With schools closed at least through May 4 due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Watertown Public Schools officials unveiled the second phase of the virtual learning for students, and are debating whether to keep spring break.
The School Committee will meet Monday, April 13 to discuss spring break, the budget for the 2020-21 school year budget and hear a presentation phase II of the district’s Extended Learning Plan. (See information about watching and participating in the meeting below).
In a letter to families and staff sent out earlier this month, Superintendent Dede Galdston said that students will have more interactive time with teachers, “requiring students to participate in the learning provided to the extent that is possible.”
Teachers reached out to families this week with more details about the schedule and plans.
Galdston also wrote that the goal for the Watertown Public Schools Extended Learning Plan is to: “reinforce skills already taught this school year, apply and deepen these skills to prevent regression, catch students up to have all students starting at a similar place upon their return, and to prioritize new key concepts throughout the end of the year, especially at the secondary level, to the extent possible in an extended learning environment.“
See Galdston’s entire letter below.
The Watertown Schools are also looking at whether to have spring break, and Galdston asked parents to fill out a survey about remote learning and whether to have a week off from April 21 to 24 (April 20 is the Patriot’s Day state holiday).
In a letter to families on April 9, Galdston wrote: Please fill out this survey by Saturday, April 11. The School Committee will take up the question of April Vacation on Monday evening, and I will provide the members with feedback from this survey prior to the meeting. Any decision to change the calendar rests with the School Committee, based upon my recommendation.”
The five-question survey covers people’s experiences with the WPS remote learning plan, and Galdston also wants to hear about family’s preference regarding for April Vacation.
In her letter, Galdston listed the Advantages and Disadvantages for Keeping April Vacation:
- If we have April Vacation, we could potentially have more face time with students in June if school reopens.
- All of us have been working hard in this new remote learning world, and having a break would be beneficial to rest and recharge for the next eight weeks.
- We have just started to establish Phase 2 routines and schedules, and having a break would disrupt these recently established routines.
- If we have April Vacation, school doesn’t get out until Monday, June 22. If we work through April Vacation, the last day could be Tuesday, June 16.
School Committee Meeting
The School Committee will meet on Monday, April 13, at 7 p.m. See the agenda by clicking here.
Like the March 23 meeting, members will meet via the Zoom app, and the public can join by clicking here: https://bit.ly/2x4Q6YF (Meeting ID: 652 939 438 Password: 858880)
The meeting will be shown live on Watertown Cable (Comcast Channel 99, RCN Channel 13 or online https://wcatv.org/. The meeting will also be recorded and posted on the Watertown Public Schools website: https://www.watertown.k12.ma.us/.
Public comments can be made at the Zoom meeting or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Superintendent’s Letter About Phase II of the WPS Coronavirus Plan
Superintendent Dede Galdston sent out the following letter about Phase II of the Coronavirus plan:
Good morning WPS Families and Staff Members:
We hope that this email finds your family navigating these difficult times well and that your children/students are beginning to adjust to remote learning. As I’ve assured you in prior communications, our foremost priority is to maintain supportive connections between school staff, students, and families.
I want to provide you with important updates based on Governor Baker’s announcement to extend school closures until May 4 and the recommendations from the MA Commissioner of Education. WPS teachers and administrators have reviewed and revised our Extended Learning Plan for the coming weeks. We recognize that this closure may be extended beyond May 4, and as such, a long-term extended learning plan is vital at this time to prevent regression and ensure the attainment of key grade-level concepts.
The goal for Phase 2 of the WPS Extended Learning Plan
During the period of school closure through May 3, the goal for the Watertown Public Schools Extended Learning Plan is to: reinforce skills already taught this school year, apply and deepen these skills to prevent regression, catch students up to have all students starting at a similar place upon their return, and to prioritize new key concepts throughout the end of the year, especially at the secondary level, to the extent possible in an extended learning environment.
Learning has its foundation in the relationships developed between learners and teachers, adults, and children. As such, there is no way to replicate this environment in a digital format in the middle of a pandemic during school closure. There is a wide variety of circumstances that our families and our staff find themselves in right now, and Phase 2 of our Extended Learning Plan is designed to balance moving instruction forward and maintaining the social and emotional health of students, staff, and families. The WPS Extended Learning Plan holds student connections, flexibility, resiliency, equity, and support at its core.
Shifts in the Extended Learning Plan
The two significant shifts in the Plan include: increased interactive time with students and requiring students to participate in the learning provided to the extent that is possible. Principals will send more information in their next newsletters, and your child’s teacher(s) will provide students and families with an updated schedule for class meetings early next week. Our planning team is determining methods to provide feedback and monitoring of student participation and learning that is more aligned with a remote learning environment and will apprise you when that is decided next week. On a weekly basis, teachers will track participation during Community Meetings; Google Classroom and other online resources; office hours; and class check-ins. If technology presents a barrier to accessing remote learning, please contact your child’s principal, as we can assist you with technology access.
For our students with special needs, families can expect more individualized outreach from teachers and service providers to maintain and reinforce skills previously learned, as well as to make as much progress as feasible towards IEP goals during the school closure. We realize that this school closure is particularly challenging for our families of children with special needs, and we look forward to partnering with you to ensure all needs and concerns are addressed well.
Our Director of Student Services, Kathleen Desmarais, will offer a live ‘Question & Answer’ opportunity during the regularly scheduled Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) meeting on Thursday, April 9, at 6:00 p.m. Updates will be provided in a separate message from Ms. Desmarais, including a Zoom link to the SEPAC meeting. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to your child’s teacher, principal, director at (email@example.com). Please also refer to the Massachusetts Department of Education’s most recent FAQ regarding special education.
Our teachers are engaging in remote professional learning today, exploring several strategies and technological tools to support student learning and engagement in the virtual world through the Zoom platform, facilitated by their professional peers. Zoom is one tool that we are using for virtual meetings, and we are following all protocols to ensure student privacy, given the recent incidents in the news. Examples include: requirement passwords, disabling screen sharing, utilizing the waiting room feature, and other safety protocols. We encourage all parents/guardians to read the Remote Learning Notification for the Watertown Public Schools, which contains essential information regarding the use of virtual learning platforms.
The School Nutrition Department is distributing breakfast and lunch on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11:00-1:00. During these hours, meals for two days are supplied to any WPS family who can benefit from this service. If you are not able to pick up meals at these times, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Currently, the School Nutrition Department is providing meals to more than 100 students.
For more information about the remote learning recommendations from DESE, the Commissioner of Education provided a letter to families in English and Spanish reviewing the recommendations.
Be healthy and well,
Dede Galdston, Ed.D., Superintendent