COVID 19 Update – September 20 , 2020

Hello Georgetown Community . I hope you are well and enjoying this beautiful Sunday! Well, we survived the first week of remote learning. It was not without some hiccups and I heard mixed reviews about the technology and the amount of screen time but I also heard many positive comments about the work the teachers have been doing to engage the students, work through the bugs with technology and start the year off on a positive note. I am so happy to hear this because I know how hard everyone is working and we have to remember that much of this is new to our teachers as well. As with anything new, it does take time to get comfortable and adjust but I know things will get much easier as time goes on. I want to thank all of our staff for their tireless work and the parents and students for hanging in there and working with us on this venture in these unprecedented times. We are implementing a very different program than we did in the spring and it does require more time and commitment during the day for everyone. We realize that this new system poses a challenge for some working parents and we ask that you do your best. Our teachers will do their best to teach their students to be as self sufficient as possible but if there are issues, please let your child’s teacher know so they can work with you. The reason we have set up a schedule as we have done is because it mirrors the one the students will be using when we return to school in a hybrid. Students will already be in the swing of the daily schedule and the transition back will be more seamless. If you are having problems just work with your child’s teacher so that your child can be as successful as possible.

I am sure you are aware by now that the district will be reopening our schools in a hybrid on Thursday, October 1, 2020. Cohort Blue, which are the students who will attend school in person on Tuesday and Thursday. will come on October 1st and Cohort White, which are the students who will attend in person on Wednesday and Friday, will attend for the first time on Friday, October 2, 2020. Since we were originally planning to open in a hybrid, many of the important decisions and procedures have been worked out and are ready to go but we will be very busy over the next two weeks finalizing everything so that we can welcome our students back! It has been such a strange start to the school year and we can’t wait to see the kids! Please watch the school websites and updates from the Principals at your child’s school for details about what is coming next. They will be releasing details about how things will be handled so that you and your child can be prepared.

I am pleased to report that the medical team of advisors we have convened to help us manage COVID unanimously supported having students return to school on October 1and approved the safety procedures we have put in place . In addition, the members of the Board of Heath toured the schools last week and gave us an A+ in terms of readiness and safety. I can promise you, we are going to do whatever we can to make this return to school safe so we can remain in school once we begin in the hybrid. This does not mean we can guarantee that no one will get COVID and/or bring it into school, but we will follow the CDC and DESE guidelines regarding notification, quarantine procedures, deep cleaning and closures. I know there is a great deal of anxiety about how situations will be handled but we have very capable nurses and advisors who will guide us through any situation. Our cleaning protocol calls for daily cleaning throughout the day and we are employing four new custodians just to sanitize the schools and to clean high touch surfaces. Our classrooms are ready for students. Each student will have a desk that is designated only for them with plastic shields around the desks in grades K-6. There are hand sanitizers in each room where there is not a sink and also in the hallways, no touch features in the rest rooms, clear delineation of the traffic pattern in the hallways and stairwells and barriers in the office and teacher’s work spaces. Every one will wear masks at all times except teachers when working alone in their rooms and when students and teachers are on mask breaks. If your child has a medical excuse from his/her physician or has a behavioral or emotional condition that makes wearing masks impossible , please send the documentation to the school office. The experts are saying that mask wearing is the number one way to stop the spread of the virus along with social distancing , frequent hand washing and staying home when sick. By using a hybrid model , we are phasing bringing students back in smaller groups. We will have the chance to implement these procedures and watch the numbers . We ask that you help us by following these same safety procedures at home and when out in the community. As we know the virus spreads through droplets from an infected person who may or may not have symptoms so we all have to be vigilant in keeping ourselves and others safe. For those families who have decided to remain fully remote , your teachers will be engaging students through zoom, live streaming and assigning asynchronous work that is consistent with what the students are doing in school.

Monday Schedule

Beginning tomorrow Monday, September 21, 2020, the schedule for Mondays will be a little different than Tuesday- Friday. It will still be a full day for staff and students but the morning will be live in person teaching on a schedule that you and your child will be provided and in the afternoon after lunch students will be working on asynchronous assignments and projects related to the curriculum and their courses. Teachers will be given time in the afternoon for remote learning preparation, collaboration with colleagues and to attend meetings if necessary. This time is necessary to provide our teachers with more time to perfect the skills they learned during the professional development and they need to align their teaching to meet the needs of both their in person and remote learning students . The assignments that are provided for students to work on in the afternoon will be meaningful and required although any challenges students have during this time will be addressed by the teachers the following day.

