Latest Email Updates:

  • Hi Folks,

     

    Late last Friday (May 8) the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released correspondence for parents and families regarding the Department’s ongoing guidance.  This document provides many links for additional information and support for parents as they work to support their children at home during this ongoing closure sequence.  Please take a moment to review these resources. We all know this is a challenging situation for everyone, and we are all doing our best to support students and families' varying needs. This certainly applies to parents who are suddenly forced into this home-schooling mandate without consent. Perhaps this DESE document will have a nugget of wisdom that resonates with you in your particular situation. Thank you for all you are doing and for your best efforts at maintaining sanity for everyone involved.


    Later this week information will be forwarded via email from our Business and Finance office with specific instructions on how to obtain refunds for unused fees paid through our district’s online payment system during the school year. For most students, these fees take the form of unused bus fees and spring sports athletic fees.  For some families with students in Grade 9, 10, and 11, these fees may be carried forward as credits for next year, if desired.  For all seniors and families who do not wish to carry these fees forward as credits for next year, simply fill out the emailed form and we hope to get refunds in your hands by the end of this month.  Please keep your eye out for this email later this week.

     

    A Class of 2020 Steering Committee met last week to discuss plans for how to appropriately acknowledge the many years of effort and achievement of this year’s senior class.  All districts in Massachusetts are currently wrestling with how to celebrate the graduation of this year’s seniors with a ceremony that is inclusive and available for all students, families and friends, while still maintaining social distancing regulations and public health requirements.  This is no easy feat, and there is no consensus across the state on how to accomplish this challenging set of criteria.  The most recent guidance from the Department of Education contains the following information:  

     

    “The Department will share further guidance, including public health advisories for graduation ceremonies, as more information becomes available about the public health situation. Many districts are considering virtual ceremonies, “drive-in” or “drive-by” celebrations, other community-wide celebrations with appropriate physical distancing, and postponing celebrations of achievement until a time when it is safer to participate in large scale activities.”

     

    This Steering Committee will work to develop the best possible outcome for our seniors, who deserve everything we can provide for them as so many memories and events for their class have been taken away during this closure sequence.  I would like to thank members of the Committee for their efforts.  The group will meet again this week to work toward consensus on these goals.  Thank you to all the other parents and community members who have reached out to support our Class of 2020 Seniors and offered pledges of assistance in whatever form necessary to appropriately recognize these students!

    Comments (-1)
  • DPS Coronavirus Update

    Monday, May 4

    11:45 PM

     

    Hi Folks,

     

    Last Wednesday, April 29 the Dedham Board of Health met and voted to mandate face coverings for all employees who interact with the public and for all members of the public when they enter any business, work site, or government building.  This vote on Wednesday was quickly followed with an order by Governor Baker to essentially mandate very similar restrictions across the entire state.  This order is slated to take effect as of Wednesday, May 6.  Please take a moment to review these regulations and to stay informed about appropriate physical distancing, and thank you for doing your part to help stem the tide of this pandemic.

     

    Today I participated on a conference call hosted by DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley with over 500 superintendents and assistant superintendents from across the state.  The Commissioner reviewed many different points including:

     

    - The DESE Phase 3 Remote Learning Guidelines should be used to “go further and deeper” into the “essential standards” needed to prepare students for the next grade level

     

    - DESE is waiting for guidance and decisions from Governor Baker to provide guidance to school districts about any possibility of summer programming including extended school years (ESY) in school buildings.  He is hopeful that more guidance about possible gradual reopening of the business economy will be forthcoming by later this month, but nothing is certain yet.

     

    - DESE will be providing guidance around student grading later this week.  Grading policies are a local decision, and DESE guidance will just be in the form of recommendations.  The expectation from DESE is that very few students will be slated to repeat this school year, and every effort should be made to promote students to the next grade level.

     

    - The Board of Education has voted to modify the MCAS graduation requirement to reflect the lack of opportunity for current seniors to pass.  More information from the Board of Education regarding the Science graduation requirement will be decided by the Board in the coming weeks

     

    - DESE will be creating a Re-Entry Planning Task Force to determine conditions and criteria for when and how students, faculty, and staff will be allowed back to school.  This Task Force will work with the Department of Public Health to provide guidance on how schools will reopen this fall.

     

    - All decisions about graduation ceremonies are local decisions to be determined by individual schools

     

    Today’s guidance and recommendations from DESE are in alignment with Dedham’s current practices and we will continue moving forward with our Phase 3 Remote Learning Plan.

     

    Tonight I participated in the second Town Wide PTO Officers remote learning video conference and I appreciate the feedback from the 17 parents who were on the call.  One of the concerns expressed by these parents was the sometimes wide disparity in experiences for students from grade to grade and classroom to classroom across all schools.  We discussed this challenge quite a bit, and I acknowledge how difficult it is to consistently provide what is needed for students across the district as a whole.  We will continue to work to provide support for student and family needs in all realms, and I will convey all feedback to the district as a whole.

     

    Thank you to the many faculty, staff, and parents who reached out last Friday to support our food service workers on School Lunch Hero Day!  In addition to the many individual folks who reached out to our Food Services Director Jeanne Johnson, many other groups showed their appreciation through a series of other gestures, including a parade.  I know our hard-working cafeteria and food service members greatly appreciate your show of support.

    Remember that ALL Dedham residents age 21 and younger are eligible to receive free breakfast and lunch every day Monday through Friday from 9:00 - 11:00 AM at our three meal distribution sites.  Eligible residents no longer need to be present to receive meals, and each meal distributed gains the district valuable reimbursements from the Federal School Lunch Program.  Thank you for continuing to access this valuable resource.

     

    Our Director of Health Services Gail Kelley forwarded me a link from the CDC called “Keeping Children Healthy While School’s Out”.  This link contains good information to keep in mind during this prolonged closure, and I recommend everyone take a look.

     

    As our remote learning continues, our teachers and technology team continue to provide support to parents and students. In general, please email your child’s teacher if they have a question about access to their individual technology resources including passwords. The teacher will help when they can and forward your message to our technology team if they cannot. The Technology Team has altered their hours to provide active support between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday - Thursday and Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additionally, we have put together a Families Digital Support Page. We look to improve this page and appreciate your suggestions.

     

    All my best,

    Mike Welch

    Comments (-1)
  • DPS Coronavirus Update

    Monday, April 27

    11:00 PM

     

    Hi Folks,

     

    As some of you may already be aware, last Friday night April 24 the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released additional guidance on remote learning called “Strengthening Our Remote Learning Experience” that builds on the initial guidance released on March 26, with a deeper focus on two areas:

     

    1 - Further defining the recommended elements of a quality remote learning program, including a focus on teaching the content standards most critical for student success in the next grade level, and

     

    2 - Encouraging districts to move all students towards successful engagement in remote learning, with a focus on addressing fundamental needs.

     

    This guidance is designed to both affirm work already underway and provide additional ideas and strategies with an intentional focus on the standards that will be most critical to student success in the next school year, coupled with increased attention to student engagement.  This guidance was quite lengthy (25 pages), and also included lengthy Grades Pre-K - 5 (34 pages) and Grades 6-12 (38 pages) curriculum guidance that was titled “Prerequisite Content for Success In The Following Grade”. 

     

    The goal is to provide districts with an outline of content to be focused upon over the next 8 weeks while school buildings remain closed.  We are working internally within the district to unpack this information and will be providing additional information to all stakeholders as needed.  In the meantime, these Simplified DESE Family Content Standards (5-page per grade overviews) from the DESE website may be a more user-friendly summary of content to be covered by students in each grade.
     

    I know many of you are eager to support our students who are going to be missing out on the traditional end-of-year ceremonies as they transition through grades and schools. Now that we know we will not be returning to school buildings this spring, I have asked our school principals to work with an appropriate representative group at each school to brainstorm and provide for meaningful opportunities to mark these occasions.  In particular, our graduating Class of 2020 will be missing out on many of the most significant of these rites of passage.  I have spoken with Dedham High School Principal Jim Forrest and School Committee Chair Kevin Coughlin and I know there is strong interest and commitment to providing these well deserved and cherished events in whatever form is possible.  We want to make sure that these efforts are coordinated through a smaller steering group that will develop a plan in conjunction with students reflecting their wishes and the significance of their accomplishments.  More information will be coming out from Principal Forrest in the next couple of days.   

     

    Earlier today I sent out additional information to families of our current 8th graders regarding the cancellation of the annual Washington, D.C. trip.  This cancellation became obvious due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but unfortunately not all non-refundable monies deposited with the trip’s sponsor are being refunded.  While the fine print of the contract gives the company the legal right to retain this deposit for costs incurred, we do not believe it is the right way to handle the circumstances.  We have joined with the Westwood Public Schools (who are in the same boat since they use the same vendor) to encourage a more fair and just resolution.

