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Message from Superintendent Duerr

May27, 2020

Dear Clipper Families,

The summer weather has greeted us this week, and as you interact with more people, I hope everyone continues to be safe and well as we begin to reopen Falmouth. 

General Information.

  • You are once again asked to pick up items curbside at the schools. Everyone has practiced safe distancing, wearing masks and gloves, and following hand-washing protocols in the past few months, and I ask all our staff and families to continue to do so even as the Stay at Home Advisory restrictions have lifted in Governor Baker’s Reopening Massachusetts plan. 
  • Staff have plans to spend one day in their school to complete the end of the year packing and close-out. There may be a day that a teacher will not be engaging your child in a class or individual meeting now through June 26. We apologize for any inconvenience as our schools need to be prepared for normal and expansive summer cleaning. Students will, however, have assignments to complete. 

Remote Learning Survey. Thank you for taking the time to complete the remote learning survey. We are pleased that a third of our families completed the survey. We appreciate the feedback to not only make adjustments this spring but to also help us plan for next year. 

The following are highlights and suggestions drawn from the survey responses:

  • We are pleased that an increasing number of students are feeling connected to school. Connecting with students still remains our most important goal. We still have four weeks of school and I hope you continue to encourage your child to connect with teachers and classmates.
  • Although a large percent of parents think the amount of work is just right (63%), we do have some parents who believe it is too much, and others that think it is too little. We recognize that every home is unique and has different needs, and, therefore, we encourage parents to reach out to your child’s teacher and principal to modify your child’s workload. 
  • Among the most preferred tools and strategies are teacher-led instruction in real time, check in time with teacher, teacher recorded videos, and recorded online resources. All of these received support from 30 - 40% of respondents. 
  • Morning meetings, social get togethers, and small group instruction also receive favorable ratings. 
  • No single tool or strategy stood out as being the clear winner. Most families report they like the flexibility to select tools and create a schedule of when to engage in remote learning and complete assignments. They also prefer to have the learning expectations and assignments in advance to inform their planning. To this end, our elementary specialists have coordinated their assignments and are sending weekly communications via GoogleSlides. Similarly, both Lawrence School and Falmouth High School published schedules for online class interactions to avoid conflicts.

Thank you for the high marks on responsiveness and communication. Staying connected with you is important to us.

State Guidance. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) Commissioner Riley has formed an advisory task force, Return to School Working Group, to develop guidance on reopening schools across the Commonwealth. The group will help develop a K - 12 summer and fall restart and recovery plan. This plan will include guidance on the following four topic areas:

  • Physical and virtual learning environments
  • Teaching and learning
  • Operations and business services
  • Behavioral health and social and emotional learning

Commissioner Riley indicated on a call earlier today that the plan will be available in mid-June. He wants his committee to have time to provide thoughtful and thorough guidance. As this guidance is still a couple weeks away, I assure you that your FPS educators are already planning for many likely scenarios. Here are just a few things we are planning:

  • We are preparing schedules for a hybrid learning environment where students will spend some time in school and some time in remote learning. In addition, we are planning for a full virtual option for parents who are not ready to send their children to the physical school building.
  • We are preparing additional professional development for our educators to deliver remote learning and manage a hybrid learning environment. We are purchasing upgraded technology to assist in the delivery of remote learning in a common digital classroom format. 
  • We are developing plans to modify student schedules and the physical space such as keeping groups of students together, smaller class size with desks six feet apart, and lunch in the classroom. 
  • We are developing safety protocols like wearing masks and increasing hand washing routines; and adhering to the cleaning and disinfecting guidance. We have plans to train all our staff in these protocols and new routines.

While we are developing several potential models for summer learning and the 2020-2021 school year, we are referring to CDC guidance https://www.mass.gov/info-details/reopening-massachusetts, Governor Baker’s Reopening Massachusetts plan https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html, and local health department guidance. Several district-wide stakeholder committees are addressing portions of our plan. In addition, I am forming a parent/staff advisory committee to provide input and feedback to our overarching plan. 

Summer Learning Opportunities. We will continue to offer summer school for Falmouth High School and Lawrence School students as we have each summer. We will also continue our Extended School Year (ESY) for students who qualify for enrollment in this program. We will launch a Summer Learning Academy for students entering grades one through seven in the 2020 - 2021 school year. The intention is to reinforce and develop core skills for the upcoming year as well as return to the routines of learning. All summer programming will shift to a later start to allow students and families to break from remote learning and educators to have additional time for planning. Accordingly, these programs will persist further into August. While we are hopeful that our summer programming will include some face-to-face engagement, we are prepared to host our programs remotely if needed.

Summer learning and engagement of mathematics for elementary students is being supported through a grant from the One8 Foundation to sustain access to ST Math. More information about learning and support from our Math Coaches will be forthcoming.

The Office of Teaching & Learning will also post summer learning opportunities and enrichment activities for all students and families. 

In conclusion. Thank you for your continued patience as we refine our plans and wait for clear guidance. We miss our students, and it saddens us to be planning for additional time in remote learning. I want us to stay hopeful while realistic as we move forward.

Please take care and be well.

Lori Duerr, Ed.D.
Superintendent
Falmouth Public Schools