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Superintendent Email Update: April 27

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