     

    This situation around payments made for services not received is a much more widespread issue than just the DMS trip to Washington, DC.  Now that the closure of schools is extending to the end of the year we are grappling with other collected fees (bus fees, extended day before/after child care, athletic fees, prom costs, theater costs, etc…) and how to resolve the various contracts/obligations involved.  Our business and finance office is working to resolve all these outstanding liabilities and fee payments and we will hopefully be settling on final details shortly.  I want to make sure everyone realizes we are aware of these many nuances and will be providing more information as negotiations are completed and agreements are reached.

     

    As our remote learning continues, our teachers and technology team continue to provide support to parents and students. In general, please email your child’s teacher if they have a question about access to their individual technology resources including passwords. The teacher will help when they can and forward your message to our technology team if they cannot. The Technology Team has altered their hours to provide active support between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday - Thursday and Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additionally, we have put together a Families Digital Support Page. We look to improve this page and appreciate your suggestions.

     

    DPS Food Services has updated guidelines around their “Grab and Go” meals program.  Based on relaxed guidance from the federal and state governments, children NO LONGER NEED TO BE PRESENT to receive breakfast and lunch at our 3 distribution sites (Avery Elementary, Riverdale Elementary, and Dedham Housing Authority at 92 Veteran’s Road).  ALSO - All Dedham residents 21 AND YOUNGER can now receive free meals everyday from 9:00 - 11:00 AM.  And remember - on Fridays meals are distributed for the weekend days also. 

     

    And - Just in time for this week - Governor Baker has proclaimed May 1, 2020 as School Lunch Hero Day!  DPS Director of Food Services and all her faithful, hard-working member employees all deserve a huge thank-you for serving the needs of our community during this crisis!   As a tribute to all school nutrition professionals in the Commonwealth, DESE will host a virtual celebration at 3:00 p.m. Friday, May 1. More information on School Lunch Hero Day nationally is available online.  Salute your School Lunch Heroes Today!

     

    All my best,

     

    Mike Welch

     
    Comments (-1)
  • DPS Coronavirus Update

    Wednesday, April 22

    11:30 PM

     

    Hi Folks,

     

    Over the past 24 hours, as the impact of Governor Baker’s announcement closing school buildings for the rest of the school year has begun to sink in, I have had the chance to reach out and connect with many of our directors, principals, and educators in all of our schools.  They are experiencing all of the emotions associated with loss - disappointment, sadness, dismay - and particularly profound sadness for all their students who they miss dearly.  Despite the advanced knowledge that this announcement would likely be coming, the finality of this decision was more stunning and impactful than many of us anticipated.  It was a real punch in the gut.  I am particularly sad for the kids who will miss out on all of the time-honored traditions and ceremonies they have long anticipated at each level of the district.

     

    Last night I had the good fortune to host a video conference with over 20 Town Wide PTO Officers from all schools in Dedham.  I invited these parents to share with me their families’ experiences over the course of the past five weeks.  It was clear from their shared comments that this sequence has been difficult and draining on all families as everyone has struggled to maintain a sense of “normalcy”.  I heard about how every family has different advantages, needs, and constraints that require flexibility and understanding.  This is particularly apparent in families with younger children or high needs students who need direct parental support as they are not able to adequately complete lessons independently at home.  These conditions put added pressure on parents who are also trying to work from home, and in some instances are dealing with additional complications from a variety of sources.  More than anything, it was clear that their children missed the direct daily interactions and connections with their educators. They miss their teachers mannerisms, their facial expressions, their routines, and their trusted relationships.

     

    I spent time today relaying what I learned in these conversations with our district leaders as we continue to do our best to meet the needs of all our students and families at all levels of the district.  I learned that many of our educators have completed trainings and have begun working together to use video conferences with groups of students as a tool to maintain their connections.  I also learned that our Phase 2 Remote Learning Plan has had a dramatic positive impact on the connections, motivation, and investment of our students in grades 6-12.  Educators and district leaders have all seen significant improvements in student engagement and have been thrilled with their students’ response.

     

    But the real challenge continues to be meeting the diverse needs of all our students and families with grace, patience, compasion, and understanding all around.  We all recognize that none of us signed up for this, and the frustrations we are all experiencing (educators, parents, and students alike) are real and unwanted, particularly as the realization of the next 8+ weeks looms ahead of us.  I appreciate your feedback and your patience as we continue to do the best that we can.

     

    Today a well-respected colleague of mine forwarded me an article from The Atlantic entitled “Distance Learning Isn’t Working”.  It was written by a veteran homeschooling parent, and I think it captures much of the sentiment we are all feeling related to this challenging hand we have been dealt.  I share this with you because it recognizes that parents know what their children need, and what their families need, to make the best of this remote learning situation.  It also acknowledges what we all know - there is simply no way to effectively recreate the schooling experience in students’ homes.  It is important to do our best to meet these needs, and sometimes that means seeking support and guidance when what is suggested is not working.

     

    Thank you, parents, for reaching out to our teachers to relay your needs and seek support.  And thank you to our educators for your flexibility and understanding as we all do our best to meet everyone’s needs to support all our children. 

     

    All my best,

     

    Mike Welch

    Comments (-1)
  • Tuesday, April 21

    4:15 PM

     

    Hi Folks,

     

    As anticipated, this afternoon Governor Baker announced that he was extending the closure of all Massachusetts public and private school buildings for the rest of the 2019/2020 school year.   Students, educators and staff will continue forward with remote learning efforts through our last scheduled school day - Friday, June 19th.

     

    This week, students should be connecting with teachers and completing remote work as outlined in our phase 2 remote learning plan.   Many of our teachers are completing the trainings for video/audio conferencing and we should be seeing many more of those meetings beginning with students this week and in the coming days.   Additionally, it appears as though the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will be introducing further guidance around prioritized learning standards at the end of this week which Dedham will incorporate into our efforts moving forward.

     

    While this decision to extend school closure was expected by many of us, it still brings with it strong emotions as we come to the realization that our teachers and students will not physically be returning to their classrooms this year.   Additionally, we know that this announcement raises many questions regarding end-of-year celebrations and ceremonies, transitions to new schools and other milestones.  Our administrative teams, district leaders and educators are working on exploring ways to adapt these events, so that we can recognize and celebrate the academic achievements of our students.   We hope to have many more answers in the coming weeks about key events such as graduation, orientations and other issues as we are able to address them.  

     

    Remember, the school buildings may be closed, but connections between educators and students will continue.  Please continue to monitor ongoing updates at our Remote Learning Curriculum website.  We encourage students and families to continue doing their best - it’s the most we can ask for in this trying time.   We know it’s not easy, but together we will get through this.   As always, please reach out to your school principals with any questions or if your family is in need of additional support.

    Comments (-1)
  • DPS Coronavirus COVID-19 Community Update

    Monday, April 20, 2020

    11:30 PM

     

    Hi Folks,

     

    Tomorrow marks the start of week six of school closure in Massachusetts, and week 2 of Phase 2 of Dedham’s Remote Learning Plan.  Remember that as a result of the School Committee’s vote last Wednesday, the next four days (Tuesday, 4/21 through Friday, 4/24) will be official remote learning school days.  Educators will be providing learning experiences for all students at all grades, and it is important to continue with these activities. Please continue to visit Dedham’s Community Resources for Extended School Closure on our curriculum site to keep current with our educators’ daily remote learning expectations.  I expect this week will see a substantial increase in the use of video conferencing with students as our teachers complete training to ensure safe and secure interactions that will most appropriately support students.  

     

    The Dedham Health Department provided a notice after their meeting last Wednesday indicating there had been 134 cases of Dedham residents with confirmed cases of COVID-19.  The Board of Health is reporting all new information weekly at the town’s new website devoted to information about COVID-19 news.  If you or a close member of your family is impacted by a member of your household with confirmed COVID-19, please take a moment to reach out and notify your child’s building principal and/or your child’s school nurse.  This will allow us to take this into account and support your child in the days ahead.  Thank you for your help with this important communication.

     

    According to a national technology publication called The Journal, as of today, 33 states have officially extended their school closures for the remainder of their school year.  At this time, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has not yet extended the school closure beyond its current closure day of Friday, May 1, but many suspect there will be an announcement extending the school closure sometime this week.  Montana, which originally advised closing all schools through the end of the year, is now polling its citizens on whether schools should reopen before the end of the year or wait until the fall.

     

    I will be participating in a statewide call with DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley on Tuesday, 4/21 at 8:30 AM, and we suspect there may be additional information regarding expanded introduction of new material for students provided at that time.  It is anticipated that DESE will provide guidance on a limited set of “power standards” that will be focused upon as new curriculum material is introduced. Despite Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s assertions, right now we are waiting on notification from the Governor for the official word on extending the state school closure.

