the course of social justice in this country we have to be the change we want to see in this world. It starts with us and affects our youth in very real ways. In our public schools, we actively promote inclusion and acceptance of everyone even though we are not always successful. We teach our children to cooperate and work together, have empathy for others, celebrate differences and act responsibly but we can do better. Our children are watching and experiencing this emotional time in the moment. They are looking to us as the adults in their lives to provide leadership and be role models in a world that so desperately needs kindness, compassion, inclusion, peace and appreciation for the contributions of ALL cultures in this country. It is ,after all,what makes this country great yet somehow events like these keep happening. I can’t help asking myself why and feeling sadness every time history repeats itself but I find hope in the youth of this generation. On June 3, 2020, over 200 youth and students mobilized a movement and gathered in downtown Georgetown in a peaceful protest. Being there myself, I can say confidently that these young people showed all who came by how a peaceful protest should be done! They made their voices heard against racial injustice and called for a stop to police brutality in a peaceful and respectful way een in this emotionally charged setting They made me, their families and this district so proud and ,once again, they reminded me that they are the future and they WILL make a difference and speak out when they see something that needs to be changed.I know the School Committee and the entire staff of the Georgetown Public Schools is unified in our commitment to teaching our children that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect because ,after all, we are one race, the HUMAN race and we want and expect justice for all. Our children are definitely watching and learning so let’s continue to work together for a better world for ALL.

Graduation Information
We are all anxiously awaiting the GMHS graduation that is this Saturday June 13th at the Saint Mary’s Church parking lot at 10:00 am. Since the Governor’s guidelines include restrictions regarding the size of group gatherings, I want to remind everyone who is attending that we must comply with some basic expectations to be in compliance with the Board of Health and the state. We are grateful for permission to provide our seniors with an in person, outdoor graduation that they asked for and , in return, we must respect the rules.
Anyone attending the ceremony MUST remain in their car except when using the portable restrooms which will be located at the end of the parking lot. For everyone’s safety, your car will technically be your “group of less than 10 people”. If you leave your car, you must be wearing a mask or face covering. You can roll your windows down or run the air conditioner but you have to stay in your car per agreement with the Board of Health. We appreciate your attention to this matter.
Students will be sitting in front of the stage six feet apart and wearing masks unless it rains on Saturday morning. If this happens then students will sit in their family car and be escorted to the stage by an attendant so that they can walk across the stage ( which will have tents) to receive their diploma. Everything else about the ceremony will remain the same and let’s hope the weather is beautiful. The forecast for Saturday morning sounds like it is going to be low humidity, in the 70s and partly cloudy and no rain in sight right now. I hope this holds!
The ceremony will be taped and broadcast later on the local access channel GCTV, the local Georgetown Cable Television Network. However, it will be live streamed on the district’s Facebook page Georgetown MA Public Schools using Facebook Live. If you “like” our page prior to Saturday, you will receive a notification when we go live. When you enter the church parking lot, you will be able to listen to the entire ceremony from your car radio by tuning to the channel which will be provided to you on Saturday. We are also broadcasting on a huge jumbotron thanks to the sponsorship of G. Mello Disposal Corporation.
Immediately following the ceremony, we will have the first ever parade celebrating our graduates. The Georgetown police will be leading the parade and we ask that any cars not wishing to follow the parade route with us take a left turn out of the parking lot as the parade will be going right. In case you are wondering, the parade route is as follows:
Leave St. Mary’s go RIGHT onto Andover Street heading towards town hall. At the lights turn RIGHT onto Central Street (Route 97) .
Go LEFT onto Elm Street-this will pass Penn Brook driveway.
Go LEFT onto East Main Street (RTE 133) and go through the center of town. Go straight through the 4 way intersection lights to West Main Street .
Go RIGHT onto Prospect Street. Then turn right onto Pond s (This is in front of Perley School). Go RIGHT onto North Street.
GO LEFT onto Pleasant Street and LEFT again at Maple Street Right at to end Winter Street and then it can end at the driveway to the high school.From there people can head to the traffic light and head home in whatever direction is home.
We welcome any families from town who are not attending the graduation to come and celebrate the seniors at some point on the parade route although maintaining appropriate social distancing . We should be leaving Saint Mary’s by 11:15 am and the parade should last 10-15 minutes from start to finish. It should be a great morning and pray for good weather!
3. Perley and Penn Brook Extended Day in the Fall
We have been receiving a lot of inquiries about how the extended day programs will work in the fall. We have begun the process of discussing this but we are awaiting specific information from the state in the next couple of weeks in order to see what the parameters will be. Based on what we have heard so far about summer champs and day care centers, we expect that there will be strict guidelines about social distancing, mask wearing, group sizes of 10 or less with one staff member and limited capacity in the school at any one time. This means that we will likely have to reduce the size of our program because it is unlikely that we will be able to accommodate 150 students a day at Penn Brook as we have in the past at least for the fall. Schools may also have to follow a staggered schedule so students will only be eligible to be in the program on the days they are scheduled to be in school. We also expect that , in addition to those listed above, the following procedures will be in place.
There will be no drop in services. We must know who is in the program in advance as the numbers will be reduced and we expect the demand may be greater than we can initially provide.
Everyone MUST be registered and the application is on line at both the Perley and Penn Brook websites. Families must register for a two day minimum and commit to the days they identify as payment will be based on this information.

