Family Survey #1 for 2020-2021 School Year

Good Afternoon, Reading Public School Families,

The Reading Public Schools is committed to providing the safest work and learning environment for our staff and students.  To that end, we are in the process of planning for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. This is the first of at least two surveys that will be administered over the next several weeks regarding the opening of school.  This survey is anonymous and your responses will help inform us as we move forward with plans for a school opening.  Please note that school opening plans will be contingent upon guidance that we receive from CDC, DPH, and DESE.

The Link to the Survey is below.  Please complete one survey per family.   Multiple children per family may be answered on the same survey.  The deadline to complete the survey is Monday, June 22nd. 

https://forms.gle/yLot2ocpfcXjwsVm6

Thanks and have a great week!

Fall Reopening Update #4

Good Morning, Reading Public School Families and Community Members,

I hope that you are doing well and you are enjoying your summer.  Unless you have completely unplugged from social media and the news (which I hope you have been), you have probably heard and seen a lot of information nationally and at the state level regarding the opening of schools in the fall.  I can only imagine the level of anxiety and questions that each of you may have regarding what school is going to look like and how this will impact your children and your families.

I want to reassure you that NO decisions have been made regarding the start of the school year.  School reopening is a state and local decision.  As required by DESE, we are in the process of developing three different school reopening plans:  An in person model which follows the American Pediatric Association Guidelines of three feet physical distancing with masks, a hybrid model where approximately half of the students are remote while half of the students are in person, and a completely remote model.  Over the last several weeks there have been several working groups in our district focused on different areas of the reopening on what works best for the Reading Public Schools.  These groups have a mix of teachers, administrators, and parents. In addition, the survey data that you and families provided us a few weeks ago has been very helpful in our planning process.

Our decision making process for what the start of school will look like will focus on the safety of our staff and students combined with the educational benefit of returning to an in person school.  When we have enough information, we will work closely with our collective bargaining units to develop a plan that focuses on health, safety, and education.  We are using the latest medical information provided to us by the state, the latest guidance from DESE, and the resources that we have available as a district.  We will continue to get feedback from staff and the community as we go through this process.

To that end, I wanted to share with you some updates on where we are.  As you will see below, a significant amount of work is happening behind the scenes for the planning and preparation for the reopening of school.  I would like to publicly thank our building principals, Chief Financial Officer Gail Dowd, Assistant Superintendent for Learning and Teaching Chris Kelley, Director of Student Services Jennifer Stys, HR Administrator Jennifer Allard, Director of Facilities Joe Huggins, Director of School Nutrition Danielle Collins, Director of Health Services Mary Giuliana, Network Manager Julian Carr, METCO Director Grant Hightower, Director of Adult and Community Education Chris Nelson and all of their teams for the amazing work they have done and continue to do.

I have included for you three documents on the links below; the presentation that we gave the School Committee on Thursday evening that was an update on the Fall Reopening, the latest guidance that was sent to us by DESE on Special Education Services for the start of the school year, and a document that was released yesterday by DESE on Frequently Asked Questions.  This is for your information to hopefully answer some of the questions that you may have regarding the start of school.

In the meantime, I encourage you to reach out to your building principal or myself if you have any questions.  If you would like to have a virtual office hour meeting with me, please complete the following link.  In addition, I will be having staff forums in the next few weeks for you to hear updated information and ask any questions that you may have.  We will be sending you out a follow-up survey in the near future to get further feedback.  I will also continue to send you updates when information becomes available.

Here are some current updates:

1. PPE-Over the last several weeks, we have been purchasing PPE and other products to protect staff and students when we are in person.  We are purchasing adequate PPE so that both students and staff have access to their designated PPE if they need it.  Following DESE guidelines, here is a list of what has been ordered.

    1. Disposable masks (adult and child)
    2. Clear masks (for special education)
    3. Gloves
    4. Gowns (For nurses and other personnel that work with high risk students)
    5. Face Shields (For those working with higher risk students)
    6. Goggles (For Nurses)
    7. KN95 Masks
    8. Hand Sanitizer Dispensers for high traffic areas and classrooms
    9. Hand Sanitizer

2.  Technology and Curriculum Purchases-To help facilitate our online learning, we have purchased a significant amount of technology and curriculum tools to support teachers and students this upcoming school year.  A full list is in the power point presentation that is attached.  Here are some of the highlights.

