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SPS COVID-19 Update - April 17, 2020

Dear Shrewsbury Families & Colleagues,

I hope that you and your families remain well, and I am sorry for those of you who have been directly affected by this terrible pandemic.   Thank you for continuing to practice all of the precautions that will help stop the spread of the virus, and a special thanks to all of you working on the front lines in the medical field, as first responders, and in businesses such as supermarkets that remain open to serve our community’s critical needs.

I am providing you with a brief update both through this email message and through this six-minute video message I recorded yesterday with the assistance of Marc Serra, the Executive Director of the Shrewsbury Media Connection.

Please note:

1) At this past Wednesday evening's School Committee meeting, Amy Clouter, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, & Assessment, presented a comprehensive report on the SPS Remote Learning program.  I strongly encourage you to read her report, review her presentation slides, and watch her presentation in order to gain an understanding of how our schools have responded to the challenge of having students learn at home.  I believe you will find this information helpful to understand the evolution of remote learning and the breadth and scope of what is being provided.  Of interest is the recent release of a study by MIT that ranks Massachusetts’ approach to remote learning during the pandemic as the second-best in the U.S. to date (see slide presentation linked above).  

2) An overall update regarding our district’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with a report on the associated financial and operational challenges,  were also provided at the School Committee meeting on Wednesday.  You can view the entire meeting here.     

3) As a reminder, the School Committee voted last week to convert three days next week from vacation days to remote learning days.  Monday, April 20 is the state holiday Patriots Day; Tuesday through Thursday, April 21-23 are remote learning days; and Friday, April 24 is a vacation day.  Because of the pandemic, the past month has been an intense and often stressful time for students, families, and educators, and I urge everyone to “unplug” over the three-day weekend and attend to your family and personal needs.  I deeply appreciate the efforts that everyone has been making over the past several weeks, and it is critically important that everyone focus on their own well-being and that of your loved ones.  


Monday would have been “Marathon Monday,” and as the saying goes, it’s important to remember to treat this ongoing pandemic as a marathon and not a sprint.  With Monday also being Patriots Day, when we celebrate the birth of the American Revolution having happened right here in Massachusetts, I leave you with thoughts from two great Massachusetts patriots from colonial times, John and Abigail Adams.  


John Adams said, “There are two types of education… One should teach us how to make a living, and the other how to live.”  I’m confident that, despite this interruption to their typical schooling, our students will have the foundational skills they need to “make a living” in the future.  However, within this current crisis, we also have the opportunity as parents and educators to teach our students “how to live” in the years ahead by helping them gain resilience, perseverance, independence, and focus.  The vision for our students that is articulated in the Portrait of a Shrewsbury Graduate is that we want them to gain these critical competencies, and how we help students navigate this crisis will make a difference in how well they do so.


Abigail Adams said, “Great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance.”  We certainly are facing “great difficulties” during this unprecedented time, and just as previous generations remained strong during times of war, pandemic, and economic depression, so will we.  Thank you for your patience and perseverance, and for your ongoing support of our schools.


Joe Sawyer
Superintendent of Schools