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Superintendent Email Update: Sept 23, 2020

Hi Folks, 


Congratulations to our students and educators who have been successfully navigating their first full week of Remote Learning!   If your students are continuing to face technical difficulties, we encourage you to reach out to your schools or to the tech support team:


There are some very positive updates to report tonight - with plenty more details coming from our schools over the course of this next week.  We encourage everyone to continue checking the District and school websites for updates.  There is A LOT of information contained below.


Tonight at 5:30 PM the Dedham Board of Health met in its regularly scheduled meeting to review the latest trends in positive COVID-19 cases in Dedham.  The free testing at Dedham’s Endicott Estate over the past 11 days provided much better data and insight on the virus’ trajectory in the community.  The Board of Health also toured the ECEC today to get a better sense of the district’s preparations for in-person student learning.  At about 7:35 PM tonight, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released weekly data showing a dramatic decrease in positive cases in Dedham, even as there has been a dramatic increase in testing.  DPH’s state map now lists Dedham in the “yellow” zone and strongly trending in the right direction.  Based upon these very positive developments, the Dedham Board of Health moved to endorse the safe in-person return of students in the Dedham Public Schools.


At tonight’s scheduled Dedham School Committee meeting, the Committee was slated to reconsider next steps in the tuition based ECEC preschool program, as well as high school student participation in athletics.  Action on both items had been postponed from last week’s meeting in order to consider more data and trending.  Based upon the endorsement of the Dedham Board of Health, and the very positive trends in the Dedham community, the School Committee voted unanimously to support a safe return to in-person learning at the ECEC and a resumption of the previously approved cohort-based phased hybrid reopening plan.  


Essentially, this will allow our youngest students (ECEC preschoolers and K hybrid) to safely begin in-person learning as soon as possible.  All other schools would begin their in-person phasing with a two-week delay.  Highest needs students originally intended to return on Monday, September 21 are now scheduled to begin in-person instruction on Monday, October 5.


Our students’ return to schools will follow the previously outlined phased cohort reopening plan approach, so we do not overwhelm our schools.  Further, a phased approach, as planned, will allow for continued time to adjust and adapt our protocols in each building, so we can keep students and faculty/staff as safe as possible as they return in-person. An official timeline - with specific dates for all cohorts - will be posted on the Dedham school website and school webpages as soon as possible.   


Students in the first phases - PreK, Kindergarten and Cohort B (Highest Needs) will receive confirmation emails from their schools by the end of this week to confirm start dates and any other relevant information prior to students starting in-person.


All Dedham students who plan to take the yellow school bus to school are encouraged to immediately complete bus applications - found at the top of all school websites or by clicking here  - so we can begin scheduling and confirming bus routes for all our students.  Remember - there is NO BUS FEE this year.


This revised phased schedule is still contingent upon continued safe trends in the trajectory of COVID-19 cases in Dedham.   Should the trends show increases in cases, especially in populations that may put our students, faculty, or staff populations at risk, these timelines may shift over the coming weeks.


We implore our families to remain vigilant.  Please continue to wear your masks, wash your hands, remain socially distanced from others, and STAY HOME IF YOU ARE SICK.  Please get tested (if you haven’t already done so) even if you do not have any symptoms.  Free testing is still available at the Endicott Estate on Thursday, 9-24 from 2-6:00 PM, and Friday, 9-25 from 12:00-4:00 PM.


Tonight the School Committee also approved updated DHS Athletic schedule guidance, which will allow our Fall DHS athletes to compete in a revised league game schedule. Please stay alert for more detailed information from DHS in the next few days. 


Thank you for your patience and support as we navigate this challenging sequence.  


All my best,


Mike Welch