Category Archives: Uncategorized

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!

COVID Update #16

COVID 19 Update #16  May 23

Hello Georgetown Friends,

I hope your Memorial Day weekend is off to a good start! Even though we are not in school for our remembrance ceremonies, I hope you will have time to remember the brave men and women who paid the

ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms with your children.  We are moving into the homestretch of the school year and I am urging all of you to stick with remote learning for the next few weeks. I know with the nicer weather coming and the releasing of the stay at home orders from Governor Baker, it will get harder to remain focused.  I know because I can feel a little of that urge myself but there is still much to do to end this year and continue planning for the fall. When we return on Tuesday after a three day weekend, there will be 19 days remaining in the school year, four days left for the senior class and 15 days until graduation but who’s counting? While the closing this year is unlike any other year, we are  looking forward to enjoying  several special celebrations with our families. At the Penn Brook School grade levels are planning to share a video tribute to their Celebration of Growth and  the 6tth grade moving on ceremony is being planned remotely with all of the special features that usually come with that celebration. At the Middle High School, they are putting together a video celebration of award and scholarship winners and of course we are going to be holding our exciting drive by graduation and parade through town. Keep your eyes open for an end of the year Rolling Rally with a slightly different twist. Instead of the faculty driving through town, the faculty will stand outside of their schools, socially distanced, and families can drive by waving and cheering so our students and staff can have one last time to see each other before the year officially closes. A very different end to the year but one in which we can take pride that we survived it and we made the best out of a challenging situation that was beyond our control. I am pretty darned proud of all of us!

A few announcements and reminders for your information.

Picking Up Personal Belonging Scheduled for Next Week

This is just a friendly reminder that next week is the time for parents to come by the schools and pick up your child’s personal belongings according to the schedule that was posted and sent out to you. We ask that you wear gloves and masks and adhere to the signage and taped areas  to ensure proper social distancing. Just a reminder not to bring your children and if it is absolutely necessary they will have to remain outside of the door until they can reunite with their parents. The playgrounds will be off limits. If you have any questions, please contact the Principal and if you have multiple children in the same school, you can pick up all of their belongings at once. Thanks for your cooperation in ensuring everyone can stay safe and retrieve their belongings.

Graduation

If you have not already heard we have a unique, creative and safe

way to celebrate our amazing senior class as they graduate from high school. In meeting with the senior class officers, they identified three priorities that they would hope for to end the year. These were to have an in person/ not virtual graduation , a ceremony their families could attend and a prom. With this in mind, we, along with the community, will deliver a live outdoor graduation on Saturday June 13 at 10 am in the parking lot of the Saint Mary’s Church. The students will be together as a class and seated six feet apart. They will have matching masks with the school logo. The ceremony will include the same format as always but there will be some differences in the way the crowd will watch the ceremony to be in compliance with the Governor’s orders regarding gathering in groups. In order to do this, families must remain in their cars throughout the ceremony. They will be parked strategically in the parking lot and to assist in their viewing and hearing of the ceremony, there will be a big screen set up, each car will be able to hear the ceremony through their radio thanks to a transmitter. it will also be live streamed and taped by GCTV. We are encouraging families to decorate their cars ( the School Committee Chair said they will pick a winning car) and the police and fire departments will lead a parade through town celebrating the graduates! More Information will be coming out from the school but I just wanted to give you the highlights. We have so many people to thank for bringing this together. It has been a true community project because we want to give the senior class a send off they will never forget!

Flags of Recognition and Accomplishment

When you head by Harry Murch Park beginning on Tuesday May 26 th, check out the display of senior flags at the  end of the park. Thanks to a group of senior parents and financial support from the Georgetown Light Company, each of our seniors is featured on a  flag with their picture and name on it. It is going to be  a wonderful recognition of their hard work and a job well done.

