On March 17, the Needham School Committee held a special meeting at the Needham Channel studios to provide an update on school closures and remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chair Michael Greis and VIce-Chair Andrea Longo Carter joined Superintendent Gutekanst at the studio. Other SC members joined by phone. The meeting conformed to open meeting laws which have been revised to accommodate social distancing.
Dr. Gutekanst began by expressing gratitude to:
School administrators, teachers, and staff
Barbara Singer (NPS Health Director), Tim McDonald (Director of Public Health), and Dr. Alan Stern (School Physician)
Police, fire, and public safety departments
Schools and building are closed through April 6 — though that could change. Buildings are closed to be secured and sanitized so they are ready when school reopens.
Staff is working remotely and have access to email and voicemail. You can reach out with questions, though responses might not be immediate.
District website will be updated with information
Nutrition services is providing food for students and families in partnership with Needham Community Council. Call 781-444-2415 for more information.
Meals will be provided to families in need on Mon/Weds/Thurs at 10:30am starting Weds 3/18.
METCO students in need will be provided with food through Boston resources.
Activities and Sports
All school activities are cancelled, including athletics tryouts and games.
MIAA has postponed start of the Spring season to April 27th (assuming school back in session).
April vacation is still on the calendar, and a change is not being recommended at this time, though that could change.
School will end June 25th, which will be considered 185th day of school.
Teaching and Learning
School is "closed" for three week period. No advancing the curriculum or new units of instruction.
Week of 3/16 — teachers are planning
Weeks on 3/23 & 3/30 — learning resources will be provided to families. Information will be sent Friday for elementary, Saturday/Sunday for middle school, and Monday morning for high school.
These resources will be for enrichment, engagement, practice. Any assignments will not be graded, but feedback will be provided. Teachers want to maintain contact with students and provide structure/routine.
IEP team meetings will take place during this time
Chrome books have been provided to 12th graders who do not have access to a device. Students in grades 6-11 have one-to-one devices. There are limited devices for elementary students, so focus will not be online for those students. Comcast and Verizon are offering options for internet access for those who do not currently have it.
Staff are available during school day to connect with students starting week of 3/23
Please limit gatherings and playdates for children and teens.
Stay connected to avoid isolation, but not in person.
Playgrounds are closed — they will NOT be cleaned! Please do not use play equipment.
Resources are available on NPS website, including mental health needs.
Hourly employees are being paid as they would be paid during the school year
NPS wants all staff to be treated fairly and equally
Meals provided though Needham Community Council
Technology and devices provided to hose who need them
Students on IEPS, 504s, ELL require specialized instruction which is very difficult to provide when students are not in school. This is part of the reason the Commissioner has said school is not in session. SPED teachers and specialists will continue to support these students through consult and family support.
Impact on this year and beyond
Dr. Gutekanst is advocating for MCAS to be put on hold this year. Sophomores would take tests in the fall (graduation requirement), while grades 3-8 put on hold.
While Dr. Gutekanst supports MCAS as a source of important information to guide instruction, he feels teachers will need to focus on essential curriculum, not testing, when they return. In addition, testing results would not provide useful information given the circumstances.
Teachers will need to focus on what is essential
There will be some units/topics that students don't get to this year — it will be OK
NPS is not the only place where our students learn things. There will be opportunities in the future for learning and fill in gaps.
College Board is working on options — students may be allowed to take tests from home
Deadlines have been extended to allow students to complete course work and prepare for the test
SC Member Comments
All SC members expressed appreciation to Dr. Gutekanst, administrators, teachers, staff, and health care workers for their hard work. Also thanks to parents, students, and community at large for being flexible and understanding in this unprecedented time.
Student member Aiden Michelow shared that some students are excited to have "time off" but other students are stressed about missing classes. He feels that right now it's important for students to prioritize health over school work. Dr. Gutekanst agreed — health and family are the priority at this time.
The community is encouraged to reach out to School Committee with any questions or concerns: firstname.lastname@example.org.