     

    Please remember that our Food Services staff continues to provide daily breakfast and lunch meals for ANY Dedham children under the age of 18 at our 3 sites (Avery Elementary, Riverdale Elementary, and the Dedham Housing Authority at 92 Veteran’s Road) Monday - Friday from 9-11:00 AM.  Last Friday our staff distributed over 3500 meals to 400 children. Remember that meals for the weekend are distributed on Fridays each week.  Please contact your building principal if you are unable to access transportation to these distribution sites. We have some limited ability to deliver meals and we want to make sure all families have access to nutrition resources everyday.

     

    Thank you for your continued support as we continue on this difficult remote learning path.  We are ALL struggling to do the best we can. I am hopeful we will continue gaining momentum this week, and with the cancellation of April vacation days we have an opportunity to take advantage of these days to the best of our ability. 

    Comments (-1)
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    DPS Coronavirus COVID-19 Community Update

    Monday, April 13, 2020

    10:30 PM

     

    Hi Folks,

     

    Last night I shared Dedham's Phase 2 Remote Learning Plan with all parents, faculty/staff, and students in grades 6-12.  This plan took effect today, and establishes credit and grading criteria and guidelines for the use of audio/video conferencing between educators and students, as well as many other provisions for our work moving forward.  As this is a very lengthy document, a web-friendly version is available on our website or by clicking HERE.  This web-friendly version allows users to jump right to the parts that are most of interest without having to wade through all 16 pages of text.  Please take some time to read through the parts that are most of interest to you.

     

    If you are the parent of a student(s) in grades 6-12, I highly encourage you to sit down and read through the portions about credits, grading, and transcripts with your child.  All the work assigned now “counts” and it is very important that everyone is on the same page.  I appreciate your support as we transition into this next phase of remote learning. 

     

    This next phase of remote learning is being initiated at a time when we are learning that more and more Massachusetts residents are being afflicted with COVID-19.  This includes a growing number of our families in Dedham, and we are working to support those families and challenges to their immediate health and safety. I participated in 7 separate video conference calls today within different parts of the district and it is very clear that MANY of our students and families are being impacted in many different ways during this crisis. 

     

    Our first priority throughout this horrible sequence continues to be the well-being of all members of our community.  I know how much concentrated effort is being expended by our DPS educators and support staff on making sure we do our best to support everyone’s needs.  That includes those students and families who are rightly concerned about the appropriate levels of academic rigor and exposure to new academic content, while simultaneously helping to support those students and families who are struggling with food insecurity and those who have (sometimes multiple) family members who now have confirmed cases of COVID-19.  In many cases, these multiple scenarios are occurring with students and families who share the same classes and classroom teacher(s).

     

    Please reach out to your principal, teacher(s), counselor, or other trusted adults in the Dedham school district if you or someone you know in DPS needs support and/or is struggling to cope at this very difficult time.   We are here and stand ready to help you in whatever way you need.  Please keep us informed and we will support you and your family and/or connect you with what you need in the community.  Thank you for your ongoing patience as we deal with the wide array of challenges and difficulties faced by all members of our extended Dedham Public Schools family.

     

    Survey Regarding April Vacation Now Closed

    Thank you to everyone who provided a response to the survey regarding the possibility of continuing schooling through the designated April vacation.  The Dedham School Committee was interested in your views based on the Commissioner’s guidance regarding a possible cancellation of scheduled April vacation days and how those days would “count” toward districts’ annual requirement.  If districts choose to continue with their remote learning plans instead of going on their scheduled April 20-24 vacations, districts could conclude their school years up to 4 days earlier (recall that Monday, April 20 (Patriots Day) is an official statewide legal holiday).

     

    The survey closed at 12:00 PM today for faculty and staff.  I will be compiling this data and presenting this information to the School Committee.  The School Committee may choose to consider this option and could possibly vote on amending the school calendar at its next scheduled meeting on Wednesday, April 15.  If the Committee votes to make any changes to the calendar, I will inform the district right away. Thank you to all those who completed this survey. The survey automatically restricted voting to only one vote per email address.
     

    REMEMBER:

    All Town of Dedham Outside Town Basketball Courts, Playgrounds,  And Fields Are Closed

    Please respect the Dedham Board of Health vote to close all parks including all outside town basketball courts and baseball fields to use by anyone until at least May 1.  This action does not currently include dog parks, walking paths, trails or tracks. Please do your part and spread this message to practice appropriate physical distancing and try to slow the spread of this very contagious virus.  Thank you for your cooperation!

     

    Comments (-1)
  • Monday, April 6, 2020

    11:30 PM

     

    Hi Folks,

     

    It was very satisfying to finally have a nice spring day today!  I hope everyone got outside and had a chance to enjoy some of the sunshine.

     

    Now that we have experienced this school closure sequence for three full weeks, it is time to update our district expectations for learning based upon the recommendations for remote learning provided by DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley just over a week ago.  While Dedham Public Schools provided robust learning opportunities soon after schools were initially closed, now that we know the closure period will not be short term or brief, we need to refine and mature our targeted goals and expectations for all with an eye toward the long term.  Since the document’s release by the Commissioner, DPS educators and leadership team members have been working to develop specific guidance that answers the many questions of students, educators, and parents from the many different perspectives of all involved parties.  

     

    Last week DPS held more than 60 virtual meetings to discuss our progress on remote learning (which encompasses far more than just on-line learning) to date and to plan how we will proceed in the upcoming weeks of extended school closure.  Some of the question considered were:

    • How will credit be assigned for learning? Will the work “count” now?  Will full “regular” classes be conducted on-line? When will educators begin to add “new” content? 
    • When will grades and report cards be issued? Under what circumstances and at what ages are live, two-way video and audio interactions between students and educators (and parents?) appropriate?
    • How can we make sure that ALL STUDENTS, especially those who require individualized learning plans or whose first language is not English, are accessing content equitably and making appropriate progress?
    • How do we support students who do not have adequate internet access?
    • How can we make sure all our students and families feel safe, connected to educators, and supported?
    • If the closure gets extended even longer, how will we make sure all students make adequate progress for the year?

    One other major consideration to add for these discussions is what we can reasonably expect from all of our educators in their many different roles at each grade level.  Keep in mind that our faculty are simultaneously home-schooling their own children, and juggling office hours, virtual grade level, department, schoolwide, and special education meetings and commitments while trying to develop rich, engaging, and differentiated lessons to meet the needs of all learners.  It became obvious last week that we are all exhausted and strained as we try to balance these many competing needs and views.

     

    All schools are grappling with these issues and late last week districts began to release their formalized distance learning plans.  There are many different practices being promoted by these respective plans and it is clear that we are in uncharted territory. It is important to engage all educators and be thoughtful in these discussions and I anticipate we will finalize these agreements this week.  I appreciate your patience as we continue this work, and I will send out these expectations as soon as they are fully vetted. In the meantime, our teachers will continue to reach out and connect with students and families while our curriculum website will continue to provide appropriate daily activities and content for all students.  

     

    Food Services Meals Program Expanded to Include Weekends And Vacation Week

    As a result of recent guidance from state and federal agencies overseeing the Federal School Lunch program, DPS Food Services will begin providing WEEKEND meals for ALL Dedham students.  3 days worth of breakfast and lunch meals will be available on Fridays to cover Saturday and Sunday at each of our distribution sites (Avery Elementary, Riverdale Elementary, and the Dedham Housing Authority at 92 Veteran’s Road).  This Thursday (April 9) all recipients will receive 4 DAYS worth of meals due to the Good Friday Holiday (April 10) when sites will be closed. All distribution sites are open from 9:00 - 11:00 AM each weekday.  

     

    Meals will also be provided during April vacation week (Tuesday, April 21 - Friday, April 24).  Weekend meals for the first weekend of vacation will include a fourth day due to the Patriot’s Day holiday on Monday, April 20. Please forward this information along to your peer groups and social media networks. If families are unable to travel to any of the sites and need delivery of meals please contact your building principal and we will arrange to deliver meals to you if circumstances dictate this need.

     

    Note Writing Campaign For Dedham Nursing Home Residents

    I am forwarding along an attachment from Dedham Middle School student Lily Zahka who is organizing a note writing campaign for Dedham nursing home residents who are not able to see visitors during this time of social and physical isolation.  The idea is for students to provide note cards, letters, drawings, or other messages of hope that might brighten the days of some of our senior citizens in Dedham. Anyone interested in providing these simple positive thoughts can reference the attached instructions to connect with Lily who will arrange and coordinate for their pickup and distribution to locations in Dedham who could use an encouraging thought.  Thanks for your help!

