Letter from Middlesex League Superintendents to DESE Commissioner Riley

Dear Commissioner Riley:

On Friday, February 26th, the Middlesex League Superintendents discussed your announcement for a full return of elementary students to in-person learning by April 2021.  Currently, our districts are engaged in conversations about what a full return might look like, as is appropriate to the local context.  There is nothing that we want more than for all of our students and staff to return to schools full time; however, your declaration without a thoughtful plan only exacerbates the challenges we face in schools and belies the current reality of the situation in which we find ourselves. 

We are nearing the first anniversary of the Middlesex League Superintendents’ decision to close schools on March 12, 2020, which predated the Governor’s school closure order a day later.  Initially, we believed it would be a proactive two-week school closure to combat COVID-19.  When it became clear that the pandemic would require long-term planning and adjustments, superintendents throughout the Commonwealth advocated for a uniform plan for a fall return.  Throughout the pandemic, most of the educational decision-making has been left to local districts, creating a high degree of variability.   If the State had dictated a common starting point in August, making uniform adjustments now would be far less complicated and intrusive.

During the pandemic, school districts have been left to their own devices.  In the absence of concrete plans from the State, we became increasingly more reliant on one another. In a nutshell, school leaders were told by the State to cover only essential standards, reduce the maximum bus capacity to approximately 30%, “pressure test” desks at three feet, and develop three teaching and learning models: full return, hybrid, and remote learning—all of which we have done. The unintended consequence of allowing school systems to work individually has resulted in understandable variations from community to community. There was little guidance at the beginning of the school year about how districts would reopen, which may be why there are approximately 400,000 students in the State who have yet to return to their classrooms.

Many unanswered questions and concerns must be addressed, such as a lack of guidance around lunch and other unmasked activities (3 ft. v. 6 ft.); the possible disruption of Special Education services already scheduled; potential issues with existing Memorandum of Agreements with our teachers and other collective bargaining units; and disparate recommendations between local Boards of Health, State health agencies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization that have yet to be addressed. 

Moreover, we have advocated strongly for vaccines for educators through the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, yet there is still no response or plan to vaccinate our staff.  We need a mindful and strategic vaccination plan for our employees, which would make it easier to undertake another shift to full in-person learning for elementary students.  Furthermore, we must be thoughtful about when and how public school employees will access vaccination appointments when they become available. 

We, along with many others, remain hopeful that the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine will provide another option that can be more easily distributed and prioritized for educators and staff. It would go a long way if the single-dose vaccine were distributed to local Boards of Health and administered to school personnel in school buildings.  To further minimize disruptions to learning, it may be wise to vaccinate educators and other staff after typical school hours, such as Friday evenings from 2:00-8:00 p.m.  This type of approach would minimize the need for substitute coverage during the school day and allow employees two days over the weekend to recover, which could minimize the potential for additional classroom coverage challenges.  A concrete vaccination timeline is not the only way to get students back to full-time in-person learning, but it certainly will facilitate the process for a full return of students. 

As we began this journey last March, we committed ourselves to work together to support students, staff, and families.  Since March of last year, we have worked tirelessly and collaboratively with all stakeholders in our respective communities, and we will continue to do so in the future. As educational leaders, we know the pandemic hasn’t been easy on anyone.  We look forward to partnering with you to offer the highest quality education to our students. 

Sincerely,

John Macero, Superintendent, Stoneham Public Schools            

John Phelan, Superintendent, Belmont Public Schools

Glenn Brand, Superintendent, Wilmington Public Schools                     

John Doherty, Superintendent, Reading Public Schools

Deanne Galdston, Superintendent, Watertown Public Schools                

Judy Evans, Superintendent, Winchester Public Schools

Julie Hackett, Superintendent, Lexington Public Schools            

Matt Crowley, Superintendent, Woburn Public Schools

Douglas Lyons, Superintendent, Wakefield Public Schools                    

Kathleen Bodie, Superintendent, Arlington Public Schools

Julie Kukenberger, Superintendent, Melrose Public Schools                   

Eric M. Conti, Superintendent, Burlington Public Schools

Winter Hybrid Update 10 and Addendum

Good Afternoon, Reading Public School Staff and Families,

I hope that you are enjoying your weekend.  Here is our latest winter hybrid update and an addendum which was added after the initial post.

