COVID 19 Update, 3/28
Greetings, Georgetown community
Happy weekend! I hope you had a successful second week of schooling at home. Now that we know this is going to be an extended closure until at least May 4th, our leadership team is working with our staff to move into Phase 2 of our remote learning plan. The Commissioner of Education released his recommendations on Thursday and spoke with superintendents across the state on Friday. I have included a copy of the commission’s recommendations for your information in an attachment to this message. The Phase 2 Plan that we are finalizing with our staff over the next week will be based on this guidance and will begin on April 6th. The major changes you will see are additional structure for time spent on learning at home, a coordinated effort by staff to stay connected to students, a plan to provide more special education services and learning activities that provide enrichment; reinforcement and the extension of our standards based curriculum. As you can imagine, this is like building the plane while it is in the air. When the closure was three weeks, I thought our staff did an amazing job making sure our students had a range of learning activities to keep them learning. The feedback we received from families confirmed that our efforts were well received and we thank you for that! Now that the closure will be extended by a month and perhaps longer we need a more coordinated approach to keep our students in the habit of school. This is not to say that our Phase 2 remote learning plan will be set up like a regular school day because that is not possible nor is it our intention. Our goal is to continue to support students academically and emotionally through this very difficult time. We will continue to help them practice and maintain their skills, deepen their understanding of key concepts by stretching their thinking and continue to support and challenge them with assignments and lessons that focus on the standards for their grade level or courses.
This is a new time in education for all of us! All districts in Massachusetts are in the same boat and this health crisis is forcing us to rethink how teaching and learning happens when teachers and students must navigate this remote learning world. There is no roadmap and there is not a program we can purchase that puts this all together for us. It is through the passion, skills and determination of our determined and dedicated administration and staff that this Phase 2 Plan will come to be. It will not be perfect and we will learn a lot in the process. I am confident though we will continue to work together in support of our students and they will come through this challenging time more resilient and grateful for being able to maintain connections with people that care about them.
I look forward to sharing our plan with you next week but in the meantime please keep working on posted assignments, enrichment activities that are interesting to your child and taking time to play, read, exercise and enjoy family time! Thank you for your patience, flexibility and willingness to work in partnership with us and for continued support of our efforts!
Here are a couple of other informational items
- Rolling Rally Cancelled for Now
I had a meeting with leadership from the Fire and Police Departments and Joe Pittella who was going to coordinate the rally and a conversation with Selectmen Bonavita on Friday and together we all determined that the timing of the Rolling Rally was not wise given that the directive from the town is to stay home unless absolutely necessary. As you know, the town recently declared a State of Emergency and has closed down the parks and the fields in order to cut down on group gatherings in support of social distancing. While it is true that we are all beginning to feel the effects of isolation and we all LOVE the intention of this event, there are a couple of challenges we just could not overcome. In order for our Rolling Rally to travel throughout the town, the route would take 6 hours and even if we divided the town into quarters and did smaller routes, each would take 2-3 hours. If we created a general route around the square and several main roads, people would have to walk down to the end of their streets and that would violate the goals of social distancing. In addition, there has been an increase in the number of COVID 19 cases in Georgetown so we want to be extra careful to follow the guidance of our state and local officials. We all agreed that we could not keep everyone safe and to go forward with the Rally and we would send the wrong message. As disappointing as this is because I know many of you were really looking forward to the Rally, it is the right decision to cancel at this time. I am praying that we can return on May 4th and we will definitely have a big event to celebrate our return. I ask that you follow all of the guidelines that have been issued so that the chances are greater that we will be together, not remotely, but physically as soon as possible. Recently I was on a call where someone said that social isolation is the wrong term. We should be physically isolated but stay socially connected. We are social creatures by nature so I think that our goal, particularly for our students who miss their friends and teachers, is to find creative ways to stay socially connected. We will be working on that in the schools in our Phase 2 Plan and I hope families will do the same! I hope you are staying healthy physically and emotionally and I am sending you all a big virtual hug for everything you are doing. Miss you all and stay well!
- Documents below:
In the last post, the poem and the list of recommended resources from DESE were not included so I am attaching them to this post. I doubt that you need or maybe want any new resources at this time but put this information in your pile and take a look at it if it is useful to you. Just a reminder that I am also sending you a copy of the recommendations from the commissioner which I urge you to take a look at since this is what Massachusetts schools are being asked to do during this time of closure. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.