     

    REMEMBER:

    All Town of Dedham Outside Town Basketball Courts, Playgrounds,  And Fields Now Closed

    Please respect the Dedham Board of Health vote to close all parks including all outside town basketball courts and baseball fields to use by anyone until at least May 1.  This action does not currently include dog parks, walking paths, trails or tracks. Please do your part and spread this message to practice appropriate physical distancing and try to slow the spread of this very contagious virus.  Thank you for your cooperation! 

    Comments (-1)
  • Monday, March 30, 2020

    8:45 PM

     

    Hi Folks,

     

    Last week we learned that schools in Massachusetts will be closed for at least the next five weeks.  As a result of this new longer known closure, the Dedham Public Schools are ramping up attention on our robust curriculum resources website and making sure we have high expectations for all students to keep up to date on assigned content for all students in grades PreK-12.  

     

    DESE Letter To Families

    Today the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Jeff Riley released a letter to all parents of school children in the state.  The letter describes the guidelines released last week by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and provides some additional resources and guidance for parents.  Please take a moment to review this correspondence.

     

    Yesterday we emailed all DPS students in Grades 6-12 at their DPS email addresses to make sure all of them are aware (and taking advantage) of the learning opportunities our educators have worked so hard to create.  If you are a parent of a student in Grades 6-12, please ask your children if they have completed this survey. It is critical that we get 100% participation on this survey from all students since very shortly we will be following the guidance from DESE and moving toward a “credit/no-credit” system during this five-week closure.  While we are working out these details we need to ensure equity for all students. We will be following up with individual kids to get them invested in the need to complete this work over the next week. This increased accountability will perhaps provide an increased incentive to stay up to date with ongoing learning.

     

    Today the DPS Leadership Team spent almost two hours on a video conference discussing the parameters for educators, students, and parents as we begin to roll out these new remote learning expectations over the next five weeks.  These remote learning expectations will be guided by the DESE recommendations and will be a cooperative effort with our educators, administrators, and support staff. During many additional faculty/staff video conference meetings this week, our district will be refining these remote learning guidelines and will share them as soon as they are agreed upon.  In the meantime, please continue supporting all our students following our district’s PreK-12 Curriculum Resources website everyday.

     

    “Six Feet Apart”

    Dedham Middle School social worker Amy Sandler kept getting asked by her children why everyone was being told to keep six feet apart.  Amy decided to figure out a way to explain why that would be understood by children. The result was this very touching and clever 3 minute video storybook.  It stars Amy’s children Ash and Maddox who provided some of the illustrations and all of the cute.  Check it out for an inspiring message!

     

    MIAA Vote On Spring Sports Season

    This afternoon the MIAA voted 19-0 to approve a truncated spring sports season.  This holds out hope for all spring sports athletes and the proposal would “...begin the spring season no earlier than May 4, 2020 and have completion of regular season and tournament games by June 27, 2020 with consideration of June 28, 2020 for weather and facility needs.”

     

    REMINDER:

    All Town of Dedham Outside Town Basketball Courts, Playgrounds,  And Fields Now Closed

    As I hope everyone is aware by now, last week the Dedham Board of Health voted to close all parks including all outside town basketball courts and baseball fields to use by anyone until at least May 1.  This action does not currently include dog parks, walking paths, trails or tracks. However, I have received multiple concerns and messages from the Dedham Police about youth and adults continuing to use these facilities despite signs posted prohibiting this usage.  Please do your part and spread this message to practice appropriate physical distancing and try to slow the spread of this very contagious virus. Thank you for your cooperation!

     

    Comments (-1)
  • Friday, March 27, 2020

    9:00 PM

     

    Hi Folks,

     

    Just a quick message tonight to thank everyone for all their hard work managing the many changes to our worlds over the past two weeks.  I imagine that all of you are as exhausted as I am. The stressors that this extended closure have placed on all of us are immense. This new normal will take a good bit of time for all of us to adjust.

     

    So tonight, just a “thank you” to everyone.  From our food service workers who continue to show up every day to feed all the students of Dedham, to our educators, parents, secretaries, custodians, principals, and leadership team members who have all been working WAY harder than we ever thought we would, balancing home tutoring, child care, toilet paper hoarding, on-line learning, "social distancing", working from home, virtual meetings, and caring for each other.

     

    Put aside your cares tonight and take advantage of what will hopefully be a nice day tomorrow.  Go for a walk and clear your mind as best you can. While we may have to stay physically “distant”, we don’t need to be isolated socially.  Take a few minutes during what will likely be a rainy Sunday to write a good old fashioned hand-written thank you note to someone. Then put it in an actual paper envelope and put a stamp on it; just like the old days.  Then put it in a mailbox and it will get to someone you care about this week...like magic. And you will make someone’s day a little brighter when they get a personally addressed letter.

     

    Stay safe and healthy, everyone.  And appreciate what we all have for now.  There will be time for more work next week.  

     

    All my best,

     

    Mike Welch

    Superintendent

    Comments (-1)
  • Hi Folks,

     

    As most of you are probably aware, today Governor Baker announced at his 3:30 PM news conference that all schools in Massachusetts would be ordered closed through Friday, May 1.  As of this time, the first day that schools would be permitted to reopen would be Monday, May 4.  I know this is incredibly disappointing to so many of us, but it is an unfortunately necessary step as we all try to slow the spread of this pandemic.

     

    This new four-week closure extension comes only 10 days after the original order to close all schools until April 6.  There is no assurance that the May 6 date is set in stone, and the unpredictability of the spread of the COVID-19 virus instills little confidence in this reopening target date.  To say the pace of change during these past two weeks has been rapid would be a gross understatement. It has been very challenging to navigate through this uncertainty, knowing that our staff, families, and community would be impacted in multiple ways. I know our faculty and staff have been trying to juggle their own family needs while also developing and maintaining their connections with our students.  Through all of this, our collective safety still remains our highest priority in the Dedham Public Schools.

     

    There are MANY questions that today’s extended closure announcement does not answer.  Our DPS educators have been working extremely hard to provide relevant, appropriate, and challenging experiences for all PreK-12 students through our online district curriculum platform.  These activities are targeted as review and maintenance work designed to preserve the learning gains achieved by students during the first two-thirds of the year.  

     

    Now that we have some definite semblance of a longer-term closure (five more full weeks), our focus will need to shift toward a transition from enrichment only to a space where we are potentially empowered to advance new learning. This pivot is going to require significant planning and coordination before we proceed, as there are many questions to answer.  Chief among these will be the same equity considerations that have always driven our work. We must remain focused on the students who may struggle to engage in a more formal remote learning environment. We will need to listen closely to our faculty and staff as well, who know our students best and have varying comfort levels working through distance learning.  I hope we will soon receive more guidance from the state Department of Education, which will help create a more unified approach across the Commonwealth. For the time being, we will continue our work with consistent review and maintenance work as we thank you for your patience and cooperation as we move forward into this uncharted future.

     

    All Outside Town Basketball Courts And Baseball Fields Now Closed

    Tonight I learned from the Dedham Board of Health that they have voted to close all Dedham parks including all outside town basketball courts and baseball fields to use by anyone until at least April 7.  This action does not include walking paths, trails or tracks. At this time, no actions have been taken regarding dog parks. The Board felt strongly that this action was necessary due to multiple reports that social distancing and the number of youths gathering at one time was not being observed.

     

    Again, folks, we all have an obligation to do our part to slow the spread of this virus.  Please practice appropriate physical/social distancing and observe all recommendations.

     

    Please feel free to reach out to me (mwelch@dedham.k12.ma.us)  or Jessica Tracy (jetracy@dedham-ma.gov) if you have additional questions..

     

    All my best,

     

    Mike Welch

    Superintendent

    Comments (-1)
  • DPS Coronavirus COVID-19 Community Update

    Tuesday, March 24, 2020

    10:00 PM

     

    Hi Folks,

     

    Late today I spoke with the Town Of Dedham’s Health Nurse Jessica Tracy.  She relayed to me that there were four new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Dedham today.  That makes a total of six cases in Dedham, all of which have been confirmed within the past five days.  One of the four cases confirmed today is a current student at Dedham High School. The student is doing well and recovering nicely at home at this time.

     

    It is not at all surprising that the number of confirmed cases in Dedham has begun to increase.  This was entirely expected, as the number of individuals being tested for COVID-19 is increasing dramatically across the state.  This DHS student did not show symptoms until well after schools were closed on Friday, March 13.  Jessica Tracy has made it clear to me that after interviewing the family it was determined there was no risk of exposure while the student was attending school 12 days ago.  The Dedham Board of Health is actively completing “close contact tracing” on all six cases confirmed in Dedham and will be completing that work over the next few days. In the interim, it is important for all members of the Dedham community (Dedham High School, Dedham Public Schools, and the entire town) to continue appropriate physical/social distancing practices.  We will likely see more confirmed cases in Dedham in the next several days. We all have an obligation to do our part to slow the spread of this virus.  Today’s newly confirmed cases in Dedham make it clear this is not just happening “somewhere else”.  It is here now, and we need to obey the recommendations for physical/social distancing literally and immediately.