  • Information on Full In Person Opening-By now, I am sure that you have heard and have begun to process the Governor’s and Commissioner’s message on Tuesday about bringing back students in person five days per week.  Here is the information that we know based on the press conference earlier in this week and an additional meeting that I attended with the Commissioner on Wednesday.
  • First and foremost, this has not been approved yet.  At a future meeting in the next week or so, Commissioner Riley is asking the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to grant him the authority to determine when hybrid and remote models no longer count for learning hours. This would be part of a broader plan, to be released in March, to begin returning more students to in-person learning this spring, assuming our state’s health metrics continue to improve.   If he is granted this authority, the Commissioner will pursue a phased approach to returning students to the classroom, working closely with state health officials and medical experts. Ideally, his initial goal is to bring all elementary school students back to in-person learning five days a week this April. Parents will still have the option for their children to learn remotely through the end of the school year. There will also be a waiver process for districts who may need to take a more incremental approach (for instance, to first move to a robust hybrid model if they are currently fully remote).
  • If the Board approves, he is targeting April 5th for the return date for Elementary students.  He did not give return dates for middle and high school at the meeting yesterday.
  • These are regulations, not recommendations so, if approved, we will be required to follow them, unless we qualify for a waiver.
  • The rationale for doing this sooner than later is to work out the challenges of transitioning to school full time during the spring, rather than wait until the fall.  In addition, if conditions allow, there will no longer be a remote option for parents in the fall if we are fully in person.

I am in full agreement that getting our students back in person more is the right thing to do.  However, from a Reading Public Schools perspective, returning to full in person learning for all students will come with several logistical and scheduling challenges.   First and foremost, a vaccine is not widely available for our staff at this point.  Hopefully, that will change with the addition of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine that was approved this weekend by the CDC.  In addition, the only way we would be able to implement full in person learning for all students will be to go below the 6 feet CDC recommended physical distancing in the classrooms.  In a typical classroom of 22-25 students, we will need to go as low as 3 feet in the arrangement of student desks, which will require more furniture to be moved from storage into most classrooms in the district.  Lunch will still need to be six feet physical distancing because masks are not being worn while students are eating.  Teacher and student schedules will need to be changed because it will not longer be a cohort model.  In addition, cleaning and disinfecting will need to look differently because the Friday model of deep disinfecting will no longer be an option.

I want to assure you that we are working on transition plans back to full in person learning.  These plans will continue to have a primary focus on health and safety and we will continue to keep as many of the mitigation efforts that we have in place as possible.  In the meantime, we will keep you informed when more information becomes available.

