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Superintendent Email Update: May 27

DPS Coronavirus Update

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

11:00 PM


Hi Folks,


I hope everyone had a restful and reflective Memorial Day weekend.  As the weather warms significantly, I know that my mind always connects the blooming flowers and trees with the winding down of the school year.  While this year certainly feels like anything other than a typical spring, we are indeed rapidly approaching the conclusion of the school year.  As of tonight there are only 17 more days until the “last day of school” on Friday, June 19.  With the end of this year looming, much of our planning and discussions involve preparations for the end of year transitions and celebrations that will be occurring and the planning involved with our next school year.  Our elementary educators and principals are spending time working on class placements for next year, and course schedules are being developed for all our secondary students and teachers.  While I spent almost 90 minutes on a phone call with all other superintendents from across the state today, we continue to receive very few answers about what state and local budgets and the opening of schools will look like in the fall.  Updated guidance about these issues will hopefully be forthcoming in the next few weeks.


For parents of current 5th graders, the transition to middle school comes with many different questions and concerns.  On Thursday, May 28 there will be a Dedham Middle School presentation to welcome Grade 5 parents.  This will be a presentation so that families can go online and learn about DMS with Principal Karen Hillman, Assistant Principal Brian Duffey, and Grade 6 teachers from DMS.  The initial presentation will be at 12:30 PM and a link was sent to all Grade 5 families earlier this week by elementary principals.  In the next few weeks, there will be interactive video meetings for the fifth graders and parents in each elementary school to address any further questions.


During yesterday’s Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting, the Board voted today to modify the science and technology/engineering (STE) MCAS testing requirement for current high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors (members of the classes of 2021-23). Under this change, these students will NOT have to pass a high school science MCAS exam provided that the student earned credit for a course in the relevant subject matter and demonstrated competency in one of the four tested disciplines (biology, chemistry, introductory physics, technology/engineering) during their high school career. This is a very welcome change to the regulations and requirements for all these students.


Late in the day on Thursday, May 21, the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education sent districts guidelines developed in conjunction with the Department of Public Health about high school graduation ceremonies. Ceremonies held between now and Saturday, July 18 will need to be held virtually or in extremely limited other circumstances following safety protocols (e.g., car parades).  Ceremonies held beginning Sunday, July 19 may take place OUTSIDE under the standards outlined in the guidance and assuming the public health data supports the continued opening of our state.  Thankfully, this guidance conforms perfectly with Dedham’s Class of 2020 Steering Committee’s plans for a vehicle-based diploma ceremony on Saturday, June 6 and a more traditional ceremony tentatively planned outdoors on Saturday, July 25.  Seniors and parents will receive very specific information about the June 6th ceremony this Friday after the committee’s next meeting on Thursday night this week.


The DESE also recently informed us that Governor Charlie Baker, in partnership with WGBH, will deliver a commencement address to the Class of 2020 as part of a celebration for graduating seniors that will be broadcast at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9. In addition to the Governor’s remarks, the event will feature congratulatory messages from local celebrities, a performance by members of the Boston Pops Orchestra, and a speech by students.


Last week I learned from the Dedham Health Department that there have been 340 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Dedham residents as of May 20, 2020.  I hope that you and your family are healthy and safe as we continue to do our best to care for each other in the days ahead.


All my best,


Mike Welch