     

    While I am aware that many in our community will want to know exactly who this student is, it is important to protect the health privacy rights of all students and families.  We are simply identifying this individual as a student at Dedham High School. Please take appropriate actions as identified by this comprehensive document provided by Dedham Public Health Nurse Jessica Tracy.  With these four new cases and with all confirmed cases, if there is additional screening needed those contacts will be informed by the Dedham Health Department and they will pursue next notification steps with impacted individuals accordingly.  Please feel free to reach out to me (mwelch@dedham.k12.ma.us)  or Jessica Tracy (jetracy@dedham-ma.gov) if you have additional questions..

     

    All my best,

     

    Mike Welch

    Superintendent

     

    Comments (-1)
  • Hi Folks,

     

    Today marks the one week mandated closure mark for all Dedham Public Schools. There have been a whirlwind of developments throughout the week, and I want to again thank all of our educators and support staff for their significant efforts toward getting our on-line review work up and running so quickly.

     

    The district’s web link Community Resources for Extended School Closure continues to garner praise and accolades from many admirers.  As of today, this Dedham Public Schools website has been viewed by users from 47 different U.S. states and the District of Columbia!  We have now had over 5000 visitors in only 3 days! The only states where users have not originated are Hawaii, Idaho, and West Virginia.  If you know anyone from any of those states who needs help planning in-home review and support work, please forward our link along. We also had our first user from Pakistan to compliment the other 9 nations visiting.  Quite an accomplishment and very worthy of the praise we are getting as a district!

     

    Today I learned from my daily conversation with the Town of Dedham’s Public Health Nurse Jessica Tracy that the Town of Dedham had our first confirmed positive case of Coronavirus COVID-19 today.  I want to emphasize that this case has absolutely no connection to the Dedham Public Schools in any way.  However, this development is not entirely unexpected, as the evidence across the state and across the country suggested it was only a matter of time until Dedham was impacted.  All close contacts of this case have been notified, and Dedham Public School system parents, students, faculty, and staff have had no association with this case that we are aware of.  

     

    This development provides another opportunity for us to review the guidelines around physical distancing that have already been provided to all members of our community.  PLEASE take these recommendations seriously! Again, I will suggest a quick read of Dr. Bitton’s article Social Distancing - This Is NOT A Snow Day!.  Stay home as much as possible, and keep adequate distances from others when and if you do have to go out.

     

    Another development today was President Trump’s announcement that mandatory federal testing requirements would be waived for the remainder of the year.  This announcement came AFTER today’s statewide School Superintendents conference call with DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley, so it is not certain yet if there will be an announcement about state MCAS testing in Massachusetts just yet.  There were no real dramatic announcements on today’s call, but I sensed what most folks already believe, in that it is likely the current 3-week mandatory school closure announced by the Governor last weekend will likely be extended before the 3-week window closes.  Nothing is certain yet. I will keep everyone posted as information is released.

     

    The Dedham District Leadership Team will be meeting by video conference on Monday, 3/23/20 to review our exhaustive work from this week.  We will be developing longer range plans and addressing any other concerns as we start to settle into the second week of school closures.  

     

    “Grab & Go” Meals For Students Continue

    Our food distribution efforts continue to grow.  Today our Food Services Department served 177 children at our three distribution sites in Dedham.  There were 94 students served at Avery Elementary School, 47 at Riverdale Elementary School, and 37 at the Dedham Housing Authority Center at Veteran’s Road.  Please remember that meals are available for ALL Dedham youth under the age of 18; no questions asked. Hours for all three sites will be 9-11:00 AM. All children MUST be present to receive food.  Please pass this information along!

     

    Access to On-Line Devices

    If your family does not have an electronic, internet enabled device at home and need one so that your student(s) can access the maintenance/enrichment work being sent home by the district, please contact your building Principal via email. They will then arrange a pick up time for the family to come sign-out a Chromebook and a charger.  

     

    I want to take a moment to thank all our DPS faculty and staff for their amazing work over this past week.  I know everyone is dealing with their own needs for their own families, and while doing so they are also serving the needs of the students and families of Dedham.  We should be very proud of our work, and I don’t know another district that has developed anywhere near the quality of experiences that we have. Please take some time to rest up over this weekend in whatever way you can.  I will continue to keep everyone informed each weekday evening.

     

    All my best,

     

    Mike Welch

    Superintendent

    Comments (-1)
  • Hi Folks,

     

    I hope you are all coping as well as can be expected given the unique challenges we are facing.  I am sure today’s somewhat dreary weather made the reality of this (hopefully temporary) new normal begin to sink in.  Make sure you take advantage of what is predicted to be a warm day tomorrow to get outside and exercise vigorously!  

     

    The district’s new web link Community Resources for Extended School Closure that went live yesterday continues to be very popular!  Today the use of the site skyrocketed to almost 3,000 users and over 5,000 page views!  The site has been accessed not only by users from Dedham, but also from many other cities and towns in Massachusetts, and by people from 40 states across the U.S!  Shockingly, in the last two days the Dedham site was also visited by users from 8 other countries around the world including Australia, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Vietnam!  I am very proud of the tremendous work that went into populating this site by all our educators across the district. Dedham continues to set the standard for other districts in this capacity, and we will learn more every day as we collect feedback and refine our work.  BRAVO!!!

     

    Please know that all of our individual school homepages are now updated to be a “one stop shop” for all things needed during the closure. All of this information can be reached from our district homepage as well.  Please make sure you are visiting this site and checking with your students to make sure they are up to speed.

     

    I spoke with the Town of Dedham’s Public Health Nurse Jessica Tracy this afternoon, and as of 4:00 PM today (Thursday, March 19) there are still NO presumptively positive cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Dedham.  I continue to communicate daily with Jessica and our own DPS Director of Health Services Gail Kelley to make sure we are closely monitoring all possible exposures. Please continue to utilize good "physical distancing" practices while maintaining social connections through appropriate channels.

     

    Remember that all school buildings are now CLOSED to all members of the public with signs posted on the main entrances.  Our hard-working district custodians continue to make their way around the district dis-infecting all surfaces in all buildings.  Principals, main office assistants, and all educators are now working remotely from home, and all incoming calls have been forwarded to them.  If you need access to the building for any reason, please contact the building principal via email.  

     

    The Central Administrative Office remains open each day with a small number of staffers and administrators with hours from 8:00 AM - 1:00 PM. All mail for the entire district will be forwarded to the Central Office.  Please call 781-310-1000 if you have any other urgent needs that cannot be met through other means.

     

    “Grab & Go” Meals For Students - Expanded to Riverdale

    Our Food Services Department continues to offer meals each day for ANY Dedham residents under the age of 18 at the Avery Elementary School and the Dedham Housing Authority Community Center (92 Veteran’s Road).  An additional meal distribution site is now open at the Riverdale Elementary School!  Hours for all three sites will be 9-11:00 AM.  All children MUST be present to receive food.  

     

    Access to On-Line Devices

    If your family does not have an electronic, internet enabled device at home and need one so that your student(s) can access the maintenance/enrichment work being sent home by the district, please contact your building Principal via email. They will then arrange a pick up time for the family to come sign-out a Chromebook and a charger.  

     

    On Friday, March 20 I will be participating on two conference calls with statewide leaders to determine our collective next steps.  I will continue to keep you updated nightly as information becomes available. 

     

    All my best,

     

    Mike Welch

    Superintendent

    Comments (-1)
  • Thank you for your enthusiastic endorsement of our new web link Community Resources for Extended School Closure.  There were over 1000 visits to this site today!  All our individual school homepages are now updated to be a “one stop shop” for all things needed during the closure. Every link you need is housed there. Please check them out!  These school based sites include:

    • “Home Learning” Curriculum Links - all educator expectations PreK-12 in one place

    • Teacher Office Hours 

    • Counseling Supports

    • Coronavirus Resource Site

     

    Beginning tomorrow, in order to comply with the Governor’s orders, all school buildings will be CLOSED to all members of the public with signs posted on the main entrances.  Principals, main office assistants, and all educators will be working remotely from home, and all calls have been forwarded to them.  If you need access to the building for any reason, please contact the building principal via email.  

     

    Our Central Administrative Office will remain staffed each day with a small number of staffers and administrators with hours from 8:00 AM - 1:00 PM. All mail for the entire district will be forwarded to the Central Office.  Please call 781-310-1000 if you have any other urgent needs that cannot be met through other means.

