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District Update / Storm Planning: December 15, 2020

DPS Update

December 15, 2020


Hi Folks


I am sure by now many of you have seen the winter storm forecast for late Wednesday night and most of the day Thursday.  I am closely watching the predictions and attended a meeting today with Dedham Town officials to discuss preparations if this storm materializes.  As this may be the first substantial snowfall we’ve had in almost two years, I wanted to review how I will make decisions about possible school cancellation due to snow/weather given the unique circumstances this school year presents.  

In all situations the safety of students and staff will guide these decisions.  I always keep in close contact with the Dedham Director of Public Works (Joe Flanagan) and Dedham Facilities Director Denise Moroney to mobilize our response and preparations well before any storm hits.  If my communications with them indicate that roads, sidewalks, and parking lots can be safely navigated by all, it is my intention to keep school open for in-person learning whenever possible. 


Sometimes the roads in town may appear clear but the school parking lots, entrances, and access areas cannot be cleared in time to open schools.  If this happens we will work to notify all staff and families by automated Blackboard Connect phone calls and associated emails. We will always do this as soon as we are confident that conditions warrant the cancellation of school. If forecast confidence justifies cancellation the night before a pending storm, we will send notice at that time. When the decision is less clear, we will confer beginning at 4:00 AM and make a decision about cancellation no later than 5:00 AM. Notice regarding any cancellation will always be sent to all local television stations as well as the Dedham Public Schools website. Automated phone call notifications to faculty and staff will be sent as soon as the decision has been made. Calls to families will be placed approximately two hours prior to the start time for each school. 


In past years, some individuals have used social media to spread rumors about potential school cancellation decisions.  Please do not rely on or disseminate these sources of rumor as this tends to promote confusion and ambiguity regarding the district’s intentions.  The only authoritative source of school cancellations will come from the methods mentioned above, and will be disseminated according to the timelines I have indicated.  


In the interest of reducing speculation for this week, even though students and educators are becoming more adept at remote learning, IF this week’s storm forces us to keep school buildings closed we will NOT have any remote or virtual learning.  We will have a “regular” snow day and make up this learning time at the end of the school year.  I am making this decision based upon many factors, including challenges posed by remote instruction when schools and classrooms (technology, materials, peace & quiet) are not available for use by our educators.  We may revisit this decision in future storms if a consensus emerges about the effectiveness and practicality of this option.


Lastly, as mentioned last week, we are finalizing a feedback survey to all faculty, staff, parents, and grade 6-12 students regarding learning experiences this fall.  Please be on the lookout for an anonymous survey from Panorama and take a few moments to provide us with your feedback.


All my best,


Mike Welch