  • Elementary Parent Survey for Third Marking Period-There are two clarifications that we would like to make regarding the Elementary Parent Survey for third marking period which was sent out yesterday to elementary parents.  First, we would like all families to complete one survey per elementary child regardless if your child (ren) are staying in the same model.  Because of the changes that may happen during third marking period, we need every family to respond.  In addition, when we are asking if you would like to have your child attend full in person school please assume that the physical distancing between desks in the classroom will be less than six feet and could be as low as three feet.  We plan on maintaining all other safety and health procedures that have been put in place.  If you have already completed the survey and would like to change your answer, just simply complete the survey again and put in the comment box at the end that you responded earlier, but you would like this survey used instead of the first response. Please complete this survey link no later than Friday, March 5th so we can make the necessary changes.
  • Pooled Testing-We encourage staff and students to participate in pooled testing.  The link to give consent for staff and students to access testing is located at https://bit.ly/3oXiiSa.  This week, we will hold pool testing for all staff, athletes, in person extra-curricular, Preschool, Kindergarten, and High Needs students. During the week of March 8th, we plan on testing everyone who has given consent.  As we approach more in person learning, pooled testing is another mitigation strategy to help support our health and safety.  This past week, we began pooled testing with staff and athletes.  Below are some questions and answers that resulted from this first round of testing that you may find useful.​
  • How do I know if my student is in a positive pool?
  • If you do not hear from us after pooled testing, your student is negative. We will be contacting students who are in a positive pool for retesting. 
  • How will we/our students be notified of a positive pool? positive retest?
  • Students may be contacted via remind text or email. Parents will get an email to register with Project Beacon, the platform supporting antigen testing, if their child needs to be retested. Project Beacon will send out an immediate notification of test results once antigen testing is complete. 
  • How and where will retesting occur?
  • Due to timing and logistics, it made sense to do follow up testing after school/before practice in the field house this week. That may continue to be the case. However, depending on when we receive test results, there may be opportunities for students to have testing done in the health office before or during school. If the health office is busy or there is an emergency, students would continue be tested after school. 
  • Does my student need to quarantine if they are in a positive pool?
  • Not necessarily. So far athletes have been pooled in random groups by sport, so those in a pool are not all close contacts. Once a positive case is identified, close contacts are determined. (as a reminder, close contacts are those who are within 6 feet of each other for a period longer than 15 minutes over the course of 24 hours) As teams are formed, we will test by team, and If there are positive pools practice may be postponed until follow up testing can be completed. Because of the current distancing protocols at RMHS, most students in class with each other are not considered close contacts.
  • COVID-19 Information-We continue to see a decline in positive cases with our staff and students.  Here is a breakdown of this week’s cases:
    • 2 Barrows students tested positive.  Both were remote so there were not any close contacts or quarantined.
    • 1 Parker student tested positive.  The student was remote, so there were not any close contacts or quarantined.
    • 1 Coolidge student tested positive.  The student was remote, so there were not any close contacts or quarantined.
    • 2 RMHS students tested positive.  Both were remote, so there were not any close contacts.
  • RMHS Information-This past week at RMHS, the upper half of the alphabet was in person for Grades 9-12 and the lower half of the alphabet was remote.  Next week the lower half of the alphabet will be in person and the upper half will be remote.
  • Fall 2 Sports Information-Fall 2 Sports began this past Monday with athletes participating in Cheer, Football, Volleyball, Indoor Track, and Girls Swimming.  All games and meets, except for Football, may begin on March 6th, with football games being allowed to play on March 20th.  Up to two spectators per athlete will be allowed to a competition.  More details will follow.
  • SEPAC Reading Survey-The Reading SEPAC and Reading Public Schools are collaborating to provide presentations about how students learn to read. Please let us know what topics interest you by completing this survey link.
  • Killam Family in Need- Over the February break, a family in the Killam community lost their home to a devastating house fire. As the family works to recover from this, they have asked to remain private but they are in need of assistance to support their immediate needs. The Friends of Reading METCO organization has started a GoFundMe page for monetary donations. Once the family is settled into a new home, these needs may change to home furnishings and other items, which will be shared out as needed.  If you would like to donate, the Go Fund Me page is https://www.gofundme.com/f/reading-metco 

Thanks for everything that you are doing to support our schools.  Have a great rest of the weekend and week ahead.

John Doherty

Superintendent

Reading Public Schools

82 Oakland Road

Reading, Massachusetts 01867

781-944-5800

John.doherty@reading.k12.ma.us

Winter Hybrid Update #9

Good Morning, Reading Public School Staff and Community,

I hope that you are enjoying your February vacation break.  Here is Winter Hybrid Update #9.