Warning Signs of Stroke

One of our parents who has been a stroke victim reached to me and asked if I might mention  the warning signs in one of my updates because in his case if it was not for the quick action of his family, his situation might have gone differently. Due to his personal circumstances he has joined Tedy Bruschi’s team and runs marathons to raise awareness.  Here is what he asked me to share.

May is Stroke Awareness month and I thought it may be a positive idea to have you share about this in one of your updates. There have been several articles noting the increased risk of stroke in Covid 19 patients and awareness of the signs is a key towards saving a life and/or a successful recovery.  The  important piece for me is to raise awareness of the signs of a stroke.  I have included a jpeg that you may use/attach to one of your updates. #BeFast is the knowledge people need to make a difference.  There are many out there, that given the current circumstances, may NOT go to the hospital when they really need to.  Even if this reaches one person and they can recognize the signs quickly, it can make a big difference.  (See attachment)

Budget FY 21

As you can imagine with the pandemic and its effect on the economy due to the closure, there will be a significant impact to the federal, state and local economies. I  have been involved with local and state leaders and legislators as well as local and state education leaders and the budget forecast at this time  and it can go either way up or down is dire. They are expecting  $6-8 billion dollars in revenues and as much as a 20% reduction in local aid for next year.  In Georgetown, the budget for FY 21 was built based on the state budget prior to the pandemic so we are all bracing for that to change.  We are being told that the legislature and state government are “ going back to the beginning” to put together a new budget based on the new projected revenues.  As of right now, the schools are scheduled to get a 2,5% increase over this year’s budget but that will not allow us to keep everything that we have and will require making cuts to programs and personnel. If the prediction of a dire budget comes true and state aid comes in 10-20% less, then the town is going to have some very tough decisions to make for the town and not just the schools. We are currently wrapping up the finances for this year and determining the cuts that will have to be made to get to the 2.5%.  The School Committee will be discussing this at their meeting on June 11th.  In addition, we are waiting for guidance on if schools will be able to open in September and , if so, with what modifications and that will have a further impact on the school budget. The biggest challenge is the lack of answers which is no one’s fault but it is difficult to plan when there are so many moving parts including not knowing what this virus is going to do next. I will keep you posted on the budget developments as they transpire and we will appreciate your advocacy and support for our schools. The awful irony of this situation is that this is the time to invest in our schools and not the time to cut services in order to meet the needs of this new normal yet the revenues are going to make it challenging for us to give our students what they need when they need it most. More to come and wish the news was better.

 Remote Learning Surveys

Sometime in the month of June, you will be receiving a survey asking for your feedback about remote learning and we urge you to complete it so we can use the information to make improvements should we have to continue remote learning in the fall or return to it if there is a second wave of the virus in the fall/winter. When we were thrust into remote learning within a two week period, we put together a system that in essence changes the way school is delivered. We did our best, learned a lot and can see the need to make some changes before next year comes. The summer will afford us  time to focus on this but the majority of the summer is going to be spent trying to find a safe way to open our schools in the fall if that is at all possible. We are first and foremost following the guidelines of the public health experts and we expect much more guidance in June and July. We will be making a number of plans so that we will be ready for the fall and whatever that will bring.

Happy Retirement Mrs. Bakas

I am delighted to share the happy news that Mrs. Bakas, kindergarten teacher at Penn Brook and formerly from  Perley,  will be retiring at the end of this school year to enjoy some well deserved time for herself and with her family. Donna has devoted over 20 years to the little people of Georgetown and her calm and loving  way of taking students under her wing and making them feel safe and proud of themselves will be greatly missed. I know you join me in wishing Donna a long, healthy and joyful retirement and many new adventures to come. Thank you Donna!

Enjoy the long weekend and no remote learning on Monday.

