Hello Georgetown Community!
Happy April Fool’s Day! Today is a special day for me as it is my oldest son’s birthday but it is bittersweet because our celebration will have to wait until we can be together. I am sure that all of you have stories about how this virus is impacting your lives and I am hoping and praying that you are all staying well! As we continue in the third week of learning at home, we realize this is not easy and we want you to know that we are here to help you! Don’t hesitate to reach out to any of us. I want to thank all of you for abiding by the state and local recommendations for safety because we all want to get back into a “normal routine” as soon as possible. As I listen to the scientists, it seems that the key to mitigating and slowing the contagion of this virus IS isolating and staying home as much as possible. Personally, I am finding this very hard but, like you, I am finding ways to stay connected to my family, colleagues and friends although it certainly a different way of life!
As I stated in my last update, we will begin Phase 2 of our Georgetown Connect Remote Learning Plan on Monday April 6, 2020. We will continue to focus most importantly on the physical, social, emotional and mental wellbeing of our students as well as their continued engagement in meaningful learning. We have been working very hard this week to scale up our model in order to provide students with more structure, routine, academic engagement and meaningful connections with their teachers and schools. I am sure you can image the extraordinary amount of planning, meeting, coordinating, negotiating, collaborating and fine tuning that is required to reinvent the way we “do school” in a period of a few short weeks. I can tell you for sure that countless hours of time has been spent by our staff setting up and learning to use a consistent platform ( Google Classroom at PB and Schoology at MHS), attending zoom meetings with different groups, coordinating classes , schedules, special education services and using communication tools that are new to us. To say people have stepped up to the plate would be an understatement! There is no roadmap for this and every district is engaged in the process of designing their own system that will work for them and their families regardless of how long this closure lasts. The one thing we have in common is that we are working with the recommendations from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. There is a lot to do in a short period of time but I sincerely appreciate your patience, positive words of encouragement and belief in our schools and our educators. They are our greatest assets! If you could see what I am seeing, you would be so impressed and so proud of the people who work with your children! As I have said to them, we are Georgetown Strong and have Royal’s Pride and together we will do what is best for our students! I will be posting our completed Georgetown Connect Remote Learning Plan on Friday, April 4th. We expect that there will be a learning curve and some adjustments that will be needed in first couple of weeks but before you know it we will be a well-oiled remote teaching and learning machine!
Here are a couple of other bits of information for you.
1. Meal Program Date Change
Beginning next week on Monday April 6th, breakfast and lunch can be picked up on Mondays and Wednesdays for the week. We will still provide five days of meals but pick up will be on this reduced schedule from 10 am -11 am. The primary reason for this change is to lessen the exposure of our staff and to limit the amount of days families have to leave their homes to pick up meals, especially as this situation is expected to escalate in the next few weeks. Thank you for your understanding and we look forward to continuing to provide this important service.
2. Commissioner’s Letter
The Commissioner of Education Jeff Riley has asked districts to send out the attached letter to families so I have attached it for your information.
3. Opportunity to Spread the Word
The Massachusetts of Public Health is running a video contest for Middle and High School students. The challenge is to create a 20-60 second video on the importance of following the MA Department of Public Health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID 19. They can use any apps to send a file or link but check out the website for more information. There is a $500 prize for the winner. This might be a nice opportunity for some creative and tech savvy young people. Please share this information along to your middle high school students.
4. No Extended Day Payments Due for April
As with preschool tuition, families who pay monthly installments will not be expected to make an April payment. We have also asked the Treasurer to turn off UniPay for the month of April so that automatic payments will not process.
5. MIAA Not Giving Up on Spring Sports – YET
For those families who are wondering if spring sports have been cancelled, the answer is NOT YET. While it is not clear when schools will be able to reopen, the MIAA has revised their schedule assuming schools can reopen on May 4th. to run sports from May 4- June 27 extending the spring season an extra week to accommodate sectional and state tournaments. I am sure there are many athletes hoping this happens.
6. April Vacation
Today the Commissioner advised districts that the handling of April vacation is a local decision. Since it is a calendar issue, reps from the leadership team, teacher’s union and School Committee are meeting tomorrow to discuss the options and there will be a decision early next week when
the School Committee can take a vote. I have received many questions about this so I want you to know it is being discussed. Stay tuned!
7. Zoom Videoconferencing Hacks
One of the remote learning tools we are using extensively now and are planning to use it as a key tool in our Remote Learning Plan starting next week is Zoom conferencing. You may have seen on the news recently that there have been a couple of situations where hackers interrupted meetings in schools. The good news is that there are safeguards that we will put in place to avoid this happening in our district and allow us to use this valuable tool. We have informed our staff not to make the meeting invitation public. When people sign in to the meeting, they should be required to type in the meeting password or they can use the waiting room feature so
the host can admit people in from the waiting room. Meeting invitations will never be posted on social networks or in public forums. I just want to reassure you that we are taking precautions while we use this important communication tool.
Stay safe and well!
On any given day in schools across America, many students exchange warm greetings with a smiling teacher, then perhaps move on to a morning check-in, followed by a quick mindfulness exercise to start the day grounded and mentally focused. Surrounded by peers they’ve known for months, or perhaps even years—and a teacher they see daily—kids feel connected.
In spite of some critics who downplay the importance of social and emotional learning and the value of belonging—the numbers of such skeptics is falling, to be sure—the research is clear and has been for some time: when kids spend their daytime hours in safe, supportive schools where adults work every day to build strong relationships with every student, they are simply better, more engaged learners.
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But how should educators foster that sense of belonging in this new, decentralized world—with teachers and students tethered loosely together via Wi-Fi and cellular networks?
“Right now, it’s all about the technology—the mechanics of how to teach remotely. But when I speak to my colleagues who are high school teachers, it’s about: ‘how are we going to hold our students’ hearts?’,” says Mays Imad, a professor of pathophysiology and biomedical ethics at Pima Community College.
So we asked dozens of teachers, and peeked in on Instagram and Twitter threads, to find some of the best ideas teachers are experimenting with to maintain the relationships that drive engagement and learning.
1. TRY TO SAY HELLO FREQUENTLY, IF YOU CAN
Try to make sure your kids know you are thinking of them, care for them, and miss them. For kids with access to technology, simple daily hellos via video might be the only time the student sees the teacher on some days—and that sense of connection is important to sustain.
First and second grade teacher John Thomas’ masterful, fun hello video to his students is a great example.