Update from the School Committee

Dear Friends,

This update covers the 7/21/2020 Newton School Committee meeting. Before we present the information about our meeting, please note that the School Committee plans to hold several meetings prior to the start of the school year intended to deeply analyze and provide clarity on specific aspects of the district’s reopening plans. We’ve heard from many and share your concerns for a thoughtful, rigorous examination of the plans in order to build trust as we navigate the upcoming school year.

Superintendent’s Update:

  • Welcome Martine Albama our new Director of Human Resources and Staffing. Martine comes to us from the Boston Renaissance Charter School, where she has been the Director of Human Resources for the past five years. She is experienced, knowledgeable, supportive of her staff and a skilled problem solver.
  • Honored to visit with students in the Calculus Project whose remote sessions have gone really well with 100% attendance as they pilot new remote learning strategies over the summer. For students, the highlight so far was a visit with John Urschel, who left the Baltimore Ravens to pursue a PhD from MIT.
  • Sad to acknowledge the passing of Cindy Bergen, a 25-year member of the NPS community. She began her career as a math teacher at Day Middle School. She was dynamic, smart, caring and a wonderful listener. She was a leader behind the Calculus Project and every year going forward we will award a scholarship in her name.


  • Update on Planning for the 2020-21 School Year:
    • Guiding Principles:
      • Health and Safety–NPS will develop personal safety and building operations protocols that prioritize the health of staff and students.
      • Academic Engagement–Develop universally designed instructional practices with multiple entry points designed to move flexibly between educational models.
      • Equity–Narrow achievement gaps by increasing equitable and universal opportunities for all students, irrespective of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or disability to access education and to achieve to their maximum potential. Ensure access to distance learning models with devices and internet.
      • Social and Emotional–Develop trauma-informed, healing-centered environments that prioritize interpersonal relationships and community connections. Support student well-being through enhanced mental health provisions, development of culturally sensitive, high quality, comprehensive tiered support for all learners and excellent specialized instruction.
    • Planning Structure: Planning teams include public health officials, educators, administrators and department leaders meeting in large and small teams utilizing data collection from surveys.
      • Building Operations: Health and Safety–Guided by Health and Human Services, the development of protocols and public health risk reduction pillars:
        • Physical distancing–Arrange classrooms with the goal to maintain 6 feet distance between individuals when stationary for more than 10 minutes.
        • Face Coverings–All people should wear a face covering/mask throughout the day except while eating, drinking, or during mask breaks. Allow masks/face coverings for K and 1st grade. Keep back-up supply of masks in main office, classrooms and health room. Face coverings/masks that become wet or soiled should be removed, stored or discarded and replaced with a new mask.
        • Hygiene–Wash/sanitize hands upon arrival to school and frequently throughout the day. Place hand sanitizer by school entrances and in school rooms. Allow students to have personal supply of hand sanitizer. Regular cleaning schedule for custodians includes enhanced protocols (high touch surfaces).
        • Avoid Exposure to Illness–Staff and Students will be required to complete a daily health assessment at home prior to coming to school. Anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms, is being tested for COVID-19, or tests positive for COVID-19 must stay home for the amount of time required by PCP and/or health department. Anyone who is determined by a health department to be a close contact of someone who is positive for COVID-19 must remain out of school for the length of time required.
        • Preparing our schools–Create health and safety protocols for access to and movement within buildings, develop building checklists, conduct feasibility testing at all schools, inventory furniture and determine needs, acquire personal protective equipment, review access to administrative areas, generate templates for classroom layouts.
        • Building Systems Management–Cleaning protocols and training, expanded custodial hours, cleaning supplies, ventilation.
        • Transportation– Special Education Transportation Guidelines, PPE and cleaning protocol for buses and vans, working with Complete Streets, STSG, and SRTS, challenges: Bus Capacity, METCO routes, Guidance from state released late on Wednesday, July 22nd recommending 1 student per bench.
        • Food Service–Ongoing summer meal distribution, food safety management and delivery, Grab & Go, challenges: school lunch length, distancing, in-classroom meals, staffing requirements, distance more than 6ft when masks are removed to eat.
      • Summer Survey Overview–70% response rate
