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Update from the School Committee

Dear Friends,

In an effort to balance our obligation to hold public meetings with the equally imperative duty to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19, the School Committee has implemented new Public Comment procedures with guidance from the Health and Human Services Department. Normally, the month of March is a busy time during which the Committee reviews, vigorously examines and welcomes numerous Public Comments regarding next year’s budget. Given yesterday’s decision to close schools, the risk of community spread posed by COVID-19 and the need to protect our most vulnerable residents, we simply cannot observe the normal process.

We hope that you understand and assist us to mitigate the risk as we refrain from large gatherings and maintain social distancing. This is not possible in the Ed Center’s School Committee chamber, which is small and easily overcrowded. Therefore, we urge members of the public not to attend in person and instead opt to watch the live broadcast on NewTV. For meetings with scheduled Public Comment, we ask members of the public to submit written Public Comment by 6:00 PM. Questions will be collated and read aloud during the Committee’s live broadcast at 7:00 PM on NewTV. Each Public Comment is limited to three minutes and must include your name and address. Please submit Public Comments to schoolcommittee@newton.k12.ma.us.  

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Monday, March 16 at 7:00 PM, Special SC Meeting FY21 Budget. The Committee will review changes to the budget affecting Elementary and Secondary education. No Public Comment Scheduled.
  • Thursday, March 19 at 7:00 PM, Special SC Meeting. Public Comment Observed, up to 45 minutes. Submit written comments to the SC via email.
  • Monday, March 23 at 7:00 PM, SC Meeting. Public Comment Observed, up to 30 minutes. Submit written comments to the School Committee via email.
  • Monday, March 30 at 7:00 PM, SC Public Hearing FY21 Budget. Public Comment Observed, No Time Limit. Submit written comments to the School Committee via email.

We hope you found this guide useful. You can access all SC meeting documents via the NPS website (www.newton.k12.ma.us/schoolcommittee). Additionally, we offer “Virtual Office Hours” once a month using Facebook Live to provide the community with an opportunity to ask questions and share thoughts with members of the School Committee. Videos of past “Virtual Office Hours” are archived on the district Facebook page.

As always, we are very happy to answer any questions or discuss any concerns you may have. Please feel free to contact us via the email address below.

Sincerely,
The Newton School Committee

School Closing

March 12, 2020

Dear NPS Families,

For the past two weeks, we have been working closely with the Newton Department of  Health and Human Services to reduce the community spread of COVID-19. We have received many emails from concerned families and understand that this is a stressful and unsettling time.

Given the rising number of COVID-19 cases in our region, coupled with new guidance from the Governor, the state, infectious disease experts, and our local health partners, we have made the difficult decision to close the Newton Public Schools beginning tomorrow, Friday, March 13. There will be no school tomorrow, next week and possibly for a longer period. 

The decision to close schools is an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. It will only be effective if the community also takes steps to practice self-isolation, monitor for any symptoms, and avoid large gatherings. We need all community members to do their part or the school closure will not be successful in limiting the spread of the virus.

We know the cancellation of school, its associated activities, and events that use our school buildings is disappointing and extremely disruptive to our daily lives. However, we believe we must do so for the health and well-being of our community.

We expect to provide an update to you next week as we further assess the situation.  We also know you will have questions regarding learning opportunities for your children while school is closed and we will have more information on this subject late next week.

This is a unique public health situation that is rapidly changing. Our hope is that if we all work together, we can reduce the spread of this virus, protect residents, especially those most vulnerable, and resume normal activities as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

David Fleishman
Superintendent of Schools

Important Update on School Events & Activities

March 11, 2020

Dear NPS Community,

In an effort to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel all evening and community events in our facilities effective immediately and until further notice. All field trips will also be cancelled immediately. We have made this decision in consultation with the Newton Department of Health and Human Services. This decision is consistent with the state’s latest guidance for meetings and events which was announced yesterday. The City of Newton is also cancelling large public gatherings and many programs.

I know our decision to restrict access to our facilities will raise lots of questions. Here are some examples of events that will be cancelled beginning tonight:

  • Community events and meetings
  • Student performances
  • PTO meetings and other parent events
  • Adult education classes
  • Use of buildings by non-school groups

We will continue to offer before school and after school care at our elementary schools, as well as after school programs and classes run by Newton Community Education. After school activities at the secondary level will continue including athletics, rehearsals, and clubs, although we will not have outside spectators at indoor events. The Newton School Committee meetings will take place as scheduled.

