COVID Update #22

COVID 19 Update #22 August 29, 2020

Hello Georgetown Community and I hope you are well!

I hope you are enjoying this rainy Saturday. I am so excited that it is “ GO TIME” to begin a new school year with our staff starting with eleven days of professional development to assist them with preparing to use our remote learning and safety plans  when we return to school with our students both in the remote and hybrid settings.  We have a great training plan and I know our teachers will learn a lot and benefit from this time together. It will be wonderful to see them as we have not been together for 6 months! I know we will be ready to begin remote learning with students on Wednesday, September 16th and  welcome them back for the new year! Can’t wait!

This is a strange and unprecedented time as I  have said before with no crystal ball to view the school year ahead with the certainty and predictability we would like to see and that we are accustomed to as we start a new year in the schools.  We can’t wait to see our students learning in their classrooms with their friends and teachers but we must  remember that we are in the midst of a global health care crisis with COVID 19. Through no fault of our own, the opening of the 2020-2021 school year will be different.  Most challenging is dealing with people’s emotions of fear, reluctance , trepidation , concern and worry while others speak of hope, optimism, resilience and a desire to get back to a sense of normalcy. While there is no shortage of opinions and perspectives and it is clear that our town is not completely unified around the best way to reopen our schools, I am confident that as the opening nears we will come together in support of our plan.

I want to thank those who took the time to attend one or more of our Community Conversations on our reopening plan and we have taken note of comments and questions that were raised in the chat and through follow up conversations.  As our plan evolves, we expect that all questions and most concerns will be answered as we adapt and learn more information about this virus.  Sadly, one of things that stood out to me over the course of our Community Conversations and still today as we prepare to open for a new school year is how divided and angry many of the conversation has become. There are so many positives to communicating through social media but this summer, as emotions have been running high, the nature of the discussions seems to have gone from a thoughtful exchange of information , sharing ideas and opinions to attacks and/or assigning blame to groups and individuals which is unkind, hurtful and in many cases unfounded. While I appreciate that these are public forums and people have a right to express their opinions. I also know that when people see things from their personal perspective and circumstances because it affects them directly, strong opinions can come across.  My purpose for mentioning this is not to diminish anyone’s right to speak out or share their personal thoughts and opinions but I am just imploring all of us as a community to return to a place where we can agree to disagree in a civil and compassionate manner that does not tear people down. In times like this , there are no  winners and losers and we all lose if we cannot come together for our kids.  There can be no THEM versus US . It needs to be US versus the VIRUS because if it was not for the virus we would not be in the situation in which we find ourselves now. I look forward to answering any questions you might have or speaking with you personally about your concerns at any time so that we are sure the information that is being shared is based on facts. I am happy to help if I can.

We are all feeling stress at this time just living our lives and trying to protect ourselves and our loves ones against getting this awful virus. I know and understand the angst we are all feeling because I feel it too.  As a community we are about to open our schools on September 16Th and we will need everyone’s support to make this year the best it can be! In order to make the most of opportunities and overcome obstacles that might come along, we have to remember that we are on the same team. Let’s keep the faith, keep the lines of positive and productive communication open and keep assuming positive attention because I can promise you that our staff ,to a person, is ready and eager to “see” their students and make this a wonderful year!  It will be different but it can and will still be great !  Looking forward to working together!

Remote Learning Plan

I hope many of you were able to catch the last School Committee meeting where our Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Instructional Technology Collin MacDonald made an excellent presentation about how remote learning is going to work . I have attached the slides from that presentation with this email and will be positing the entire live presentation after it is edited. Most unfortunately, while Collin was sharing the screen, the meeting was zoom bombed.  We will remove the offensive material and then post the presentation.  Personally, I am sure the slides will be helpful but hearing Collin explain how it will work will be much more helpful. I want you to have access to both and the presentation should be ready to post early next week. I reported this event to the Georgetown Police Department and they will be conducting an investigation to see if the perpetrator/s can be identified and prosecuted. Many people have expressed concern that this will happen as we launch remote learning in our classrooms. When using zoom in the classrooms, there are many security measures available through the program  that our teachers will be taught to use next week. These will all be in place in every classroom when school begins with our students.

