I hope the cool temperatures haven’t dampened your mood on this sunny April day. There are some substantial updates to tell you about with our return to full in person learning and some potential news from the state about MCAS that I’ll share too. We’re happy we’ve been able to work through some of these big challenges to get to this point.
Full in person return update
Lunch and schedule – I spoke about our plan for doing lunch as a “grab and go” option at the end of the day during the School Committee meeting Tuesday night. Given all the challenges in spacing the kids and the number of students we will have in the building at the same time, we felt we had no choice but to shorten the day and dismiss at 1:30. We are not shortening any of the classes. All of our classes will continue to run the same length (75 minutes), the same order, and on the same days as they currently do. We are reducing passing time to 10 minutes between each block and eliminating the lunch blocks and the passing time from those lunch blocks. The day will run from 8:00 am until 1:30 pm, at which time students will be able to pick up grab and go lunches from the cafeteria. We will be sending you a detailed version of our schedule in our comprehensive full return document next week.
Zooming – Dr. Lussier talked about the district plan for who will be allowed to zoom at School Committee as well. Essentially only two categories of students will be allowed to use zoom to come view classes. 1) students who the department of health and our nursing staff identify to us as being required to quarantine or 2) students from RLS who have been zooming in to classes all year long will finish their courses this way.
Drop Off in the Morning – This is a complex topic and the full return document I alluded to above will have much more detailed information for you, but I wanted to make sure you had a preview. After our work with Town Officials and the WPD we created a plan to accommodate as many dropoffs as possible in our limited space for the 8 am start time. Pre-Covid we had about 35% of our students begin classes at 7:30 on any given day and the majority of the rest of the students began at 8:30. Since we didn’t want to completely change our schedule at this late date to create a variable start time, we are forced to manage what may be as many as 800 cars in our lot prior to 8 am. I wanted to preview this concept for you so you can all start thinking of ways you might be able to adjust your plans if you want to avoid the traffic. Essentially, we will be using a combination of WPD, school personnel, and volunteers through our PTSO to manage cars in an effort to maximize our space. If you have experience with some of our elementary drop offs you have the basic idea. More details to come.
We received an update on MCAS just yesterday. Here is the text that pertains to the high school.
We will provide more detailed information next week, but I wanted to update you on some key decisions that we have made related to the 2021 MCAS administration.
At the April meeting, I will recommend to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that the competency determination (CD) requirement be modified in English language arts and Mathematics for students in the class of 2022 who have not yet earned their CD, in recognition of the missed testing opportunities for that class. As a result, the upcoming MCAS administration window scheduled to open on May 3rd will no longer be required for current 11th graders. Seniors may still participate in the tests this spring to qualify for the Adams Scholarship and Koplik Certificate of Mastery. Juniors who do not participate this spring will be able to test for scholarship purposes during the retest period in fall 2021.
Our understanding is the to State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education still needs to act on it, but if they do our 11th graders would not need to test. The impact of this on our May class schedule is immense, as any day we need to run MCAS testing will necessitate us shortening the time we have for instruction that day for all our students. As this becomes more solid, we will adjust our schedule and push it out to you all.
The Importance of Continuing to Test
All the guidance we are hearing from the state, the Wellesley Health Department and our WPS Nursing staff is that it is as important as ever to continue with our surveillance testing. This is even true for our staff and students who have been fully vaccinated. When we return to full in person learning on April 27th we intend to stay full in person for the remainder of the year. Surveillance testing, which has a significant impact on containing widespread outbreaks, is an essential part of our fulfilling that goal. Mask wearing, distancing, hand washing, vaccination, staying home when you feel sick, and surveillance testing continue to constitute a strong system of protection for our entire community.
Virtual Jazz Performance
I certainly don’t mean to favor our Jazz performances over any of the other great things happening at WHS right now. Steve and the band just keep sending these to me and they’re too great not to share. I hope seeing them reminds you of the resilience of our kids. As I’m sure you’ve seen at home, they continue to find ways to have fun despite the challenges we’ve had. Here’s, “But Not for Me” by the Wellesley High 2 o’clock Jazz band.
For those of you who celebrate the holiday this weekend, Happy Easter. I hope everyone has a great weekend.