  1. COVID-19 Cases-Here are the latest COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks, including this vacation week.
    1. 4 RMHS students tested positive, all students were remote, so there were no close contacts.  None of the students were involved in athletics. 
    2. 1 RMHS staff member, who was remote, tested positive.  No close contacts.
    3. 1 Parker student who was remote, tested positive.  No close contacts.
    4. 3 Wood End staff tested positive.  It is likely that the all three were in school transmission from a student who did not have their mask on.  Six students and six staff were quarantined.
    5. 1 Barrows student tested positive and was in person.  As a result, 10 students and 1 staff member were quarantined.
    6. 1 Eaton student who was remote tested positive.  No close contacts.
    7. 2 district employees tested positive.  2 were quarantined.
  1. RMHS Hybrid Model Changes on Monday-Reading Memorial High School will begin an alpha split hybrid model for Grades 9-12, beginning on Monday.  The schedule for the next two weeks are as follows:
  • Week of February 22-25 – Grades 9-12 with last names A-L will be in person, M-Z will be remote
  • Week of Week of March 1-4 – Grades 9-12 with last names M-Z will be in person, A-L will be remote
  1. High School Fall 2 Season Begins on Monday, February 22ndThe Middlesex League Fall 2 Season will begin on Monday, February 22nd with Football, Cheer, Indoor Track, Volleyball, and Girls Swimming.  All students who participate in Fall 2 sports must be a part of the pooled testing program.  The link for a parent to give consent for their child to participate in pooled testing is located at https://bit.ly/3oXiiSa. In addition, the MIAA has updated their Fall 2 Sports modifications based on the latest state guidelines.  Those can be found at the links below.
  1. Turf Fields and Track-The MIAA made a conscious decision to move Football and Indoor Track to the Fall 2 season which runs from February 22nd to April 18th.  Because of the lack of indoor track facilities in the Middlesex League, indoor track competitions will be held outdoors.  Unfortunately, having those two sports begin in February in New England comes with some challenges, most notably, the accumulation of snow and ice on the track and turf fields.  The decision to open up and remove snow on the High School fields and track is an operations issue and is under the decision of the Superintendent of Schools.  In discussions with the Athletic Department, Facilities Department, DPW, and Town Manager, I have decided that we will not be clearing any snow off of the newly renovated Turf 2 throughout this season because any damage to that field would impact the warranty.  Although it is not advised, we will be looking at ways that we can safely remove the snow from the track and Turf 1.  Here are some of challenges that we face with the stadium track and turf field:
  • Turf 1 and the Track are now approaching 14 years old and are scheduled to be replaced in 2023.  Neither are under warranty.  There is funding in next year’s town capital plan for a track and field design, followed by a replacement track and field the following year.  Any damage done to the track and/or field would result in the shutting down of the track for this spring track season and/or the likelihood that the football field would not be playable for next fall.
  • In order for snow removal to occur on both the track and football field, the snow will need to be removed by a snow blower specifically designed for turf fields and tracks, not plowed.  This process will take much longer and would be more costly.  The approximate cost would be $5,000-10,000 per snow storm for snow blowing alone.  An additional cost would be incurred if the snow would need to be completely removed from the area.
  • During the snow removal process, because of conservation regulations, no snow can be blown near the wetlands located behind the visitors endzone and far sideline.  In addition, snow could not be blown onto the bleachers due to the increased likelihood of the bleachers being damaged due to the weight of the excess snow.  This means that there are limited areas where snow could be removed.
  • Last, and certainly not least, we are concerned about the increased risk of injury on a frozen turf field and less than ideal conditions on the track.  There is an increased chance of concussions and other injuries when the field surface is much harder than normal.

We are currently pursuing snow removal options which will minimize the risk of damage to the field, while maintaining as safe a playing surface as possible.  We will continue to monitor the Turf 1 conditions in the hope of being able to have the field cleared as soon as possible.

  1. Pooled Testing-We will begin our pooled testing program the week of February 22nd with High School Athletics and Extra-curricular and all PreK-12 Staff who have given consent.  During the week of March 1st, we will begin to phase in other students.  We are working closely with CIC Health as to the amount of support we will receive which will determined how we phase in additional students.  We will keep you informed of the process.  In the meantime, if you have not completed a consent form for you (if you are a staff member) or your child (ren), please complete the following link https://bit.ly/3oXiiSa.
  1. SEPAC Update-Please join the SEPAC (Special Education Parent Advisory Council) at our next business meeting on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 at 7:00 PM! New business for this meeting includes an update from our reading/literacy subcommittee and a brief presentation by Alice Gomez, School Psychologist, on community resources, followed by a parent discussion regarding the same. Please join us for this presentation and discussion and feel free to share any additional resources that you think other parents may find helpful.  All are welcome!  This meeting will be held virtually, via Zoom.  Meeting link: Join Zoom Meeting
  1. Food Distribution Resumes Next Week-This is a reminder that food distribution will resume next week under the bridge at Reading Memorial High School (near the field house) for all children.  The times will be on Wednesdays from 2:30-3:30 p.m. and Fridays from 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.  This is open to all families regardless if they are in their remote week or their in person week.  No identification is required.  This program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Pooled Testing and Vacation

Good Morning, Reading Public School Community,

Before we go on a well deserved February vacation, here is some information regarding pooled testing and vacation.

Pooled Testing

This is a reminder that if you would like your child to participate in the pooled testing program, please complete the following consent link located here and below.

https://bit.ly/3oXiiSa

We will begin a slow rollout of pooled testing the week after vacation.  All students who are participating in Fall 2 athletics or in person extra-curricular activities will be tested during the week of February 22nd, along with all staff in the district who have given consent.  During the week of March 1st, we will begin to test other grades.

Vacation Plans

As we enter a well deserved February break, this is a reminder about best practices to limit your exposure to COVID-19.  The Department of Public Health has outlined many best practices including, limiting the size of any gatheringlimiting get-togethers to only people who live together or to a small group of individuals with whom they are regularly in contact, and avoiding travel. Anyone considering travel should review and abide by Massachusetts travel orders, and people who want to travel to another state that is not a lower-risk state should be aware of the quarantine requirements involved with such travel. 

