Category Archives: From Newton Public Schools

Update School Building and Safety Protocols

Dear NPS Families,

We continue to prepare our school buildings for the return to school in September. As such, we have drafted documents that provide more specificity on the modifications and improvements we have made over the past several months. We have also provided information on the personal protective equipment (PPE) and clearing supplies that will be available in all buildings, as well as the protocols for cleaning and maintenance that are in place now. Please see details below:

  • Facilities fact sheet – this document provides information on HVAC systems, cleaning supplies/protocols, and building maintenance.
  • Cleaning protocols – this document provides specific information on how buildings will be cleaned throughout the day and in the evening.

Additional health and safety protocols are forthcoming next week, including face coverings. In addition, next week Newton Health and Human Services Department will share a comprehensive instructional guide for families and staff to manage and mitigate COVID-19 transmission and infection in schools. Please look for additional information via email and on our website https://www.newton.k12.ma.us/domain/1361 next week.

If you have not yet submitted your selection for the educational model in which you would like to start the year, please do so immediately. Please submit your student’s name, grade level, school, and sibling cohort preference (if choosing hybrid) to community@newton.k12.ma.us.

Thank you.

NPS Mandatory Survey & FAQ Update

Hello Newton South Families,

As many of you know, the School Committee voted YES to the NPS Hybrid Return to Learn plan on August 14, 2020.  Many of us watched the meetings, discussions, office hours and chat comments in the last 2 weeks. We now have to digest, assess and make a decision in this difficult time.

COVID-19 has impacted each and everyone’s lives this past 6 months, and will continue to do so.   Given the last 6 months, we have all made decisions on what we are willing to do with the presence of COVID-19.  It’s a personal choice.

Attached below is the latest announcement from NPS about the Return to Learn Hybrid Plan and FAQs.

I hope your family stays well and safe, finds news ways to cope with our changing landscape, and we all continue to do our part, in and out of home with social distancing to keep our community safe and as we fight COVID-19 together.

May Chiu, co-President NSHS PTSO


August 15, 2020

Dear NPS Families,

We have received many questions related to the survey that went out last night. Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions.

How do I fill out the survey for more than one student?
To fill out the survey for more than one student, you may need to clear the cookies from your browser. For instructions, visit this link.

Is the decision I make on the survey binding?
We ask that you make the most definitive decision you can make right now. This information is essential for planning purposes given the complex task we are undertaking. Changes can be made on a space available basis as we always want to be as accommodating as possible and we do recognize that circumstances may change. You can find the survey link here.

Can I switch between hybrid and the Distance Learning Academy during the school year if our choice now does not work for my student or our family in the future?
Yes, you may switch from hybrid to distance and vice versa. However, given class size and scheduling challenges, there will be a transition period. This transition period could be between 3-4 weeks.

If the district moves from the hybrid model to the distance learning model, would all students come back together into one distance learning model?
No, if you select the DLA to start the year, your student will stay in the DLA even if the district shifts from hybrid to distance. You will need to request to transition out of the DLA to engage in the other model. This transition period could be between 3-4 weeks.

If I choose the Distance Learning Academy (DLA) now, is my student still enrolled in the Newton Public Schools?
Yes, your student is still enrolled in the Newton Public Schools. If your student is a senior they will receive all college application and guidance supports and will receive a diploma from their respective school.

Will the Distance Learning Academy be taught by NPS teachers?
Our goal is to have every student in the DLA taught by an NPS teacher. At the elementary and middle school level, students will learn from a pool of NPS teachers who do not return to in-person school. The teacher may or may not be from your districted school. At the high school level, every effort will be made to teach courses with NPS teachers. However, given the breadth of classes offered at our high schools, it may be necessary to use online platforms for some courses. If this is the case, we will provide opportunities for students to connect to NPS teachers. This information will be confirmed as soon as we know the numbers of students and teachers who will be in the different models.

Will students in the DLA “Zoom into” the classes taking place in person?
No. Teachers will not be teaching to in-person students and students on Zoom at the same time. Students enrolled in the DLA will have a separate schedule with separate teachers. Instruction will be delivered by teachers who are also in a distance environment.

