Superintendent Email Update: June 1
DPS Coronavirus Update
This has been a particularly difficult week of emotions as we all are reeling from the horrifying killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the understandable outrage expressed in protests across the country. As I relayed in our District Leadership Team letter to the community on Friday, our Principals and district leaders all wanted to express our support for our families of color and reaffirm our condemnation of the actions that continue to show racial discrimination across our country. It is infuriating to continue to see examples of how the color of one’s skin can play such a pivotal role in life outcomes for this nation’s residents. The vast majority of peaceful protests and demonstrations that have supported this ideal in many cities have been tarnished by the violence and destruction of a much smaller number of people. This has left us with more emotions to sort through while we remain committed to protecting and supporting the rights of all. I have been buoyed by the many emails of support from the people of Dedham who have reached out to me to demonstrate their collective support also. Thank you for your commitment to this cause.
This Saturday, June 6 is the date that seniors and parents have circled for the past 10 months. Instead of a traditional in-person graduation ceremony, our seniors and families will have a vehicle-based ceremony starting at 1:00 PM and ending by around 3:30 PM. This vehicle based ceremony is limited to seniors and their families in single vehicles, and additional supporters or spectators will not be allowed. Faculty/staff will be permitted in limited, socially-distanced areas to show their support for the graduates. Later in the afternoon the town will be sponsoring a procession and salute to seniors beginning at 5:00 PM and proceeding past all 4 elementary schools around town. We hope to be able to provide a more traditional graduation ceremony in late July once the guidance regarding group activities is modified and loosened. More information on this will be distributed to seniors and their families as guidance is issued.
Late this afternoon Governor Baker signed an executive order regarding Phase II reopening guidelines. I learned of these guidelines while on a phone conference with Dedham’s COVID Task Force, and this was followed by a conversation about summer programming with Dedham’s Interim Health Director Bridget Sweet. At this time, the requirements provided by these Phase II recommendations does not permit us to plan for traditional face-to-face summer programming in schools, and we will be carefully unpacking these regulations in the next few days to determine how we can proceed.
On the Friday before Memorial Day, our hard-working food services staff prepared and distributed four days worth of meals to over 600 people! This amounted to almost 5000 meals distributed by school department volunteers in a single day! As we plan for the preparation and distribution of community meals during the summer, once school “ends” on Friday, June 19, our food services folks will likely be transitioning to distribution of meals only two days per week (Tuesdays and Fridays). Starting during the week of June 22, on Tuesdays we will distribute 3 days worth of meals (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday), and on Fridays we will distribute 4 days worth of meals (Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday). This will allow for less intensive staffing and fewer trips to distribution points for families each week. More information about this will be provided as we get closer to that date.
In an email earlier today from the DESE’s National School Lunch Program newsletter, I learned quite a few startling facts about Food Insecurity. The need for meals over the summer and during school time is highlighted by recent data from Feeding America. What they have recently reported was sobering news about the state of food insecurity in Massachusetts. Per the newly released data:
MA food insecurity has increased by 53%, 1 in 7 for the total population, and 1 in 5 children. In eastern MA food insecurity has increased by 59%, 1 in 8 people, 1 in 6 children.
For MA children, food insecurity is projected to increase 81% this year (2nd highest nationally)
The Greater Boston Food Bank distributed 8.1 million pounds of food in March and 9.5 in April - previous high in its 40-year history was 5.7
U.S. grocery prices rose 2.6% in April 2020, the biggest one month increase since 1974, with MA also already the highest ‘cost per meal’ in the country.
As we welcome in the month of June and the last 3 weeks of the official school year, principals have begun the complicated work of planning for the transitioning of students into their next year’s classrooms and grades. For some students, this involves a change of schools as students age up into new grade levels. Please keep on the lookout for information from our building principals about transition activities and timelines for information about this process.
All my best,