On Wednesday, March 25th, Governor Baker announced extending the school closure from April 7th to May 4th, 2020 due to the epidemic of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). This extension of school closure is specifically to limit the possible exposure of students and staff members to this highly infectious disease. This action is deemed necessary as the number of confirmed and presumptive cases in Massachusetts continues to increase.
Commissioner Riley from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will be issuing guidance on Thursday, March 26th, for expectations for educational programming using remote learning while maintaining flexibility and equitable access in schools. The district leadership team has met to outline what work would need to be done to support our students, staff members, and families in maintaining academic mindset and skill development.
While enrichment activities and online connections cannot replace the high quality instruction of a professional educator, it is our plan to insure a consistent connection between educators and students, support for students and parents in accessing materials and resources that are developmentally appropriate, and in the words of the Commissioner, assist parents to “create daily routines” for learning. In order to support teachers, parents, and students, professional development and a communication plan will need to be developed in the coming days in order to meet the state target for the first week of April for rolling out our support plans.
We are living through a historic event and there are many teachers who have already set up connections with students and their families across the district. The district intends to capitalize on these visionary teacher leaders and create opportunities for collegial support as we implement the Commissioner’s guidance for deeper learning that is engaging and relevant to real world applications.
Remaining healthy and defeating the community transmission of COVID-19 requires that we all do our part by maintaining good personal hygiene by washing our hands, not touching our face, sneezing or coughing into a tissue or our sleeve, and practicing social distancing. We need to STAY HOME and with community collaboration and support our students can remain safe. Together we can make the return to school in May a reality, but only if we have done the work to defeat this virus and social distancing is key to attaining this goal.
Thank you and please take care.
Barbara Malkas, Ed.D.