    1. Replacement laptops to continue our five year replacement cycle
    2. 1:1 devices for remote learning for families that need additional devices
    3. Cameras for synchronous learning
    4. Wireless Hotspots for families that do not have wireless at home
    5. Social Studies and English Online Tool (Newsela for K-12)
    6. Edulastic assessment platform (all subjects, gr. 3-8)
    7. Science formative assessment probes, Professional Text (gr. K-8)
    8. Math formative assessment probes, Professional Text (gr. 1-3)
    9. Social Studies Tool (National Geographic Books and Online Programming) for grades 9, 10 and 11
    10. Online ELA Tool (Actively Learn for 6-8)
    11. Math Tool (EnVision series for grades 7 and 8)
    12. Algebra 1 Tool (EnVision) for grades 8/9
    13. Math differentiation tools (gr. 6)
    14. Math Manipulatives (gr. 6-8)
    15. Coding/Computer Science resources (gr. 6-8)
    16. Lexia Intervention and Early Literacy Screening Tool

3.   Classroom Space Analysis-As part of developing the in person and hybrid models for our own use and as part of our submission requirements to DESE, we are currently analyzing each learning space in every school to determine the in person capacity of every classroom using the 3 foot minimum requirement with masks, proper handwashing, daily cleaning and disinfecting, and following proper protocols for staff and students when they are sick.  The three foot distance is defined as measured from the seat of one desk to the seat of an adjacent desk.  We anticipate that we will have this information within two weeks, which will allow us to plan for schedules, lunch, specialists, appropriate planning time, etc.

4.    Start of School-It is possible that the Commissioner will change the number of required student days to a number less than 180 days.  The difference in days will be allocated to staff for training and professional development in preparation for the beginning of the school year, regardless of the model.  Once we have more information and a definitive answer, we will publish a new school calendar.

5.   Other guidance coming out in the near future-We have been told by DESE that we will be receiving additional guidance in the near future on bus transportation, athletics, physical education, extended day programs and extra-curriculum activities (i.e. band, drama, chorus), and a final fall guidance.  This information will help inform us even further as to what will school look like.  We have already begun conversations with our staff on these topics and as to what it could look like.

6.  Comcast Discount for Families-I have linked, for your information, a Brochure from Comcast Learning for a discount on high speed internet to our income qualified families.  A device is also included as part of this opportunity.  There is also a discount for Senior Citizens who qualify found in this Letter.

Thank you for your continued patience and support.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your building principal or myself.

Be safe and enjoy your summer.

Sincerely,

John F. Doherty Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

Fall Reopening Update for July 9, 2020 School Committee Meeting

DESE Reopening FAQ

DESE Special Education Guidance

Fall Reopening Update #3

Good Afternoon, Reading Public School Families,

 

We wanted to provide you with additional updates on Fall Reopening and Extended School Year.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at john.doherty@reading.k12.ma.us or schedule a virtual meeting during one of my office hours by clicking on the form here.

 

  • Kindergarten-We wanted to let our incoming kindergarten parents know for planning purposes that kindergarten students will be going through the kindergarten screening process over the first several days of our in person school model.  What this will mean is that kindergarten students will not have regular sessions until most likely the second week of classes.  We are currently working on a final schedule and will share it with you later in the summer.

 

  • Out of State Travel-In one of their previous communications, DESE has informed us that if your child is travelling out of state within two weeks of the start of school, he or she may not be allowed to enter a school until they have been quarantined for two weeks.  This requirement may change as we get closer to the start of the school year, but we wanted to let you know as you plan summer travel.

 

  • Technology Capacity and Bandwidth-As part of our review process of remote learning, we are assessing the minimum requirements needed at home for devices and internet connections in case we need to go back to that model during the school year.  If you are thinking of purchasing a device for your child this summer, we recommend getting a Windows or Apple computer, tablet, Chromebook or phone with all security and driver patches installed.  In addition, you may want to purchase a headset or earphones to minimize noise pollution.  The Internet Connection is critical to successful videoconferencing and should have a minimum of 30 Mbps down and 30 Mbps up to conduct online sessions.  In addition, each additional student in a single online meeting will require additional upload bandwidth.  If Internet bandwidth is insufficient to support classroom size or audio and video streams, the quality of both will be affected.  For example, on an HD video call, bandwidth requirements increase 0.6 Mbps when going from 2 to 5 participants, and an additional 0.8 Mbps when increasing from 5 to 10 participants.

