DPS Superintendent Update: April 6th
Monday, April 6, 2020
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.
MMeals 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!
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!
All my best,