Dear Natick Families,
As you may have heard today, at approximately noon, Governor Baker and DESE Commissioner Riley announced the closure of all public and private school buildings in Massachusetts for the remainder of the 19-20 school year. However, we will continue to engage in remote learning for the duration of the 19-20 school year, as we have been since March. We are actively working with DESE Commissioner Riley and state superintendents to frame what remote learning for the remainder of the year should look like now that we know this closure will be extended
When we went into Phase 2 of remote learning April 6th, we built in a formal reflection on remote learning to date with our unions and community at large to be conducted the last week of April. To that end, I sent out the recent
parent ThoughtExchange last week
and a staff ThoughtExchange goes out tomorrow. I will also be conducting focus groups with special education parents, and upperclassmen and senior students at NHS to inform this next extended Phase (3) of closure. Please know that changing expectations is no small matter with the number of working parts, courses and service needs present in a given school day.
Many have emailed in on the side of reducing the schedule and some adding to the schedule. Working parents and stay-at-home parents have also emailed with their respective opinions. Staff have spoken eloquently about how planning and preparation for every class is 2x the work it normally is—the design is different and the format is different. Following up with missing students is different, and office hours are often spent helping our most fragile learners catch up and stay up given the difficulty of learning in a remote environment. Desk-side support comes during office hours and many teachers have hundreds of students. I encourage you to use the ThoughtExchange to express your ideas on remote learning and we will do our best to adjust our model as we can to continue to provide continuity, emotional support, rigorous academics and the space for all parents and staff the breathing space to parent and educate together.
Also, the MA Commissioner will issue new guidance on this phase (Phase 3) of remote learning and Phase 4 (school reopening). For Phase 3, this may just be a blessing of what Natick has already implemented--permission to move forward with new material, special education services and to prioritize key standards-- so, as a state, we move together to address deficits and teaching gaps in a coordinated way. In doing so, all students in MA will have access to resources and testing that accounts for this coordination.
Phase 4 is something we have already been working on as noted in our school committee and parent chat meetings this month. We will bring to our community a curriculum standards coverage plan, a bridge program for the summer and how we will integrate lost learning time into the fall transition to new grades or new courses. Before we can do that, however, we have to digest upcoming state guidance and then make it work for Natick while we continue to follow state guidance on what’s next for closures and openings. The good news is that Natick has a strong written curriculum with a guaranteed and viable scope and sequence for all grades and courses. We can be very precise about learning needs and what has been covered in a given year. We will bring you a smart transition plan.
While I understand that for many students and families, this final closure news is disappointing to hear, as the Governor stated we have to put safety first in this scenario. I empathize with our outgoing seniors who are mourning the traditional rites of passage with a spring prom and graduation to send them off into young adulthood. Rest assured we will leave no stone unturned in trying to reschedule or reshape these events. A meeting with senior student leadership is slated for this Friday for this reason.
Also, many of our younger students are missing out on activities and transitions that enrich them and also feed their passions; likewise, wherever we can we will provide a reshaping or rescheduling of these events.
One of our core competencies in the Profile of a Natick Graduate is that we instill resilience in our students. This situation is testing our ability to teach and lead our students through uncertainty while remaining resilient, but we will weather things as a community.