Category Archives: GHS

COVID Update – July 15, 2020

Hello Georgetown Community,

I hope you had a great and safe Fourth of July celebrating COVID style! It is hard to believe that we are already a couple of weeks into July and it seems that time is passing so quickly! This may be because we are working so hard to figure out the best way to return to school in the fall and if you watch the news you can see that this is not a clear and easy decision. I think everyone has the same goal which is to return to school safely and to keep everyone as safe as possible until there is a vaccine and/or the virus is under control. I heard today that reopening schools safely is a public health emergency and schools and districts have been asked to determine the best way to make that happen for their community. Almost everyone I have spoken to wants to see staff and students back in school this fall working together and getting back to some sense of normalcy. However, the big challenge that we face is that we are trying to make a very important decision having to rely on changing and often inconsistent information about this virus, questions about the safety guidelines particularly the social distancing (3ft vs 6ft), concerns about mask wearing and the debate about whether a phased in approach rather than everyone returns at once is the best course of action. In addition, returning to school with any model other than a full return (hybrid or remote) impacts families and staff with children of their own. The experts are divided on whether it is safe to return to school especially in Massachusetts where the virus seems to be under control at this time. The state and medical experts in our area are strongly encouraging a return to school for as many people as possible as long as the safety protocols can be followed. These protocols include (masks must be worn by students and staff in grades 2-12 and are strongly encouraged in preschool -grade 1. Mask breaks must be provided throughout the day (2) social distancing at 6 ft but a minimum of 3 ft with masks on (3) frequent hand washing, sanitation and cleaning of schools and (4) students and staff do not come to school when feeling sick. We are also putting together a remote learning plan either for students who can not return to school for medical reasons or their parents will not allow them to return or if the virus escalates and we all need to revert to remote learning.

I can tell you that formulating a Return to School Plan like this feels like trying to juggle balls that keep moving and just when you think they fall into the right holes and decisions can be made, more balls emerge from outside sources and more things have to be considered. There are many competing interests but, first and foremost, our goal is the safety and wellness of our students, staff and families. Thank you to everyone who completed the remote learning survey. That will help us in making improvements to our plan. We realize that you need to know as soon as possible so you can plan accordingly but we are still waiting for critical information and we need a few weeks to see if things change before deciding on the final plan. I am going to begin publishing a Commonly Asked Questions document this week and adding to it over the course the time we are formulating our plan. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work through this process. We share a common goal and we need to work together.

What Has Been Going On in the District?

1. Assessing Ability to Meet the Recommendations for Social Distance
The administrators and Director of Buildings and Grounds have been focused on determining if we can physically meet the medical guidelines in the State’s Return to School Initial Guidance. This involves setting up mock classrooms with the desks and/or tables 3 ft apart which is the minimum standard. We have found that we can accommodate students in all classrooms at Perley and Penn Brook and most classes at the MHS ( a few classes may have to move to larger classrooms or other spaces within the school for certain periods of the day) ensuring we meet the social distancing requirement of a minimum of 3 ft. We have also found out that if we arrange the desks three feet apart, nose to nose, the students are actually just under 6 ft apart which meets and exceeds the DESE guidance and meets the CDC requirements.

2. Process to Formulate the Plan
The state is asking us to formulate a plan with three components (1) return to “in school” for all students and staff with restrictions (2) a hybrid model that blends in school and remote learning and (3) remote learning only. We have generated an extensive list of the questions that need to be considered and answered to determine the feasibility of each option in order to return to school safely. It is not as simple as being able to fit desks in a room. We have been answering these questions over the past few weeks but there are still many details to consider before a plan is due at the end of July and released to the public (per order of the Commissioner)in early August. Depending on the model that is selected, there are a number of things that have to be upgraded, discussed with union leadership and set up as well as training staff. This will be an ongoing process for the next several weeks but I wanted you to know the process we are following as we prepare the plan for the state and approval of the School Committee.

3. Changes Will Be Made To Remote Learning
We have reviewed the results of the remote learning survey and unless the virus escalates before school opens or during the fall, the district is not planning to open school with remote learning for most students. Having said that, if we open with a hybrid model, there will be increased structure and accountability for attendance, grading, scheduling and instructional support on the days students are not in school. The details of this are being worked out by our staff and the working reopening task forces.

