Superintendent's Update - 9/14/20

Superintendent's Update - 9/14/20
Posted on 09/14/2020
Superintendent's Update - 9/14/20

September 14, 2020

Dear Medway families, 

This weekend I took some time to unplug, step away, and reflect on these past months.  They have certainly been filled with many unknowns and many firsts.  I am happy to share some thoughts and observations with you as we ready to begin the 2020-2021 school year. 

First, I love the first day of school.  The 2020-2021 school year represents my 25th school opening as an educator.  While the road to get here has been complicated, long, and arduous, I am more excited than ever to get this school year underway.  I cannot wait to welcome our students to the 2020-2021 school year on September 16th.  I cannot wait to see them in our schools, or online, working with each other and learning from the gifted teachers of our district. 

Over the past months, the faculty and staff of the Medway Public Schools have been actively engaged in preparing for the opening of the school year.  The summer traditionally affords us the opportunity to enjoy a slower pace, while many of our staff enjoy a well-deserved summer recess.  This was not the case this summer.  Throughout the summer faculty and staff have been busy planning for this unique school year.  The updates and guidance that were released throughout the summer resulted in a need to re-examine and make adjustments to already established plans frequently.  

As the summer planning progressed, and my energy waned, I was reignited and inspired when our faculty and staff returned on August 31.  While the return was one that included some anxiety, the staff connected with each other and jumped right into the planning for this school year.  They entered their work with enthusiasm and excitement.  They pushed through many challenges to ensure that our schools will be ready for our students.  While the school year will be different in so many ways, what will not be different is the incredible energy, commitment, and passion that the faculty and staff of the Medway Public Schools will bring to this school year.  I am so incredibly proud to call them colleagues.  I am so proud of their continued selfless acts to ensure that our students, upon their return, will be connected with adults who care about them.  

Safety

A critical focus of the planning this year has been around student, faculty, and staff safety.  Ensuring that we reduce risks to the greatest extent possible has been a key element to our school return.  Much planning and many conversations have focused on this topic.  Our efforts have ensured that we meet guidance and requirements, and in many cases we have exceeded that minimum guidance.  Some of the planned health and safety measures that were put into place include:

  • Mask wearing for students, faculty, and staff
  • Adoption of a 6’ minimum physical spacing standard in our classrooms 
  • Implementation of enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols
  • Assessment and repairs to our HVAC systems
  • Assessment of all sinks in our schools, and the procurement of hand sanitizer throughout 
  • Procurement of individual room HEPA air purification systems for teaching spaces
  • Purchase and installation of hands-free water bottle filling stations in schools, with more to be installed
  • Reduction of higher risk activities, at least temporarily (e.g. fall interscholastic football and cheerleading)
  • Exploration of a COVID-19 Surveillance Testing program for all students, faculty, and staff (more to come on this soon)

In Medway we are fortunate that the number of cases has been low throughout the summer.   It is important to note, however, that there continues to be active virus transmission.  A high level of vigilance is a must as we reopen our schools.   These efforts, and many not mentioned, have been put in place to support reducing the risk of those in our schools. 

Student Experience

The school year will be very different for our students.  It will also be very different for all of us - educators, administrators, support staff.   While the new practices, policies, and expectations will be an adjustment for everyone, I know that through our resiliency and persistence will get us through.  There have been major changes in nearly all aspects of the educational experience for our students. As we embark on this school year we recognize that our decision to ensure families had a choice around attendance in-person or fully virtual, along with the adopted hybrid model has created enormous planning challenges.  We recognize that while we have put forth our very best efforts to plan for this school year, there will be continued challenges and areas where we can do better.

One area of continued challenge has been staffing.  The models of education we adopted require significant, additional staffing.  While we have made many hires throughout the summer, some open positions remain.  We are continuing to work to fill these positions to ensure we have staff in place to support students as quickly as possible.  If your child is part of the Hybrid Student Learning Model, courses without a full time hire finalized will be filled with substitutes. If your child is part of the Virtual School Learning Model, the start of these classes will be delayed until an appropriate educator is in place.  

 We commit to the following:

  • We will continue to assess and review practices for opportunities for improvement
  • We will continue to improve our educational practices, in this unique delivery of education, over time
  • We will respond to questions, concerns, and opportunities for partnership as soon as possible.

We continue to ask for your patience and understanding as we begin this new model of education.  While we have worked hard to prepare, and our educators have been intensely engaged in professional development to learn how to provide an effective education in this environment, excellence will take time.  We appreciate the understanding provided by our community and know that, with your support and assistance, we will provide our students with the very best education possible.

Partnership

As I have shared, the year will offer many challenges, but also many opportunities.  Together we can get through this. Together our efforts will support your children, our students, to have the best year possible.  The community has been amazing during this time.  Your partnership in the following areas is crucial:

  • Talk to your child about the importance of being vigilant in their mask wearing, hand washing and physical distancing.  This will help to protect everyone.
  • Continue to ensure your children are following physical distancing guidelines outside of school.  We have seen examples of outside of school social situations impacting the return to school plans in other communities.
  • Follow health guidance and keep your child home if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.  More information can be found here.
  • If you plan to travel, follow the Governor’s Travel Advisory. 
  • Anticipate that despite our best efforts, there are going to be bumps in the road as this school year starts.
  • Be patient and kind to our teachers and staff.  They have been working hard to learn how to teach in this new environment.  They need your support and understanding now, more than ever.
  • Continue to be engaged - read the communications that we send and respond when we seek feedback, when you have a question, or when you want to offer your supportive thinking.

There is no doubt that this year will continue to offer challenges and opportunities the likes of which we have never seen.  Our road to success is through continued collaboration, partnership, and communication to ensure that we share an understanding of these challenges and can work together to overcome them.

 

On behalf of the faculty, staff, and administrators of the Medway Public Schools, thank you for your continued support.   I wish you all a wonderful start to the school year!

 

Sincerely,

  

Armand Pires, Ph.D.

Superintendent of Schools

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