All visitors entering Massachusetts, including returning residents, who do not meet an exemption, are required to:

  • Complete the Massachusetts Travel Form prior to arrival
  • Quarantine for 10 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72-hours prior to your arrival in Massachusetts. If not obtained before entry to Massachusetts, a test may be obtained after arrival. However, all such arriving travelers must immediately begin the 10-day quarantine until a negative test result has been received. 
  • The only state that is exempt right now is if you are travelling to Hawaii.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at john.doherty@reading.k12.ma.us

Thanks.

John Doherty

Superintendent of Schools

Pooled Testing Program For In Person Learning

Link to Consent Form

Date: February 6, 2021

Dear parents, caregivers, and guardians,

Thank you for your continued partnership during this unprecedented school year. In an effort to  prevent the spread of COVID-19, we have been working closely with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to implement a free COVID-19 pooled testing program for students and staff at our school.

The purpose of this letter is to ask your permission to regularly test your child as part of a pooled testing program at our school. Pooled testing involves mixing several individuals’ test samples together into one “pool” and then testing the pooled sample for COVID-19. This approach increases the number of individuals that can be tested at one time and allows us to regularly test our school community for COVID-19.  I have attached a power point presentation that was given earlier this week to the staff and community.

The pooled tests will be performed at least once per week with a shallow nasal swab for all participating students and staff members. Schools will receive the pool results within 24-48 hours. If the result of the pool is negative, then all individuals are presumed to not have COVID-19. If the result of the pool is positive, then all individuals in the pool must be retested individually. Because pooled testing does not give individual results, you will only be notified if your child requires follow-up testing. Our school district will be providing the Abbott BinaxNOW Rapid Antigen Diagnostic Tests for follow-up testing, so that students or staff in a positive pool can be tested as soon as possible and receive individual results in 15 minutes.

Our staff has been thoroughly trained on how to administer pooled testing, as well as the Abbott BinaxNOW Rapid Antigen Diagnostic Tests, if they are needed for follow-up testing.   Your child’s school nurse, the Director of Nurses, Mary Giuliana or building principal will notify you if your child is part of a positive pool and requires follow-up testing. The Reading Public Schools will also notify you of the individual follow-up test results and if your child is positive or negative and what to do in each scenario.

The Reading Public Schools will report all follow-up test results to DPH.  The Reading Public Schools will also provide positive follow-up test results (without names or other identifying information) to DESE’s Rapid Response Help Unit.

To give permission for your student to participate in the COVID-19 Pooled Testing Program at our school, including consent to transmit student information via the pooled testing technology platform, consent for any necessary follow up tests, and consent to share the test result information with the Department of Public Health and CIC Health (a third party [non-profit] organization contracted to compile consent for testing and to share test results), please complete this online consent form no later than Thursday, February 11th.  We have attached a word version of the document to you to review prior to completing the form online.   Please note that all students that participate in person for athletics or extra-curricular activities are required to be tested to continue to participate in these activities.

We are extremely grateful to our committed staff and families that continue to show great flexibility and resilience as we navigate through this school year. It takes all of us working together to contain the spread of this virus. Each school in our district is excited to add pooled testing as another mitigation strategy for our school community, as we continue to work to work together toward the safe return of all students and staff to school.

If you have questions regarding the COVID-19 Pooled Testing Program, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Link to Consent Form

Thank you,

John F. Doherty, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

Winter Hybrid Update 8

Good Morning, Everyone,

I hope all is well.  Here is Winter Hybrid Update 8.  We will be sending out additional information about Pooled Testing later today. Have a great Super Bowl Sunday!

