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Family Meeting: Remote Learning (Red Cohort)

On Friday, August 21, Dr. Gutekanst hosted the first of six Family Meetings to discuss different aspects of Needham's school reopening plans. Terry Duggan, Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning, and several school principals were in attendance to provided information regarding the fully-remote Red Cohort. The meeting was attended by over 350 people, and was recorded for those who were unable to attend live. The NPS website has several resources available with more information:

The meeting began with a brief presentation by Dr. Gutekanst. While much of the information was a review, some new items of note include:

  • A total of 588 students in grades K-12 have opted for the Red Cohort: - 360 K-5 - 115 6-8 - 113 9-12

  • The Red Cohort is a parallel track with its own teachers and schedule. These students will still be connected to their home school, but all instruction will be separate from the Blue/Gold/Green cohorts.

  • Red Cohort students in grades K-8 will be taught by Needham teachers. Elementary classes will all be single grade, but may contain students from more than one school. Efforts will be made to group students from the same school.

  • Red Cohort teachers will be those who have health issues that prevent them from teaching in person or who have asked to teach remotely. Others may be teachers who the district has asked to teach Red Cohort classes.

  • Not all NHS courses will be available to the Red Cohort. Additional courses will be offered through TECCA, one of two virtual schools in the state. All TECCA courses follow the Massachusetts state standards.

  • Class assignments are happening right now. Any family who wishes to switch cohorts is asked to do so by Wednesday, August 26. After that they will need to wait until either fall conferences (elementary) or the end of the grading period (trimester for MS, quarter for HS).

The remainder of the meeting was dedicated to answering questions from parents:

The relationship between Red and Blue/Gold/Green Cohorts:

Many parents were still trying to understand how the cohorts relate to each other, and if the Red Cohort students might be participating in some of the hybrid classes or activities, especially if it is determined at some point that all student need to learn remotely. The Red Cohort is in fact a separate, parallel track with it's own courses and teachers.

  • Even if the entire district goes remote, the hybrid and remote cohort will remain separate, continuing with their designated teachers.

  • Remote learning for the Blue/Gold/Green cohorts is anticipated to be for short periods only as needed.

  • Families should not plan to switch between cohorts multiple times throughout the year. They are strongly encouraged to stick to their chosen cohort to ensure the best educational experience.

Curriculum and instruction

There were many questions regarding both curriculum and instruction, especially as compared to the remote learning experience of last spring. All classes will follow the NPS curriculum, which has been adjusted to account for gaps from last spring. While the curriculum is set, the details of the instruction are still being determined. Questions touched on the amount of synchronous vs. asynchronous learning, small group work, alternatives to on-screen work, access to teachers, building classroom relationships.

  • All classes will follow NPS curriculum, which is based on state standards. All cohorts will meet the same goals, but instructional experiences always vary from teacher to teacher and class to class.

  • All specials will be provided to elementary students, though some content may need to be adapted.

  • At NHS, there are some courses that will not be able to be duplicated online — for example, ceramics, or science classes with labs.

School logistics

Parents were seeking information regarding the school day, class assignments, and what the start of school might look like.

  • Red cohort families should plan on the same basic school day schedule, though there will be breaks for lunches, and time away from the screen. The day will be a combination of live and independent learning. Details will come in next week or two.

  • Attendance will be taken and there will be a higher level of accountability than in the spring — you can’t drop in and out as you choose.

  • Anyone who signed up for the bus but opted for remote will receive a refund.

  • One-to-one devices will be provided for all students (iPads or Chromebooks).

  • Kindergarten screenings will still take place, but the dates have not been determined yet.

Class offerings and activities

Due to the relatively small number of students in the Red Cohort, not all classes can be offered. This is especially true at the High School, which will supplement with classes from TECCA.

  • 8th grade accelerated math will continue for both cohorts, but there will be no accelerated math for 7th graders in either cohort.

  • 8th grade Red Cohort students will be accommodated in continuing in their current language, but 7th graders in the Red Cohort may not be able to start a new language.

  • Red Cohort high school students may need to choose different classes, either within NHS or through TECCA. Students will be contacted by a guidance counselor the week of 8/23 to discuss any necessary course changes.

  • All after-school clubs will be virtual, allowing students from all cohorts to participate. But athletics may not be an option for Red Cohort students since they will be in-person and in closer contact with other students.


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