- Access to Technology
Even though remote learning does not mean all learning is online learning or distance learning, students will need access to a device. Before we begin Phase 2, please let us know if you need to borrow a device to ensure your child can participate in the program. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if this pertains to your child.
- Preschool Tuition Payments
While no final decisions have been made on how reimbursements will be handled, we want all preschool families to know that you will not need to make an April payment. I hope this helps.
- Resources for Families
The Department of Secondary and Elementary Education has asked us to provide these resources for families if their financial situations have changed because of COVID-19. DTAConnect.eohhs.mass.gov is the client portal for families to sign up for benefits. Also Project Bread is also an approved SNAP outreach partner
I hope you have a lovely weekend filled with family fun! My sister refers to this as “forced family fun” but nevertheless I hope you are thinking about this as precious time that in our busy lives is sometimes hard to come by. Be well my friends and I will be in touch soon!
Remote Learning Recommendations During COVID-19 School Closures
Following the Governor’s announcement that schools will remain closed and not re-open before May 4, 2020, we are issuing additional guidance regarding district and school remote learning plans. Throughout the initial weeks of this crisis, our educational community has prioritized the health, safety, and wellness of students, families, educators, and staff. At the same time, districts and schools across the Commonwealth have been operating with various remote learning models for their students, with significant variation from one to the next.
With the extension of this closure, we believe students, families, educators, and staff in all communities will benefit from the clarity of state-wide recommendations as they continue to support their students during this crisis. In developing these recommendations, DESE consulted with a wide range of stakeholders, including the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association.
Below, we have developed a short set of guiding principles for our priorities as an educational community in the coming weeks, as well as specific recommendations regarding remote learning.
Remote learning cannot replace students’ experiences in school communities with their teachers, administrators, and support staff. All of the students and educators with whom I have spoken this week sorely miss learning in person as part of a community. That said, we must all pull together – parents and caregivers, students, the community, and of course our educators and staff – to help students continue their learning over this extended period.
Please note that the guidance below is a set of recommendations and does not constitute a requirement for any district or school. We encourage districts and schools to view the remote learning guidance below as a baseline or starting point, which they can modify in collaboration with local stakeholders to fit their unique contexts, capacities and needs. We expect that you will customize our recommendations for individual districts and schools and for individual students within them.
We will continue to issue guidance to support districts and schools in their implementation of remote learning, including specific recommendations related to students with disabilities, English learners, and high school students. We will also send a letter to families that reflects the content in this memo.
|I understand that superintendents, principals, educators and other school staff, and families are working hard to support students during these difficult times and are responding to evolving conditions with remarkable care, flexibility, and creativity. Thank you for your tireless work on behalf of our students.|
Jeffrey C. Riley
Commissioner of Elementary & Secondary Education
Guiding Principles: Supporting Student Learning and Holistic Needs
Districts and schools must continue to focus on the holistic needs of the educational community:
- The safety and well-being of students, families, and staff has been and must continue to be our top priority as an educational community. We are focused not only on physical health, safety and nutrition, but also on social-emotional and mental health needs, which could intensify during this time.
- This crisis disproportionately affects our most vulnerable students in terms of their physical and mental health and also academically. Equity needs to be a top consideration in local planning efforts, especially as districts and schools make plans to manage an extended closure. To support these efforts, DESE will issue further guidance on how best to support special populations, including students with disabilities and English learners.
- Maintaining connections between school staff and students is paramount, particularly for the most vulnerable members of our school communities. These connections will provide natural conduits to guide districts and schools in addressing students’ specific needs.
At this time, districts and schools must also work to adopt a remote learning model:
- Nothing can replace the in-person schooling experience, and we should not expect that remote learning can replicate the traditional school day.
- At the same time, with school closures now extended, districts, schools, and communities have an obligation to engage students in meaningful and productive learning opportunities through an appropriately structured educational program.
- 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 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.
Specific Guidance on Developing and Implementing Remote Learning
Planning for and implementing a remote learning model:
- If districts/schools have not already developed a remote learning model, they should take time to engage in a thoughtful planning period with local stakeholders in order to launch in early April. This planning should include an assessment of the district’s or school’s capacity and resources to support a remote learning model.
