Superintendent's Update - February 12, 2021

February 12, 2021

Dear Shrewsbury Families,

As we head into the February Vacation, I want to again express my gratitude for all you have done to support your children and their teachers during a school year unlike any other.

As I mentioned when presenting our latest COVID-19 statistics at this past Wednesday's School Committee meeting, there are hopeful signs with regard to the pandemic.  Case counts are dropping and vaccinations are increasing among the at-risk elderly, while shots for school staff are on the horizon.  We also received the excellent news of zero positive tests from our staff surveillance testing this week.  Some have raised questions about potential plans to increase in-school learning if conditions allow, as some districts in our area and across the state have communicated, especially for younger students.  As I’m sure you realize, there are a variety of dynamics at play with regard to plans in different districts, depending on space available, enrollment, funding, etc.   We continue to carefully monitor COVID-19 metrics and consult with medical and public health experts, and we will also be reviewing the updated guidance on in-person school from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was just issued a few hours ago.  Our leadership team has been examining the various logistical elements regarding the possibility of increased in-person learning at some future point, and I will communicate additionally about this at the next School Committee meeting on February 24.

At the same time, we have an urgent need to focus on the very challenging financial situation that we face for next year.  At this past Wednesday's School Committee meeting, I communicated that we face an education emergency due to the effects of the pandemic and the lack of available funding for our schools for next year.  If you did not have the chance to watch the budget presentation and discussion that occurred at this past Wednesday evening’s School Committee meeting, you can view it here; you can also find the presentation slides here and the full budget recommendation document here.   On Wednesday, February 24, will be presenting a reduction plan that will illustrate the cuts to personnel and programming necessary to close the $4.9 million budget gap at the February 24th meeting.  As I stated this past Wednesday night, closing a budget gap of this size seriously jeopardizes the quality of the education we can provide to our students, and it also compromises our ability to add the additional staff necessary to open the new Beal School in the way that the community expects.

I hope that next week's school vacation provides an opportunity for you to spend some good family time with your children.  I ask for your help in keeping our COVID infection rates on a downward trend by using the prevention strategies that minimize the chances of contracting the virus.  Please also be reminded that if you travel out of state and your child is in the hybrid program, you must follow the Massachusetts state travel order so that your child can return in person after the vacation when in-person school resumes on Monday, February 22 for Cohorts A & B.

Have a terrific Valentine's Day/Presidents Day Weekend, and happy Lunar New Year to all who are celebrating the first day of the Year of the Ox today!


Joe Sawyer
Superintendent of Schools

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