Superintendent's Update - February 28, 2021

February 28, 2021

Dear Shrewsbury Families, Colleagues, & Community Members,

As February comes to a close, I wanted to provide you with several updates regarding our schools.  I remain enormously grateful for the efforts that our superb staff and supportive families are making to continue to support our students through these challenging times.  Please note the following information about our response to the pandemic and planning for scenarios for more in-person learning; our schools' financial crisis for next year; and several ways in which our students and educators have successfully adapted to our current environment.

1) Our schools' continued response to the pandemic continues to focus on the health and well-being of our students, families, and staff while promoting high levels of learning.  Our leadership team has been working on logistics and possible scenarios for safely bringing more students back to school in person, and you likely have seen the news that the Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary & Secondary Education, Jeff Riley, announced last week that he intends to ask the state board for the authority to require this sometime in April, starting with elementary grades.  Our next step is to send surveys to families and staff for feedback regarding potential scenarios, so look for those this week.  In the meantime, I am pleased to report that we just completed our third consecutive calendar week of 10 or fewer positive cases across the district in our hybrid model, and that our voluntary surveillance pooled testing of over 500 district staff and over 400 students from SHS had zero positive cases last week.  We are moving to begin surveillance testing at Oak Middle School next, and I urge families of our students in grades 7 through 12 to give consent to have your children participate in the weekly, free COVID-19 testing program, as this provides our school district with important data regarding the level of prevalence of the virus among asymptomatic individuals, and it also provides families with peace of mind regarding their children's health.  We hope to move this important program, which is funded by federal and state grants for COVID-19 operations, into more grades in the near future.

2) Our schools face a funding crisis for next school year, and I made several recommendations this past Wednesday evening regarding what reductions would be necessary if we do not have adequate funding.  These included not opening the new Beal Elementary School as intended and making almost 50 staff reductions that increase class sizes across all of our grade spans, reduce student supports, and eliminate some types of programming (such as closing all elementary media centers and limiting course offerings at the high school).  To view the information, you can find the presentation slides here and a video of the presentation here.  As I stated at the close of my presentation, I do not believe our community will allow our students to experience the effects these cuts would have, at a time when our children need our support more than ever due to the effects of the pandemic. 

3) Our students and educators have been adapting to a changed environment and doing incredible work, and I am proud to share the following highlights:

The SHS Black History Committee, a student group dedicated to broadening the worldview of the SHS student body through an understanding of Black history, celebration of Black culture, and promoting racial justice, created a virtual version of their annual Black History Month assembly.  These students did an outstanding job of sharing important information about our nation's history and current challenges through a compelling mix of video, music, art, and poetry related to this year's theme of "Know Better, Be Better."   Thank you to the students who produced this virtual assembly and the faculty advisors who supported them.

The vibrant colors found in the SPS K-12 Virtual Winter Art Festival will brighten your day -- outstanding work by our student artists and their teachers!

Our community service-minded Shrewsbury High School Robotics Team is sponsoring a virtual blood drive -- click here to learn more and to support their efforts. 

The Colonial Fund is sponsoring a telethon, For the Love of the Performing Arts this coming Friday, March 5 & Saturday, March 6 from 7:00pm to 9:00pm each evening on SELCO Channels 29 & 329 or live streamed on the Shrewsbury Media Connection at  Click here to see the schedule of outstanding performances, including the debut of virtual concerts by our outstanding SHS music performance groups; click here to see our generous sponsors; and click here to enter the event raffle or to make a donation.  This event will provide much-needed financial support for our superb performing arts program, whose traditional fundraising efforts were canceled due to the pandemic.  Please help us achieve the goal of raising $50,000 to support the performing arts in our schools!

Our SHS Speech & Debate team has continued to compete virtually, and our students continue to shine, earning multiple individual honors in each tournament and with several students qualifying for the NCFL national tournament as well!

The annual SHS Science Fair was held virtually, with 13 students qualifying to move on to the virtual regional tournament next month!  Congratulations to all of our students who completed sophisticated research projects and presented them through pre-recorded presentation videos and links to their project information and lab notes, which were then viewed online by the judges.  

The SHS winter athletics season was successful, with teams competing in skiing, swimming, gymnastics, girls and boys ice hockey, and girls and boys basketball.  While some teams experienced interruptions due to quarantine requirements related to cases originating outside of the program, student athletes were able to experience the benefits of interscholastic athletics while following health protocols.  The "Fall II" season is now starting, with unified basketball, cheerleading, girls volleyball, and football getting underway.

As you can see, we have many reasons to be proud of our students and staff.  Thank you for your continued support of our schools' efforts to improve the lives of our community's children.


Joe Sawyer
Superintendent of Schools

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