     

    I participated on a conference call with Superintendents across the region today and we have another call scheduled for all superintendents and the Commissioner of Education this Friday.  It was clear from today’s call that the Dedham Public Schools are leading the way during this unprecedented closure and I am very proud of the hard work of our educators, Leadership Team, and support staff.  Bravo!

     

    I am also very impressed with the Dedham School Committee.  We had an urgent need to meet tonight for our regularly scheduled meeting in order to approve minutes needed for our Statement Of Interest application to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).  Utilizing the state’s recent adaptations to open meeting laws, the Committee held their meeting by video conference and achieved compliance with these open meeting laws and provided remote access to the public while maintaining appropriate “social distancing”.  Just another example of how Dedham is again leading the way in the use of technology for everyone’s best interest.  

     

    Access to On-Line Devices

    If your family does not have a device at home and need one so that your student(s) can access the maintenance/enrichment work being sent home by the district, please contact your building Principal via email. They will then arrange a pick up time for the family to come sign-out the Chromebook and a charger.  

     

    “Grab & Go” Meals For Students - Expanding to Riverdale

    Our Food Services Department continues to offer meals each day to ANY Dedham residents under the age of 18 at the Avery Elementary School and the Dedham Housing Authority Community Center (92 Veteran’s Road).  Starting on Thursday, March 19 DPS will be setting up an additional meal distribution site at the Riverdale Elementary School!  Hours for all three sites will be modified to 9-11:00 AM.  All eligible children MUST be present to receive food.  

     

    MA 2-1-1 Hotline & Website

    Massachusetts hotline 2-1-1 is operating 24/7 to provide updated information and answer questions regarding the Coronavirus. Following an automated message, please press 2-6 to access the Coronavirus section.

    The hotline is also accessible through a live chat option on the Massachusetts 2-1-1 website.

     

    I will continue to keep you updated nightly as information becomes available. 

     

    All my best,

     

    Mike Welch

    Superintendent

    Comments (-1)
  • Tonight I am very pleased to release the DPS website Community Resources for Extended School Closure.  The site will officially “go live” at 9:00 AM on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.  This web location will allow students, parents, and the community to view quality resources for learning tailored specifically to all schools, all grades, and all classes in one place.  I am VERY proud and appreciative of the many hours of work invested by ALL our Dedham educators, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Ian Kelly and our Office of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, and our principals and District Leadership Team in developing these rich resources.  Scroll through this expansive website to find information that is pertinent to each of your children.

     

    Please remember that the goal here is to make sure that our students can have access to our educators, ideas for sustaining current learning, and resources to help reinforce or build on their knowledge independently.  Also, it is important to understand that these opportunities should not be seen as a replication of the traditional school day, rather, a way to provide continuity of learning for our students during this uncertain time. Teachers will be updating this information regularly, and we all will learn from each other as we develop this valuable resource in the days and weeks ahead.  

     

    In addition to the continuity and maintenance of academic curriculum content, all teachers will establish “Virtual Office Hours” each day of the school week beginning Wednesday, March 18th. The goal of these “office hours” is to provide students and families with defined times in which they may expect responses to questions or requests for clarification or support with assignments and/or feedback to support their engagement with enrichment and review activities. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work through all the logistical, educational, and interpersonal challenges associated with moving to this new platform.  I will be sending along a survey about your experiences with this site early next week. If you have any critical questions now, please feel free to email me at mwelch@dedham.k12.ma.us   Please remember to continue checking the Coronavirus web page on the DPS website.  New information is updated and posted there everyday, and archived messages are always available.

     

    As mentioned in previous communications, please take a look at the social/emotional resources compiled by DPS Director of Counseling Services Dr. Ashley Dube. All counselors/social workers/psychologists will be available to their students at least two hours per day everyday.  Contact information and guidance is now consolidated on the DPS website HERE.

     

    I have noticed a pivot in the terminology for  practicing appropriate “physical” (no longer “social”) distancing.  Please honor your responsibility to the community to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  Take a moment to review a copy of Dr. Bitton’s full article “Social Distancing - This Is NOT A Snow Day”.  Thank you for your cooperation during this challenging time.

     

    Access to On-Line Devices

    As many of you are aware, all DPS students in grades 6-12 have district-issued Chromebook computers that they can take home and use 24/7.  All students in grades 3-5 have individually dedicated Chromebooks with their names on them that DO NOT typically leave the classroom. These are stored in dedicated charging stations in each elementary classroom.  Students in grades K-2 typically have access to devices (iPads and Chromebooks) but in a more measured manner and are not assigned individually.

     

    Principals at the Avery, Greenlodge, Oakdale and Riverdale Schools will be checking in with families to see if there are any who do not have a device at home and need one so that their student(s) can access the maintenance/enrichment work being sent home by the district.  Principals of these buildings will then arrange a pick up time for the family to come sign-out the Chromebook and a charger.  These will not be the individually student-issued Chromebooks that students keep in the charging carts in classrooms, but rather Chromebooks issued on a need-by-need basis by the IT department.  If you are in need of one and have not done so already, please contact your building Principal.

     

    Translations

    I wanted to make sure that everyone is aware of the translation feature on our website.  At the very top of our websites in the black menu bar is a button marked "Translate". If you click on the word “Translate” you will be provided a drop-down menu providing access to a number of languages the website can be translated into.  The feature not only translates what is on the website, but also any of the pdf attachments. All correspondence with parents over the past few days relating to the Coronavirus can be found HERE.

     

    “Grab & Go” Meals For Students

    Our Food Services Department completed their second day of meals distribution for the children of Dedham today.  They increased their distribution of meals to over 100 Dedham residents under the age of 18 at the Avery Elementary School and the Dedham Housing Authority Community Center (92 Veteran’s Road).  That’s over 200 meals in one day! Food distribution will continue throughout the next three weeks, and ALL Dedham children are eligible.  “Grab-and-go” meals will be available in a convenient drive-through pick-up format from 8-11:00 AM each day.  

     

    ATTENTION RIVERDALE FOLKS - As of today, the state has relaxed their regulations and DPS will be setting up an additional meal distribution site at the Riverdale Elementary School!  Hours will be the same (8-11:00).  All eligible children MUST be present to receive food.  Thank you to our dedicated Food Service Employees who continue to rise before the sun comes up every day to provide this service to the children of the Dedham Community!  BRAVO !!!

     

    MA 2-1-1 Hotline & Website

    Massachusetts hotline 2-1-1 is operating 24/7 to provide updated information and answer questions regarding the Coronavirus. Following an automated message, please press 2-6 to access the Coronavirus section.

    The hotline is also accessible through a live chat option on the Massachusetts 2-1-1 website.

     

    Despite Tom Brady’s announcement today that he is leaving the Patriots, rest assured that all the hard working members of the Dedham Public Schools will always be here for you and your family.  We will continue to stay in contact with you - either from the district, school, or teacher level - so that our physical absence from school does not become a feeling of disconnectedness. This is the core of the culture in the Dedham Public Schools and the Town of Dedham - close connections and meeting the needs of all students and families. This is what we are all about, and this is what we do best.  We take care of each other and we always will. Thank you for your continued partnership with us as our educators, administrators, and families unite during these challenging times.

     

    All my best,

     

    Mike Welch

    Superintendent

    Comments (-1)
  •  

    On Monday, March 16th,  the 36 members of our District Leadership Team met virtually using a Google Hangout format to finalize student resources to support academic enrichment and review while our schools are closed during the next three weeks. These are unprecedented times and we are working closely with all our educators across the district to prepare these resources to help maintain learning while we are not in session.  Educators will be finalizing this work tomorrow, and a link to a Google folder with all district resources will be forwarded via email to the entire district at that time. This will allow parents to view all schools, all grades, and all classes in one place.

     

    All work will be designed to begin on Wednesday, March 18.  PreK-6 resources will be district-wide by grade. Grade 6-8 resources will be organized by grade team and content area.  Grade 9-12 materials will be class and section specific and designed by individual teachers. This will allow all students in the district access to appropriately aligned, teacher designed material to maintain learning gains and support our students.

     

    It is important to note that our district benefits from an incredibly strong technology foundation with our 1:1 learning.  This makes providing links and online resources a familiar and quick solution for helping to ensure that our student’s currently learned skills are maintained during this extended closure.  

     

    However, it is also important to understand that from a standpoint of equity, many students require accommodations and modifications that cannot be replicated in a 1:1 online learning format. Opportunities that will be detailed tomorrow should not be seen as a replication of the traditional school day, rather, a way to provide continuity of learning for our students during this uncertain time. 

