Superintendent's Update - January 12, 2021

Superintendent's Update - January 12, 2021
Posted on 01/13/2021
Superintendent's Update - January 12, 2021

Dear Medway families, 

I hope that you and your family are well.  Earlier today I participated in a conference call with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to discuss COVID-19 testing for students.  I am pleased to report that the state has become involved in COVID-19 testing for students.  This is very good news for the Medway Public Schools.  

As you know, we have been actively engaged in identifying a pathway to conduct regular COVID-19 testing for students.  We began a regular testing program for our staff in December and anticipated regular testing for students in January.  While the program offered through DESE will likely delay our student testing timeline by a couple of weeks until the end of January/beginning of February, there are significant advantages to awaiting the implementation of this program.  One advantage is that the state has committed to support funding for COVID-19 testing for the first six weeks of implementation.  Following that six week period, we would be able to use the state-negotiated contract to continue to purchase services.  This rate is significantly reduced from the cost estimates that we received from vendors as individual entities and we anticipate an overall cost savings of approximately $225,000.  

As I have shared, we strongly believe that the information gained from a regular testing program is critical to ensuring a more accurate understanding of the prevalence of COVID-19 within our schools.  This information is also important to support decision making about the most appropriate student learning model.  Finally, we are hopeful that through testing we can quickly and effectively identify positive cases and isolate those individuals to support the health and safety of all.  

There will be many details about this program that I will be sharing over the coming weeks.  I am hopeful that our community recognizes the value of a regular testing program and will be willing to participate.

Finally, as you may know, on January 4, we moved from hybrid to full in person for grade 4 students, and have targeted January 19 to move grade 5 from hybrid to full in person.  I would like to share my deep appreciation and gratitude to our principals, teachers, and staff who tirelessly worked to accomplish this goal.  Without their commitment, we would not have been able to move grades PK-5 to a full in person learning model.

Sincerely,

  

Armand Pires, Ph.D.

Superintendent

 

Reminder:  No School Monday, January 18

There will be no school on Monday, January 18 in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Bus Transportation

Bus transportation continues to be a very challenging barrier to a fuller return of more students.  As you may be aware, health and safety protocols limit ridership to ⅓ of full capacity.  We are appreciative of all of our families who were able to find alternative transportation to and from school for their children. 

With the full return of grade 5 students beginning Tuesday, January 19, we have again conducted a review of our bus schedules and capacity limits.  Updated bus schedules will be published later this week.  We recognize that the continuous changes, and the impact on family schedules, may be frustrating, and we will continue to work to minimize these impacts where possible. 

Structured Learning Time:  Synchronous Learning During At Home Learning Days

As you may have seen in the news, the Board of Education voted to accept Commissioner Riley’s recommendation to require school districts to ensure a minimum amount of structured learning time over a two week, 10 school day period.  The minimum requirements apply to both hybrid and remote learning models and require at least 35 hours total of live + synchronous (virtual, live) structure learning time for hybrid learning models and at least 40 hours total structured learning time for full remote learning models.  Since Medway now supports the learning of all K-4 students 5 days per week fully in person and will soon welcome back all grade 5 students back fully in person 5 days per week, this regulation only applies to our grade 6-12 students.  When examining our structured learning time in early November we identified opportunities to increase this time and had already been working in partnership with the Medway Federation of Teachers to include time each period for teachers to connect synchronously with all students who are learning from home.  We expect this practice to be consistently implemented in the coming week in all classrooms in grades 6-12.

Close Contact Definition Updated

DESE recently updated its guidelines to reflect an updated definition of a close contact as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.   As a district, we'll now be using this definition to identify close contacts.  It is important to keep in mind that multiple brief or transitory interactions (less than a minute) throughout the day are unlikely to result in 15 minutes of cumulative contact and do not meet the definition of close contact.

We anticipate that this new definition will lead to an increased number of individuals identified as close contacts.

2021 Assessment and Accountability Update

We received communication from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education last week regarding an update on MCAS testing and Accountability for 2020-2021.  The full text of the communication can be found here. 

In summary:

The goal of assessing for this year is two-fold:

  • to serve as a diagnostic
  • to serve as a measure in high school of college and career readiness and access to college scholarships

The Department will take the following steps to modify testing this spring: 

  • Shortened MCAS testing time for Grades 3-8: The Department will significantly reduce testing time for students in grades 3-8 through a session sampling approach, in which each student will take only a portion of each MCAS assessment in each subject. This modified MCAS administration will preserve the validity and reliability of the test at the school, district, and state levels. When combined with other data points, this approach will provide meaningful diagnostic data at the individual student level. 
  • Accountability relief:  The Commissioner will not name or recommend to the Board any new underperforming or chronically underperforming districts or schools in the upcoming school year. The Department will also consider any available flexibilities provided by the U.S. Department of Education. 
  • Extending ACCESS testing window: ACCESS testing for English language proficiency is key to strengthening education programs for English learners. As previously announced, the Department is extending the testing window for ACCESS, which normally concludes in February, until May 20, 2021. 
  • MCAS Biology test: The Department has provided school districts flexibility on scheduling the high school biology MCAS test. Schools may offer the biology MCAS to first-time 9th graders in June, instead of or in addition to offering it in February

T.H.R.I.V.E. Event

Medway T.H.R.I.V.E., in collaboration with Medfield Public Schools, will be holding a webinar event on Tuesday, January 26, at 7:00 p.m.  This virtual event, Navigating School During Uncertain Times, will be hosted by Stanford University’s Challenge Success.  For more information and to register for the event please click here.  

Medway Athletics Newsletter

The latest edition of the Medway Public Schools’ Athletics Newsletter, Mustang Nation, can be found here.

Medway Public Schools In the News

Medway students ‘spread cheer’ to seniors in 2020-style holiday concert.

Press release: Medway High School Announces Students Accepted to Central District Senior Concert Festival

Medway students earn award in Mass STEM challenge.

 

Upcoming Events

January 12, 2021

School Committee Budget Subcommittee Meeting, Virtual, 3:00 p.m.

MFPA Meeting, Virtual, 7:00 p.m.

January 18, 2021

No School: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

January 21, 2021

School Committee Meeting, Presentation Room, Medway Middle School, 6:00 p.m.

January 26, 2021

T.H.R.I.V.E. Event, Virtual, information and event registration can be found here, 7:00 p.m.

January 27, 2021

MSPTO Meeting, Virtual, 7:00 p.m.

February 4, 2021

School Committee Meeting, Presentation Room, Medway Middle School, 6:00 p.m.

February 9, 2021

MFPA Meeting, Virtual, 7:00 p.m.

February 15-19, 2021

No School: February Vacation

February 24, 2021

MSPTO Meeting, Virtual, 7:00 p.m.

February 25, 2021

School Committee Meeting, Presentation Room, Medway Middle School, 6:00 p.m.


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