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.
- Disposable masks (adult and child)
- Clear masks (for special education)
- Gowns (For nurses and other personnel that work with high risk students)
- Face Shields (For those working with higher risk students)
- Goggles (For Nurses)
- KN95 Masks
- Hand Sanitizer Dispensers for high traffic areas and classrooms
- 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.
- Replacement laptops to continue our five year replacement cycle
- 1:1 devices for remote learning for families that need additional devices
- Cameras for synchronous learning
- Wireless Hotspots for families that do not have wireless at home
- Social Studies and English Online Tool (Newsela for K-12)
- Edulastic assessment platform (all subjects, gr. 3-8)
- Science formative assessment probes, Professional Text (gr. K-8)
- Math formative assessment probes, Professional Text (gr. 1-3)
- Social Studies Tool (National Geographic Books and Online Programming) for grades 9, 10 and 11
- Online ELA Tool (Actively Learn for 6-8)
- Math Tool (EnVision series for grades 7 and 8)
- Algebra 1 Tool (EnVision) for grades 8/9
- Math differentiation tools (gr. 6)
- Math Manipulatives (gr. 6-8)
- Coding/Computer Science resources (gr. 6-8)
- 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.
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