https://sites.google.com/site/pennbrookextendedday/welcome/home/registration-form

The Perley registration form will be on their website at the end of this week.
Staff members who wish to have their children participate in this program must register and identify the day/days that you will utilize the program. Unfortunately, drop ins will not be allowed as we have to know our numbers in advance to be sure we do not exceed the number of children on any given day.
Rates for the program will likely increase but we are waiting until we have more details about the program. It is likely that we will identify a daily rate and we will not be accepting payment for the year at the start of the year. If there is a staggered schedule, your payment will be based upon your child’s schedule.
We have not made decisions about programming on professional development days but we will be able to provide more information when final program plans are determined.
HERE IS WHAT WE NEED FROM YOU. We are currently using this time to assess the need for our before and after school programs in the fall at both Perley and Penn Brook . We are asking that you please go online and complete the registration form by June 26, 2020 if you would like your child to be considered for this program. We are not accepting any money at this time and registering does not mean that you will receive a slot. However, we do need to know who is interested at this point. Please adhere to this date as we may have to do a lottery if there is more demand than spaces available. I know this may be unsettling especially as there are so many unanswered questions. We will do our best to provide any up to date information as we have it. I promise you that! Thank you for assisting with the registration process.
Take care and be well! Talk to you soon!
Carol

COVID Update #17

Hello Georgetown Friends,
I hope your weekend is off to a lovely start and you are enjoying this early summer weather. The end of the year is starting to get real and we have 15 more days to go with remote learning for everyone except our seniors who had their last day on Friday. They cleaned out their lockers, returned any school belongings and picked up their caps and gowns in anticipation of their graduation which will happen on Saturday June 13th at 9:00 in the Saint Mary’s Church parking lot. We are so grateful to the sponsors who are helping us make this dream come true for our seniors. This week we received generous donations from the Senior Celebration Committee and the G, Mello Transfer Corporation which will allow us to videotape the event and allow the spectators to view the ceremony on a large screen, hear the ceremony clearly from their car radio and allow for better viewing as students walk across a higher stage. I want to thank them all very much from the bottom of my heart!

I also want to thank everyone who came by the school to pick up student belongings this past week. A lot of planning and organizing went into that project as you could probably tell but I really want to recognize our Director of Buildings and Grounds Mike Anderson who was the brains behind the operation along with the support of the custodial/maintenance department employees and the teachers and other staff who came in and retrieved items from desks, lockers, walls etc so everything could be ready for pick up day. I wish we were not under the constraints of social distancing and would have loved to have the students come in and say goodbye to their friends and teachers but that was just not meant to be this year in order to keep everyone safe. I know it has been hard for all of us. I keep believing that better days are coming and if we all keep being smart and careful, we can deal with this virus and still enjoy doing the things we love in time. I hope you are keeping the faith as well and beginning to enjoy some of the opportunities that are opening up using safety precautions. Enjoy the first week of June!

1. Phase 2 Massachusetts Reopening
I have started to receive a number of questions about what will be opening up in the schools during Phase 2 of the Governor’s Plans, in particular the fields. In his plan, it mentioned that fields and parks may open in Phase 2 hopefully on or around June 8. It also mentions that organized youth sports and competitions can begin in Phase 3 which if all goes well should begin at the end of June. This appears to be very positive news for our local sports teams and leagues that they might be able to have an abbreviated season in July and August. What we are waiting to hear is about the guidance for using fields in Phase 2 for organized group activities. I expect that information to be coming out next week and I am aware that the Board of Selectmen will be discussing opening up Georgetown facilities as soon as they get the OK from the Governor and the local Board of Health. The school district is part of the Emergency Management Team in town who has been accepting proposals from town groups who wish to use the fields and other local facilities. I think we all agree that we are excited for our kids to have the chance to see their friends and expend some physical and emotional energy which has been limited with stay at home orders. The plan is to open the facilities as soon as safely possible and in line with the Governor’s guidelines to protect the liability to the town. While the opening of the fields most certainly is going to look different, from what I have heard from the folks who are speaking with me, there is an understanding about the necessary modifications and changes that will have to be made and a commitment to doing them. Look forward to more information next week but if you are interested in tuning into the meeting of the Board of Selectmen discussion about reopening Georgetown on Monday night. It is a public meeting on Blue Jeans. You may need to contact the Town Hall of GCTV to get the access code. I checked and did not see one.