  • COVID-19 Information-Here are the COVID-19 cases for this week.
    • Staff-We had 2 staff test positive, one at Birch Meadow (remote, no close contacts) and one at Joshua Eaton (in person, 45 students and 7 staff quarantined)
    • Elementary Students-We had four elementary students test positive, all were remote with no close contacts. (Birch Meadow, Barrows, Eaton, Wood End)
    • Middle School-We had four middle school students test positive, all were remote with no close contacts. (3 Coolidge and 1 Parker)
    • RMHS-We had two RMHS students test positive, one in person (1 student quarantined) and one remote (no close contacts)
  • Fall 2 Sports Season-On Friday, the Middlesex League Athletic Directors and Superintendents met to discuss the Fall 2 Sports Season.  The tentative schedule for Fall 2 is as follows: 
    • Phase I (Practices/Tryouts) – Starts February 22, 2021
  • The fall 2 sports season for practices/tryouts will begin no earlier than February 22, 2021.
  • Individual schools will make decisions about the timing for beginning practices/tryouts based upon the local context of each school community up to 4 practices a week for varsity and 3 for sub-varsity teams.
  • Over the two weeks of Phase I, schools will assess the effectiveness of sports modifications and cleaning protocols, as  well as the trajectory of the virus, to determine if athletics can proceed to Phase II – Interscholastic Competitions.
  •   Phase II (Interscholastic Competitions) – Starts March 6th Volleyball, Girls Swim, Indoor Track March 19 Football, Cheer, and Dance
  • Interscholastic competition can start March 6th (Volleyball, Girls Swim, Indoor Track & March 19 Football, Cheer & dance)
  • Schedules will be designed, by sport, to match only two communities in a given week.
  • Initially, up to two spectators will be permitted to attend any outdoor competitions. This number may be reduced depending on the facility and any other limitations placed on outdoor gatherings by the MA Department of Public Health.
  • Snow Day or Remote Day?- I received a few questions regarding this past Tuesday being a snow day instead of a remote day.  Each school district is wrestling with this decision and several surrounding districts did call a snow day last Tuesday.  Here is my rationale:
    • First, we have several students (high needs, preschool, and kindergarten) who are unable to access remote learning because of their disability or developmental age.  Essentially, we would be excluding these students from a day of school.  This is denying them much needed services and learning opportunity.  We also have some employees that would lose a day’s pay if we went remote.  In the past, with a traditional snow day, those days would be moved to the end of June and they would not lose pay.  Unfortunately, now these employees need to be in person to work and would not be able to make up the opportunity because of the remote day.  For this particular snow day, I was also concerned that the forecast called for a noreaster with damaging winds, which could create power outages.  If students and/or teachers did not have power, we could not have a remote day of school and it would have been shifted to a snow day.  Finally, I am still optimistic that we will be in person at the end of the school year.  By having a traditional snow day, it potentially increases our in person days at the end year of the year not only for half the students, but perhaps all of the students.
    • Currently, we have had two snow days, so the last day of school is scheduled for June 21st.
  • SEPAC Meeting- Please join the SEPAC (Special Education Parent Advisory Council) at our next business meeting on Tuesday, February 9, 2021 at 7:00 PM! New business for this meeting includes an update from our reading/literacy subcommittee and a brief presentation by Alice Gomez, School Psychologist, on community resources, followed by a parent discussion regarding the same. Please join us for this presentation and discussion and feel free to share any additional resources that you think other parents may find helpful. All are welcome!  This meeting will be held virtually, via Zoom at the following Meeting link: Join Zoom Meeting
  • Doc Wayne Update- Thank you to everyone who joined the Reading Coalition for Prevention & Support and Doc Wayne at an information session earlier this week to learn more about Doc Wayne’s youth therapeutic programs. If you were unable to attend an information session but are still interested in learning more about Doc Wayne’s services, please contact Maggie Yuan, Doc Wayne Program Director, at myuan@docwayne.org. If you have additional questions about adult and youth therapeutic options available to the Reading community please contact Sammy Salkin, Reading Coalition Outreach Coordinator, at ssalkin@ci.reading.ma.us.
  • Food Distribution-This is a reminder that we are continuing our popular food distribution for all students and families.  Food distribution days are Wednesday, from 2:30-3:30 p.m. and Fridays from 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at the bridge at Reading Memorial High School (near the east side of the field house)  Families are given 7 days of breakfast and lunch per child in their family.  No identification is necessary.  Please note that we will not be distributing food during February vacation week.

Winter Hybrid Update 7

Good Morning, Reading Public School Staff and Families,

I hope that you are surviving this very cold weekend.  Here is Winter Hybrid Update #7.

