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Message from Superintendent Duerr

Posted April 1, 2020

Dear Clipper Families,

I want to begin by thanking everyone for your support and commitment in making remote learning a success. Everyone is juggling numerous worries and responsibilities, and we know it hasn't been easy for anyone. Although remote learning is not an optimal situation, we know everyone is giving their best, and we are getting through together. We continue to be inspired and humbled by your emails, phone calls, photos, videos, and responses to our efforts during this time. Thank you for exhibiting grace while we continue to chart our way forward. We are shifting our Continuity of Learning Plan to introduce new learning and extending remote learning to include opportunities beyond the use of technology to inspire creativity and curiosity.

What’s new?

During our first few weeks of school closure, we followed DESE’s initial guidance and asked educators to support students with review and reinforcement of skills and previously introduced content only. Since our school closure has been extended, we will begin to introduce new learning. The new, updated Continuity of Learning Plans are being planned presently.

  • For PreK, an updated letter to families will be posted on the PreK Continuity of Learning Page.
  • For K - grade 2, new plans will be posted on the site, and new paper packets will be copied and mailed directly to students’ homes (we will not host a pick up day).
  • For grade 3 and 4, new learning plans will be posted to the site, and teachers will post new announcements, lessons, assignments, and activities that can be accessed online. The team is currently evaluating the extent to which a paper packet is needed. If they determine a paper packet is needed, packets will be mailed to students’ homes, including students with modified curriculum.
  • Planning for grades 5 and 6 will begin with a focus on ELA and mathematics.
  • Secondary grades 7 - 12 will leverage GoogleClassroom and/or Schoology to post announcements, lessons, assignments, and activities. Few educators will use students’ district-provided emails as their means for delivering announcements, lessons, assignments, and activities. All educators will use students’ district-provided emails as their means of one-to-one and small group electronic communication.

Since we are moving to new learning, we will also provide special education services to our students during the closure. The U.S. Department of Education issued guidance which made it clear that schools must provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities consistent with our need to protect the health and safety of students, educators, and service providers. During these exceptional circumstances, special education services will be provided differently than they are when school is fully operational.

Per guidance from DESE, “Schools may not be able to provide all services in the manner they are typically provided pursuant to students’ IEPs. The provision of FAPE may include, as appropriate, special education and related services provided remotely through resources and supports (such as strategies, projects and packets provided to students matched with regular and ongoing communication from special education team members) and services and instruction (such as virtual, online, or telephonic instruction). During this period of school closure, districts should make every effort to use creative strategies to provide special education instruction and services to the extent feasible. Moreover, any educational opportunities offered to the general student population, including enrichment activities and resources, must be made accessible to students with disabilities.”

Ensuring the health and safety of students and educators is a priority. Many specialized instructional opportunities and related services may be modified to be effectively provided by sending resources and supports to students and families online or telephonically. Such forms of specialized instruction may include accessible reading materials, speech and language services through video conferencing, videos with accurate captioning, and other accessibility accommodations. We will continue to implement many of the accommodations on students’ IEPs, such as extensions of time for assignments, large print, and use of speech-to-text, and other assistive technology.

Our English Learners (ELs) are continuing to receive specific English Language Development (ELD) content instruction from their ELD teachers who are also collaborating with their colleagues to share strategies for planning instruction for and sharing feedback with students. With regard to Continuity of Learning Plans, all items posted to the Falmouth Public Schools website are able to be translated using the translation feature in the header of the site. For ELs whose instruction is delivered via Schoology or GoogleClassroom, students can add the Google extension for translation. Once this is done, Schoology or GoogleClassroom content will be translated within the program.

A growing number of our educators are using the two district approved platforms, GoogleClassroom and the newly acquired learning management system (LMS), Schoology. At present, there are two additional telecommunication tools for small group and whole class interactions. They are GoogleMeet and Zoom. GoogleMeet is one of our available tools from the Google suite of apps.

To enhance our security measures, we are improving our Zoom protocols. You may have read that there were incidents of unidentified individuals joining Zoom classroom meetings. There are security features that will prevent these occurrences. The following steps will be taken to mitigate teleconference hijacking threats:

  • Teachers will not make meetings or classrooms public. In Zoom, there are two options to make a meeting private: require a meeting password or use the waiting room feature and control the admittance of guests.
  • Links to a teleconference or classroom will not be shared on an unrestricted publicly available social media post. Links will only be shared directly to specific students invited to the session.
  • Teachers will not allow students to screen share and will set the screensharing option to “Host Only.”

