Superintendent's Update- June 25, 2020

Dear PPS Families and Staff: 

Today, Governor Baker’s office and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released their initial guidance about reopening schools this fall.  We are grateful for the level of thought and care that went into the development of this guidance, and share the goal of the safe return of as many students as possible to in-person school settings in order to best meet students’ academic, social, and emotional needs.  

We understand that there are many students, staff, and families that may not be able to physically attend school because of medical and other reasons.  In the weeks ahead, we will be reaching out to staff members and families to determine who may need accommodations, and to learn how we can provide the highest level of support and student/teacher connection possible.  We will do everything within our capacity to ensure that all of our students are provided the best learning experience we can offer.   

We are carefully reviewing the guidance to understand how it impacts our school community and our students.  Please understand, this current guidance focuses on the latest research around COVID-19 transmission, prevention, and the high impact requirements for schools around social distancing, masks, hygiene, and maintaining the smallest cohorts of students as possible. The full document can be found at DESE Reopening Guidance: Fall 2020, but here are some key components:

  • Current medical research supports a safe in-person return to school - with preventive measures in place - as infection and transmission rates are lower for children than adults.
  • Preventive measures include masks/face coverings, physical distancing, handwashing, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces.
  • Masks/face coverings will be required for all students in Grade 2 and above and for all adults; they are recommended for students in Grade 1 and below.
  • Based upon current medical research, and in conjunction with other preventive measures, a minimum physical distance of three feet has been established.

Districts are required to develop three separate plans - one for return to full in-person instruction with safety requirements, one for full remote learning, and one for hybrid learning that combines in-person and remote learning.  Based upon the current decline of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, the expectation today is that students will return to full in-person instruction in September; however, that is subject to change based upon how COVID-19 progresses in our area.  

There are countless questions remaining about funding, transportation, lunch, specialized subjects (art, music/band/chorus, Technology, PE), athletics, length of day, special education supports, counseling services, and extracurricular activities.  There will be additional guidance coming throughout the summer, and we will keep you informed using all of our usual methods.  During the summer, we will be working with in-district teams to plan for all of the issues mentioned above.  You should expect to receive focused surveys to help with planning, and there will be a series of “town hall” meetings for all staff, parents, and students to ask questions and provide feedback before we make final plans and preparations.  

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work through these issues so that we can be as prepared as possible for whatever September brings our way.  Stay healthy and enjoy the summer.  

Sincerely,

Erin Obey
Superintendent