2. Town Meeting June 15 at GMHS- 100 People Needed for a Quorum
Town Administrator Mike Farrell has let me know that the town is planning to go forward with its annual town meeting on June 15 at 7:00 pm in the GMHS auditorium. There was discussion about the legislature lowering the number of citizen’s needed for a quorum to as low as 10 people but that has not been passed so the town is asking for help in making sure that at least 100 people plan to attend the town meeting. Citizen’s will be asked to wear face coverings and seats will be marked off to all for proper social distancing. If the crowd is larger, seating will also be provided in the cafeteria.

3. Commissioner of Education Preparing Options for Opening Schools
We are anxiously awaiting a plan from the State Board of Education and the Commissioner of Education detailing the options for a return to school in September. I am expecting this in the next couple of weeks but it may be closer to the end of June. I feel confident in saying these guidelines will include a plan for frequent sanitizing of the buildings, no large gatherings such as assemblies, community gatherings, large group lunches or gym classes, regular taking of temperatures, social distancing in classrooms, traffic flow patterns in the hallways, staff wearing PPE, mask wearing, smaller class sizes working together at one time and significantly limited access to the school by parents and community members. Logistically, many of these things can be done but , most challenging, will be managing the class size guidelines and ensuring that all of the safety protocols can be put in place by September. While beginning the year continuing with remote learning is still a potential option , the Commissioner and his task force are focused on a return to school in some form or manner in the fall. At least one of the options includes a “hybrid” model which combines in class teaching with remote learning. In the end, any hybrid model will pose a challenge to working families but it is one way to deal with the issue of fewer students in the building at one time. There is concern about a second wave of the virus in the fall so they are preparing us that a return to remote learning may be necessary although I personally hope this will not be the case. In my opinion, remote learning will have to change and improve to make that an option in the coming year. As I said, we want your opinions on remote learning and we will begin making more concrete plans to open as soon as we learn what the guidelines will need to be. First and foremost our goal will be the safety of our staff and students and I will keep you informed as this process unfolds. Please do not panic and things will make more sense as we have more real information. Stay tuned!

4. SEPAC Zoom Meeting
Since the closure, the Board of the Special Education Advisory Committee ( SEPAC) has been hosting Zoom sessions with Director of Student Services Jack Tiano and myself to share information and answer questions. The overall goal is to keep the lines of communication open. These meetings are open to the public and the next meeting is scheduled for June 3, 2020 at 6:30PM. Hereis the meeting information if you would like to join the meeting.

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83301432961?pwd=b1NNSUlBcndILzlyeWdreFU0b2pKUT09

Meeting ID: 833 0143 2961
Password: 019185

5. Board of Health Seeking Volunteers
As the state begins to reopen and the availability of testing becomes more readily available, the Board of Health is seeking practicing or retired nurses or medical personnel to assist with managing the workload in the department. They will have a need or people to assist with contract tracing and administering the vaccine process once one is ready for use. If interested in finding out how you or someone you know might help, please contact Health Agent Deb Rogers at 978) 352-5720.

6. Theater In the Open to Feature Margaret Maher, Carol Jacobs and Mike Walsh This Sunday Night May 31st at 4:00 PM
The PTA came up with an idea that they think will be super fun for families. Theater in the Open, aka TITO is a theater group in Newburyport. Every spring, they do a “panto” in Maudslay Park , which is an interactive, silly, fun re-telling of a story or a fairy tale. In response to the quarantine, TITO has been performing an online “Zoom Panto” called “Adventures in ZoomLand” on Sunday afternoons at 4:00. This Sunday, the Adventures in Zoomland (which last approximately 30 minutes) will include three families from Penn Brook and three staff ( Mike Walsh, Margaret Maher and me) in the performance. It should be lots of fun. Tune in to https://www.youtube.com/theaterintheopen

7. Senior Flags Displayed at Harry Murch Park
If you haven’t already done so, check this out! Thanks to the hard work of a group of senior parents and the financial support of the Georgetown Light Department, there is a flag with the picture of each graduating senior displayed on the grounds of the Harry Murch Park. It is a wonderful tribute to a great group of young men and women who have achieved so much and are completing their formal education in Georgetown on June 13th. Much appreciation also goes out to the Veterans Groups and the Historical Society for allowing us to use the space to display this tribute so prominently in town. It is just wonderful!