        • Elementary highest response rate (76%); preschool lowest response rate (52%).
        • Relatively representative of subgroups across district.
        • Families of white students slightly overrepresented; families of Asian and Hispanic/Latino students slightly underrepresented, Families of ELLs and SWDs slightly underrepresented.
        • Hybrid model: Majority of families said they would send their student to school in the hybrid model (75%), with similar patterns in elementary, middle, and high school.
          • The majority of families prefer a couple of days a week for the hybrid model (63%) compared to every other week (26%).
      • Academic Planning–School Schedule, Curriculum, Assessment, Social and Emotional Support, Professional Development:
        • School Models and Schedules–Three models to develop per DESE requirement (In-Person with safety protocols, Hybrid and Distance). Provide full virtual option for families that opt out of hybrid or in-person models. Prepare for smooth transition from one model to the other based upon public health data.
        • Evaluation of Model Options–6-foot distancing requirement makes in-person model not feasible for fall. Hybrid model means students are in school buildings some days and learning at home other days. Full virtual option for students who will not return to in-person. Models designed to enable smooth transition from one to the other (should public health data require).
        • Academic Guiding Principles–Consistency across schools, teams, grade levels and classrooms. Clear expectations for students and staff re: feedback, assessments and grading. Identification of core content students will be expected to learn. Focus on social and emotional health.
        • Special Education Planning–DESE issued separate special education guidance:
          • Supporting schools to have robust tiered supports to meet the needs of all returning students.
          • Preparing to fully implement IEPs.
          • Identifying high needs students for more regular attendance (if hybrid).
          • NPS inclusive culture requires a careful and integrated planning approach to effectively identify high needs students and utilize all contributing faculty members.
          • Assessment Center operations – summer.
      • Technology, changes and improvements to help students engage in learning:
        • Access
          • 1:1 Devices PreK-12
          • Home Internet – HotSpots
        • Consistent Platforms
          • Seesaw PreK-3
          • Google Classroom 4-5
          • Schoology 6-12
        • Training on Tech Tools for Teachers, students, families.
      • Human Resources:
        • COVID related staffing issues: High Risk Staff, Staff with child care challenges, COVID related illness staff/household family member.
        • Classroom coverage if infection/quarantine.
        • Compliance with Families First Coronavirus, Response Act, the Emergency Medical Leave Expansion Act, the ADA, applicable CBAs.
        • Collecting information from staff pertaining to ability to work in-person/remote only/LOA.
      • Summer Professional Development–Online flexibly-scheduled modules and courses for NPS educators throughout August:
        • Anti-Racist Practices
        • Technology and Distance learning
        • Culturally Responsive Teaching
        • Universal Design for Learning
        • Trauma Invested and Healing Centered Practices
      • Communications & Engagement:
        • Clear, consistent, and timely information will be provided to staff and families.
        • Information will be easy to understand and actionable when necessary.
        • Website will provide central location for information and updates.
      • Feedback will be sought consistently throughout school year and will inform any necessary adjustments to education and operations.
    • Timeline:
      • June 2020–Establish planning teams for development of return to school scenarios.
      • July 2020–Survey families on return to school options, concerns, questions.
      • Late July–NPS community updates.
      • Early August–Detailed update on Distance and Hybrid models
      • Early-Mid August–Decision on school opening model.

Consent Agenda

Next Meeting

The School Committee will hold another VIRTUAL School Committee meeting at a date to be determined and properly noticed in early August. On the agenda will be a discussion of the FY21 System-wide Goals, the FY21 Superintendent Goals and a discussion on the Student Organizations JJA Policy. Additionally, there will be a discussion and vote on the FY21 School Committee Calendar and Agenda Items.

We hope you found this summary useful. You can access all School Committee meeting documents via the NPS website (www.newton.k12.ma.us/schoolcommittee). Additionally, if you are interested in watching an SC meeting from home or a recorded meeting, you can obtain access via www.newtv.org. On the district Facebook page, you can find videos of past “Virtual Office Hours,” which are held once a month and provide the community with the opportunity to ask questions through the FB Live format.

As always, we are very happy to answer any questions or discuss any concerns you may have. Feel free to contact us via email at schoolcommittee@newton.k12.ma.us.

The Newton School Committee