 

  • American Academy of Pediatrics Guidance-Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics released guidance for school reentry.  A copy of this guidance can be found here.  As part of the guidance the AAP states, “the AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”

 

  • DESE Comprehensive Summer School Guidance-Yesterday, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released Comprehensive Summer School Guidance.  This information is primarily for our students in Extended School Year Programs.  We have been working very closely with families who are attending ESY to educate them about our program this summer.  If you have a child in the ESY program and you have any questions, please contact Director of Student Services Jennifer Stys at Jennifer.stys@reading.k12.ma.us or Assistant Director of Student Services Allison Wright at Allison.Wright@reading.k12.ma.us .

 

Thanks and have a great fourth of July weekend!

Summer Virtual Office Hours with Superintendent of Schools

Good Afternoon, Reading Public Schools Families and Staff,

As we begin this unique summer prior to the reopening of school.  I would like to give you an opportunity to schedule a virtual office hour to ask any questions that you may have related to the opening of school, next year, or any school related topic.If you would like to have a virtual meeting this summer, please complete the form below.  All meetings will be held on Microsoft Teams and will be scheduled for 20 minute time slots.   When we receive your response, we will send out a Microsoft Teams invitation.  We will send out this request to you periodically during the summer.

https://forms.gle/sFnREfwW7JxZbBPy9

If you have any questions, contact Superintendent of Schools John Doherty at john.doherty@reading.k12.ma.us.

Sincerely,

John Doherty

Superintendent of Schools

Reading Public Schools Fall Reopening Update #2

Good Afternoon, Reading Public School Staff and Families

I hope that the beginning of your summer is going well.  It is our goal to continue to keep you informed throughout the summer on the ongoing changes regarding the reopening of school this fall.  On Thursday, you received communication from our district regarding DESE guidance on the reopening of school.  Based on that communication and additional information that we have received from the Commissioner, I wanted to update and deepen the previous communication.  If you have questions or comments, please do not hesitate to email me at john.doherty@reading.k12.ma.us.  In these ongoing communications, I want to emphasize that there are many questions that we do not have answers to at this time and circumstances and decisions may change based upon the most updated medical information and data.

In addition, I have attached the presentation that I gave on Thursday evening to the Reading School Committee regarding the results of the staff and family survey that was administered from June 14-22nd and fall reopening information that was released on Thursday morning.  Hopefully, this information will be helpful to you as we continue to navigate these waters together.

Here are some additional updates.

  1. The guidance that we received from DESE on Thursday is an initial guidance.  We will be receiving a final Fall Reopening Guidance later in July.  This guidance will be very comprehensive and include many areas that were not addressed in last Thursday’s information.
  2. Based on the information that we received last Thursday, we have begun to review floor plans of every school and the square footage of every instructional space in each school.  From this analysis, we will be able to determine what adjustments we will need to make to schedules to fully implement the in person model and provide the appropriate physical distancing requirements of a minimum of three feet per person.
  3. We will be required to submit three comprehensive plans to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education by early August.  Those three plans will be for an in person model, a hybrid model which will follow an A/B schedule, and a fully remote learning model. We will be receiving further information regarding the requirements of these models in the next several days.  Because of the uncertainty of the trajectory of the virus, we will need to be nimble during the next school year and it is possible that we will be switching from model to model based upon the medical information.
  4. DESE has stated that the wearing of masks/face coverings for students and adults will be mandatory except for students in grades PreK-1 and anyone with a medical condition that would prohibit them from wearing a mask.  In addition, all bus students, regardless of age, will be required to wear a mask.
  5. Over the next few weeks, we will be receiving DESE guidance on transportation, athletics, extra-curricular activities, band, chorus, and drama.  Once we receive that information, we will be putting forward more information on those areas and how it will impact the fall.
  6. Assuming we will be implementing an in person model in the fall, we will be following the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework Standards with no modifications.  If we have to adjust to one of the other models, we will follow the state’s guidelines as to what will be adjusted.
  7. If we have to go to a remote or hybrid model, our district and the state are looking at different learning platforms that we will access.  We hope to have some more clarity on our learning platform by early August.
  8. We will be sending out a second survey to staff and families in mid to late July to get further data on a variety of topics.

Thank you again for your cooperation and patience.  Again, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thanks,

John Doherty

Superintendent

Reading Public Schools

Fall Reentry Survey Presentation-2

Initial Fall Guidance for Reopening of School

Good Morning, Reading Public School Staff and Families,

Today, Governor Charlie Baker and Department of Elementary and Secondary Commissioner Jeff Riley released Initial Fall School Reopening Guidance.  This initial guidance, which is the first of several updates that we will receive this summer, is based on the goal of a safe return of as many students as possible to in-person settings, to maximize learning and address our students’ foundational and emotional needs.  We applaud and appreciate the level of thoughtfulness and care that went into this plan, which is informed by the latest medical expertise.

