At the July 14 School Committee meeting, much of the focus revolved around remote learning, including a report on the planning to reopen schools and a review of results from a June survey.
Dr. Gutekanst presented a detailed presentation of the district's planning for reopening in the fall. The full presentation begins on page 67 of the meeting packet, and starts at 1:12:00 in the meeting video.
Per the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the district must develop and submit plans for three scenarios:
In Person Learning — all students attend everyday with modifications due to health/hygiene protocols
Hybrid Learning — each student engaging in some in-person and some remote learning time
Remote Learning — all students learn from home
Five tasks forces are working under a steering committee to develop the plans:
Teaching & Learning
Student Health & Wellbeing and Family Support
Student Support Services
District Operations & Human Resources
The presentation was developed by the District Operations task force, and considers the following factors under each of the three scenarios:
Number of Students in the Building at One Time
Social Distancing Accomplished
Scheduling and Logistics
Student Instruction, Special Education, Support Services, and Learning Time
Activities Before and After School
Notable findings for In Person Learning:
Will provide social distancing of 3 ft or more, but not 6 ft. Even 3 ft. cannot be guaranteed on transportation or during passing periods in secondary schools (only teachers will rotate at elementary level). Cannot guarantee 6 feet of distance during lunch when masks are removed (lunch likely in classrooms)
Requires revamped schedules, increased passing time, increased lunch blocks, potentially staggered arrival/dismissal, common area spaces (art/music/stage/media/gym/cafeteria) will be repurposed, displacing those subjects to carts, mask breaks, one way routes, staggered passing times and restroom breaks
Instructional time will be shortened due to above, may use some remote instruction/webcams in satellite rooms
Staff may be redeployed to teach additional sections, provide supervision of lunch/recess/satellite classes
Additional substitute teachers needed in case of staff illness/quarantine, but will be in high demand
On school buses, social distance achievable will be 13 inches (2 riders/seat). Would need a chaperone to enforce mask-wearing at additional cost
Lunch in classrooms may become necessary, which could limit food options
Expected decrease in participation in NPS-provided meals will lead to a budget deficit of nearly $1 million.
NEDP may need to limit enrollment, NCE status uncertain
Before/after school activities may be reduced, moved online, or paused, and the district is still awaiting decisions about sports with MIAA
Notable findings for Hybrid Learning:
Currently expecting one week at school/one week at home, but this may change
Most challenging to implement from an instructional standpoint
Meets social distancing requirements
Intend prioritize keeping siblings on same schedule
Cohorts of at-risk learners possibly onsite for all days
Childcare challenges for staff and some families
Requires 1:1 device access
Will require robust attendance tracking of remote learning
Vulnerable populations at further academic or social-emotional risk
May allow select staff to work remotely and support remote students, eg. One remote 4th grade for the district
Additional/reallocated staff necessary to support and monitor remote learning
Able to have 1 rider per seat on buses
Decrease in lunches served=$1.4million deficit
Extracurricular challenges remain
Notable findings for Remote Learning:
Lowest likelihood of Covid-19 exposure
Includes synchronous and asynchronous learning
Materials access is a challenge
Requires robust attendance tracking
Reduces programming and time on learning
More vulnerable students at additional risk for academic and/or social/emotional struggles
Parent support necessary, creates work/childcare challenges
No lunch service=deficit up to $1.8M
Before/after school activities remote where possible
Creates more childcare problems
Dr. Gutekanst stressed that all three of the scenarios will lead to a school year that looks very different than the typical school year. He also acknowledged that the Remote Learning plan will likely need to be implemented at some point if one or more schools need to close due to health concerns. He stated that families will not be able to choose Remote Learning as an option unless they have a specific health concern, not just personal preference.
Dr. Gutekanst outlined the next steps for reopening process:
Currently – The district will continue planning and negotiating with the NEA (the teacher’s union), developing cleaning protocols, answering outstanding questions related to different scenarios, and incorporating feedback form the July parent survey.
July 23 – School Committee will host a Virtual Open House for parents
August 4 – At the next School Committee meeting, Dr. Gutekanst will present the three updated plans and a recommendation for which one NPS should implement. They will also determine if the school start date of September 2 needs to be adjusted.
August 7 – The district will submit all three plans to DESE, and incorporate further DESE guidance when released. At this time, it seems that each community will be able to decide which of their three plans to implement, but DESE has not stated that explicitly.
Ongoing – Staff training, Committee and Task Force meetings, School Committee updates
Remote Learning Survey
Diane Simmons presented highlights from the District Survey, administered to parents and 3rd through 12th students. The survey had a 46% response rate vs. 34% in 2018. The full presentation begins on page 51 of the meeting packet, and starts at 27:00 in the meeting video.
Family results indicated areas of strength and need through both survey responses and open-ended comments:
Strengths include: “school values diversity of children’s backgrounds” (87.1%) and “My child feels a sense of belonging at school” (83.9%), and “Communication is effective during period of remote learning” (80.8%)
Areas of Need include: “My child is motivated by the remote learning experience (38.9%), My child’s schoolwork is challenging (41.5%), and “Concerned about my child’s academic growth” (41.8%) (Percentages are responses of top three measures of satisfaction. All measures of satisfaction fell vs. 2018 survey)
In open-ended responses, families felt technology, access to teachers, and the schedule worked well. Challenges cited include social isolation, staying focused/motivated, and decreased support.
Student results for grades 3-5 and 6-12 found that elementary students report missing school and friends, while older students found it difficult to stay motivated. Many students of all ages appreciated the ability to sleep in and set their own schedule.
Discussion revolved around improving remote learning, accessing additional teacher training, and determining how best to manage student workloads and determine when asynchronous vs. “live” learning is best. The results will also be analyzed for trends at the school level and for demographic subgroups.
Other Committee Business:
Update on Permanent Public Building Committee (PPBC) was provided. $9 million originally budgeted for Sunita Williams will be released back to the town, which reduces borrowing.
The final Emery Grover feasibility study was shared. Plans for Emery Grover are narrowed down to three options and the committee will vote for one at the next meeting. The District favors Option 2, which will retain the historic building façade, and gut-renovate the interior plus an expansion. With this option there is a possibility of qualifying for Community Preservation funding.
The committee approved transfers from revolving fee accounts and will ask that spending be reduced 35% until there is further clarity on state and town budgets, expected in October.
The superintendent’s contract was approved, with a 0.5% cost-of-living adjustment. This is lower than the school committee recommended, but was the maximum that the superintendent would accept.