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District Email Update: March 7, 2021

DPS District Update

March 7, 2021


This Friday, March 12 will mark the one-year anniversary for when schools in Massachusetts last held full in person learning for all students.  A year ago this week we were sending emails to our DPS families outlining the beginning stages of a very mysterious and unknown emerging global pandemic.  Little did we know at that time that we would be where we are today.  


I am sharing a number of updates below in what has become a rapidly changing landscape of developing news for education in Massachusetts.  Please take a moment to review these updates that are accurate as I type this on Sunday, March 7.  Please stay alert for additional guidance in the next few weeks as we continue to shift our plans and adapt to what we hope will become our “new normal”.  For the time being, vigilance is still required, safety protocols remain in place, but we can begin to see glimmers of hope on the horizon.



Late last Friday afternoon (March 5th) the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted to 8-3 to allow Education Commissioner Jeff Riley to determine when hybrid and remote learning models will no longer be allowed to “count” toward state required student learning time hours.  This paves the way for Commissioner Riley to fulfill his stated desire to require full in-person learning for all elementary students by sometime in April.  As of today, there are still approximately 300,000 students in Massachusetts districts that are currently fully remote.


The Commissioner has stated that districts must still allow parents to choose fully remote learning for their children (if parents request this) for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.  Districts are awaiting more information about how/when/for whom this transition will occur and what criteria will guide this process.  Regardless, Dedham has been doing preliminary planning toward this eventuality and we will provide additional guidance for parents as soon as we know more.  Thank you for your continued patience as we attempt to unravel and navigate this emerging news over the course of the next few weeks.



On Wednesday, March 3 the Dedham School Committee voted to approve revised COVID Quarantine Guidelines for the District.  These guidelines allow the option (in non-household exposures) for people who are considered close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case to return from quarantine with testing after as few as 7 days.   These revised guidelines follow CDC recommendations and will remain in effect for the District for all students and staff.    CLICK HERE for  a 1-page summary highlighting the newest guidelines and the parameters for when 14, 10 or 7 day quarantine is necessary.  Household exposures will still require a full 14-day quarantine.  A copy of these guidelines can also be found on all school websites.



Last week Dedham Public Schools launched a voluntary FREE COVID-19 Pooled Testing program for DPS students and staff.  This initiative is gradually being rolled out across the District over the next few weeks.  Greenlodge Elementary 1st and 5th graders, along with DELTA program students and their staff helped kick off this initiative.  Avery Elementary will begin this week.  Next week Oakdale, Riverdale and ECEC students will join in, with DMS and DHS students to follow as soon as possible.  Stay alert for communication from each school regarding specific start dates.  Students and families are STRONGLY encouraged to participate in this initiative by completing and returning the consent form as soon as possible.



Beginning on Monday, March 8th, all Dedham Elementary schools will welcome all 1st grade students back into classrooms, in-person 4 days a week.   Elementary school principals have been working with 1st grade families and teachers to ensure a smooth transition.  This return to 4-day, in-person learning will still be done with distance and safety protocols in place.  We are excited to begin seeing our youngest students back and want to express our appreciation for the hard work our faculty and staff has done to make this possible. 



On Friday, 3/5/21 the District learned that DESE plans to postpone spring MCAS testing until later this spring.  For grades 3-5 the test window has now been moved back to May 10 - June 11, and the dates for grades 6-8 are not yet determined.  This is another last minute change that we will keep everyone posted about in the weeks ahead.


Thank you for your continued support of the Dedham Public Schools during this very challenging sequence.


All my best,


Mike Welch