If I enroll my student in the DLA, what will the schedule be?
The schedule will approximate the schedule laid out in the Return to Learn blueprint document for distance learning. You can find the proposed schedule here.

What is the proposed schedule for students in a hybrid model?
You can find the proposed schedule for the hybrid model here. The schedule provides the approximate times for the days in which students are learning in the school building and for when they are learning at home.

For elementary students, given the proposed 12:30 dismissal on in-person days, will childcare be offered?
Yes, we are working on a plan to provide childcare from 12:30 – 3:00 p.m. We are also working with our aftercare providers to provide childcare from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

My child is a student with disabilities. Should I complete the survey?
Yes, you should select the model that meets your student and family needs. Regardless of model, IEP services will be provided in full. In hybrid, we will utilize state guidance to identify ‘high needs’ students for more in person instruction as needed. In the DLA, a full educational experience is available, including inclusive special education services and specialized instruction. We expect to be making individualized schedule decisions for our high needs students in the hybrid and DLA models as identified through this survey.

If I do not select hybrid or DLA, what are my options?
If you do not select hybrid or DLA, you may choose to homeschool your student or you may unenroll them from the Newton Public Schools. If you choose to homeschool, you must file a homeschool plan with the district. Please visit this link for details. If you elect to unenroll your student, please contact your building principal as soon as possible.

Will masks be required in school buildings?
Masks will be required for anyone entering a school building. Very limited exemptions for serious medical issues will be granted. We are developing a specific protocol that will provide clear instruction on the type, quality, and fitting of the mask to be worn in school. This protocol will follow the most recent health data on the most effective and protective masks.

For more information about health and safety guidance in the schools, including quarantining and testing, please visit our Return to Learn blueprint document.

Sincerely,
David Fleishman

Please visit NPS website for translations at www.newton.k12.ma.us/reopening.

Fall Planning Update from the Superintendent

August 7, 2020 Dear NPS Families, Next week, we will share our fall Return to Learn plan with the community. We will begin with a presentation of the plan at the School Committee meeting on Monday, August 10th at 7:00 … Continue reading

Update from the School Committee

Dear Friends, This update covers the 7/21/2020 Newton School Committee meeting. Before we present the information about our meeting, please note that the School Committee plans to hold several meetings prior to the start of the school year intended to deeply … Continue reading

Update from the School Committee

Dear Friends, This update covers the 6/22/2020 Newton School Committee meeting. Before we present the information about our meeting, we wanted to draw your attention to an upcoming survey that the district will ask you to complete. This is our primary … Continue reading

Update from the School Committee

Dear Friends, This update covers the 6/8/2020 Newton School Committee meeting. Before we present the information about our meeting, we wanted to draw your attention to news regarding Unit C staffing for next year. While most NPS staff are permanent and … Continue reading

Updated Learning Plan and Summer/Fall Plans

Dear NPS Families,

I write to share two important updates with you. The first is an update on our distance learning plan based upon both updated guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and survey feedback from families, staff, and high school students. The second update is on planning for summer and the 2020-21 school year.

Distance Learning

Thank you to all families who took the time to provide feedback on our distance learning plan. Below are some key takeaways from the staff, family, and high school student surveys:

Key Survey Findings

  • For staff, one of the significant challenges of distance learning is concern for vulnerable students and ensuring equitable access and engagement for all students.
  • The majority of parents/guardians responded that the amount of time that their child is interacting with teachers in real time is not enough.
  • The majority of parents/guardians at elementary and middle school responded that the amount of time their child is doing work or activities provided by teachers is just right. At preschool, the majority said it is not enough. High school parents/guardians were closely split between not enough and just right.
  • For high school students, 84% found the amount of work being provided as either just right or a bit too much. 58% of students are spending 2-4 hours per day “doing school.” 76% of all students find the challenge level of learning activities just right.

