(For Translation) Important Superintendent's Message for Families - Dec 20

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December 20, 2020

Dear Shrewsbury Families,

Based on consultation with public health and medical experts, I have decided that all Shrewsbury Public Schools will shift to all-remote learning for all students for the week after the upcoming December vacation (Monday, January 4 through Friday, January 8).  Please see the bottom of this message for additional important information about the all-remote learning week of January 4-8.

For this week, except for Parker Road Preschool, all schools will continue with in-person learning according to the established schedule: 

  • Tomorrow, Monday, December 21: In-person day for Cohorts A & B
  • Tuesday, December 22: In-person day for Cohorts A & C
  • Wednesday, December 23: Cohorts A2, B & C will have remote, live learning in the morning and Cohort A1 will have in-person learning in the morning

I decided to make a shift to remote learning for one week after the vacation for the following reasons:

1. Cases are expected to rise after the upcoming holidays.  Despite the advice of Gov. Baker and public health authorities, unfortunately it is presumed that many will still choose to gather with others outside of their household, congregate in larger groups, and/or to travel over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.  As a result, public health officials have communicated that cases of COVID-19 are expected to further increase across Massachusetts and locally, similarly to what happened after Thanksgiving.

2. Delaying the return to in-person learning by one week will provide a pause intended to avoid negative impacts from cases of COVID-19 that emerge over the holiday vacation period. Based on public health information, most cases emerge between 4 and 6 days after exposure, and a one week pause of in-person learning will match the length of the currently recommended 10-day quarantine for asymptomatic individuals between New Year’s Day and the first day back in school (Monday, January 11).  While I understand people will not be quarantining during this time, the likelihood of an asymptomatic, positive individual returning to school who was exposed on one of the holidays will be greatly reduced.

3. Given the expected rise in cases, a one-week pause in in-person learning is intended to avoid potential disruptions that could occur due to students or staff needing to quarantine due to being a “close contact” of an individual who has contracted COVID-19.  Maintaining adequate staffing in our schools has been increasingly problematic since the weather has turned colder and after Thanksgiving.  These close contacts have mostly been due to potential exposures outside of school, since we observe 6-foot distancing as much as possible at school, and we anticipate with a rise in cases after the holidays we unfortunately will see more of these exposures outside of school that result in close contact and the need to quarantine.

4. Taking this one-week pause is intended to promote a faster return to a stable, in-person hybrid schedule that avoids stops and restarts of in-person learning.  

It is important to note that the public health and medical experts with whom we consulted indicated that a period of remote learning after the December vacation should be considered due to expected increases in cases in the community after the holidays.  I want to be clear that the change to remote learning for the week after break for all schools is not due to the two cases of potential in-school transmission we’ve identified over the past few days at Coolidge School and Parker Road Preschool.  We continue to investigate those cases in cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.   Public health experts and medical experts are not advising that we close other classrooms or schools at this time, and, except for Parker Road Preschool and one affected classroom at Coolidge, we will continue with the hybrid, in-person schedule as planned for this coming Monday through Wednesday, December 21-23.

While we have had a significant number of positive cases among members of our school communities so far this year, most positive cases of students or staff clearly originate outside of school, typically from a family member who was exposed outside of school, or from another outside of school contact.  It is clear from our experience and from statistics across the state, nation, and world that in-school transmission is rare when prevention measures are in place.  You and your children’s continued strict adherence to our protocols – including mask wearing, distancing, hand washing, staying home when not feeling well, and following state orders for gatherings and travel – is critically important for protecting you and your family, as well as our staff and their families. 

Please see the additional information below.  I recognize that this change creates challenges for working parents with regard to childcare, and I appreciate your understanding that this decision is being made with our primary goal of the safety of our students, families, and staff in mind and in order to preserve a stable schedule of in-person instruction as much as possible going forward. Thank you again for all you are doing to support your children and our schools as we continue to adapt to our circumstances.

Respectfully,

Joe Sawyer
Superintendent of Schools

 

Key information for families re: remote learning for the week of January 4-8:

1. All students in Preschool through Grade 12 in all cohorts will learn remotely January 4-8.  

2. School day schedules will remain the same, i.e., SHS first period will begin at 7:35am, middle school homeroom periods will begin at 8:00am, and elementary school morning meetings will begin at 9:00am (9:15am for Beal).

3. Because of the alternating nature of the hybrid model, and in order to remain with the established sequence of instruction for this one-week pause, student schedules will remain the same for the week of January 4-8; students who would have had in-person learning will be taught via Zoom according to their in-person class schedule on those days that they would have been physically in school.  Students and families will receive additional specific scheduling information from their school/teachers.

  • On Monday and Tuesday, January 4 & 5, students in Cohorts A & B will have live, synchronous learning classes and services via Zoom, while students in Cohort C will follow their usual Monday and Tuesday expectations; this will be reversed on Thursday and Friday.  
  • On Wednesday, Cohort A1 students will receive live instruction over Zoom in the morning, and follow their usual schedules in the afternoon; 
  • Wednesday will be the same remote day for students in Cohorts B & C that they typically have (live classes via Zoom in the morning, asynchronous learning for students in the afternoon).  
  • Specifics regarding any scheduling needs for special education services, etc. will be communicated directly to students and families.

4. We expect to resume the hybrid, in-person schedule on Monday, January 11, at which time we expect that all Cohort A, B, & C students will return to the in-person schedule we have been following to date.  The decision to resume in-person learning will be made in consultation with public health and medical experts.

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