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