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COVID-19 Update - March 20, 2020

Dear Shrewsbury Families,

As promised, I am providing an update to you this afternoon regarding our school district’s status relative to our school district’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Please note:

  1. There is now one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Shrewsbury.  To the best of our knowledge, this individual is not directly related to our school district – based on what public health officials have provided us, the individual is not a student, student’s family member, or staff member.  Based on what experts are saying, we should expect more confirmed cases in our community as testing increases.  Please remember that health privacy laws protect individuals’ identities, so even if someone connected to our school community is identified, there will be limited information that we can share.  We all will be better off if we refrain from rumormongering. The public health authorities will notify those who are close contacts of the individual, as noted in the press release here.  
     
  2. Based on our experience this week, we are shifting our meal distribution program to Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 11:00am-12:30pm at the front of Shrewsbury High School.  Families will receive multiple meals for students each time.  We are also providing delivery service to families who do not have access to transportation.  Any family who is having difficulty with feeding their children is encouraged to click here to complete a short survey to help us provide you with meals for your children.  Families are encouraged to connect with our partners at St. Anne’s Human Services for information on their food pantry and additional support for meals.  We transferred all of our perishables to St. Anne’s on Monday and we have been serving grab and go meals since Tuesday; thank you to our Food Services Department for their work to set this up so quickly to help our most vulnerable families.
     
  3. The most complicated issue we continue to face is the provision of remote learning opportunities for our students.  Please note:
    • The United States and Massachusetts departments of education have issued guidance to public school districts indicating that attempts to replicate official instructional programming during school closures will result in violations of various civil rights laws and regulations, unless districts can guarantee that all students have equitable access to that programming and that all services that normally would be provided to all students are somehow provided remotely.  However, this guidance lacks clarity regarding the many ways remote learning may take place, and the various ways where in-person services cannot be replicated. We were told this morning by our state department of education that updated guidance from the federal department and the state department may be available sometime next week. 
       
    • Circumstances differ significantly with regard to availability of parents to support students (due to parents working from home or still working outside the home); accessibility of technology (mainly for our younger students), due to parents telecommuting using a family computer, or a lack of WiFi in the home, etc.; and the level of support students might need due to their learning needs.
       
    • At the moment, this is a classic “Goldilocks” dilemma, where different families are communicating widely different preferences for what they think is “just right” where it comes to remote learning, ranging from wanting “live” lessons taught remotely all day, to having graded assignments, to feeling the current approach is working well, to feeling that the current approach is already challenging due to their or their children’s circumstances.  We appreciate that families have very different perspectives, and we know everyone has the best interests of their children in mind. Our educators do, as well.
       
    • Our team has been working hard to identify ways in which our approach can change if and when federal and state guidance evolves, and/or if the school closures will be extended further.
       
    • Our current approach will remain in effect at the start of next week, and we will continue to communicate on this issue.  I am personally asking you to bear with us and have patience.  As your superintendent, I want you to know that SPS educators are doing their very best under the circumstances and are motivated to provide for our students in a way that is both effective and fair given our circumstances; as your fellow parent, I want you to know that I clearly understand the desire to minimize any negative effects of this school closure on our children’s education.  Shrewsbury educators and parents alike certainly agree on that. 

Thank you for your continued support of your children and our educators.  Please try to enjoy the weekend. Looks like snow is coming on Monday – at least you won’t get a call from me at 5:00am since school is already closed...

Respectfully,

Joe Sawyer
Superintendent of Schools