Below is the text of a communication - Important Information for Families - March 12 - that was sent to families on March 12, 2021.
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March 12, 2021
Dear Shrewsbury Families,
As we observe the anniversary of the start of the pandemic shut down, I want to provide you with some important information on the return to full, in-person school and the proposed draft of the school calendar for next year.
Information on return to full, in-person school
We continue to work through the planning for return to full, in-person school, phased in from elementary, to middle schools, to high school. We are using the new guidance provided by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education regarding health and safety (found here). In many cases, our class sizes and the space available in classrooms creates significant obstacles to fitting all of the students in Cohorts A, B, & C at the same time, and our leadership team has been working diligently to determine ways to accomplish this without having to reassign students to a new teacher at this point in the school year -- which is clearly not desirable, but may be necessary in some cases to return to an every day schedule. We will minimize changes in student assignments for all students, including those in Cohort D, to the greatest extent we possibly can, while meeting the health and safety requirements for the maximum number of students that can be housed in classrooms with 3-foot distancing. This is further complicated by needing to assign the 294 students from Cohort D whose families chose for them to return to school when their grade level begins full, in-person learning, and needing to add staffing in some cases to make this work. Please note the following details:
1) At Wednesday night’s School Committee meeting, I presented information regarding the new state mandate for returning to full, in-person school. You can view these update slides here.
2) The date that all students in Cohorts A, B, and C in Kindergarten through Grade 4 will return to daily, in-person learning will be Monday, April 5. We have not yet finalized any adjustments to the calendar for the remainder of the year from that point forward, but K-4 families should anticipate that part of this transition will include early release days on Wednesday, April 7 and Wednesday, April 14.
3) All Grades K-4 students will have remote learning days from home on Thursday, March 25, and Friday, March 26. We need to have our K-4 classrooms unoccupied on those days in order to a) remove additional furniture to create more space; b) take delivery of desks purchased with COVID grant funds to enable 3-foot distancing not possible with existing tables; and c) set up the desks in the classrooms in new configurations to enable more students to fit in the room with 3-foot distancing in order to move to full, in-person school. I realize that these two remote days place additional pressures on families in Cohorts A and C regarding childcare, but despite our efforts we were not able to arrange an alternative schedule with our vendors (and this process will actually continue through that weekend due to its scope). Thank you for your understanding.
4) Students in Grades 5 through 8 will return to full, in-person learning no later than Wednesday, April 28. The actual date of return has not yet been finalized, but Monday, April 26 is a strong possibility based on our planning thus far.
5) A date for a full, in-person return for high school students has not yet been determined. Significant planning for this has been and continues to be underway. We face a particularly challenging situation at the high school level due to the nature of the academic class schedule and the number of class sections that would not fit the entire class under the updated health and safety guidelines. The SHS leadership team also continues to work on ways in which additional, in-person co-curricular activities for high school students and traditional Senior Class activities can be held this spring, with whatever modifications are required as state guidance evolves.
Draft Calendar for the 2021-2022 School Year
I presented a draft calendar to the School Committee this past Wednesday evening. You can find the draft calendar here, and my accompanying memo here. You will see that my recommendation was to begin school for students the day after Labor Day, September 7, in order to provide a few more days in the summer for the logistics of opening the new Beal School. However, please note that when creating the calendar I neglected to note that the Jewish High Holy Day of Rosh Hashanah falls on September 7 this year; I am sorry about this oversight on my part. While for many years our district has not had days off from school for the variety of religious holidays that fall during the school year (instead providing accommodations for those students who need to miss school for observances), we have never before had a conflict with the very first day of school. This is not a situation we want to put our Jewish families and staff in, so I will be working with our leadership team next week to revise this recommendation. Families with feedback about any other aspects of the calendar can reach out to the School Committee or me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Thank you for your continued support of our schools.
Superintendent of Schools