Dear Members of the Wellesley Public Schools Community,
Yesterday, Governor Baker outlined the details of a phased approach to reopening private and public services in Massachusetts. We appreciate the Governor’s cautious approach, which balances a strong desire to return to normal with a responsible pathway to help ensure that we stay ahead of the COVID-19 virus. None of us wants to lose the hard-earned progress we have made after months of restrictions and closures.
Yesterday’s announcement, however, did not cover the more specific details on what a return to school will look like this fall. There is a strong consensus that there should be a consistent statewide approach to reopening schools and the Commissioner of Education has promised specific guidance to inform our work in the coming weeks. Given the urgency and complexity of this task, WPS has already begun preliminary planning for the fall across multiple fronts.
There are several important factors that will help guide this planning process. First, it is clear that we must be prepared for multiple contingencies of what school may look like in the coming year. This includes returning to our buildings with significant restrictions in place guiding how we transport students to school, move about our buildings, conduct classes, and plan for food service. It is entirely possible that some of these restrictions may require us to employ a blended schedule, where only a portion of our students come to school on specified days complemented by remote learning for the remaining days. Of course it is also possible that we may have to shift into a full closure at some point in the year if there is a resurgence of the virus. The bottom line is that while we cannot predict how next year will unfold, we must be prepared to shift between these or other schedules as seamlessly as possible.
We also know that our students will be completing this year with a different level of learning than what we had planned in our curricula. Given the diversity of our learners, we recognize that there will be significant differences in where our students end this year. All of this means that we have to consider substantial support for students to close gaps and adapt our planned curricula for next year to help ensure that all of our students are back on track.
Second, we want to be sure we are building off of our current remote learning model, both in terms of what is working well and what we plan to refine. Last week, we shared a detailed report with the School Committee on our recent parent/student remote learning survey. I encourage you to review our findings, which provide important data on issues such as access and use of technology and meeting student needs in this new learning environment.
Third, any of the potential models for next year will continue to rely heavily on our parents as partners with teachers in service of student learning. You have been amazing thus far in your support of our students, particularly of our youngest learners, and we will need to work very closely again next year to monitor and support the social and emotional health of our students in addition to their academic progress.
Fourth, we will have to continue to bear in mind the disparate impact that the pandemic is having among our parents and staff. For example, we recognize that any of our potential school schedules will likely have a significant impact on our parents and staff ability to return to work themselves. With this in mind, we will continue to consider ways of maintaining flexibility in our planning for next year.
Finally, I want to recognize the ongoing work of our staff throughout our closure to shift into a model of teaching and learning that no one would have predicted we would be using right now. While we are all still adapting to this new environment, each week I see creative examples of how our staff are engaging students under challenging circumstances. In many ways we are all learners right now, which is a mindset we will maintain as we approach the uncertainties of the coming year.
I’d also like to give a special shout-out to our high school colleagues and parent volunteers for their ongoing work to honor our graduating seniors. Our graduation parade on June 6th will allow our community to appropriately recognize our seniors and this important milestone in their lives. We also believe this event will provide our community with a much-needed moment of hope and optimism after a spring that has been lacking in both.
We have much to do in the days ahead to both finish the current school year and prepare for the fall. I remain deeply appreciative to serve with such an outstanding team of educators as we navigate through this challenging time. I also know I speak for our entire team when I share my thanks to our broader community for its continued support of our district.
The past few months have taken a toll on all of us and I continue to learn of personal stories of loved ones and friends that we have lost to the virus. As we mourn their loss, please continue to take good care of yourselves and each other.
Dr. David Lussier
Superintendent of Schools