The fifteenth School Committee meeting of the academic year was held on April 20, 2020. As of the meeting, the decision about reopening schools was still pending. Governor Baker has since confirmed that school will remain out of session for the remainder of the school year.
Distance Learning Update and Next Steps
Superintendent Edouard-Vincent provided a report on student engagement during our school closure. District-wide there are a small number of students who our teachers have not been able to engage with (38) and approximately 350 students who are being monitored for inconsistent engagement. Now that we understand this baseline, we can better adapt and address plans moving forward. Outreach will continue for students we have not been able to reach yet. I also asked the district to find a way to systematically capture whether each student has internet access and access to a computer at home.
I made a motion that the Engagement, Communications, and Strategic Planning Committee works with the administration to develop a plan to hold a series of community roundtables in May 2020. The plan will include a strategy to use the roundtables to develop possible Fall 2020 back-to-school scenarios amidst the ever-changing environment. The subcommittee will provide a plan to the full School Committee on May 4, 2020. Roundtables will be Committee of the Whole meetings. I believe that this is critically important work. We continue to hear from health experts around the world that this pandemic is not going away any time soon. In the last week alone, we've listened to reports about 2nd waves in the upcoming winter being worse than right now, as well as news that those who have had the virus may not be immune to future bouts of illness from COVID-19.
Superintendent Edouard-Vincent's Updates
We held the 5th-grade lottery on Monday, April 20. Results are available here. Planning is underway for virtual student orientations.
Congratulations are to our own '2020 Super Librarian' Maria D'Orsi!
COVID-19 Related Updates
Students needing tech support from the district can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. A member of the district technology team will respond and assist.
There will be no MCAS this year. Discussions around 10th grade MCAS and how this impacts graduation requirements are ongoing at the state level, so stay tuned.
There will be no SATs this spring.
The McGlynn Elementary school teacher parade was an excellent time for all!
Thanks to the Teamsters Local 25 for their donation of hand sanitizer to support our essential staff. They donated sanitizer produced by MS Walker, a local distillery that has changed gears during this pandemic.
Meeting Agenda Items
Assistant Superintendent Kirsteen Patterson submitted a recommendation to adopt a contract amendment with Eastern Bus company. The amendment ensures continuity for our bus drivers, who we will rely on when school resumes. Eastern Bus will pay all staff. In return, MPS will pay 70% of the 'typical' fee through the remainder of this school year. The School Committee voted unanimously in support of this recommendation
Kindergarten Enrollment has gone virtual! You can now register your student online here. Registration is down slightly as compared to last year at this same time, but this is likely due to school closures. Required documentation will be submitted via email. You will receive an email confirmation. I asked that the team consider virtual 'Visiting Day' options should the school closure extend (which it has).
The Special Education Parent Advisory Council presented the results of their stakeholder engagement survey. The survey was recently administered and targeted at those students who receive special education services by the district. Overall, there were 163 responses from families of children receiving special education services. The data overall highlights the need for increased communication, guidance, and consistency to support our most vulnerable students. It also cites that many families are dealing with increased levels of anxiety and worry. Thanks to the SEPAC and to Tonya Sullivan and Alex Lauric for their presentation!
Dr. Peter Cushing presented results from a district-wide survey about the early days of our distance learning across Medford. There were 737 survey responses across all grade levels. The survey covers communication, child anxiety levels, and some specific questions to understand the home experience so far.
The survey sites asked about things that are working well. The top three responses are video calls with teachers (50.8% of respondents), clarity on how to get support if it is needed (49.7% of respondents), and clear instructions (48.9% of respondents), The survey asks about challenges.
The top three responses are: working at home while attempting to administer distance learning (50.8% of respondents), Unfamiliarity with content (12.5% of respondents), and struggles to support a child's special needs (12.3% of respondents).
When asked what would be helpful, the top three responses are: more communication from teachers (40.8%), more academic content (34.7%), and improved scheduling (28.7%).
Dr. Cushing also shared a draft survey to collect input from the district regarding the Student Opportunity Act. Under the SOA, Medford is slated to receive an additional $138,000 annually. While there is some question about whether this money will materialize amid the current crisis, districts are required to submit plans and responses to DESE. The Engagement, Communications, and Strategic Planning subcommittee, which I chair, will be planning a roundtable once the results of the survey are received. Stay tuned for those details!
The administration gave an update on high school graduation activities. They reiterated their commitment to postponing, and not canceling, activities. After the meeting, they held a Facebook Live event for seniors, and are planning additional ways to collect input and build a plan to move forward. We are all sad for our Seniors, and we are all committed to making what's left of senior year special! Stay tuned for details as they become available.
Your call to action: Stay home, and wash your hands! Reach out to me (email@example.com) if you have questions or an issue you'd like to discuss. Please also share this blog with friends and neighbors who want to be informed about our schools. Subscribing to the newsletter will ensure you receive these updates as I post them.