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Superintendent Email Update: May 20

DPS Coronavirus Update

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

11:00 PM


Hi Folks,


Yesterday, May 19, marked the “one-month to go” milestone in the 2019-20 school year, but it certainly does not feel like we are in the home stretch.  The remote learning environment does not lend itself to the perspective that in-person learning does, and it is harder to differentiate between days near the end of the year and any other day of “school”.  The reality is that our last day of official school this year is on Friday, June 19, and that leaves us with only 21 more days.  


This week our schools began returning student belongings to families.  Over the past few weeks, our faculty and staff have been back in the buildings (on a limited, and carefully coordinated, social-distanced and PPE equipped schedule) to gather up all student materials into carefully labelled bags.  Those bags were then sorted and arranged into groups in a central location, and parents are gradually being allowed to come pick up these possessions as staff deliver them into vehicles.  Thank you to our many faculty and staff who have helped organize these activities, as you have also continued your remote learning work.  


At tonight’s Dedham Board of Health meeting, the board voted to allow all parks and fields to be reopened as of Monday, May 25.  However, all town and school playgrounds will remain closed and off limits to the public.  In addition, no team sports are allowed on fields or parks at any of these locations.  


At this time there is still no local or state-level guidance regarding summer programming within the schools or through the town’s park and recreation department.  Reluctantly, today we chose to officially cancel our popular TREK Program at Dedham Middle School that helps support current 5th grade students in their transition DMS.  The critical in-person interactions that are the core experience of this program simply do not lend themselves to a remote or virtual environment.  We will continue to monitor state guidance around summer programming and will hope for a different sort of orientation for rising 6th graders as we have better details available.


And just what will school look like in the fall?  At this point, there is precious little consensus about this question, and everyone is looking for answers.  On Thursday last week (May 14), all superintendents across the state were alerted to a DESE “Return To School Working Group” consisting of 27 people who will be working to “... develop a K-12 summer and fall restart and recovery plan. This plan will include guidance on the following topic areas:

  • Physical and virtual learning environments
  • Teaching and learning
  • Operations and business services
  • Behavioral health and social and emotional learning”

In the past week, I have been on four different calls with many superintendents from across the state and I can assure you that there are MANY different ideas about how schools might be reopened in the summer or the fall, but there are simply too many unknowns right now.  This “working group” will have their work cut out for them, and we will be closely following their ongoing plans as we develop our own sequence locally.


Remember that our business and finance has posted forms for parents who wish to receive refunds of fees paid for spring sports/athletics (DHS and DMS), and the unused portion of  yellow bus transportation fees.  All forms completed by Friday, May 22 will receive refunds on Friday, May 29.  


Are you a parent who is struggling with trying to manage schooling at home with your kids?  Isn’t everyone?  Well, if you’d like the opportunity to talk about these struggles with other parents in similar situations, the BRYTE (Bridge for Resilient Youth In Transition) program in Brookline is now running DAILY free virtual parent support groups via zoom meetings.  These meetings happen at different times each day, and generally center around a particular theme.  Please take time to check them out if you are interested.


Also please remember that on Fridays the BRYTE group provides a free support group for Spanish-speaking parents. The support group meets on Friday afternoons and is conducted entirely in Spanish.   


All my best,


Mike Welch