Yom Kippur

Monday, September 28th will be an early release day for staff and students in observance of Yom Kippur. Instruction will occur in the morning and no assignments will be given for the rest of the day. Our Jewish families will begin observance of Yom Kipper on Sunday evening through Monday evening. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year and it is the day of atonement after the Jewish new year of Rosh Hashanah. Many Jews fast for 25 hours and others do not fast but observe the holt day. I want to wish all of our Jewish families an easy fast and a Good Yuntif or Yom Tov ,which are Yiddish and Hebrew respectively, for have a good holy day.

Medical Team

Several people have asked me about the members of our medical advisory 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. 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 and Public Heath Director Deb Rogers from the Board of Health for agreeing to help us through these crazy COVID times.

Fall Sports

The School Committee has approved the fall season which will include field hockey, boys and girls soccer, golf and boys and girls cross country . Volleyball, football and cheering were moved to a fourth season in late February – April between the winter and spring seasons. These sports will operate with strict safety guidelines and ,in some cases, the modifications will affect how the game is actually played to make it safer. Sign ups have just concluded and at first glance the numbers are down. This week we will be reviewing the numbers and determining if we will be able to run all of the sports . Financially we need to make sure that the budget allocation plus the user fees (which will not change) can cover the expenses of the programs. We are hopeful but the budget and the revolving account are very tight.

Before and After School Program at Penn Brook

This past Friday we had to make the difficult and heartbreaking decision that we will not be able to run our before and after school program at Penn Brook due to low enrollment numbers. Director Elizabeth Carroll collected registration forms from families and there are less than 60 students planning to enroll in the program. This is down from 150 students not including a number of students who dropped in when needed. Based on the projected revenue and expenses, we will not even be able to break even. This is also considering that any changes will cause us to go into the red. As noted above, the budget and revolving accounts are very tight and without enough revenue coming in we can not pay the expenses. Many people have let us know that they do not need the program right now but may later on in the year in case they have to return to the office and/or if we go to school full time at some point during the year. We may be willing to revisit this decision if the need increases but for now we can’t sustain the program. This, like the preschool program, are some of most successful and well regarded programs and ,believe me, we do not make these decisions lightly. I am looking forward to the post COVID times when we can resume these great programs to serve our community again. I know this will be another hardship for parents but we do not have another solution at this time. We feel awful about this and apologize that this is necessary. I also apologize for the late notice but we just got the confirmations for enrollment mid -week and then met with the School Committee Budget and Finance subcommittee late afternoon ton Friday to make the decision. I am so sorry.

Retirements

For those of you who know Jeanne Trembley and Marianne Botman, you will want to join me in congratulating them on their retirement from our schools. Jeanne has been employed as a preschool paraprofessional for 30 years and Marianne has worked in the district for 20 years as a lunch and recess monitor. Both women have touched the lives of so many children positively over their tenure . Their love of their job and their children was obvious in the way they did their work every day and they will be missed! I know you join me in wishing them both a long, happy and healthy retirement. Thanks you Marianne and Jeanne for sharing your career with us!

Bus Routes

The bus routes are done and will be published early this week. Barry Belanger will be receiving the routes from the bus company and posting them right away. We will be adding a second bus route on Bus 5 due to the bus capacity and the number of students registered to ride that bus. The buses will be operating according to DESE guidelines. Student must wear masks the entire time they are on the bus regardless of age and they will be assigned a seat. Bus passes will be distributed but students will receive passes when they enter school on their first day. No passes will be distributed ahead of time. Watch for the posted routes and if you have questions , let us know.

Instructional Paraprofessionals Needed

If you or someone you know would like to work with students as an instructional paraprofessional, please encourage them to let us know. The hours are fulltime during the school day and the employee would work under the direction of a certified teacher. You must be willing to be trained.

I hope you are finding time to enjoy your family on this beautiful late summer/early fall day. I will be in touch as we begin the hybrid but if you have any questions, always feel free to contact me at jacobsc@georgetown.k12.ma.us or call me at 978-352-5777 ext. 140. My new Assistant Tracy can also help you at parkert@georgetown.k12.ma.us. Take care and stay well! #Georgetownstrong!