Carol

 

COVID Update #15

COVID 19 Update # 15 May 16, 2020

Good morning Georgetown Friends,

We are almost one month from the end of the school year which will end on June 19, 2020 unless you are a member of the senior class whose last day will be  Friday May 29, 2020.  I know you join me in congratulating them on completing their formal education in this unprecedented and uncertain time.  When they began their senior year, there was no discussion about a global pandemic and they were enjoying their year of “lasts” until we hit March and then everything changed. I am so proud of this group of seniors. The word that comes to mind when I think about these wonderful young people is resilient. They have had to endure quarantining at home and separation from their friends, missing out on their senior activities, finishing their year learning remotely and missing the special connections with the staff that have been a part of their lives for the past six years. Through it all,  they have remained close and relied on social media to stay connected. They have continued to finish strong and make us proud!  In coordination with the senior class advisors and officers,  we planned a graduation that will be unique, safe and addresses the two priorities they expressed (1) a live graduation and (2) one that their families can witness. We have been told that Governor Baker will issue guidance on graduation ceremonies on Monday, May 18th so we can either move forward with our plan or revise it. Principal Richards and I will be sharing the plan at the School Committee meeting on Wednesday, May 20th at 6:30 PM. We are Royally Proud of our Class of 2020 they will forever and for always be Georgetown Strong!

  1.  Camp Invention

Many of you asked me about Camp Invention so I want you to know that the program WILL run but they will not be operating the program at Penn Brook. The week long program will be offered completely online during the week of June  29- July 3.  Heidi Begin has been in contact with the company and here are the details,

  1. Camp Invention will be reaching out to anyone who signed up with a letter explaining how camp is going to run this year.
  2. Campers are being sent a kit with 4 modules and how it will run online- for the week.
  3. It will be offered at a reduced price, so there will be options for the parents or a total refund if they do not wish to participate.
  4. Three members of our staff will run the program. Jill Valli will be the leader and Liz Marchetti and Kevin Ford will be coaches. Three other coaches  from Camp Invention will work with our staff.
  5. Each coach will have a group of 20 kids. They will hold a morning meeting online at 9:00, an  office hour at noon and a 3:00 wrap-up with their group.

 

  1. Bus Registrations

This is usually the time when qualifying families are sent an online registration form to register their child/ren to ride the bus. This week, our district transportation staff  had a meeting with representatives from the bus company.  Due to the uncertainty about the fall and the opening of schools, we are delaying the registration process until further guidance is available.

 

  1. Preschool Clarification

I have received a few comments about the decision not to refund one month of tuition to preschool families who pay monthly. The reason for our decision  is two fold. One is that our preschool program is funded primarily from the revenue we receive from tuition. During this time of closure beginning in mid March, we have continued to pay our staff to work in accordance with our district guidelines for remote learning. This is a service we are  providing to preschool families for three months in order to maintain important connections and to keep students engaged in fun learning activities. Just as in the case with all students in the district, the number of hours and the way remote learning works is not the same as it would be if students were in school. It simply can not be. Realizing this, we made the decision that all preschool families would only pay for 8 out of 10 months and no additional money would be requested beyond what has already been paid.  The district is absorbing the cost for the end of the year but we need the support of our families to absorb the cost of one month. I am not dismissing the concerns people have expressed about this affecting their finances and/or their expectations for a full reimbursement. I am hoping by providing this clarification, people will understand that we are asking parents  to work with us since none of us expected the situation in which we find ourselves to happen.   In exchange, we are delighted to provide three months of remote learning in exchange for two months of free tuition.  Please let me know if you have any further questions.

  1. Big Thank You to the PTA

A huge shout out to the PTA for recognizing all of our staff with a lovely Georgetown Strong pin and note of appreciation.  This is such a lovely gesture and so welcome especially in these challenging times. It is an important and welcome reminder that we ARE all in this together and we are ALL Georgetown Strong. Thanks for the shot of motivation and encouragement to push through to the end of the year and as always we are so grateful for your partnership! We got this!

  1. Our District Family is Growing

 

Please join us in congratulating Food services Director Sean Riley and his wife Heather on the birth of their second child, a son Grayson John Riley. Grayson is a beautiful reminder of the many positive things that continue to happen even during a global pandemic. Grayson joins big brother Griffin and we are all so excited for Sean and  his family!  Welcome to the world, precious Grayson John!

