August 14, 2020
Dear North Adams Students, Families, Staff Members, and Community Members,
I hope you are doing well and staying safe during these waning days of summer.
As you know, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) required each school district in the state to submit a comprehensive plan for reopening schools in the fall. Each plan was expected to detail three possible reopening models: in-person, remote, and a hybrid model which combines opportunities for both in-person and remote learning. The North Adams Public Schools (NAPS) reopening plan, as submitted to DESE, can be found on our website, www.napsk12.org, along with a reopening presentation delivered to the North Adams School Committee on August 11, 2020.
In developing the three possible models for the reopening plan for our district we relied on criteria reflecting health and safety guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as technical assistance from the Parabola Project, a statewide initiative led by the One8Foundation and Ariadne Labs (affiliated with the Harvard School of Medicine). Additionally, our administrators, teachers, program coordinators, and school nurse leader provided their professional expertise to help determine how best to apply DESE’s evolving guidance to the North Adams Public Schools. Many parents also provided their perspectives and preferences through surveys as well as through participation in two reopening forums held last week.
On Tuesday, August 11, the school committee held two votes regarding the district’s school reopening plan. The first vote was a vote to accept the comprehensive plan to be submitted to DESE, detailing in-person, remote, and hybrid reopening models. The second vote was for the committee to indicate which model they preferred as the basis to reopen schools. The school committee voted to approve the remote model as the basis for reopening the North Adams Public Schools for the 2020-2021 school year.
Since Tuesday evening, the district administration has continued the work they have been doing all summer to open the new school year in a way that provides robust professional development for our teachers, support for our students and families, and appropriate allocation of resources to ensure remote learning is as rigorous, effective, equitable, and engaging as possible for all students. While public health data indicates a very low incidence of infection due to COVID-19, we remain hopeful that there will be an opportunity to return to school for some level of in-person student engagement later in the year.
Professional development and workshops for staff, students, and families: The first ten days of the school year, from August 31, 2020, through September 14, 2020, are teacher professional development days. Teachers should expect to be involved in professional development activities from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on those dates. The two major components of the training will be course development using the Canvas learning management system and ensuring our approach to remote learning provides adequate support for social and emotional learning and youth mental health.
In addition, students and families will be offered opportunities for in-person and remote support for accessing the Canvas learning platform. These workshops are in development and will be posted next week for student and family registration. Families that indicated on the NAPS Fall Preferred Enrollment Commitment survey that they will need a device or WiFi access to participate in remote learning will be contacted in the coming weeks to make sure you have what you need to support your student’s access to the Canvas platform.
All students will be expected to report in for attendance to their scheduled synchronous learning activities on September 15, 2020, and to follow the approved calendar for the 2020-2021 school year. Attendance will be part of the expectations for remote learning this fall and students will be marked absent when not logging in to Canvas at the scheduled times. In addition, according to updated remote learning guidance from DESE, students will receive grades for both their participation and graded assignments. Parents will be able to access the learning management system to monitor their student’s progress.
Learning Labs for Technical Support: I am pleased to announce that the district leadership team developed a plan to open two learning labs to provide technical support to students as well as to parents and caregivers. The labs will be located at Colegrove Park Elementary School gymnasium and at the Greylock Elementary School cafeteria. Each will be open by appointment to all North Adams Public School students regardless of grade level or school. The learning labs will provide access to technical and academic support. These large spaces will have physically distanced and partitioned stations with access to WiFi, staff to provide technical support, and assistance with organizing for learning. Students and caregivers can bring in their own devices to the labs or use school-based devices to receive the personal attention they need to make remote learning successful.
Again it is my sincerest hope that all members of our North Adams Public Schools community are in good health at this time. With a concerted effort we can keep our community healthy by practicing good habits of avoiding crowds, wearing masks in public, cleaning our hands, and avoiding touching our faces. The “new normal” comes with its own challenges, stressors, and fatigue, but we get through this by working together with a caring mindset. If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions please feel free to contact the district administrative offices at 413-776-1458 or by emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barbara Malkas, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools