August 4, 2020

From: Mary C. Gormley
To: Parents/Guardians and Staff
Re: Superintendent’s Weekly Update
Date: August 4, 2020

FROM THE DESK OF THE SUPERINTENDENT

Thank you to all who watched both our Return to School presentation to School Committee and the Family Q&A session last week. These events were recorded by Milton Access TV and can be watched at the links above. Your questions, comments and suggestions continue to inform the work of our Return to School Task Force and MPS Administrators. All updates on a safe return to school can be found at www.returntoschoolmilton.com.

As this situation rapidly evolves, we continue to revise our plans. Yesterday, we were advised by medical professionals that eating in classrooms is not advisable as students will be unmasked while eating and should be more than six feet apart. As this poses a significant challenge in terms of space, we have decided to rethink our hybrid model (at the elementary and middle school level, the high school plan remains the same) to allow for students to eat at home rather than in school. You can find the details on these adjusted hybrid models below.

We recognize that this is a stressful and disconcerting time for MPS families, students and staff. Please know that all decisions made in this constantly changing landscape are carefully considered and made with the overall health and best interest of our students and staff at the forefront of all conversations. There are no easy decisions here as we work together toward a safe return to school for the students and staff of the Milton Public Schools.

On Wednesday, August 5th at 7pm, we will present our In-Person, Hybrid and Remote plans to the Milton School Commitee for them to vote on an anticipated plan to begin the school year.  At this meeting the Milton School Committee will also vote on a revised school year calendar based on DESE’s recent reduction of school days to 170. We anticipate that the first day of school for students will be September 16th and the first day of school for staff will be August 31st. These dates are not final until the School Committee vote tomorrow night.

The link to attend the School Committee meeting on August 5th can be found here  and you can watch the meeting on Milton Access TV,  Comcast channel 22 or RCN channel 15.

On Monday, August 10th, we will submit the plan approved by the Milton School Committee to DESE for final review.

We will continue to update you. Please contact the Return to School Task Force anytime at this link. 

RETURN TO SCHOOL UPDATES 

Revised Elementary Hybrid Plan

  • Students will be divided into two cohorts (groups A and B). We are still working to ensure equitable access to instructional time for students in our High Needs groups.
  • Groups A or B attend for 3 hours in person daily. Each day, the cohort is dismissed at 11:30 (Collicot/Cunningham) or 12:00 p.m. (Glover/Tucker).
  • In-person instruction in the morning will be core-content focused: prioritization of math and language arts (English and French). Live remote instruction in the afternoon with the classroom teacher(s) will also be core-content focused.
  • Students who attend in-person in the AM participate in specialists and independent work time in the PM.
  • Students who attend remotely in the AM participate in remote instructional blocks with classroom teacher(s) in the PM.
  • In this model, every student who opts for the Hybrid model will receive daily instruction from their classroom teacher(s) either in-person or remotely.
  • Lunch will be “Grab and Go” for students.

In this model, all specialists (PE, Art, Music, Instructional Technology, Spanish) will be conducted remotely on a set schedule.

Revised Pierce Hybrid Plan 

The current draft of the revised hybrid model at Pierce is as follows:

  • Students will be divided into two cohorts (groups 1 and 2). We are still working to ensure equitable access to instructional time for students in our High Needs groups. 
  • Each group will attend school in person for approximately four hours a day on alternating days.
  • The in-person school day will end at noon each day. Grab and go lunch will still be available for students.
  • The hybrid model includes in-person sessions every other day; “at home” work will be assigned during the at-home learning days.
  • Learning at home will consist of practice, extensions, and application working from well-coordinated extended assignments and student-directed activities assigned by teachers.  Work will be a blend of independent and collaborative learning activities.
  • Afternoon sessions will be remote, live and include the full class roster.

The schedule above represents our current thinking on how each day school will be organized. Pierce staff will continue to work to refine the details of the schedule to ensure that we optimize time on learning and ensure student support structures.

The Milton High School Hybrid Plan remains the same at this time and can be viewed here. The In-Person and Remote models at all levels remain unchanged and can be viewed here. 

Return to School Survey Updates

In our last update we shared the results of our Family Survey. These results were primarily quantitative and, therefore, easier to share quickly. In case you missed the results of the Family Survey, they can be found here.  MPS  currently has 4493 registered students and 2876 families. 2360 families completed the survey. These results are being used by our subcommittees to inform their recommendations to the Superintendent and our Return to School Task Force.   Importantly, we asked a question about mental health supports and all families who indicated a possible need and provided a contact, will be contacted by their principal or adjustment counselor. If you feel your child is in need of mental health support, please contact your child’s principal to connect with resources. You can view the results  of the Family Survey here.

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We issued a Student Survey at the end of June, asking three open ended questions about students’ experiences with remote learning. These results took much longer to synthesize and interpret as almost 1500 students gave 4400 individual written answers. Student’s thoughts about remote learning have been summarized and the entire summary can be found here. A synopsis is below.

All qualitative responses were broken down by age group and summarized to highlight key themes. Responses ranged across many topic areas. Many commented on specific school subjects, assignments, online application and games. Others described the process and organization of classes, keeping track of assignments, grades, platforms, and the use of technology. Many noted their interactions with classmates and teachers, while others mentioned their home environment, their own motivation, and the overall workload. This summary document also features relevant quotes from students and families that expressed key ideas.  Overall:

  • Students (and families) struggled to organize the various lessons, meetings, platforms, communications, websites, and all other manner of communications from the schools. Especially in the middle and high school grades there were requests for more structured scheduling and consistent communication channels across the curriculum.
  • Students wanted and needed more one-on-one and small group contact with their teachers, especially for explaining assignments and providing timely feedback.
  • There was no consensus on large on-line sessions – some liked them others found them overwhelming.
  • Across all the grades students appreciated group projects and assignments that were not screen-based.
  • Students wanted to be able to interact with their peers remotely. They wanted some fun activities.
  • Finding motivation and keeping focus was challenging for many. When asked what would make learning from home better, there were many suggestions made by students across all the age groups.
  • Across all grades students often reported feeling that they were doing busy-work and they sought more interactive assignments, assignments tied to current events, and for high school students many wanted to be graded.
  • Remote learning was especially difficult for the PreK-2 age group and required much more parent involvement in the learning process.

More detailed summaries of the responses to each question, as well as quotes from our respondents are included here. 

SCHOOL COMMITTEE

The next School Committee meeting will be on August 5, 2020 at 7pm and all School Committee meetings can be watched on Milton Access TV.  In the days leading up to each meeting, call in/log in information is available on the Town of Milton website.

UPDATE ON MPS ANTI-RACISM WORK

We have created a new section on the MPS website, highlighting recent, ongoing, and upcoming work related to building an anti-racism school district. The pages will continue to be updated as our work in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging expands and accelerates in the months ahead.

Here are a few other updates on our anti-racism work:

  • At its July 29 meeting, the Milton School Committee unanimously approved the Superintendent’s recommendation to create a new senior leadership position, Director of Educational Equity. For details about the position, read the press release.
  • We are finalizing the Request for Quotes for an external organization to conduct a district-wide Equity Audit. We will hire a consultant with deep experience conducting audits for public sector organizations, in order to assess equity and inequity in policies, programs, practices, resources, curriculum, and other aspects of the school district.
  • Later this week, MPS central office leaders, principals, and assistant principals will participate in a virtual workshop hosted by the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC). The session will focus on family and community engagement in the context of Covid-19, led by Dr. Karen Mapp, Senior Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Faculty Director of the Education Policy and Management Master’s Program.
  • We will host a series of Community Conversations with families, educators, and community members to discuss issues related to race and racism, as well as the broader work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Our goal is to foster meaningful discussions with diverse groups of participants, in order to inform our anti-racism work moving forward. Additional details and a schedule of Community Conversations will be announced shortly.
  • MPS will invite parents, educators, and community members to apply for positions on the new MPS Anti-Racism Action Team. The team will drive the development of a comprehensive Action Plan to guide the district’s anti-racism work, building on the MPS Reform Platform presented by the Milton Anti-Racist Coalition (MARC). Details about the application process and timeline will be announced shortly.

SUMMER LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES 

All MHS  summer assignments can be found at this link. In addition, the link for the summer reading challenge that all high school students will complete can be found here.

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Pierce Summer Reading: This year’s approach to summer reading will focus on a school-wide read of Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson. Our goal is to provide a common book for students, staff and faculty to read over the summer with the intention of holding small group conversations in the fall.  The conversations will focus on the themes of equity, access, belonging, and community.  By ensuring that all students and staff access the text, the focus will be less on accountability and more on rich conversation in relevant topics. Please see this  link to learn more about Harbor Me.

Pierce Summer Math Enrichment: All rising or current Pierce Middle School students, as well as their parents, are encouraged to enroll this summer in the free online self-paced course titled How to Learn Math: For Students offered through the math education department at Stanford University. You can find a description and enrollment link for this course, which will address math myths, growth mindset thinking, the valuable role that mistakes play in mathematical development, and much more, here. Please also see this link for additional resources, enrichment activities, games, and puzzles.

***

The MPS At Home Learning website is available to students and families all summer long. All weekly plans will be archived and available throughout the summer!

We hope you are enjoying your summer reading! 

Milton’s elementary schools are once again partnering with the Milton Public Library for our Summer Reading Challenge. This year’s theme is “Imagine Your Story!” All details can be found here.

Registration is open for all students entering Grades K-6. Students can sign in to their old summer reading account or create a new one here. For more help, view this slideshow or contact Sara Truog at struog@ocln.org.

The Challenge will run through September 2. By logging the minutes they read, students will receive virtual badges, win prizes, and earn virtual tickets that they can put into drawings for a host of other prizes, like gift cards, mystery book boxes, and swag bags. Readers can also earn rewards for writing book reviews, attending virtual library programs, and completing fun activities. Happy reading!

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Be sure to tune in to the Today Show on Wednesday, August 5th  between 10-11am to see rising 5th graders Daniel and Max talk about their dog treat business and their donations to the Milton Food Pantry. These two charitable entrepreneurs have been busy! You can read their story in this Patriot Ledger article.

TRANSPORTATION

Families with students registered for transportation for the 2020-2021 school year received ridership surveys last week.  Please complete the applicable surveys as soon as possible as the Transportation Department moves forward with state guidelines for the fall.  Please email questions to bus@miltonps.org.

A NOTE FROM THE NURSE

We want to clarify our position on masks, as we realize guidance has been shifting: Will everyone in school need to wear a mask?

Yes. Milton Public Schools will require teachers and all students, in grades pre-K to 12, to wear 3-ply surgical (not cloth) masks at all times, with the exception of outdoor “mask breaks” during recess and at points in the day when students can socially distance. These guidelines are more stringent than those set by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Exceptions will be made for those who cannot wear masks due to medical conditions, disabilities, and other health and safety factors.

Please note the change in the guidelines to 3-ply surgical (lightweight blue/white masks) from either surgical or cloth masks. MPS will have surgical masks on hand as needed.

***

Recently leaders from the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and AASA, The School Superintendents Association met to discuss school reopening and this joint statement was released July 10th AAP News- Back to School .   While emphasizing the importance of returning to school, they also stressed the need for safety while recommending physical distancing, face coverings, hand hygiene and classroom disinfection.  Milton Public Schools has made safety a priority and incorporated these principles in our back to school plans.  Information for parents can be found here: Return to School during COVID 19 or by visiting MPS COVID19 Information and Return to School Milton.

We would like to remind parents that up to date Physical Exams are required for entrance to MPS (any grade), Kindergarten, 4th grade, 7th grade and 11th grade.  Up to date immunizations are required for entry to MPS.  Immunization requirements for School Entry.

FOOD SERVICE

Weekly to-go bags with  7 breakfasts and 7 lunches are available for pick up every Wednesday from 8-9am and 5-6pm at MHS and Tucker through August 26. Weekly produce boxes are also available for pick up. Each box contains 22lbs of produce including carrots, onions, potatoes, romaine, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, oranges, pears and cantaloupe. ANY Milton family is welcome to pick up a weekly to-go bag as the goal is to support any food insecure student.

If you have a hardship and are in need of more convenient hours for pick up, please contact Food Service Director Jackie Morgan via email or phone at 617-898-1051. MPS families in need of support during this time are also encouraged to email MPS Family Outreach Liaison Marti O’Keefe McKenna via email at or by phone at 617-980-7343.

We have openings in our Food Service Department. If you are interested in flexible hours and working at MPS food service this school year, please email Jackie Morgan at jmorgan@miltonps.org.

FAMILY RESOURCES 

All updates on Family Resources – food, health insurance, financial assistance, contacts – can be found at this link. 

TECHNOLOGY 

We invite you to visit the Milton Public Schools new Family Technology Support Help Center website.  This site was created after hearing the feedback MPS families provided.  The site provides information on PlusPortal, Google: Clever: Guardian Monitoring, and Who to Contact. 

IMPORTANT MPS CONTACTS

MPS school Adjustment Counselors:  Jennie BeliveauMary Bianca MattocksKenneth Adelman (Milton High School); Myriam FrancoeurKara Sheridan, Kelly Dearing (Pierce) Jaclyn Germano (Cunningham); Elizabeth Caruso (Collicot) ; Ramsay Cadet (Tucker) Brian Powers, Christine Howley (Glover)

Central Office is staffed every day and you can reach the Superintendent’s office any time via phone at 617-696-4808 or via email.

The Milton Public School system does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, gender identity, transgender status, gender transitioning, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its programs, activities or operations. These include, but are not limited to, admissions, equal access to programs and activities, employment, provision of and access to programs and services, as well as selection of volunteers, vendors and employers recruiting at the Milton Public Schools.  We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our staff, students, volunteers, subcontractors, and vendors. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Asst. Superintendent for Curriculum & Human Resources, Dr. Karen Spaulding, (617) 696-5040 ext. 5582.

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