High School Working Group Update

Dear Newton North and South Parents/Guardians,  

A reminder that this past Monday, high school parents/guardians received a Survey to find out what’s important to you in high school this year, what’s working well/key challenges, and what is desirable in an in-person model.  Please check your inbox and fill out the survey.  If you did not receive the survey,  email community@newton.k12.ma.us for a link.  The survey will remain open until Sunday, November 1, at 11:59 pm.  Your input will help us develop options that reflect the priorities of all families. We have sent similar surveys to students and teachers at both high schools.  The response rate thus far has been excellent. Preliminary survey results will be posted on our website next Friday.   

We are pleased to confirm that the High School Working Group is on schedule per the published work plan. This week the HSWG focused on

  • Survey distribution to high school parents, students, and teachers. Multiple focus groups were also conducted with both North and South students via Zoom to allow for more in-depth conversations and discovery; 
  • Review of NPS high school schedule assessment that was completed last May – September;  
  • Synthesis of secondary research on >20 school districts that have implemented variations of hybrid/hy-flex learning models that provide for synchronous teaching with in-person and remote learners. 
  • Prioritization of selected districts for interviews the coming week including Lexington, Westport (CT), Concord-Carlisle, Brookline, Natick and others.   
  • Initiating outreach to families/students in additional districts to get feedback and perspectives on their direct experiences with the hybrid/hy-flex learning models.  

We know there has been much discussion in our community about the rationale for high schools to start remote this year. Specific obstacles were identified, and will still require consideration, including: 

  1. Staff Accommodations – In August, 75 staff members were unable to return due to personal medical reasons.  Staff who had received a medical accommodation are currently having them renewed.; 
  2. Space Constraints: large class sizes over 25 students limit options for adequate socially distanced desk spacing; and 
  3. Equitable Distance-Only Model to support fully remote students.  

As many of you may know, based on the August survey response, teacher accommodations impacted 300-450 students in each of the 7 blocks. The proposed August hybrid model was not able to resolve the obstacles and Newton needed to start with a fully remote learning model in September. The HSWG remains focused on developing recommendations that will address these challenges.

This coming week, the HSWG will synthesize survey responses from teachers, students and parents, with initial survey results available on the HSWG dashboard on Friday, November 5th. We will also be interviewing the above mentioned selected school districts to better understand their hybrid/hyflex learning model implementations at a more detailed level, gain insights into the experiences through multiple stakeholder’s eyes, and identify those challenges and best practices that may accelerate Newton’s implementations. Thank you to parents who are facilitating connections and discussions with families and students in these districts.  

Based on new data, including the findings from other districts and updated surveys, obstacles for in-person options will be re-assessed.  We hope you find this information helpful in understanding the status of the HSWG efforts to develop recommendations for in-person learning at our high schools. Recommendations are forthcoming in just a few short weeks. 

To learn more about the HSWG work and progress,  please check our dashboard and please don’t hesitate to contact us at npshighschoolplan@newton.k12.ma.us if you have any questions. We look forward to receiving your Survey responses and working together to support our high schoolers. Thank you.   

  The High School Working Group
~ May Chiu, Newton South Parent Representative (NSHS PTSO co-President)
~ Janna Lacatell, Newton North Parent Representative (NNHS PTSO co-Secretary, NNHS PTSO Representative – Academic Standards Committee)