COVID 19 Update March 12, 2021 – Dates for full return to school.

Hi everyone,

This was actually a great day until about 3:30 PM  when I received a panic phone call from the School Committee Chair.  Apparently, after my message went out she started to get emails and phone calls and the facebook page started chattering about what the dates would be.  I was very surprised when she  told me that the information was not correct because her motion was to bring Penn Brook and the Middle High School back on April 5 and the High School back on the 12th.
There were a couple of problems that help to explain what happened.
1. Originally it was our plan to do a transition at the Middle High School and up until the early afternoon yesterday that was our plan.  I sent a draft of the slides to the committee earlier in the day to make sure they felt I was covering what the community needed to hear.  In the meantime, I was speaking with Joe Pittella  during the day  discussing the concern he raised that staff wanted to come back according to the Commissioner’s guidelines. After discussing the pros and cons, Joe asked me to update the MOU with responses which I did.  That conversation was very positive and we agreed that Penn Brook would come back on April 5 and The MHS on April 12th.  I went in and thought I changed the slides but when the slides popped up at the meeting, it was not the slide I changed.  I spoke briefly with the Chair about the change but it was a quick conversation.
2. At the meeting when the slide came up and I realized it was the wrong slide I immediately said the slide was incorrect and that the recommendation was going to be as Joe and I agreed even though the Committee is really the only party that can agree to the working conditions of teachers as they negotiate the contract not me.  Joe is correct to think that he made an agreement that would be honored as did I.  To make matters worse, the slides that I included in my message today reflect the incorrect information.  I believe that is what caused the firestorm when my message said something else.
3. The School Committee Chair made the motion to bring elementary and Middle School back on April 5 and High School back on April 12th.  I must say I missed  this completely because I expected the vote to be what I said at the meeting.  When Barbie told me the vote was consistent with the recommendation, I realized that she was working off the wrong slide. It is the School Committee’s authority to decide the calendar  and ,despite any informal agreement between Joe and I ,without the approval of the Committee it is not final.
4. The Chair asked me to send out a clarification to the public to stop the panic  which I did  and I included the staff because I wanted you to know about this vote since the afternoon of the meeting, I told you what our recommendation was going to be.  I also immediately  texted Joe to give him a heads up.  We have had an ongoing dialogue about this and I said I wanted to write to you explaining what happened. I accept responsibility for most of this although none of it was intentional I can promise you that.  I want you all to know that Joe did his best to advocate for a timeline he thought was best and please give him credit for that. I am of course going to discuss this further with the Chair but I honestly think that since the information is out and the vote was unanimous, the vote will probably stand and I will be reminded that I do not have the authority to make arrangements with the union that are the authority of the Committee.
5.  I am truly sorry everyone and I hope this email will give some of the background of how we got to this place.  I am hoping we will all be able to accept the School Committee vote and maybe it will be a good thing to bring the youngest students in earlier, especially some of the 7th graders who have never been in the building. I know Joe and I discussed the benefits of a staggered opening but did not agree on the timeline.
I hope that you know this was just a colossal miscommunication  and it is no one’s  fault. I hope you understand and if you have any other questions or comments, please reach out to me. I would be happy to speak with any one.

Community Meeting Planned
Just as we did when we moved from fully remote to the hybrid, we will be holding a community meeting where people can ask questions and get information about our plans.

Date: Tuesday, March 23 – 6:30-7:30
If you have a question/s you would like addressed at this meeting, please complete the following Google Form: https://forms.gle/NXBgzUvQmnud9KzU6

https://zoom.us/j/98613493529?pwd=b1pnaG16MkEyTG5FSVFqekxRc1dMdz09
Meeting ID: 986 1349 3529
Passcode: 785164

 

Pooled Testing
Each week we have seen a slight increase in the number of students and staff participating in the pooled testing program but the number is just over 10% of our total population. In order for the program to be effective at identifying asymptomatic COVID cases, we need a much higher percentage to keep it going after April 18.

I understand that there was a glitch with the registration process which has been addressed. We will be sending out a consent form to all families in case you are interested and have not yet participated. Please complete the consent by the Sunday night before the testing will happen so your child can participate in the week’s testing . You are eligible to join at any time as long as the program runs but the sooner the better so everyone can benefit from the program.

We are just completing our third week of testing. I am pleased to report that the results have come back without a positive pool for the last two weeks.

 

MHS Principal Search
Middle High School Principal Daniel Richards will be leaving the school at the end of this school year. I will be convening a committee and am seeking five parents to participate on the committee. If interested, please send me an email at jacobsc@georgetown.k12.ma.us before Friday, March 19 to express interest. I know you join me in thanking Mr. Richards and wishing him well.

 

Senior Activities
One of the things we are most excited about coming back to school full-time is that the seniors will be able to end the year with their classmates. They have missed out on many things this year with COVID but we are focused on finishing the year with wonderful memories that will last a life time. Shortly, the Commissioner will be releasing guidelines regarding proms and graduation but in the meantime we are working with the PTA and the Senior Celebration Committee to plan some fun surprises for our special seniors.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend and I am sorry to end your Friday afternoon with this unfortunate situation. I am truly sorry.  If you have any questions, please contact me at jacobsc@georgetown.k12.ma.us
Carol