Superintendent's Update - September 15, 2023

Dear Shrewsbury Families, Colleagues, & Community Members,

It is nice to have had more seasonable weather these past two days, and I'm glad Hurricane Lee is staying well to the east of us!  We have had a very successful start to our school year, and I am especially proud of the way our educators, support staff, and leaders have worked hard to create a welcoming environment that conveys a sense of belonging to all of our students in our school communities.  

Please read on for a few informational items: on 1) transportation; 2) our recent School Committee meeting and our homeless/migrant students; 3) a notice about the "One Chip Challenge"; and 4) a reminder about our updated homework policy and this being our first "No Homework Weekend" of the school year. 

1) Transportation: Thank you to families for your help in ensuring that students are getting to and from school safely.  The vast majority of our bus routes have been running on schedule, and like every year we are working out the kinks on a few routes running later than planned (particularly in the afternoons).  Given the significant change in school schedules this year, I am grateful to our SPS Transportation Team, especially Assistant Finance & Operations Manager April Yu and our partner AA Transportation, for their hard work.  Thank you also to families who are driving students to and from school for using the designated drop off and pick up processes in order to maintain student safety.  Finally, please be reminded that late bus service at the high school and middle schools begins on Monday, September 18 so that more students can access after school academic help and activities -- click HERE for the schedule and to register your child.

2) The School Committee met last week for its first meeting of the year.  As always, you can watch video of the meetings HERE and view all documents and slide presentations from the meeting HERE.  Some items from the September 6 meeting: the Committee accepted a generous donation of $5,500 from Lexus of Northborough to help fund start-up costs for our Oak Middle School Girls and Boys Soccer teams; heard a report on various projects we are grateful that the Public Buildings Division completed over the summer in our schools; and heard an update on the enrollment of homeless/migrant students from the shelter within our community (as of today there are 52 spread across grades K-12 attending Beal, Floral Street, Sherwood, Oak, and SHS).  I am very proud of the efforts our staff have made since May to support our newest students' needs, and the way our community as a whole has responded to this difficult situation.  I will provide another update at the next School Committee meeting on September 27.

3) Notice to families re: the "One Chip Challenge":  You have likely seen the very sad news that a 14-year-old student in our neighboring community of Worcester recently died, and while the cause is yet to be determined there is concern that it could be related to his having become severely ill after eating an extremely hot chip as part of the so-called "One Chip Challenge."  This past week, some middle school students in Holliston became very ill from doing the same.  Parents and caregivers may want to click HERE to review the information on about the "One Chip Challenge" and advise your children to avoid them (and not bring them to school).  While these chips have been removed from store sale, they may be available via mail order.  Our sympathies go out to the family and friends of the deceased student and the Worcester Public Schools community.

4) Updated homework policy and "No Homework Weekend": Please be reminded that this year there is an updated homework policy in effect, and that this weekend is our first "No Homework Weekend," which applies to all students in all grades.   No homework will be due and no assessments requiring studying over the weekend will be given on Monday, September 18.  Please click HERE for a list of the no homework dates for this school year and HERE for a calendar view (both are Google Docs that can be translated).  There are 15 school days out of our 180 school days when no homework will be due (8%); this approach helps us meet the policy's statement that "It is a shared responsibility between home and school to ensure that students have balance in their lives while pursuing educational excellence."

Many of the "no homework" dates correspond with major religious holidays where many students would be exempt from homework, and this includes the Jewish high holidays of Rosh Hashanah this weekend and Yom Kippur next weekend.   On behalf of our school district, shanah tovah to all who are celebrating the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah starting at sunset this evening.

Thank you for your continued support of our schools as we strive to provide our students with an education characterized by academic excellence and the well-being of all.


Joe Sawyer
Superintendent of Schools

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