I hope you have a wonderful week! Stay strong, healthy and positive. One month to go! We got this!

COVID Update #14

COVID 19 Update 14 May 9, 2020
Hello Georgetown Friends!

I hope you are all staying well and hanging in there. I am excited that we are making some important decisions as we move forward during the month of May. There is a lot to do to close out the year and begin planning for what school will look like when we hope to reopen in the fall. I appreciate your patience as we figure things out since COVID 19 is like nothing else we have
Ever had to deal with in our lifetime. The biggest challenge is that scientists are telling us that the virus is not yet under control while we are all craving the opportunity to return to a sense of normalcy. Some describe this time we are in as a “new normal” whether we like it or not and predictions are that we will be dealing with some restrictions for quite a while up until a vaccine is available. In the meantime, we are all seeking ways to reassure ourselves that we will stay safe going back to work and our lives. A major issue on my mind is trying to deal with a virus that is highly contagious and spreads by contact with people who may be asymptomatic and do not know they have it. While many people with the virus do not experience the worst symptoms, they can and do pass the virus onto others when in groups where social distancing is not used or available. It is a misnomer that children are not affected by this virus as confirmed by the scientific data and the situations where the greatest spread is seen is when groups gather. As we make our decisions about how to proceed, I know that not everyone will agree with what we decide although I hope we are unified in a commitment to taking actions that keep people safe. It is a delicate dance between taking a measured approach to reopening our facilities and programs and the desire to get back to normal as soon as possible. This will be a fluid process as guidelines from state and local officials change and I appreciate your patience as we consider the information we have available and make the best decisions possible. As promised, I am sharing information as decisions are made and please contact me at jacobsc@georgetown.k12.ma.us if you have any questions of thoughts.

1. Picking Up Student Belongings
This is the number one question I have been asked so I am pleased to let you know that a schedule will be included in Principal Maher’s This Week and Principal Richard’s Blog and email blast this weekend. Pick Up times for parents at each school have been scheduled during the week of May 25th. Details are in the information you will receive. Parents in Preschool- grade 8 should plan to come alone and not bring your children. There will be a separate schedule for seniors to retrieve their belongings when their cap and gowns come in. If you have any questions, please contact your Building Principal at maherm@georgetown.k12.ma.us or richardsd@georgetown.k12.ma.us

2. Reimbursements
Now that we know school will be closed through the end of the year, we have reached decisions about providing reimbursements to families for the following programs.
– Sports User Fees- All user fees for spring sports will be returned. Any families that owe for fall or winter sports must pay their balance by June 1st. Any questions, please contact olearyc@georgetown.k12.ma.us
– Perley and Penn Brook Extended Day Programs- Refunds for these programs are in process. Checks will go out in the next 2-4 weeks.
– Preschool- Parents who paid in full at the start of the year will be reimbursed for two months or have the opportunity to apply these tuition funds to next year. Checks will go out in the next 2-4 weeks. Parents paying on a 10 month schedule will not owe any more money for the year but the March payment made for April will not be refunded because teachers have been providing remote learning since the closure and will be doing so through the last day of school on June 19th.
– Penn Brook Extended Day Program will be collecting registration information but will not accept payment until we know if and when we can safely open a program in September.
– Field Trips At Penn Brook The reimbursement for kindergarten and third grade field trips are delayed because we are waiting for refunds from the vendors. We will get them to you as soon as we can. We have not forgotten you.

3. Summer Programs
The district will be offering Extended School Year Programs ( ESY) for special education students this summer using a remote learning format.

All other camp programs usually offered by the district are cancelled for this summer. This is a very difficult decision for us because we know that parents and students look forward to taking advantage of our camps. However, the guidelines for phasing the reopening of activities, strict restrictions around the size of gatherings and requirements for social distancing and the uncertainty of testing to reassure parents, staff and students of their safety are the reasons for our decision. If you have sent a deposit for the summer camp program at PB, you will receive a refund.

