Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Szymaniak announced a remote learning plan the district will be rolling out Thursday, April 2, during the School Committee, April 1 meeting.
“We have met as a leadership team — principals, curriculum folks, technology, operations — as far as what that learning environment is going to look like,” Szymaniak said.
School is not currently slated to reopen until May 4.
The plan took effect Monday, April 6 and will “look different at all levels,” according to Szymaniak, who stressed that safety and social-emotional health of all students during the pandemic remains a priority.
“This isn’t going to be one-to-one teaching, this isn’t going to be an online class for our kids,” he said.
Szymaniak said he was aware that parents are concerned their children will be required to sit in front of a computer for long periods of time despite a required two- to two-and-a-half-hour period of engagement each day through middle school and three hours for high school students. Teachers might use learning activities based around backyard outings or looking at a recipe in a cooking exercise.
Teachers will be using a variety of check-ins with students, especially from kindergarten through grade eight.
New material will not be introduced and K-8 students will not be grades, according to Szymaniak, but parents should not be concerned about matriculation to the next grade.
“We’re looking at information previously presented and gaining a level of mastery with our students through engagement,” he said. “Teachers will be reaching out to those kids in a variety of ways. … Really, what we’re going to try to pinpoint are kids that aren’t engaging and reach out to them or their parents, either through the teacher, a counselor, the assistant principal or the secretary of that building to make sure everything’s going OK at home or if they need something.”
For high school students, the plan may look different, Szymaniak said, with the possibility of new material being added depending on the equity of the classroom. They will be looking at a credit/no credit grade system for the rest of the year.
“It shouldn’t be a stressful time for parents or for students,” he said.
Food services began a different procedure on April 6, as well.
“We’ve been inundated,” Szymaniak said. “That’s a good thing because we’re helping people.” The district had been delivering meals, which has become problematic.
Food Services Director Nadine Doucette has developed an app through which parents can sign up for food services and pickups will be held in the high school bus loops on Mondays and Thursdays.
Deliveries will still be available for families that need them, but Szymaniak said the district can’t do it for everyone that wants it.
“It’s really on a need basis,” he said.
The district is providing meals for about 120 families right now.
The district has also distributed 460 Chromebooks to students with another roll-out held Tuesday, April 7, for which parents had to sign up by April 3 to give the technology department time to prepare them.
It was the last distribution, involving three different checkpoints and the use of masks and gloves by district personnel of Chromebooks.
Schools are closed during the Good Friday and April break period and the district is looking for guidance from the Commissioner of Education concerning whether April vacation days will be counted as school days toward the end of the year, if they are worked as instructional time during the shut-down.
“Right now, it’s on our calendar as the School Committee-approved April vacation,” Szymaniak said. “If we decide to … work through April vacation, we’d have to speak to the [teacher’s] union, first and foremost, as it’s in their contract.”
He said a conversation has already been held to lay out the groundwork of what that would look like and said he would communicate to the School Committee what the commissioner’s guidance on the issue would be.