Updates to Distance Learning Plan

Given the state guidance, along with the feedback above, and working closely with our NTA partners, below is a list of the key changes that will be implemented as we proceed with our distance learning plan:

  • As many have already begun, teachers and staff will give students opportunities to learn new content and skills, while continuing to review and reinforce key concepts. The focus will be on a limited number of key topics and skills to prepare students for the next grade.
  • In our elementary schools, weekly schedules will be revised so that students will have at least four opportunities per week to connect live with a staff member, one of whom will be a specialist.
  • In our middle schools, we will add a weekly advisory or community meeting of 30 minutes at all schools to promote engagement and connection and to support students as they organize their work for the week.
  • At the high school level, the class schedule will be adjusted to allow classes to run for up to 30 minutes as educationally appropriate.

Our distance learning plan continues to place connection with school and social emotional support for students as a top priority. We know that families continue to experience this pandemic very differently and we seek to respect those differences. Providing regular connections with teachers and staff, as well as meaningful academic work, will be the focus of our plan for the remainder of the academic year. 

Summer and Fall Planning

We know that you have many questions about plans for both summer programming and the 2020-21 school year. While there are more questions than answers at this point, please know that our primary consideration will be the health and wellness of our students, staff, and school communities. We will be working closely with health officials to plan for school opening, while understanding that our plans will need to be flexible given the unknown duration of this public health crisis.

For the summer, we are awaiting state guidance on school programs, camps, and other services. We expect that some of our programs will need to be remote, with potentially some opportunity for in person interaction. We will provide you updates and information as we receive guidance and determine what is possible.

For the fall, we are creating planning teams to prepare for the many possible scenarios. One area of focus will be operations, including building cleaning protocols, bussing, food service, social distancing protocols, among many others. A second key area of focus will be our educational model and how public health considerations will impact scheduling, course content, and social-emotional support for our students. This team will develop a range of scenarios to accommodate the various guidelines that may be put in place to protect public health. We will continue to keep you updated as our planning moves forward.

As we embark upon the final six weeks of this truly unprecedented school year, I am struck by the creativity of our staff, the resilience of our students, and the kindness of our school community. While the past 8 weeks have been incredibly stressful, sometimes frustrating and sad, and always uncertain, I am hopeful that some of the life lessons learned by our children will serve them well. I hope you and your family are healthy and well.

Sincerely,

David Fleishman
Superintendent of Schools

Update from the School Committee

Dear Friends,

This update is for the 5/11/2020 Newton School Committee meeting. This meeting was largely focused on examining the results of the Distance Learning Survey, conducted over the last several weeks. We will continue to study and analyze the feedback to allow us to improve the Distance Learning experience. To paraphrase our Superintendent, these surveys are about learning from our families, staff and students so that we can improve our Distance Learning Plan, making it better and more effective for all of our students and their families.

As a result, a number of changes to the Distance Learning Plan will soon take effect including:

  • Elementary – Each student will have 4 opportunities per week to connect live with a staff member.
  • Middle – An advisory or community meeting will occur weekly for 30 minutes to both connect and prepare for the week.
  • High – Classes will be scheduled for up to 30 minutes (increase of 10 minutes).

Superintendent’s Update:

  • Teams are currently working on planning for summer programming and awaiting state guidance within the next couple of weeks to help inform our efforts. The district is planning professional development around distance learning tools and best practices, in addition to equipping educators with the skills to address students’ emotional trauma due to COVID-19. The administrative team will soon move to planning for the possibility of distance learning in the fall and considering what school might look like at that time.

Discussions/Update:

  • Distance Learning Surveys Summary of Data shows that “crisis teaching,” our emergency response to a global health pandemic, requires significant time and planning to recreate public education and presents numerous challenges. State guidance continues to focus on equity—the greatest challenge in our current environment. Families have a range of perspectives on distance learning depending on their circumstances.
    • Staff Survey Analysis:
      • Staff cited “not having enough hours in the day” and working constantly, through weekends, to plan and implement distance learning.
      • Across grade levels, the most frequent challenge staff are experiencing with live sessions or whole class meetings is students not attending.
      • Concern for vulnerable students and concern for ensuring equity for all students was their biggest challenge.
    • Distance Learning Family Survey Analysis:
      • For parents/guardians who reported challenges accessing live sessions or whole class meetings, younger students (preschool and elementary) more frequently had trouble engaging during this time, while older students (middle and high school) more frequently had difficulty logging in and technological problems with the virtual platform(s).
      • Analysis of open responses questions, around 3,000 responses for each question, is still underway. A majority of those providing suggestions would like more time with teachers teaching new content as a suggested way to help children manage distance learning. Parents/guardians also suggested small group projects and/or social interactions over Zoom, as well as more simplified and centralized directions for their students each week.
    • High School Student Feedback:
      • Most high school students (58%) report “doing school” between 2-4 hours per day; 43% say the amount of work is a bit much and 41% say it’s just right.
      • 31% of students say missing the social aspect of school is the hardest part.
    • Resources for Growing Student and Family Needs:
      • Device Loan – 1,000+
      • Meals – 2,340+ a day
      • District Response Team in Partnership with HHS
        • Phone: (617) 559-6021
  • Equity Working Group Update:
    • Suggested Annual Elementary Equity Cap of $40, determined by multiplying $40 by the number of students at each school, reviewed every 2 years.
    • The Elementary CAS Limit is three “experiences” per classroom. Annual Concert Series and Preview performances will not count as an “experience” towards the Elementary CAS Limit. Large Periodic Events, such as a Ruby Bridges visit or a mural prepared with the assistance of an artist, will not count as an “experience” towards the Elementary CAS Limit, if they happen no more than once every 5 school years.
    • Recommendations reflect a switch from measuring how much is spent per pupil to how many CAS experiences each student receives. It allows a better balance between the role Creative Arts and Sciences programming plays within a student’s overall educational experience.
  • First Reading Policy Updates (BEDH-Public Comment), IGB (Student Services), JH (Student Absences/Excuses), JICH (Tobacco/Alcohol Use), JLCB (Inoculation of Students):
    • Addresses minor amendments to update changes in the law or eliminate duplicate policies. Additional updates will be upcoming in the next group of policy updates.

Consent Agenda

  • Unanimously voted against participation in School Choice for the FY21 school year.
  • Unanimously approved 4-6-20 and 4-27-20 Draft Minutes.

Next Meeting
On Wednesday, May 27th at 7:00PM the School Committee will have a VIRTUAL School Committee meeting.

We hope you found this summary useful. You can access all School Committee meeting documents via the NPS website (www.newton.k12.ma.us/schoolcommittee). Additionally, if you are interested in watching an SC meeting from home or a recorded meeting, you can obtain access via www.newtv.org. On the district Facebook page, you can find videos of past “Virtual Office Hours,” which are held once a month and provide the community with the opportunity to ask questions through the FB Live format.

As always, we are very happy to answer any questions or discuss any concerns you may have. Please feel free to contact us via the email address below.

Sincerely,
The Newton School Committee

Update from the School Committee

Dear Friends,

This update is for the 4/27/2020 and 4/30/2020 Newton School Committee meetings. We have combined these two meetings into one newsletter as they both examined the significant impacts COVID-19 will have on our proposed 2020-2021 Annual Budget. During the 4/27/2020 meeting, Mayor Fuller and Maureen Lemieux, Newton’s Chief Financial Officer addressed the Committee to describe the “deep changes in revenue assumptions,” to ask the district to reduce its FY21 budget by $1,500,000, and to plan accordingly for even greater reductions in FY22. Superintendent Fleishman and Chief Financial Officer, Liam Hurley, recommended a number of adjustments to immediately ddress this request and begin the process of carrying funds forward.

Superintendent’s Update:

  • In positive news, the Newton South Global Community’s program received a Green Difference Award, recognizing their outstanding energy, environmental and STEAM efforts.
  • Distance Learning Update: Received Phase 3 Guidance from DESE focusing on 4 key areas of distance learning: prioritizing meaningful connections with educators and peers, providing engaging core instruction focused on the content standards most critical to student success, moving to new content material, offering opportunities for enrichment exercise and play and ensuring that programming is accessible. DESE has also prioritized asynchronous learning as opposed to live lessons where many students may not be able to join lessons.
  • Reviewing Feedback on Distance Learning: We’ve already received high school surveys and had very good response rate from staff survey. Next week we’ll begin to analyze the NPS Distance Learning: Family Survey to try to triangulate that data and think about how it compares with the specific guidance we are getting from DESE. The results will be shared during the Monday, May 11th School Committee Meeting.