4. Extended Day Registrations for the Fall
We are hoping that when school opens, the state will be in Phase 2 which will allow us
to run our extended day program with modifications but we have to wait and see as the summer progresses if and when we can begin our program. Parents may continue to register their children so we will know of your need and interest but we will not be accepting any registration fees at this time. If you have sent one in, you will be refunded.

5. Celebrating Our Wonderful Staff
I would like to thank you and your children for taking the time to recognize our teachers, nurses, Principals and school lunch heroes his week! We are so very lucky to have such a dedicated staff of caring, kind and dedicated employees keeping the needs of our students in the forefront always. We all appreciate your kind words of thanks and encouragement for the work we do. We appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts!

6. Sharing Success
Hopefully you have heard that we are trying to get the word out about sharing positive news and information, pictures, affirmations of students etc. on our district’s Facebook page Georgetown MA Public Schools. I have seen many wonderful posts on personal Facebook pages that I would love to see shared on our page. If you are not already following our page, please do so. If you have something to share for all to enjoy, please send the information in a little blurb and/or picture/video to georgetownconnects@georgetown.k12.ma.us We have a team of great people who will grab the information and post it on the page. I have heard many positive comments about the things we have been posting so far but would love to have more contributions from families. I would love to keep this positivity and fun going, so please help us by sharing good news, positive messages, examples of student pride and learning and family fun during this time of quarantine. We are missing our end of the year fun and celebrations. Help us end the year by sharing happy moments and making us all smile!

7. Happy Mother’s Day
I want to wish all of our mothers a heartfelt Happy Mother’s Day! There is nothing more special than a mother’s love. Here is a short poem in celebration of your special day.

Of all the
Special joys in life
The big ones and the small
A mother’s love and tenderness
Is the greatest
Of them all

Have a wonderful weekend! See you next week!

COVID update #13 May 2, 2020

Hello Georgetown Friends,

I certainly hope it is true that April showers bring May flowers because maybe that would explain the rainy pattern we have been immersed in for the past month. Hopefully we will enjoy the beauty that May will bring with more sun and warmth! As I finish this note to you this morning, the sun is shining and I must say it is a welcome sight! I can’t believe it is Saturday already. Sometimes I wonder if in this time of quarantine you feel that time gets away from you. For me, I sometimes lose track of the days because they are so busy but then I feel like time is moving slowly and yet Friday comes and I wonder what happened to the week. These are certainly strange and unusual times!

As we end our 6th week of school closure and our third week of Georgetown Connects, our results have been mixed. While the participation level varies with teachers, courses and time of day, overall we have seen the highest levels of participation at the preschool and elementary levels and in our honors courses at the MHS. However, with the exception of only a few students , we are happy to say the vast majority of our students are engaging and showing effort at various levels in remote learning. As a reminder, our goal is to keep students engaged in the learning process and help them maintain a connection to their teachers and classmates to help with their social and emotional health during this closure. While not perfect, we are moving along with these goals and seeing success. We just need to keep moving along, one day at a time as best we can. When making any kind of change of this magnitude where everything is different and nothing is the same , it is easy to get fatigued as time goes on. In the first three weeks when we thought we were reopening on May 4th, we were all good to go and thinking we can do this and then when the news came that schools will be closed through June, the reality hit and somehow this no longer seems like so much fun. Many of us might be feeling like this is not what I signed up for, it is not working and you might be questioning how you are going to do this for eight more weeks but I know you will do your best. From the response I received to my last post, I suspect many of you are feeling a bit overwhelmed at this prospect and I can tell you that you are not alone. We are all in the same boat and I believe we will agree that this is harder than we ever thought it would be.