  • COVID-19 Information:  We had a total of 10 cases this past week.  Below are the cases by level:
    •   3 RMHS students-There was no in school exposure and no athletics exposure.  No students or staff were quarantined.
    •   1 Coolidge student-There was no in school exposure and no students or staff were quarantined.
    •   4 Parker students-There was three classes of students that were exposed.  33 students and no staff were quarantined.
    •   5 Wood End students-All unrelated.  There was one class that was exposed.  9 students and 1 staff member were quarantined.
  • Community Forum This Week on Pooled Testing and Other Hybrid Updates-The Reading Public Schools is planning on moving forward with pooled testing in the near future as an additional mitigation step for all staff and students.  We will be holding staff and community forums this week to present what pooled testing is and also any other winter hybrid updates.  The community updates will be held on Zoom and will be at the following dates and times:
  • Potential Snow Storm for Monday Afternoon/Tuesday-The current forecast for our area is predicting that snow will begin tomorrow afternoon at approximately 1:00-3:00 p.m. and will continue into the evening and Tuesday morning.  If school is impacted on Tuesday due to inclement weather, it will be a snow day and not a remote day.  We will keep you updated if conditions change.
  • Second Semester/Third Quarter for Secondary Schools starts Tomorrow-Second Semester and Third Quarter begins tomorrow for our middle schools and RMHS.  In addition, elementary schools will switch art and music classes. 
  • CDC Article on Reopening Schools-This week, you may have seen the CDC study on reopening schools  and accompanying articles.  It is important to continue to emphasize that the reason why in school transmissions are much lower than the rest of the community is because of all of the mitigation steps that our schools are taking.  This includes the 6 foot distancing, hand sanitizing, cohorts, cleaning and disinfecting, mask wearing, updated ventilation and upgraded filters, and staying home when a person has symptoms.  We are excited that we will now be adding pooled testing to those mitigation strategies.
  • SEPAC Information– Please join the SEPAC (Special Education Parent Advisory Council) at our next business meeting on Tuesday, February 9, 2021 at 7:00 PM! New business for this meeting includes an update from our reading/literacy subcommittee and a brief presentation by Alice Gomez, School Psychologist, on community resources, followed by a parent discussion regarding the same. Please join us for this presentation and discussion and feel free to share any additional resources that you think other parents may find helpful. All are welcome!  This meeting will be held virtually, via Zoom. Join us for our next VIRTUAL SEPAC MEETING on Tuesday, February 9th at 7 PM. Meeting link: Join Zoom Meeting . Please also join us for our next VIRTUAL Reading and Literacy Subcommittee Meetingon TuesdayFebruary 2nd at 7PM.  Meeting link: https://readingpsma.zoom.us/j/87835232197  All are welcome and ENCOURAGED to attend!
  • Opportunity for Therapy- The Reading Coalition for Prevention & Support has partnered with Doc Wayne to bring an exciting youth therapeutic program to Reading students ages 5-18. If you are looking for individual therapy for your child or are interested in learning more about group therapy, please join Doc Wayne and the Reading Coalition for a virtual information session. Sessions will be hosted on:

Using a theoretical curriculum, which incorporates social-emotional learning and life skills, Doc Wayne offers innovative mental health programming. In addition to traditional individual therapy, Doc Wayne offers unique group therapeutic programs. Through these groups students:

  • Have the opportunity and needed supports to become resilient and regulated individuals with positive adult and peer relationships
  • Create positive relationships with teammates, friends, and family members
  • Become confident and competent members of their schools and larger communities
  • Achieve their highest level of academic success

Please see the attached PDF for additional information on Doc Wayne. All of Doc Wayne’s programming is being offered via telehealth due to COVID-19.

doc-wayne_readingDownload

If you have any questions please contact Sammy Salkin, Outreach Coordinator, Reading Coalition for Prevention & Support at ssalkin@ci.reading.ma.us.

Have a great week ahead!

John Doherty

Superintendent

Reading Public Schools

82 Oakland Road

Reading, Massachusetts 01867

781-944-5800

John.doherty@reading.k12.ma.us

Finalists Announced for Reading Public School Superintendent

Please see the attached information from Reading School Committee Chair Charles Robinson regarding the announcement of the finalists for the Position of Superintendent of Schools.

January 29, 2021

To:       Reading Public School Community and the Reading Community at Large 

From:   Chuck Robinson, Chair Reading School Committee

Re:        Superintendent of Schools – Reading Public Schools

As you are aware the Reading School Committee has been conducting a search for a new Superintendent of Schools to begin leadership of our school district effective June 30, 2021.  I am pleased to inform you that our search process has selected three exceptional candidates as finalists to be interviewed by the committee.  They are as follows:

  • Dr. Matthew Janger, Currently High School Principal at the Arlington, MA Public Schools
  • Mr. Thomas Milaschewski (Doctoral Candidate – June 2021), Currently Superintendent Resident at the Medford, MA Public Schools
  • Dr. Stephen Zadravec, Currently Superintendent at the Portsmouth, NH Public Schools

The committee is excited about these candidates and we have planned various opportunities for all the stakeholders to meet these candidates and provide feedback.  Information on these forums and the feedback gathering mechanism will follow in a separate notice.