Discussions/Update:

  • The Last Day of School: The last day of school for students will be Tuesday, June 18, 2019, and the last day for teachers will be Wednesday, June 19, 2019.
  • FY20 Fiscal and Operational Update:
    • Chief Financial Officer, Liam Hurley, presented our third Fiscal and Operations Update of the school year. As of March 31, 2020, the district has spent and encumbered $157.2 million, or 66% of the annual budget of $237,022,312. The current financial forecast includes projections for all areas of spending for the year, with a projected positive balance of $2.8 million.
    • New assumptions made because of school closure for the remainder of the year due to COVID-19:
      • Salaries, benefits, utilities, maintenance, contracted services, tuition, transportation and spending on supplies and equipment are all projected to end the year under budget.
      • Food Service, however, will require a $359,000 subsidy in FY20 due to the district’s contract with food service vendor Whitsons, contingent upon 180 service days, and expanded food service operations during the district-wide shutdown to provide students with nutritious meals at three school sites, 150 Jackson Road, North High, and South High. Coordination is underway with City Officials to open serving sites to all residents regardless of age. Also, negotiations will take place to determine Whitsons management fees for the year.
  • Facilities Update:
    • Chief Financial Officer, Liam Hurley, provided an update on several projects currently underway including:
      • Newton Early Childhood Program (NECP) – project has now been put out to bid and we expect to receive bids in May.
      • Lincoln-Eliot at 150 Jackson Road- the working group is recommending that the space program be revised for an enrollment of 396 students and 18 classrooms, plus an expanded scope including the existing auditorium.
      • Horace Mann Improvements- City Council voted to approve $650,000, reimbursing NPS for completed work and $150,000 for additional work, including the installation of sinks on the second floor and some interior updates. However, the additional $500,000 request covering installation of additional playground equipment, will now be deferred due to significant changes in City finances from the pandemic.
      • Lincoln-Eliot Building Envelope Project- work to start on replacing windows, project completion anticipated by the end of the summer.
      • Oak Hill Classroom Addition- Design Review Committee (DRC) approved the site plan for the three-classroom addition. The September 2021 completion date, may be adjusted as COVID-19 creates an uncertain bidding environment.
      • Phase 3 Solar Panel Updates.
  • Regular Yellow Bus Contract Modification:
    • NPS has agreed to pay Eastern Bus adjusted daily rates for the period that we are closed, honoring a request from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and requiring Eastern to continue to pay their drivers regularly scheduled wages and benefits.
      • In-City Yellow Buses will be paid at 61% percent of contracted daily rate, $350 per bus per day, for 34 buses.
      • METCO Buses will be paid at 63% percent of contracted daily rate, $408 per bus per day, for 8 buses.
  • FY21 School Department Budget
    • District must now reduce its FY21 budget by $1,500,000.
      • Savings in the maintenance account of $500,000 by reducing summer projects such as painting, floor tiling and other cosmetic work.
      • Remaining $1,000,000 will come from carry forward from this year.

Consent Agenda

Next Meeting
On Monday, May 11th at 7:00PM the School Committee will have a VIRTUAL School Committee meeting.

We hope you found this summary useful. You can access all School Committee meeting documents via the NPS website (www.newton.k12.ma.us/schoolcommittee). Additionally, if you are interested in watching an SC meeting from home or a recorded meeting, you can obtain access via www.newtv.org.  On the district Facebook page, you can find videos of past “Virtual Office Hours,” which are held once a month and provide the community with the opportunity to ask questions through the FB Live format.

As always, we are very happy to answer any questions or discuss any concerns you may have. Please feel free to contact us via the email address below.

Sincerely,
The Newton School Committee

Update from the School Committee