As the leader of the district, I continue to see my job as focusing on what we CAN do to make this situation the best it can be for ALL of us and ,most particularly, for our students. I am also hoping to continue to offer a perspective that is reasonable and realistic and to manage the emotions that are guiding many of our thoughts at this time with information and hopeful reassurance. While these are uncertain times and so many things seem out of control, our strategy will continue to be to control what we can, listen to the experts, develop action plans that are best for our district and keep everyone safe. I like the acronym that MHS Principal Dan Richards shared with his faculty last week as we were discussing the end of the year festivities and I am going to adopt it for the district. When we think about ways to move forward, we will do it in a SAFE way.

Sensible within health and safety guidelines
Accessible so that all can participate
Feasible in that the event/ action can be reasonably conducted
Every decision focuses on what is best for our school community ( I changed this one slightly)

A couple of things for consideration:

YOU ARE DOING ENOUGH ( more than enough)
I am hearing that many of you are feeling that you should be doing more to manage remote learning at home and you are finding it harder as time goes on. I want to reassure you that continuing to encourage your child to do their best and complete as many assignments as they can will be the most helpful thing you can do . It is also helpful if you can assist your child in sticking to a schedule and staying in a pattern where they know that doing schoolwork and participating in zoom classes is part of their daily responsibility until school reopens. As the weeks go on, it would be great if we can all reinforce a couple of key messages beginning with (1) this is important , (2) they can do it, (3) we are only asking for their best effort and (4 we are not going to give up on them. Together, the more we tell them that the work they are doing and the effort they are showing will be worth their investment and will make it easier for them in the fall is important and I also want to be sure that they know we are proud of them for sticking with this and continuing to learn even when it hard and they want to give up. Your most important job as parents in this time is to continue to be a cheerleader for your child and a partner with us in this process. We are grateful for all of the work you are doing and we appreciate YOU!

Grading is Not Important in Remote Learning And Here Is Why
I know this goes against everything that is consistent in education and it is a source of concern for some parents and students especially in the upper grades. I get it. If it makes parents feel any better, this is no easier for educators to accept . When we are under stress, it is normal for us to want to hold onto things that we know and hold dear but , we have to realize that given all the variables with remote learning, we have to focus our energy on the things that are most important and within our control. We realize that the move away from traditional letter grades for this three month period provides less accountability and the major question I hear is, “What does credit or no credit mean? Simply put, it means that if the student works on assignments and submits them and the teacher sees that the student has handed in work that is of a passing quality, the student will receive credit for the assignment. If they do a sufficient number of course assignments, they will earn a grade of Credit for the course. They may not complete every assignment but they should do as many as they can to earn a passing grade. While we always want to have high standards for students, we understand that they are working under different circumstances from home and showing their best effort around work completion and engagement is our priority. They should know that any work they do will help them in the future so we want to keep them interested and engaged as best we can. While some students are highly motivated by grades, many others are not and to worry about this on top of learning to manage their time at home when the structure and accountability of school is not in place may be more of a detriment than a help. We will return to the old system soon enough but for now teachers in grades 3-12 will provide feedback to students but no traditional grades are being recorded in the portal or on a transcript at this time. The only way for a student to get no credit is to show little to no effort and/or engagement despite repeated attempts by teachers and parents to engage the student. In these few cases, the school will be in touch to work out a plan since we want everyone to earn credit for their courses.

In reality, students in all grades will move onto the next grade and/or course in the fall so please do not worry about grades. We are basing promotion on performance for most of the year and engagement in remote learning. Next year, teachers will assess students in the fall and we will move on from there. I hope this takes some of the pressure off and helps you and your child enjoy remote learning a little bit more. As I said in my last post, our students will be alright but those who continue to be engaged will be that much better off. If we can all commit to conveying this message, it may add some motivation to our students to keep pushing forward.