Please see the attached student and parent appropriate use of virtual platforms document. Please also know that by agreeing to participate in remote learning through the use of telecommunication tools, students must agree that they cannot save, record (video or audio), share, or post material or any photos from virtual sessions. Prior to the first meeting and any time a new student joins, the following will be read by the hosting educator: The Falmouth Public Schools strictly prohibits screenshots, pictures, audio/video recordings, and distribution of any virtual educational experience. Students agree to engage in virtual educational experiences in a quiet private area, to the extent possible, and to protect student confidentiality.

In alignment with the updated guidance from DESE, students should spend about half the time of their regular school day engaged in meaningful and productive remote learning. Such learning shall be a combination of teacher-directed and student self-directed activity as well as high tech, low tech, and no tech options. Remote learning represented in our Continuity of Learning Plans will vary depending on grade level and the nature of skills and content being introduced. Please remember that remote learning is not synonymous with online learning. Remote learning can take place in a multitude of ways, including by helping students engage with resources and found materials in their everyday lives and in the natural world around them. Remote learning also provides unique opportunities to further engage students in the arts or interdisciplinary work. Finally, we must be conscious of the effects of increased screen time and seek balance between learning through technology and remote learning that happens offline to support students’ curiosity and understanding.

In addition, please know that the new learning being introduced will be largely focused on the essential skills on which students need to work toward proficiency to be ready to advance to the next grade or next course. Along with the introduction and reinforcement of these skills will be exposure to critical grade level content. However, the emphasis is especially focused on skills that can be translated across content areas and built upon as students advance through the grades. Further, the skills of engaging in and navigating through online learning opportunities offers additional skills for learning that can serve students as they prepare for advanced learning opportunities.

Grading during the third trimester (grades 1-8) and fourth quarter (grades 7-12) will be an expectation during the school closure. Standards based grading practices will remain in effect for Kindergarten through grade 6, and letter and number grades will be replaced with credit/no credit for grades 5 - 12; however, high school courses may maintain letter and number grading. Conversation is ongoing, and additional information about high school grading is forthcoming. Determinations of no credit will not be assigned to students who do not have equitable access to learning opportunities during closure due to technology, internet, health, disability, and/or language challenges. Similarly, progress reports for students with disabilities, students receiving Title 1 services, and students receiving ELD instruction (grades K - 6) shall also follow this reporting timeline.

Note on Quarter 3 grades at Lawrence and FHS: Students will be graded for work completed/submitted up through the March 13 school closure. Students will not be penalized for any missed days/missed work in Quarter 3. If after the school closure, students submitted work that they missed prior to the March 13 school closure, the work will be included in the students' Quarter 3 grade. Students will not be asked to make up missed work at this time for purposes of inclusion in Quarter 3 grades. Review work that was assigned after the March 13 school closure will neither be graded nor included in Quarter 3 grades. Similarly, progress reports for students with disabilities, students receiving Title 1 services, and students receiving ELD instruction (grades K - 6) shall also follow this reporting timeline.

Lessons, assignments, and activities are not optional. Educators will interact with students to share announcements, clarify assignments, and respond to students’ questions. Educators will also provide students with feedback based on work completed and submitted. This feedback will be used to determine grades for trimester 3 (grades 1 - 8) and quarter 4 (grades 7 - 12). Please know that educators are working to design learning on which students can work independently. Students may, however, seek support from their families, and we thank you for encouraging them and motivating them to persevere in their learning.

Office Hours will be offered to students and families for direct consultation in support of students’ success with the lessons, assignments, and tasks associated with the Continuity of Learning Plans. Schools will help create schedules by grade level at the elementary grades and by subject or period at the secondary grades, so students and families will have access to all their teachers.


We will be extending our Spirit Day! campaign over the next three weeks. We had over 200 posts last Thursday. It was fantastic to see so many student, family, and staff photos. It really does lift the SPIRITS!! Begin looking for our next pop up request today. We hope you will share your photos on Facebook and Twitter. Encourage all our Clippers to share photos, too! Let’s stay socially connected while physically distanced!


Thank you for your continued understanding as we learn how to best support our students during this closure. We miss our students and our families greatly and will continue to work to maintain close connections.

Sincerely,

Lori Duerr, Ed.D.
Superintendent
Falmouth Public Schools