We look forward to announcing the Next Superintendent of the Reading Public Schools on February 11, 2021. 

Thank you,

Charles Robinson

Chair, Reading School Committee

COVID Vaccination Update From Town Manager Robert LeLacheur

I hope this note finds you all well and safe. Please know that no one can do more to protect the health and wellness of the Reading community than each of you – and please remember to look after each other.

Two days ago, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts changed their approach to Covid-19 vaccinations, with an emphasis on state-run large sites and online sign ups. As many of you know, the best locations for up-to-date information from the state are: https://www.maimmunizations.org and this map for state locations: https://www.maimmunizations.org/clinic/search.

Another useful map combines state and private locations, but not all are available to Reading residents: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-vaccination-locations-for-individuals-in-eligible-groups-and-phases. As I write this, the state is working to simplify the online application process, and we will keep the community updated. Right now, the emphasis is on completing Phase 1 eligible candidates (medical personnel and first responders); then moving to 75+ year old residents; 65+ year old residents; and then under 65-year-old residents with two or more serious medical conditions.

In Reading, since March 2020 we have provided updates on our home page www.readingma.gov. The red banner on the top of that page represents all the best information we have, along with many links to a lot more information. Recently we added a yellow ‘COVID-19 Vaccine Info’ button to that home page, which is also included within the red banner page.

Your Emergency Management team in Reading is prepared to run large scale local clinics, as Town and School staff have worked collaboratively and diligently through the myriad of logistics to make this happen. However, those plans were shelved by the new approach by the state, as we have been told that we will receive a maximum of 100 doses per week for the foreseeable future. At that rate, we would be vaccinating our 75+ year old residents well into next fall, let alone the other 20,000+ residents! I raised this point on a state-wide call on Tuesday, and the same frustration is happening everywhere.

Yesterday Governor Baker indicated that the uncertainty of vaccination supply is a national issue, and believes that the federal government will provide more information by early next week. This will allow the state to better plan vaccine distribution, and we will continue to advocate loudly for more vaccine so we may directly serve our residents locally.

Some folks have asked about actions in neighboring communities. For reference, we are in a public health region within the state that reaches to our north and west, and led by Andover. We challenged this setup earlier this winter, but it did not change. I am told that one of the charms of New England is the decentralization of government to the local level. While I often see and enjoy that charm, during a pandemic having Police, Fire and Public Health all in three different regional groups does not improve the efficiency of a coordinated response, a point I raised over a decade ago. Yet rest assured that we are using all of our relationships with other communities regardless of region to provide the best resources for Reading.

Today we have only 20 doses of vaccine on hand with another 50 doses on the way. So right now, our best advice is for neighbors to please help each other. Yesterday, I did hear from some residents that with persistence they were able to schedule appointments. However, we know that about 25% of our 75+ population do not use computers regularly, and the state’s online application process can be daunting.

We began the process to reach out proactively to lists of the frail and fragile residents that would most need our help. This help ranges from online computer assistance through medical rides. We have also contemplated delivering services to our home bound residents. However, our resources have been swamped by hundreds of incoming calls in the past 48 hours – very understandably. We have shifted additional staff to help out, and are keeping lists of requests so that we may soon return to our proactive work aimed at those most in need.

I believe the new approach by the state is a good one, and will, err… overcome some of that local charm when we are ready for broad vaccine distribution at Phase 3 sometime in the spring. In the meanwhile, we will advocate for more vaccine so that we may at least serve our most frail and fragile residents.

The pandemic has exhausted us all, in a wide variety of ways, physically, mentally and emotionally. One day in the future, we will all be well rested and calm, and able to look back critically on things that might have been done differently.

Today, however, is the time to remember to take care of each other and be a close-knit community.

The pandemic has isolated us in ways we could not have imagined. Isolationism is divisive. Please stop, take a deep breath, and call an elderly relative or neighbor that might need your help. Working together is the only way we’ll get the best results the community deserves.