Comparisons May Be Natural But Not Helpful
It is human nature to see or hear about things we like and to want them for our own children. We are used to this in the schools because there is no standard formula for how teaching and learning is supposed to look or be done either in school or remotely. The special thing about the teaching and learning process is that it evolves between teachers and their students as everyone brings their special passions,interests, personalities and skills to the process. As adults, we have our own preferences and comfort with teaching styles and the experiences we want for our children. Thank goodness, we are all united in our commitment to quality education and I am grateful for all of the positive feedback on the work our teachers have been doing and the kind comments and thoughtful suggestions we have received. However, I am hearing concerns about the variations between grade levels and people feeling that their child is missing out if they are not getting something others are getting in another grade. As I said this is natural but I ask you to consider that (1) there are multiple ways to attain the same goals and (2) different grade levels might require different strategies.

Since there is no road map other than the broad guidance from the Commissioner of Education and the guidelines we provided to staff when Georgetown Connects began three weeks ago, we should expect that there will be variations just as there are when school is in session. Teachers are all working within the same guidelines which include posting lessons and activities that reinforce previous learning, continuing to engage students in reading , writing and practicing core skills, extending critical and creative thinking skills through enrichment and continuing with their curriculum as students are ready to do so. They were also asked to meet with classes two times a week for social emotional check-ins and hold office hours to maintain contact with parents and students. Since we agreed to move forward with the curriculum, some teachers have chosen to use some of their zoom time to introduce new content when necessary although it is not required. Other teachers have chosen to record videos of themselves and post for students to watch and others have provided written directions and or online tutorials for students. Teachers were asked to be sure that students have the necessary background before being asked to work on new concepts independently. There seems to be concern that not every teacher is doing this in the same way and I understand the concern. We are continuing to evolve and still have eight weeks to go. I ask for your patience and urge you to let your child’s teacher know if your child needs more assistance/ direct instruction on a concept than is currently being worked on . As I mentioned before, there is not one way to learn remotely and every student and teacher is working under a different set of circumstances . Our teachers are also trying to figure out how to manage all of the expectations we have for them and ,at the same time , balance remote learning for their own children and manage their own personal lives. We are all in this together and I ask that we try and stay as positive as possible, keep an open mind and trust your child’s teachers to move forward with learning in the way that works best for them and their students. I know our educators will appreciate your support and we remain grateful for your faith in us!

Teacher Appreciation Week Begins Monday
I don’t know if you are aware but next week is National Teacher Appreciation Week and I hope you might have a minute to recognize our teachers in some small way maybe by dropping them a quick email. One of the positive things coming out of this challenging time is that teachers are finally receiving the recognition they deserve for the important job that they do every day. I have heard countless numbers of parents and caregivers express their appreciation and gratitude since they have been assuming the “teaching role” at home trying to keep their children interested, organized and engaged. I am so grateful that this has been my profession for 40 years ( I am surprised at this number too LOL) and I feel blessed to have the chance to work with so many dedicated and talented educators who continue to inspire me and do amazing things for our students. They are my heroes!

Celebrating Our Seniors
We are close to finalizing our plans to celebrate our great senior class so please don’t worry. We are on it. I had the chance to join a call with the senior class advisors about their priorities and we are all committed to making sure there is a safe and in person graduation ceremony and hopefully a prom. Stay tuned for information next week. I want to let you know that the last day of school for seniors will be Friday May 29th. I would like to thank all of the groups in town who have worked on special ways to recognize the Class of 2020 . You should notice a few of these tributes appearing throughout the town within the next couple of weeks. I am so excited and can’t wait to see the looks on the student’s faces! The Georgetown Boosters will be providing each senior with a lawn sign congratulating them. Another group of parents will be creating a beautiful arrangement of flags with names and pictures of each senior at Harry Murch Park so that every one coming into and out of town can celebrate this class. Funding for this project is provided by the Georgetown Light Department. Keep your eyes open for these displays and I want to thank all those who have worked on making these tributes to students possible. They have missed out on so much but I know they will be grateful for your kindness.