In addition, the use of school buildings by non-school groups will be discontinued until further notice. We know this has a real impact on our residents and community organizations who provide valuable programs and activities.

We are fully aware that these decisions have significant ramifications and are difficult for our students, staff, families and community members. The cancellation of many meaningful activities will be a great disappointment to those who have worked very hard. However, we believe these steps are necessary given the guidance from the state and the current status of the COVID-19 situation. We want to do our part to limit the spread of the virus and to reduce the risk of infection for our community.

I recognize that the information in this message will raise a lot of questions regarding specific events and activities. We are in the process of developing an FAQ which should answer many of your questions.

Thank you for your understanding and support during this rapidly changing and unsettling time.

Sincerely,

David Fleishman
Superintendent of Schools

Update from the Superintendent

Dear NPS Families,

As the news and information about the novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues to develop, you may have questions about our schools. We are working closely with the Newton Department of Health and Human Services to monitor this situation and stay up-to-date with guidance, including guidance relative to travelers.

To prevent any potential exposure to our staff and students, we are implementing federal guidance around returning travelers, which is evolving daily. To that end, today we made a decision to require students and staff from Newton North who returned from Italy on Saturday, Feb. 29th, to stay home from school beginning tomorrow, March 2nd, until further notice. These students and staff will return to school once we have been advised that it is appropriate. This decision was made out of an abundance of caution, in consultation with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), and under the direction of the Newton Health and Human Services department.

For your information, the city-wide Emergency Management Team has formed a committee to apply our robust emergency preparedness plans to possible scenarios around this infectious disease. While this specific virus is a new one, managing community spread of disease is not new and our public health professionals are well prepared. We will play an important role on this committee and will address questions about potential issues that may impact the day-to-day function of our schools.

The MA Department of Health shares the following recommendations to maintain good health:

Many of the things you do to help prevent colds and the flu can help protect you against other respiratory viruses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes
  • Stay home if you are sick

For additional information on COVID-19, please visit the following websites:

We will continue to work with our City health partners to provide you with timely, accurate, and useful information.

Sincerely,

David Fleishman
Superintendent of Schools

School Committee Update

Dear Friends,

This update is for the 2/10/2020 Newton School Committee meeting:

Superintendent Update

  • School teams used the early release on Thursday, February 6th for Professional Development in the following areas:
    • Elementary worked on Social Emotional Learning and Culturally Responsive Classrooms.
    • Middle worked on departmental frameworks and content.
    • Newton North worked on Race and Achievement.
    • Newton South worked on Social Emotional Learning.
  • On Wednesday, February 12th at 7 PM the NNHS Chinese Program and the Jingshan Exchange Program will co-host a fundraiser to benefit Jingshan School and to buy medical supplies for Wuhan University Hospital to help battle against the outbreak of Coronavirus.  Newton North alum, comedian Jesse Appell, will perform a comedy show followed by a NNHS student performance. Purchase tickets and make donations here: http://bit.ly/2vSkeFL.

Discussions/Updates

  • Information Technology and Library Department Goals – Director of IT, Steven Rittendi, presented an update that included information on the 1:1 Chromebook Initiative, Data Analytics planning and Infrastructure.
  • Mid-Year Superintendent Goals and Systemwide Goals Update – This update included a look at three specific areas of work:
    • Administrative Council: working towards projects aligned with existing district goals.
    • District Data Team: Using data to improve instruction.
    • Middle School Content Teams: Teams within all 5 major content areas working on professional development and data-driven student learning and performance focused inquiry cycles.
  • Fiscal/Operations – Chief Financial Officer, Liam Hurley, presented our second Fiscal and Operations Update of the school year. The district has spent 50% of the annual budget and our financial outlook was described as a “good news story” at this time.
  • Facilities Report – Chief Financial Officer, Liam Hurley, reviewed several projects currently underway including:
    • Cabot – Completed and will be coming off Facilities report.
    • Lincoln-Eliot/NECP – School Building Project – Bidding to start in May and estimated to be completed by 9/2021.
    • Horace Mann – Improvements including modular classrooms and a new playground.
    • Phase 3 Solar Panel Updates.
    • Oak Hill – construction of 3 additional permanent classrooms.
  • Discussion: Policy Update FA (Facilities Goals) and Policy Update ADF (Wellness) – Added language that reflects our transportation and sustainability initiatives.

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