Watertown Schools Start Planning to Keep Learning Going During Coronavirus Closure

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Watertown School officials sent out the following letter about how they are responding to the closing of the schools due to the Coronavirus outbreak, including finding ways to continue the learning while students are at home.

The following statement was sent out by the Watertown Public Schools on Thursday evening:

Good Evening, WPS Families, and Staff:

Tomorrow as we welcome our incredible staff to join together in virtual spaces and begin to transition to providing continuous learning opportunities for students and families, I want to express my sincere gratitude to the entire community for understanding that shifting from face-to-face live instruction to this new virtual learning paradigm is challenging.  The next few weeks will be a time that we all learn and grow together.  Our teachers and staff are learning how best to keep continuity in learning for our students, and our families are learning how best to guide and support their children at home.  

Keeping Learning Moving

The Office of Teaching, Learning, & Assessment is continuing to develop excellent resources to support our families while schools are closed. On our new Extended Learning Opportunities webpage, we have posted educational resources for students from early childhood through grade 12. We hope you will find these resources to be helpful to stay engaged and provide opportunities for learning during the school closure. Please note that these activities are not intended to replace or substitute classroom instruction, but instead to keep our students engaged and thinking as much as possible while school is not in session. You may want to bookmark this site as we will be utilizing it and updating it throughout the period of closure.  As our teachers are preparing for course and/or grade level specific learning opportunities, please refer to this website as it provides deeply engaging resources for you to use with your children.

Tomorrow, our educators will gather for a virtual staff meeting with their principal to reconnect with one another and to share information about our new virtual work. On Friday, teachers will reach out to parents at the K-5 level via email and directly to students and parents via email or Google Classroom in grades 6-12. They will share plans and resources for the coming week for continued learning.  Please note that at this time we are not holding virtual classes at a scheduled time, but rather are providing resources and learning materials one week at a time that should be utilized using the sample schedules that are being offered.  As the weeks progress and we all learn more about our new context for teaching and learning, I am confident that we will fall into routines and schedules that keep learning moving.  Please be patient with our teaching staff, as they also are learning about how to best support their students while at home.  

Technology Access 

Moving to distance learning will involve a variety of activities, many of which are online and require internet connectivity.  If you are unable to connect to the internet via an internet provider, a personal hotspot, or other means to access online content, please send an email to your children’s principal or call the WPS Central Office at 617-926-7708 between the hours of 8-12.  There are several options for low- or no-cost internet currently being offered, and more information can be found on our digital learning website.  If your child needs a device to access the online resources, we have Chromebooks available for loan.  Please contact your principal via email for assistance. 

Monitoring Your Child’s Online Use  

As we move to more online resources for our students, please be vigilant in monitoring their online activities.  We are working to provide you with resources that have been vetted. As you begin to seek out activities to supplement learning, we suggest that you check the app or website privacy statements to ensure that you are aware of how data may or may not be shared.  We will provide families with more guidance about how best to do this in the coming days, and for now, you can refer to our Empowered Digital Use Policy.

Additionally, please review your children’s social media activity and talk to them about their online use.   Our children crave social interactions, which is a natural part of being a child (or human), and as such, we imagine that they will be turning to social media, especially at the middle school and high school level.   We strongly suggest setting limits for using social media, especially as the news right now is dominated by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Contact Information

We sincerely appreciate your support of our larger state-wide effort to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.   If you have any questions, whether about the above information or the closure in general, please do not hesitate to contact me, your principal, or another administrator.  All administrators will be working remotely during the closure and will be available to respond to your inquiries. 

Dr. Dede Galdston, Superintendent, deanne.galdston@watertown.k12.ma.us

Dr. Theresa McGuinness, Assistant Superintendent,theresa.mcguinness@watertown.k12.ma.us

Heidi Perkins, Director of Finance and Operations, heidi.perkins@watertown.k12.ma.us

Kathleen Desmarais, Director of Student Services, kathleen.desmarais@watertown.k12.ma.us

Ken Storlazzi, Director of Human Resources, kenneth.storlazzi@watertown.k12.ma.us  

George Skuse, Director of Digital Learning and Libraries, george.skuse@watertown.k12.ma.us

Lori Kabel, Director of Public Buildings, lori.kabel@watertown.k12.ma.us

Shirley Lundberg, WHS Principal, shirley.lundberg@watertown.k12.ma.us

Donna Martin, WMS Principal, donna.martin@watertown.k12.ma.us

Mena Ciarlone – Cunniff Principal, mena.ciarlone@watertown.k12.ma.us

Erin Moulton, Hosmer Principal, erin.moulton@watertown.k12.ma.us

Stacy Phelan, Lowell Principal, stacy.phelan@watertown.k12.ma.us

Karen Feeney, Early Childhood, karen.feeney@watertown.k12.ma.us

Kate Phillipson, ESL Coordinator, kathryn.phillipson@watertown.k12.ma.us

If you need assistance via phone, you can call (617) 926-7708 between the hours of 8 am-12 pm. 

Yours truly,

Dede Galdston and the WPS Leadership Team

4 thoughts on “Watertown Schools Start Planning to Keep Learning Going During Coronavirus Closure

  1. If you are unable to connect to the internet via an internet provider, a personal hotspot, or other means to access online content, please send an email to your children’s principal


  2. Dede Galdston has dropped the ball here. No real work being assigned, just optional “enrichment activities” as several of my son’s teachers have referred to them. The town has spent thousands to equip students in grades 6-12 with Chromebooks for situations like this. And, the schools know who has internet access and who does not as they survey the kids yearly on this. The kids need structure and continued monitored learning in order to maintain some semblance of continuity. Teachers can work from home just like me and my wife. Very disappointing response from the Watertown Public Schools and this approach does not help the reputation of the district one bit.

    • Thanks for your comment. Just an FYI, the State is not allowing districts to assign required work
      I believe it is because not everyone has the same access to the internet and other resources.

    • As someone who has taught both college and high school, and has taught online, the skillsets for each type of teaching are completely different.

      It is not straightforward to convert K-12 teaching to an online pedagogy, where the learning is almost completely teacher-directed (at least up through about 10th grade). Our classrooms are collaborative spaces, with many of the learning activities designed to be performed within a classroom/group setting, with lots of face-to-face real-time interaction amongst students and between students and the teacher. This cannot be replicated even through Zoom meetings or the like. It is not just a matter of uploading materials and having a Facetime chat.
      When I taught online college classes I would spend a total of 12-18 hours preparing the online materials for each “class” (module) which was supposed to be about 2 hours of total “active” time spent by the students, twice per week. I also took about 40 hours of professional development to learn the skills and techniques of online teaching, and how they differed from classroom teaching.
      We cannot (and should not) expect our teachers, who are incredible classroom teachers, to suddenly learn a whole new way of teaching overnight, and then somehow create completely new materials for all of their classes, which are accessible to all students including those with IEPS and/or English learners, many of whom may have an aide in the classroom.

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