Watertown Schools Look to Adjust to Extension of School Closings for COVID-19

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The following letter was sent out on Wednesday by the Watertown Public Schools Administration:

Good evening,

I want to provide you with the recent announcement this afternoon by Governor Charlie Baker that Massachusetts schools will remain closed until May 4. We will follow up later this week with further information about the implications of this extended closure, but be assured we will continue with the excellent plans in place for the WPS community. As we learn more about the opportunities as well as the limitations that remote learning presents, we will all become more skilled as partners on this journey to keep the learning moving forward even when our school buildings are closed. Attached you will find a joint statement from the twelve communities that comprise the Middlesex League about our shared vision and goals for the extended closure.

Our primary goal for the remainder of this week is to identify students who still need access to online learning and to provide continued support for all of our families. Originally, our focus was on families with limited access to devices or the internet. What we quickly learned was that even in households with computers, parents and guardians who are now also working from home are utilizing the available devices for their remote work. We have deployed well over 100 devices to our families PreK-5, and at least as many to our middle school students. Fortunately, our high school students were already assigned a personal Chromebook. As stated in yesterday’s newsletter (March 24, 2020), please contact your principal this week if you need support accessing our online resources.

Please know that we are actively preparing for how to support all students. We are particularly sensitive to the challenges faced by our students with unique learning needs, such as our English Learners and our students with disabilities. Our teachers of English as a second language, reading specialists, special education teachers, related service providers, and school counselors are all planning for the children with whom they work and determining how best to provide access to the curriculum remotely while school is closed. When we return to school in May, we will maximize the time that we have to ensure that this closure does not impact long-term learning and benchmarks. It may take some time to get there and our amazingly skilled educators and support staff will meet all students where they are at that time and keep moving forward.

Finally, many of us know people who are affected by the virus and we are all vulnerable to its effects. We are in the midst of a pandemic and need to acknowledge that our families and our staff are doing their best in uncharted territory. The health and safety of our community is of the utmost importance to us. Please continue to adhere to social distancing and do not hesitate to reach out to your principal if there is anything you or your family needs. We are here to help!

Kind regards,

Dr. Dede Galdston, Superintendent

Dr. Theresa McGuinness, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

Ms. Kathleen Desmarais, Director of Student Services

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