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!