Collin and I will be holding two Community Conversations on the topic of our remote learning plan on Wednesday September 3 from 6:00 to 7:00 PM and on Tuesday September 8 from 6:00-7:00 PM.  These are opportunities to ask questions and seek clarification after hearing the presentation and reviewing the materials. Zoom links will be made available.

Meet and Greet

You should be receiving information about the Meet and Greet sessions that are being planned before the start of the school year for students and their teachers.  Since we are beginning remotely and then may be in a hybrid for a while before we can return fully to all in person, we believe it is beneficial to provide a brief and safe opportunity for the class to come together as a whole to start the year. At PB , these sessions will be held outside. Parents will be asked to drop their children off at a scheduled time ( 30 minutes) and they will be directed to a designated area where they will sit in a circle socially distanced with their masks on to begin the year on a positive note as a class. . Attendance is entirely voluntary but please inform the teacher if your child will not be attending. This will also be a time when the materials that each student will need for remote learning can be picked up so students will be ready for instruction of September 16.

At the Middle High School, they are tentatively planning some sort of Meet and Greet for September 14th and 15th but Mr. Richards will be sending information about how students can briefly meet their teachers and pick up their materials in his blog next week.

Medical Team

I am delighted to share that we are so fortunate to have a team of medical and health officials who will be working with us as we make our way through living with this virus.  Their experience and expertise has been and will continue to be invaluable to us and I would like to thank them publicly. We are meeting next week to discuss how we are going to assist the School Committee in making decisions about moving between the models based on what is safe using the health metrics. Thanks to our school physician Dr. William Medwid, Nurse practitioners Jennifer Pollard and Shane Murray, registered nurses Deb Cook, Lea Tabenkin, Mary Beth Doherty, Kathy Hatch and Alana White Public Heath Director Deb Rogers for the Board of Health for helping us through these crazy COVID times.

On August 12th, The School Committee voted to begin the year remotely but also to review the statistics and available medical advice on September 16th to determine if the schools will be able to open in the hybrid model on October 1st. If the decision is made to continue with remote learning, the next review will be on October 16th for a start on November 1st and on from there. The School Committee will be holding a special School Committee meeting via zoom on Wednesday, September 16th at 6:00 PM. I have been asked when the School Committee meetings will resume in a live format . Currently the Town Administrator has told us that the Town Hall is not currently open for live meetings.  When this changes, I expect the Committee will once again hold their meetings on the third floor.

Sad Passing

Our school community is sadden by the recent passing of one of our parents Michelle Schepis. She was a lovely woman and our hearts go out to her family, most particularly her husband Gary and her beautiful daughter Sarina who is going to be a fourth grader at PB this year. Nothing can ever prepare one for a loss like this but the love of family and friends is so important. Gary and Sarina, we are thinking of you and sending our love and support.

Fall Sports

The MIAA sent out its guidance on the mandatory medical requirements for each sport  that must be followed to run the sport this year. The school administration and I are working with Athletic Director Ryan Browner to review the guidance next week and have a recommendation for the School Committee. At their meeting on Thursday, September 10 , the Committee will vote on fall sports. We are also going to be meeting with members of the GAA next week to review these regulations since the guidance applies to youth sports and high school sports.

Mandatory Flu Vaccinations

This is just a reminder that the Governor is mandating that all students be vaccinated before December 31st.  Please submit documentation to our school nurses. Thank you.

The start of every school year brings with it the promise and excitement of a new start, a chance to forge new relationships, learn new things and make new friendships. While we will have to make some accommodations and be flexible, the promise of this new school year is very bright! I am so looking forward to working together to make sure we have do everything we can to keep COVID 19 out of our schools.  We CAN do this together so Let’s  GOOOOO Georgetown!

Stay safe and well and enjoy the waning days of summer . I will be in touch! As always, let ne know if you have any questions or want to share you thoughts with me. jacobsc@georgetown,