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Superintendent Email Update: May 4th

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