Superintendent’s Update - August 4, 2020

Dear Shrewsbury Families, Colleagues, & Community Members,

Thankfully, it looks like Hurricane Isaias (now downgraded to a tropical storm) will spare our area from the worst conditions, but the National Weather Service indicates we should be mindful of very strong winds and potentially strong thunderstorms later this afternoon/evening, including the chance of a tornado, so please be vigilant.

Please note the following important news items:

1) Good news regarding our budget: The state government has issued updated information regarding the minimum amounts of school funding (known as Chapter 70 aid) and unrestricted local aid to cities and towns that will be provided for this fiscal year, in order to provide more certainty given that the state will not be setting a final budget for some time.  As a result, there will be slightly more than $900,000 in additional funding available to our school district that I hope will be allocated at this coming Saturday's Annual Town Meeting.  This would reduce our estimated $2 million budget gap by almost half, which is excellent news.  I am hopeful that cost mitigation efforts with our employee associations will also reduce the risk of needing to make cuts to educational programming and staff, which could become necessary if we cannot close the remaining $1 million+ gap.

2) School Committee meeting on THURSDAY evening at 7:00pm: This week's School Committee meeting will take place on Thursday evening, August 6, at 7:00pm.  The Town of Shrewsbury has modified its restrictions on in-person board meetings, allowing the School Committee and administrators to meet together at Town Hall; however, due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions members of the public may not attend in person.  Those who wish to address the School Committee in its public participation segment via phone should email the School Committee Chair, Ms. Sandra Fryc, in advance of the meeting at The meeting will be shown live on SELCO Channels 29/329 and streamed live on the Shrewsbury Media Connection's website.  The meeting will include an update on the budget (see above) and a presentation and vote on the school district's reopening plan (see below).

3) Reopening planning update: I will present my recommendation for a school reopening plan to the School Committee for its approval at Thursday evening's meeting.  This recommendation will be based on guidance from several sources, including: A) the planning work done by our Reopening Task Force, which consisted of five subcommittees including dozens of SPS staff and who provided suggestions and recommendations regarding how to map the best pathway forward; B) the requirements and guidance on school reopening from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education; and C) an ongoing review of public health and medical advisories regarding the reopening of schools and data regarding the prevalence of COVID-19 in our local community and state.  The plan will build on the initial recommendation made last week, which is that families will have a choice of two options for their children: either A) a hybrid program of in-person attendance at school and remote learning on an alternating schedule to reduce the number of students in school and enable physical distancing, or B) a stand-alone full remote learning program at home for families who are not comfortable having their child attend any in-person school.  Also some students with significant needs will be eligible to attend school in person more frequently than those on the alternating schedule.  We will provide more details of what the hybrid and remote options will look like, and next week we will be asking families to indicate which option they plan to choose.  It is very important to note that while we will provide as much information as possible on Thursday evening, a great many details will still need to be developed in the coming weeks based on the sheer volume of elements that must be addressed; the determination of how many families are choosing the hybrid model vs. the stand-alone full remote model; and updated state guidance that we continue to receive.  If you have any questions or suggestions regarding school reopening, please send an email to  All of these emails are being reviewed by members of our leadership team and me as we continue our intensive planning work.

4) Bus registration is open: Yesterday, families received information on registering for the bus if you wish for your student to have that option for transportation to and/or from school.  Please note that the School Committee has waived the bus fee that would apply to non-mandated bus riders through December and that while we hope to accommodate all who wish to ride the bus, given the limited capacity due to state rules (one student per seat) the district may need to restrict ridership.  For details and to register, click here.  Questions may be sent to  

Thank you for your continued support as we navigate the many complex issues that must be resolved regarding what our students' education will look like this coming year due to the ongoing pandemic.


Joe Sawyer
Superintendent of Schools

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