     

    I am very grateful to have had DEA President Tim Dwyer join us on our virtual District Leadership Team meeting today.  He has been very supportive of the unique requirements to achieve maintenance of learning during this time, and I know our teachers will rise to the occasion.  We ask your patience so we can be thorough and ensure all of our vulnerable populations are well cared for and all of our teachers are trained and informed with consistent expectations for our work with students in this period of closure.  We want to make sure that our students can have teacher access, ideas for sustaining current lessons, and resources to help reinforce or build on their knowledge independently.

     

    I want to again stress the importance of practicing appropriate social distancing.  All of us have a responsibility to the community to effectively implement practices that will help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  Please take a moment to review a copy of Dr. Bitton’s full article “Social Distancing - This Is NOT A Snow Day”.  Thank you for your cooperation during this challenging time.

     

    Playgrounds - Town and School

    At an emergency meeting at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, March 16, the Board of Selectmen voted to declare a local state of emergency. Board members, meeting jointly with members of the Board of Health, voted to close all Town playgrounds and to post information about the closures in those public spaces. Effective Tuesday, March 17, all Town of Dedham buildings and facilities will also be closed to the public.  Parks, trails, and fields all remain open. The Board of Selectmen also voted to postpone the Town election, which was scheduled for April 11, to a later date, yet to be determined, authorizing Town Manager Leon Goodwin and Town Counsel to file legislation to this effect.  

     

    This morning our Food Services Department completed their first day of meals distribution for the children of Dedham.  They distributed 150 meals for Dedham residents under the age of 18 at the Avery Elementary School and the Dedham Housing Authority Community Center (92 Veteran’s Road).  Food distribution will continue throughout the next three weeks, and ALL Dedham children are eligible. “Grab-and-go” meals will be available in a convenient drive-through pick-up format from 8-11:00 AM each day.  All eligible children MUST be present to receive food.

     

    How are we supporting the social-emotional needs of all students during this hiatus from school?  DPS Director of Counseling Services Dr. Ashley Dube has compiled a set of protocols for all DPS students and families in the event students need support. In addition, all counselors/social workers/psychologists will be available to their students at least two hours per day everyday.  Please CLICK HERE for contact information for all DPS counselors and clinicians.

     

    Dr. Dube has also assembled a comprehensive list of social-emotional support resources for students of all ages.  These documents range from a comic that helps explain the COVID-19 virus to young children to an article about how to mitigate loneliness and anxiety during this long period of social distancing.

     

    Update to SAT’s

    Today the College Board announced they are canceling the May 2, 2020, SAT® administration. Makeup exams for the March 14 administration (scheduled March 28) are also canceled. The College Board will provide refunds to all students who are registered for May, whose March test centers were closed, or who do not receive March scores.  The next scheduled administration of the SAT exam is June 6, but that date will be reassessed in the coming weeks and months. The College Board expects VERY high registration numbers for the June and August SAT’s.

     

    MIAA Update to Spring Sports

    The MIAA Board of Directors voted today, March 16, 2020, to amend the start of the 2020 spring sports season in light of recent mandates from Governor Baker and recommendations from governing health agencies.  The updated start date for the 2020 spring season is April 27, 2020.   Additionally, the MIAA Board of Directors voted to have completion of regular season and tournament games by June 20, 2020 with consideration of June 21, 2020 for weather and facility needs.

     

    MA 2-1-1 Hotline & Website

    Massachusetts hotline 2-1-1 is operating 24/7 to provide updated information and answer questions regarding the Coronavirus. Following an automated message, please press 2-6 to access the Coronavirus section.

    The hotline is also accessible through a live chat option on the Massachusetts 2-1-1 website.

     

    We will continue to stay in contact with you - either from the district, school, or teacher level - so that our physical absence from school does not become a feeling of disconnectedness. Thank you for your continued partnership with us as our teachers, administrators, and families unite during these challenging times.

    Comments (-1)
  • Tonight, Sunday, March 15,  Governor Baker cancelled school for all K-12 students at all schools in Massachusetts until at least Monday, April 6 (3 weeks). 

     

    While the Governor’s announcement clarified some issues, it also raised additional questions for schools. Obviously this is a rapidly changing situation, and the Dedham Public Schools District Leadership Team will be meeting via conference call tomorrow at 10:00 AM to confirm our next steps.

     

    Expect a communication after our meeting tomorrow that will detail our maintenance and enrichment programming for all students in Grades K-12.

     

    In order for these unprecedented actions to have the desired effect of minimizing the spread of COVID-19, we all need to do our part.  We all need to practice good “social distancing” rules. As stated by Asaf Bitton, MD, MPH, the executive director of Ariadne Labs in Boston:

     “...That means no kid playdates, parties, sleepovers, or families/friends visiting each other’s houses and apartments.This sounds extreme because it is. We are trying to create distance between family units and between individuals. It may be particularly uncomfortable for families with small children, kids with differential abilities or challenges, and for kids who simply love to play with their friends. But even if you choose only one friend to have over, you are creating new links and possibilities for the type of transmission that all of our school/work/public event closures are trying to prevent. The symptoms of coronavirus take four to five days to manifest themselves. Someone who comes over looking well can transmit the virus. Sharing food is particularly risky.”

    Click to see a copy of Dr. Bitton’s full article “Social Distancing - This Is NOT A Snow Day”.

     

    Some other key additional points are summarized below:

     

    Dedham Public Schools Food Services Breakfast and Lunch Distribution Program

    Beginning Monday, March 16, 2020 from 8:00 - 11:00 AM the DPS Food Services Program will distribute “grab and go” bags containing breakfast and lunch for any Dedham resident under 18 years of age.  

    Distribution sites are:  

    • Avery Elementary School parking lot (336 High Street)
    • Veteran’s Road Dedham Housing Community Center (92 Veteran’s Road)

    Bags will be distributed in a drive-through format; residents will remain in their vehicles.

    Children must be present and on site to receive meals.

    In order to maintain appropriate social distancing, meals should not be consumed on site. 

    Recipients DO NOT need to be free/reduced lunch qualified.  All residents under 18 years of age are eligible.

    One breakfast and one lunch per on-site eligible child per day.

    Meals may NOT be delivered outside the distribution zone.

     

    The meal distribution criteria cited above are required by the National School Lunch program in order to qualify for reimbursement from the federal government.  These criteria require distribution areas to meet or exceed a 50%+ student free/reduced lunch eligibility threshold. Once this threshold is reached for a single school, all community residents may access free/reduced meals BUT ONLY AT THAT SITE or a site within the boundaries of the eligible school’s geographic district.  The Avery Elementary School is the only school in Dedham that meets this criteria, therefore any distribution site must be within the Avery district.

     

    All non-essential Dedham Public Schools employees are directed to stay home and employ work from home provisions whenever possible.  Supervisors will relay expectations in a separate communication.

     

    All Dedham Public School buildings will be closed to faculty, staff, students, and outside groups during this 3-week closure period.  We recognize some individuals may need access to personal items left in the schools and medications stored with nurses in health offices.  Please email your building principal directly if you need to obtain any personal items and we will arrange for this on a case-by-case basis.

      

    Comcast Provides Increased Access to Internet Services

    You will see in this article a way to access enhanced home internet services and also a way to access 60 days of free home Internet service from Comcast.  The Dedham Public Schools in no way endorses Comcast’s products, but we wanted you to know about this new program that begins on Monday, March 16.  Their announcement states “To sign up, applicants can simply visit www.internetessentials.com. The accessible website also includes the option to video chat with customer service agents in American Sign Language. There are also two dedicated phone numbers 1-855-846-8376 for English and 1-855-765-6995 for Spanish.

     

    I will provide additional correspondence for all faculty/staff and families tomorrow.

     

    All my best,

     

    Mike Welch

    Superintendent, Dedham Public Schools

     
     
     


    Comments (-1)
  • Latest DPS Update With Critical School Closure Information : Issued on March 13, 2020

     

    As you know by now, for the health and safety of all faculty, staff, students, and the greater Dedham community, all Dedham Public Schools will be closed for at least the next two weeks - from Monday, March 16th through Friday, March 27th.  During this time, all Dedham Schools will be thoroughly deep cleaned and disinfected by our dedicated and hard-working custodial/maintenance staff.  As the evolution of this pandemic becomes better understood over the next two weeks, we will make a decision to either extend or end the closing of our schools. The most updated information will be continually posted here to our DPS Coronavirus Information Page

     

    Today’s decision comes after a statewide conference call this morning with the Commissioner of Education and the Department of Public Health.  In addition, I spent most of the day in comprehensive discussions with our school administrative team, other superintendents, school committee members, and town officials.  This decision is also in alignment with the regional response plan that was created today by the superintendents and executive directors of the school districts and special education collaboratives of the Tri-County Roundtable, of which Dedham is a member, to manage this pandemic in all our communities by closing all schools collectively.