Other Things In The Works . More Information to Come
Final Plans for Graduation and Prom (Info available week of May 8)
Retrieving belongings- schedule being developed now (Info available week of May 8)
Special celebrations at Perley,PB and MHS
Summer Camps- Will we have them? NOTE: Special Education Programs will be done remotely.
Featuring success stories on Facebook Page Georgetown MA Public Schools
End of the Year report cards
Opening of school in the fall

Have a great weekend! See you next week!

Governor Baker Extends Non-Essential Business Closures to May 18th, Announces Reopening Advisory Board

BOSTON – The Baker-Polito Administration extended the essential services emergency order to May 18th and launched a Reopening Advisory Board that will produce a plan to the Governor by May 18th. The Administration also announced that the Department of Public Health’s Stay At Home Advisory remains in effect and gatherings of 10 or more people remain prohibited until May 18th.

Essential Services Order: Governor Charlie Baker’s emergency order requiring that all businesses and organizations that do not provide “COVID-19 Essential Services” close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers and the public will be extended until May 18th. Businesses and organizations not on the list of essential services are encouraged to continue operations through remote means that do not require workers, customers, or the public to enter or appear at the brick-and-mortar premises closed by the order. This order also extends the existing ban on gatherings of more than 10 people until May 18th.

Stay at Home Advisory: Governor Charlie Baker announced that the Department of Public Health’s stay-at-home advisory will remain in effect. Residents are strongly urged to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel and other unnecessary person to person contact during this time period. Residents who are considered at high risk when exposed to COVID-19 should limit social interactions with other people as much as possible.

Executive Branch Employee Guidance: The Baker-Polito Administration today also extended the guidance issued to Executive Branch employees on protocol during the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure state government can continue to provide key services while protecting the health and safety of the public and the Executive Branch workforce. Under the guidance, all employees performing non-core functions who are able to work remotely should continue to do so until May 18th.

Reopening Advisory Board: Today, Governor Baker announced the formation of the Reopening Advisory Board, which will be Co-Chaired by Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. The Board brings public health officials together with leaders from the business community and municipal government from across the Commonwealth. This group is charged with advising the administration on strategies to reopen the economy in phases based on health and safety metrics. It will meet with key stakeholders and solicit input from a variety of constituencies over the next three weeks to develop a report by May 18th that will include DPH approved workplace safety standards, industry frameworks and customer protocols and guidelines, including enforcement mechanisms and coordination with municipal leaders. This report is due on the 18th, but the administration has made clear that public health data and guidance from health care experts will dictate the timeline of the re-opening process.

 

The 17-member Advisory Board is composed of three public health officials, including Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel, three municipal officials, and eleven leaders from the business community, including MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. Members of the Advisory Board bring a range of perspectives to the table, such as an understanding of workplaces and workforces and insights into key areas like financial markets, education, manufacturing and transportation.

Reopening Advisory Board Members:

  • Aron Ain, CEO, Kronos Inc & Ultimate Software
  • Carlo Zaffanella, Vice President and General Manager Maritime, & Strategic Systems, General Dynamics Mission Systems
  • Corey Thomas, CEO, Rapid 7
  • Daniel Rivera, Mayor, City of Lawrence
  • Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Girish Navani, CEO and Co-Founder, eClinicalWorks
  • Joe Bahena, Senior Vice President, Joseph Abboud Manufacturing
  • Kathryn Burton, Chief of Staff, City of Boston
  • Laurie Leshin, Ph.D., President, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Linda Markham, President, Cape Air
  • Mark Keroack, President & CEO, Baystate Health
  • Monica Bharel, Ph.D., Commissioner, Department of Public Health
  • Nicole LaChapelle, Mayor, City of Easthampton
  • Pamela Everhart, Head of Regional Public Affairs and Community Relations, Fidelity Investments
  • Stephanie Pollack, Transportation Secretary and CEO
  • Steve DiFillippo, CEO, Davios Restaurants
  • Wendy Hudson, Owner, Nantucket Book Partners