- Some districts and schools have already implemented remote learning plans, particularly those that have previously developed capacity to shift learning to a remote model. We strongly encourage all districts and schools to consider the recommendations in this guidance document, but ultimately, we recognize that individual districts and schools maintain local authority to design their remote learning models as they see fit.
- Above all, we recognize that districts, schools, and teachers are best positioned to develop plans to meet their students’ needs, and that these needs may change over the course of this extended closure.
Recommended remote learning model:
- We recommend that districts support students to engage in meaningful and productive learning for approximately half the length of a regular school day. We expect this learning to take place via a combination of educator directed learning and student self-directed learning.
- We strongly recommend that districts and schools focus on reinforcing skills already taught this school year and applying and deepening these skills. We recognize that in some cases, teachers and students may wish to continue with new material, particularly at the high school level. In these cases, districts should consider equity of access and support for all students.
- The individual student experience will vary depending on student age, individual and family needs, access and capacity for remote learning (including access to technology and internet), and the ongoing health of students, families, and staff.
Definition and scope of remote learning:
- Remote learning can encompass a wide variety of learning opportunities. While technology can be a supportive tool, districts and schools should also consider ways that student learning can continue offline. This could include exploring the natural world, activities to support students’ local communities (with appropriate social distancing), and engaging hands-on projects and artistic creations that stem from students’ own passions and experiences.
- Examples of remote learning tools include large group video or audio conference calls, 1:1 phone or video calls, email, work packets, projects, reading lists, online learning platforms, and other resources to effectively engage with students. These tools could be used to deliver lessons, provide individual student support, provide resources (including instructional material and student assignments), connect students to each other and the teacher, and provide feedback on student work. Districts and schools should ensure all online learning platforms meet confidentiality and student privacy standards.
Components of a remote learning schedule:
• We recommend the following routine and structure for remote learning, recognizing the need for flexibility for individual districts and individual students within them:
- Opportunity to connect with one or more educators multiple times per week. For students who are at higher risk of learning loss, such as students with disabilities or English learners, we recommend that educators provide additional connection opportunities.
- Access to multiple hours per day of academic content directed by educators, which should focus on reinforcing skills already taught this school year and applying and deepening those skills.
- Time each day for physical activity based on recommendations from educators.
- Additional daily time for enrichment activities such as the arts (dance, media arts, music, theater, visual arts).
Feedback on student work and grading:
- To the extent practicable, teachers should provide feedback on student work completed at home. That said, if districts and schools have not already implemented policies regarding credit-bearing courses (determining credit for academic work at home), we strongly recommend that academic content be graded as “credit/no credit” so as to incentivize continuous learning while acknowledging the challenging situation we face. Non-credit bearing courses, such as those for elementary and middle school students, could incorporate other incentives to keep students motivated to continue their learning.
- Before moving forward with any determinations of “no credit,” we strongly urge districts and schools to consider whether the students have had equitable access to learning opportunities during this closure, keeping in mind the variety of technology, health, disability and language challenges that could occur.
We are grateful for educators’ continued dedication to their students and for caregivers who have embraced the challenges of helping students learn at home. We are all juggling unusual responsibilities. Although remote learning is new and challenging, we believe that students will benefit both from engaging with their caring school community and from continuing to learn.
Educational Resources for Students and Families
Some districts and schools have been, or will soon be, providing students and families with educational resources to help students continue learning while schools are closed. In addition to those resources provided by local districts and schools, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) pulled together this list of available resources that can support students and families while schools are closed. This list is not comprehensive, and DESE does not endorse these products. We are making the list available to families and caregivers as a way to support engaging students in learning while they are out of school.
Family Guides to the Massachusetts Curriculum Standards (Created by DESE)
These guides to the Massachusetts learning standards help families understand what students are expected to know and be able to do by the end of each grade. Designed to help families and teachers work together to support learning, the guides are available in English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and Simplified Chinese. Promotional materials advertising these resources are also available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Link: http://www.doe.mass.edu/highstandards/
DESE and WGBH Partnership for Educational Resources
The Department is partnering with WGBH to bring educational resources to students and families through television and digital media. WGBH has created a distance learning site, and we hope to reach as many students and caregivers as possible. PBS LearningMedia is a FREE digital repository of tens of thousands of high-quality media resources that are contextualized for educational use. The resources span disciplines for grades PreK-12, are aligned to national and state standards, and include videos, comprehensive lessons, interactive activities, and support materials (teaching tips, background readings, and student handouts). Here are just a few collections on PBS LearningMedia to explore:
● Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms: Earth and space science, created in collaboration with NASA. Grades K-12.
● AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: History and social studies resources from one of public media’s flagship broadcasts. Grades 4-12.
● ARTHUR: Beloved characters keep the focus on community, civics, and social-emotional learning. Grades PreK-5.
● Molly of Denali: The MOLLY OF DENALITM collection offers videos, digital games, lessons, teaching tips, and activities with a focus on informational text. Grades PreK-2.
● Math at the Core Middle School: Engaging media and integrated activities, all aligned with the Massachusetts mathematics standards . Grades 5-8.
● Inspiring Middle School Literacy: Self-paced lessons include videos, interactive activities, note taking, reading, and writing to present students with engaging science, social studies, mathematics, and English language arts topics. Grades 5-8.
● NOVA Education Resources: Authentic, real-world science learning. Grades 7-13+
Digital resources designed for remote learning and available free of charge:
English Language Arts and Literacy
Keep your child reading every day.
● CommonLit, https://www.commonlit.org/en – A free collection of fiction and nonfiction texts for grades 3-12. Includes an annotation tool, guiding and discussion questions, translations in various languages, and texts read aloud.
● Great Minds, https://greatminds.org/: Great Minds has daily lessons in Wit & Wisdom (English language arts) available for free for students in grades K–8 . These lessons will be delivered by Great Minds’ own teachers and will be viewable on any device.
● Heggerty, https://www.heggerty.org/download-assessments-and-resources: Free activities to build foundational reading skills. These are best for ages 4-6.
● Hoopla (https://www.hoopladigital.com/) and OverDrive (https://www.overdrive.com/):
Many local public libraries use these two apps to allow users to borrow digital books for free. Visit your local library’s website and look for the section on digital resources.
● StoryLine Online, https://www.storylineonline.net/: Hear quality children’s literature read aloud and see illustrations.
History, Social Studies, and Civics
● iCivics, https://www.icivics.org/games: iCivics offers free, engaging civics content, including lesson plans and games for students to play digitally, content about media literacy, and Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. Government and Politics prep.
● EVERFI, https://everfi.com/partners/k-12-educators/financial-education/: Offers interactive financial literacy and social and emotional learning lessons. They have a bank of free digital lessons that can be accessed by registering as a student or a teacher.
● Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, https://www.gilderlehrman.org/: This website is geared specifically at preparing AP U.S. History students virtually. It includes primary sources, essays, videos, and study guides aligned with the AP curriculum.
● National Constitution Center, https://constitutioncenter.org/learn/educational- resources/games: In addition to the interactive Constitution tool, they host several educational resources and games.
● Stanford History Education Group, https://sheg.stanford.edu/history-lessons: The Reading Like a Historian curriculum is free with registration and offers ready-to-go lessons on world and U.S. history based on primary source investigations.
STEM [Science and Technology/Engineering, Mathematics, Digital Literacy and Computer Science]
● Code.org: Provides learning resources that help students learn about computer science and programming on their own. Offerings include Computer Science (CS) Fundamentals for K-5 and online courses and labs for middle and high school (CS Express, App Lab, Game Lab, and Web Lab).
● Great Minds, https://greatminds.org/: Free daily lessons available in grades 3–5 science and grades K-12 Eureka Math. These lessons will be delivered by Great Minds’ own teachers and will be viewable on any device. In addition, access to the full K-12 Eureka Math program is available for free.
● Khan Academy, https://www.khanacademy.org/: Khan Academy has outlined support for parents and educators on how to use their resources during remote learning. Khan Academy is a free resource for students, teachers, and parents with a library of lessons covering kindergarten through early college math, grammar, science, history, plus AP® courses, SAT® preparation, and more. Available in 40 languages.
● PhET Online Simulations, https://phet.colorado.edu/_m/: A library of online simulations that students can play with and explore to investigate scientific and mathematical models. Can be sorted by grade level.