     

    Here are some additional important things to know, effective Monday, March 16th, for at least the next two weeks:

     

    Student Meals and Food Support

    For any families who are food insecure, the Dedham Food Services Department will be providing breakfast and lunch for ANY Dedham students ages 4-18.  Students do NOT need to be eligible for free/reduced lunch to qualify for this opportunity. These meals will be distributed at two different locations in Dedham from 8-11:00 AM Monday through Friday.  These locations are:

    Avery Elementary School -  336 High Street

    Dedham Housing Authority Resource Center - 92 Veterans Road

     

    These meals will be “grab-and-go” style; packaged in convenient carrying bags by our hard-working and talented Food Services Department.  More specific information will be forthcoming as this program needs to conform with considerable regulations governed by the Federal School Lunch Program.  We are very excited to begin this program on Monday, March 16th.

     

    Maintaining Educational Gains During Extended School Closure

    District teachers, curriculum coordinators, and department chairs have worked to create engaging activities to maintain learning gains during this unexpected extended school closure.  These experiences are set to begin on Wednesday, March 18 and will be provided for all students in Grades K-12. Additional information and details will be available for all faculty on Monday, March 16.  

     

    In the interest of ensuring equity for all our students, the Dedham Public Schools will not provide any digital or remote learning opportunities intended to replace in-person teaching during this closure.  The intent of this program is to mitigate the negative impact of this unanticipated break in instruction, not to introduce new content.

     

    Previously Scheduled Events & Activities

    As a result of this two-week closure, all previously scheduled school sponsored events and activities through Friday, March 27th will be cancelled or postponed.  In addition, all rentals of Dedham Public Schools facilities are cancelled and suspended until further notice. Updates on specific events will be posted on our website - and we will communicate any new scheduling as its available.  We do not have answers at this time for those events scheduled after March 27th, but we will continue to evaluate and make decisions as soon as possible, given the information we have.

     

    School Building Access In The Next 2 Weeks

    During the next two weeks we realize that some of you may need access to materials left in our school buildings.  For the most part, schools will be open if you need to briefly come in and retrieve belongings. Make sure you call the main office of your school before you head out if you need to come in for any reason, just to make sure you can enter and not interfere with deep cleaning activities.

     

    Information For School Employees

    The Dedham Public Schools Central Administration Office will remain open during this extended closure and all 12-month district employees are expected to report to work.  The following essential personnel should continue to report to work during this extended closure: principals, central office administrative assistants, central office payroll clerks, bookkeeper/accounts payable, central office administrators,  transportation coordinator, central office directors, executive assistant to the superintendent, and technology and digital learning staff as determined by the Directors of Technology and Digital Learning.

     

    All District Leadership Team members will be expected to attend a meeting on Monday, 3/16 from 9-11:00 AM.  It is expected that all faculty and staff will check their Dedham Public Schools email daily and respond in a timely manner during this extended closure. 

     

    I realize that this decision has a serious economic, social and educational impact on our students, staff and families. Thank you for your patience and flexibility in such a challenging time with so many unknowns.    Please do not hesitate to contact me (mwelch@dedham.k12.ma.us) to let me know if we can do anything to support the needs of your family.  And please visit the Dedham Public Schools Coronavirus webpage to keep up to date on the latest information available.

     

    All my best, 

     

    Mike Welch

    Superintendent

    Comments (-1)
  • After consultation with the Dedham Board of Health and Dedham School Committee, and considering all guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Dedham Superintendent Mike Welch has determined that the best action to protect students and the community at this time is to CLOSE all Dedham Public Schools for at least the next two weeks.

     

    We will continue to monitor developments in this very fluid situation, and will provide updates as new information becomes available.  We know this decision will cause challenges for all of us, but wanted to communicate this decision now so that families can plan for this unprecedented sequence.  

     

    A more comprehensive update will be shared later tonight with additional details.  Thank you for your patience.

     

    Again, all Dedham Public Schools will be CLOSED for at least the next two weeks.

    Comments (-1)
  • Dedham Public Town Nurse Jessica Tracy issued a letter this morning, providing information and detailed guidance for families regarding the risks from exposure.

     

    Please note: There are no exposures to COVID-19 at Dedham Public Schools and contacts of the family’s children are not considered at risk. In Dedham, we do not have any presumptive or confirmed COVID-19 cases at this time. 

     

    A copy of the complete letter is available here.

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  • Due to the potential for a parent-exposure to COVID-19, all Dedham Public Schools are closing schools on Friday, March 13. 

     

    While we understand the concerns from the community, seeking to identify the impacted school, please also consider the privacy issues involved. 

    We will work closely with the Dedham Department of Health to ensure that all necessary notifications are made, and we will release any and all information we are able as soon as its available - though, please note, detailed school and classroom information may not be immediately available. To ensure the safety of all students and their families, parents should err on the side of caution.  Continue to monitor for symptoms and use preventative measures in your homes.  

    As always, in asking how you can best help, we urge you to please refrain from rumor and speculation. 

     

    This continues to be a rapidly changing situation.  We appreciate your patience and diligent support in keeping our students safe.  More updates and information are expected over the next few days and we will share as soon as possible.

     

    An email and phone message was sent to District families and staff.  Please know, the system is experience difficulties and the messages may be delayed. 

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  • The MIAA Board of Directors has voted to CANCEL the championship Basketball and Ice Hockey games scheduled for March 14th and 15th respectively due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

    We understand this is disappointing news however, this decision was made in the best interests of all our student athletes, schools and communities.  Schools who would have been participating in the State Finals will be considered Co-Champions.

     

    The MIAA Board of Directors held a conference call this afternoon to discuss the status of the MIAA spring sport season scheduled to commence on Monday, March 16, 2020. 

    After much discussion, the BOD decision is to delay the start of the 2020 spring season to March 30, 2020.  Respecting the fluidity of this situation, this decision will be revisited prior to March 30.

     

    To Learn more: http://www.miaa.net/miaa/home

    Comments (-1)
  • The Sophomore Semiformal that was being held Friday, March 13 is now cancelled

     

    Students who paid the $20 to attend the Semi are urged to consider putting that money toward class dues. If they are in need of a refund, we can facilitate that as well. These are difficult decisions that we feel are necessary to best protect the health of our students. 

    Comments (-1)
  • The SAT exam that was to be administered at DHS on Saturday is canceled. The College Board will be sending an email with information on how to reschedule; they also have information on their website. 

    Comments (-1)
  • The Avery Elementary School musical, Cinderella, scheduled for the week of March 16 has been postponned.  

    Comments (-1)
  • We have reached out to the CloseUp Foundation to determine options for the DMS Washington, D.C. trip originally planned for late May

    More information regarding next steps will be relayed in the next week as more accurate information emerges, well before the cancellation deadline of early April.

    This decision is in line with the recommendation of Governor Baker's office to cancel out-of-state field trips.

    Comments (-1)
  • The DEF Spelling Bee scheduled for this Friday, March 13 has been postponed indefinitely.  DEF President Mark Reilly and Superintendent Welch both agreed this was a prudent decision.

     

    Comments (-1)
  • As of 6:00pm on March 10, no one in the Dedham Public Schools or in the entire Dedham community has been identified as "presumptively positive" for Coronavirus by the MA Department of Public Health.  

    Comments (-1)
  • On March 10, Governor Baker declared a State of Emergency in Massachusetts due to the growing threat of Coronavirus (Covid-19). 

     

    Following this declaration from the Governor, MA Education Commissioner Jeff Riley issued an advisory to all Superintendents urging the cancellation of all planned out-of-state school group travel. 

     

    Additionally, older community members and those at risk of illness are urged to avoid large school gatherings.

     

    Comments (-1)
  • At this time, unless specifically noted, all school-sponsored events and activities will continue to occur as scheduled.   

     

    Last week, following direction from the Governor's office, the planned April trip for DHS students to Spain and France was cancelled. 

     

    In light of the most recent guidance - Dedham adminstrators are meeting with all school principals over the next two days to review upcoming scheduled school events and field trips - including the DMS trip to Washington DC - and any planned large group gatherings to identify where changes need to be made.

     

    Updates will be posted here - and will come from administration or school principals over the next few days.  All decisions are subject to change - as this risk is rapidly evolving - and any decisions will be regularly revisited as conditions dictate.

    Comments (-1)
    • Following the recommendation issued by Governor Baker’s office the planned DHS student trip to Spain and France from April 16-26 has been cancelled.
    • The DMS Grade 8 trip to Washington, DC - scheduled for later in May - is currently going as planned.  DPS is working closely with the Close-Up foundation to determine risks and ramifications, and updates will be provided when available.
    • In an abundance of caution, we will continue to closely evaluate any large group events where students will be participating, to understand any possible risks or concerns.  At this time, all other scheduled events and group trips will proceed as planned in accordance with the most recent CDC Travel Advisories.  
    Comments (-1)