Superintendent's Update - October 27, 2020

Dear Shrewsbury Families, Colleagues, & Community Members,

I hope you have been finding ways to enjoy the fall, especially given how vivid the foliage color has been this year (and despite the fact that the Patriots have been performing so poorly).  We have now been back to school for just over six weeks, and our incredibly dedicated and skillful staff have been working very hard to provide a variety of experiences to help our students learn critical academic content and skills, while also attending to their social and emotional needs during this uncertain time.  There is no doubt that this has been incredibly challenging in many ways given the complexity of our hybrid and remote programs, and I want to be sure that everyone knows that our educators, support staff, and leadership team are all putting a ton of effort into making this work the best we can for our students.

Similarly, we know that families, especially those who have younger children, are also working very hard to support learning at home, and we greatly appreciate everything they are doing to partner with us to help make this unusual year a successful one.  Families, please look for a survey in the near future where we will be asking for your feedback regarding how various aspects of our school reopening are working for your children.   

Please note the following informational items:

  1. Medical expert to present at tomorrow evening’s School Committee meeting
  2. Update on COVID-19 in Shrewsbury & SPS COVID-19 Data Dashboard
  3. Recent forum and resources on suicide prevention
  4. Virtual community walk and vigil for mental health - October 31 & November 1
  5. November school calendar information

1) Medical expert to present on COVID-19 and schools at tomorrow evening’s School Committee meeting: 
Tomorrow night (Wednesday, October 28) at 7:00pm, the School Committee will hear a presentation from Dr. Andrea Ciaranello, an infectious disease specialist from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School who is also the editor/communicating author of Mass General’s COVID-19 School & Community Resource Library, which our school district has used as a key resource.  Dr. Ciaranello, will provide information regarding recent medical science related to COVID-19 and schools and answer questions from the School Committee, as part of our continued commitment to consider the latest medical information and public health guidance with regard to the operation of our schools during the pandemic.  The meeting will be broadcast live on SELCO Channels 30 & 330 and live streamed on the Shrewsbury Media Connection’s website (Important note: This week’s meeting is being broadcast on the local Governmental Channel 30/330, not the Educational Channel). 


2) Update on COVID-19 in Shrewsbury & SPS Data Dashboard:
The number of cases of COVID-19 in our community has risen in recent weeks.  Shrewsbury was placed in the red “high risk” category in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s weekly report last Thursday, October 22 (note: MA DPH revised the weekly report of October 14 to retroactively Shrewsbury back to yellow status for that time period based on a review of criteria).  I encourage you to read the recent newsletter sent out by the Town of Shrewsbury, which includes a video of our Town Manager, Kevin Mizikar, going over the details of our situation and urging us all to follow mitigation strategies to stop the spread of the virus:

  • adhere to the six (6) feet social distancing protocol
  • avoid large gatherings both at work and at your personal residence
  • wear a mask that covers both the mouth and nose and fits close to the face (exception is for those who have a medical condition that prohibits them from wearing one and children under the age of two (2)).
  • practice good personal hygiene and wash your hands often
  • clean and disinfect high-touch areas
  • stay home if you are sick

The SPS COVID-19 Data Dashboard is being updated every Monday with information about cases in our school district the previous week.  Please note that we are continuing to send out an email to the specific school community whenever there’s a case, but I am no longer forwarding that information to the entire district as this information is now available in the weekly dashboard.


3) Community forum and resources on suicide prevention
The following information was shared by Shrewsbury High School, but I feel it is important that all of our families, staff, and community members also are aware of these resources:

Earlier this month, Shrewsbury High School hosted its second online Community Forum on teen suicide.  Members of Shrewsbury High School's Student Support Team were joined by Dr. Larry Berkowitz of the Riverside Trauma Center and the Director of Clinical Services at Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services, Jennifer Rifkin.  The conversation focused on how communities respond to suicide, the identification of the supports and programming available to students, and ideas to reduce barriers for students and families to find the necessary supports.  You can watch the recording of the forum by clicking this link, and you are also invited to access the resources listed below.   As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to  school counselors, psychologists, adjustment counselor, nurses, or principal/assistant principals if you need assistance.

SPS Well-Being Guide

SPS Grief and Loss Resources

Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services


4) Virtual community walk and vigil for mental health - October 31 & November 1

I am passing along a message about Shrewsbury's first Community Walk and Vigil for Mental Health, which will be held virtually during the weekend of October 31st–November 1st.  See the event flyer or visit the event website for more details:

We all know someone who is struggling.  Walk for your “someone.”  You are encouraged to get out and walk, practicing safe distancing, at your own pace, in your neighborhood, or at your favorite walking spot.  During or after your walk, we encourage you to leave a “Kindness rock” in the "Garden of Remembrance" at Prospect Park, 65 Prospect St. (signs in the park will guide you to the garden).  Painted rocks or "compassion rocks" are symbols of love, care, and support to anyone who finds it.  Let's fill the Garden with positive thoughts for those who are struggling and create a beautiful reflection spot for all to enjoy!

The unified virtual vigil will be held virtually at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 1st.  You can hold a candle in your home or out on your walk and have a unified moment of solidarity.

The Walk and Vigil were created to show support for those suffering from mental illness and to benefit the work of Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services (SYFS) and the work of "Be a Bro, Walk for Zoe".  In light of recent events, we hope the Walk and Vigil will highlight the need for increased communication and support around depression, suicide, and those struggling with mental health illnesses.  These issues impact everyone in our community.  Your support will help ensure that our local agency, SYFS, continues to provide these much-needed services for those we love and care about.  Join us in our effort to eradicate stigma and link (virtual) arms as a community to let our students, friends, and families know that IT’S OK TO NOT BE OK and you are not alone.

As you walk, paint rocks, or vigil, please upload photos to our Facebook page or on Instagram with the hashtag #YOUarenotalone to show your support.  Thank you!


5) November school calendar information:
In order to help families plan ahead, please note the following information regarding the school day calendar for November:

  • There is no school on Tuesday, November 3, which is parent conference day for Preschool through Grade 8 and a professional development day for the high school.  We schedule a no school day on major election days due to Coolidge and Spring Street Schools being voting locations.  For that week, Cohort B students will attend school in person on Monday, November 2 and Wednesday, November 4 (i.e., November 4 will run on a typical Tuesday schedule for all).
  • There is no school on Wednesday, November 11 in observance of Veterans Day.  The schedule for the other days that week will remain the same as usual.  
  • There is no school from Wednesday, November 25 through Friday, November 27 for Thanksgiving break.  In order to keep cohorts B & C aligned instructionally and to provide programming and services that would have otherwise happened on the three Wednesday schedules being missed in November, the district will run on Wednesday schedules on both Monday, November 23 and Tuesday, November 24.   Those two days will be all remote days except for those students in Cohort A who normally attend in person on Wednesday mornings. 
  • Click here for a visual of the above information

I continue to be very grateful for all of your efforts on behalf of our schools. 


Joe Sawyer
Superintendent of Schools



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