4. Task Forces to Convene
The School Committee met on Monday, July 13 at 6:00 PM , to get an update and discuss the possible options. Following this meeting, we will be convening three task force working groups beginning this week on Tuesday. They have an ambitious task ahead of them for the next few weeks but their perspectives are critical to coming up with a plan that will be best for Georgetown.

I want to thank all of the staff and parents who offered to serve. There was a tremendous interest from Penn Brook parents so I am going to convene a series of meetings with parents who won’t be on the task force working groups but I want to capture their perspectives and opinions about elements of the planning. We will meet for the first time on Thursday night, July 16 at 6:00PM

5. Staff and Parent Surveys
Within the next few days, we will be sending out surveys to gather your current opinions and thoughts about the various options. This information can be used by the task force working groups, the administration and the School Committee when formulating our final plan.
Parents with students who are eligible will be asked about bus transportation and whether you plan to have your child/ren ride the bus. I am not sure of the restrictions yet but I anticipate the number of students who can ride the bus at one time may be restricted to 1/3 of the capacity. Masks must be worn at all times regardless of the student’s age. . Please answer this question so we have information about the intention to use the bus.

The GEA has sent out a survey to teachers and the district is going to send out a survey to all staff. Teachers are not required to answer this survey although we would love to hear your thoughts if you want to complete it. I am asking all other staff to complete the survey so we can get a quick assessment of your thoughts and perspective.

The turnaround time for these surveys is quick so we ask you to complete it shortly after you receive it. One survey per family please. This is not the time to “stuff the ballot box” with your favorite choice since that is not the purpose. This is just a quick straw poll to tell us what people are thinking now and to help us plan. When the plan is formulated, there will be an opportunity for parents and staff to tell us about their intention to return to school according to the plan that is approved. We just need a sense of where you are at this time realizing you do not have all the information. This will help us to figure out what families and staff stand at this time. Thank you for your help with this!

6. Purchasing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Establishing Safety Procedures and Protocols
Our Director of Buildings and Grounds has been working with administration and the town to order PPE based on the DESE recommendations using CARES funds that are coming directly to Georgetown from the state. The town has received $700K to address expenses incurred by COVID 19 and the schools are accessing funds to purchase masks, gowns, face shields, protective barriers etc. for use as needed. In addition, every classroom will have a hand sanitizing dispenser installed if there is not a sink and these will also be available in the hallways. He has established a cleaning procedure that includes sanitizing classrooms and schools daily with an antiviral product as well as common surfaces such as doorknobs and hand rails. Bathrooms will be cleaned and sanitized 2-3 times per day. Anti-viral hand towels or spray will be available in every classroom space for on the spot sanitizing.

I hope this update is helpful. Please complete the survey and watch for further updates. If you have questions at any time however, please let me know at jacobsc@georgetown.k12.ma.us.

Please stay safe and well and love every minute of this beautiful summer! Take care!

Carol

Creativity in Crisis: Exploring science using everyday items and in the great outdoors. By Steven Blackburn, for District Administrator, June 30, 2020

Superintendent of Georgetown Public Schools allowed educators to focus less on MCAS preparation during school closures, which led to bouts of creativity in the science department at Georgetown Middle/High School.

Click here for the article.

 

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

 

2020 Virtual Underclass & Book Awards Ceremony.

Please use this link, looks much better on You Tube.

Initial Fall Reopening Guidance

Initial Fall School Reopening Guidance was shared publicly on Thursday, by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or DESE. It outlines numerous restrictions and plans to bring students and teachers to reopened schools with minimized risks for COVID-19 based on input from the Return-To-School Working Group, infectious disease physicians, pediatricians and other public health experts.

1-MA Department of Education (DESE) Initial Fall Reopening Guidance

2-Initial Fall Reopening Guidance Powerpoint Presentation

3-Letter to DESE Commissioner Riley from Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

4- An Op Ed in The Washington Post by Joseph G. Allen, an assistant professor of exposure assessment science, director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and co-author of “Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity.

 

Pictures from 2020 Graduation.

Click here.