Our leadership team has already done some extensive preliminary work in preparation for the fall. Over the next several days, we will be reviewing the guidance to begin to understand how it impacts what we can do in Reading.  We also acknowledge that these initial guidelines do not address every topic and that there will be additional guidance coming throughout the summer.  The full document can be found here, but here are some key components:

  • Current medical research supports a safe in-person return to school – with preventive measures in place – as infection and transmission rates are lower for children than adults.
  • Preventive measures include masks/face coverings, physical distancing, handwashing, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces.
  • Masks/face coverings will be required for all students in Grade 2 and above and for all adults; they are recommended for students in Grade 1 and below.  Exceptions will be made for those with medical conditions, disability impact, or other health or safety factors.
  • Based upon current medical research, and in conjunction with other preventive measures, a minimum physical distance of three feet has been established.

As part of our planning, DESE is asking us to develop three separate implementation plans:  one for return to full in-person instruction with safety requirements, one for full remote learning, and one for hybrid learning that combines in-person and remote learning.  Based upon the current medical situation, the expectation today is that students will return to full in-person instruction in September; however, that is subject to change based upon how the medical situation develops.

We realize that there are more questions than answers at this time, and we will continue to communicate with you in the coming weeks and months through email, social media, School Committee meetings, and other avenues.  At the Reading School Committee this evening, I will go into this guidance in further detail.   We also encourage you to read the full document, and if you have questions to please do not hesitate to contact me at john.doherty@reading.k12.ma.us or 781-944-5800.

Thank you for your patience and understanding,

John F. Doherty

Superintendent of Schools

DESE Initial Fall Reopening Guidance vFF

A Letter of Thanks to Reading Public School Staff from A Graduating Senior

Good Afternoon,

Autumn Hendrickson, who is graduating this year from Reading Memorial High School sent a letter to all Reading Public School staff thanking them for everything that they have done.  I have received permission from Autumn to post her letter on this blog.

To all of Reading’s amazing teachers and staff members,

I never thought this would be what the end of my senior year of high school would look like. I don’t think any of us, seniors or not, did. When I first came to this school district as a little fifth grader, I had yet to meet an adult who I trusted and who liked me for no special reason. I was a very broken child. When I found something or someone I liked, I clung onto it for dear life out of fear that it would be taken from me somehow. It was in the hallways of this town’s schools that, for the first time in my life, I felt loved by adults who had no reason to love me other than that they just did. It wasn’t really until my sophomore year of high school that I was able to shake the notion that the only reason why these teachers liked me was because they didn’t know me the way my adoptive mother did. If she told them who I really was, then they would all hate me.

These past seven years in the Reading Public Schools have felt like one long growth spurt for me. A lot of pain, a lot of hurt, but so much joy, and so much happiness, and so much of that safe, loved, warm feeling. What a way for it to end, eh? Ending some of the most challenging but rewarding years of my life in the middle of a global pandemic. Tough luck, I guess. My adoptive dad always said, “Tough times make brave people,” though.

These past few days, though, I have felt myself overwhelmed with pride, oddly enough. To be honest, at first, I didn’t really know why I felt that way. It wasn’t until Wednesday (June 17) that I finally realized that I was feeling proud of all of you. Proud to know so many of you, proud to have sat in your classes, proud to have been a part of your district, proud to have walked your hallways, and proud to be able to say that I was my whole, complete, unapologetic self while I was in your charge. But I was even prouder of all the stress and hard work you put yourselves through during this whole age of COVID-19 and school closures.

All the videos that you made for your students and school communities telling them how much you missed them, the elementary school teachers parading through their students’ neighborhoods to let them know they were not forgotten, the Adopt a Senior page and all the love and acknowledgement me and my fellow classmates received from teachers who we probably hadn’t talked to in years, the Senior Parade that so many of you showed up for, the daily updates of what you had been up to with your family during quarantine, and the constant check-ins. You, the teachers of the Reading Public Schools became a little bit of everything your students needed. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t do it perfectly, you did your best.

As this school year ends, I want each and every one of you to know, regardless of if I have ever sat in your class, that I am proud to be able to say I was a student in your district. And I thank you. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it were not for you. I am a product of the love, care, and thoughtfulness provided to me by your teachers and administrations. And I am not the only one.

Sincerely,

Autumn Hendrickson

Barrows Elementary School (Class of 2013), Parker Middle School (Class of 2016), Reading Memorial High School (Class of 2020)