● Smithsonian Science How Webcast: These webcasts originally aired live from the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. They’re great for students in grades 3-8 and are optimized for students in grades 3-5.
● ST Math, https://www.stmath.com/coronavirus: A web-based visual instructional program that leads to deep conceptual understanding of math. ST Math is offering parents free access through June 30 for grades K-8.
● Zearn K-5 Mathematics: Zearn has made its entire curriculum, including 400 hours of digital lessons with on-screen teachers and supportive remediation, available for free. To access these materials, go to the Distance Learning Resource Center for:
○ Quick-start instructions for using Zearn Math programmatically as part of a distance learning plan
○ Daily webinars for administrators, teachers, and parents to walk through quick- start instructions. Each webinar will offer ‘office hours’ with time for questions with the Zearn team.
● Cosmic Kids Yoga, https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga: Provides videos on yoga, mindfulness, and relaxation.
● GoNoodle, https://www.gonoodle.com/: Free movement and mindfulness videos.
Arts (Dance, Media Arts, Music, Theater, and Visual arts)
● Media Arts: Pencil Madness, http://pencilmadness.com/app: Students can use a dashboard of options to create a numerous layered effects similar to the concepts learned in Photoshop.
● Music: Beepbox Music-Making On Your Home Computer: Support your child’s music learning using this free online platform. No special equipment is needed to use this online tool for sketching and sharing instrumental melodies.
● Visual Art: Get local! The Drawing Act Project is happening right now here in Massachusetts! Anyone can participate by submitting a drawing this spring. The full directions for the drawing lesson is outlined in this flyer. In addition, the Incredible Art Department’s Art Teacher Toolkit, https://www.incredibleart.org/links/toolbox.html, has engaging visual art lessons that can be delivered at home. Creative art activities and games are available at https://www.incredibleart.org/links/artgames.html.
General Online Learning Resources (All or Multiple Content Areas)
- Brainpop, https://www.brainpop.com/: Free resources and tools that develop critical, computational, and creative thinking skills across the curriculum, especially for younger children. Available in Spanish, French, and English.
● Listenwise, https://listenwise.com/: Supports listening comprehension with stories and non-fiction in English language arts, social studies and science. Subscriptions are free.
● Newsela, https://newsela.com/: Digital subscriptions for free in English language arts, social science, and science and supports social emotional learning.
● Scholastic Learn at Home: General videos and learning activities.
● TechforLearners.org: Searchable database of education technology tools that facilitate online classrooms and teaching, allowing educators to search for free and discounted tools and services by grade level, product type, and subject matter. The site will soon include additional resources for parents and students.
● WatchKnowLearn, https://www.watchknowlearn.org/: Free educational videos in all content areas.
Resources for English Learners
● Khan Academy, https://www.khanacademy.org/: Available in 40 languages, Khan Academy has outlined support for parents and educators on how to use their resources during remote learning. Khan Academy is a free resource for students, teachers, and parents with a library of lessons covering kindergarten through early college math, grammar, science, and history, plus AP® courses, SAT® preparation, and more.
● ColorinColorado, https://www.colorincolorado.org/coronavirus: This bilingual website has compiled resources for educators and families of English learners.
● Duolingo, https://www.duolingo.com/: For students to practice conversational English.
● Immigrant Connections: From YouTube channels to multilingual reference guides, the
site has compiled a comprehensive resource list to assist English learners and immigrant parents support the temporary home education of their children.
● Listenwise, https://listenwise.com/: Supports listening comprehension with stories and non-fiction in English language arts, social studies, and science. A subscription is free and includes supports for English learners.
● Newsela: Digital subscriptions for free in English language arts, social science, and science and supports social emotional learning and English learners.
Supporting Students with Disabilities
● The Massachusetts Council for Exceptional Children (MCEC) has created an open-access resource folder for Massachusetts educators in order to exchange educational resources. General education and special education teachers are encouraged to share resources through this online forum. For ease of use, MCEC has created individual folders by grade level, from preschool through secondary transition.
● Special education teachers, general education teachers, related service providers, and administrators are encouraged to reach out to students and families by phone, email, and other means of communication in order to ensure that students with disabilities can access educational resources provided by the district.