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Superintendent's Update Friday, March 27, 2020


Dear Families and Staff:

As you know, we have now entered into the next phase of our school closure. Given Governor Baker’s new re-opening date of May 4, 2020, the Belmont Public Schools will be shifting the ways we support our students during this longer period of time.

We have been working internally with our educators, the Belmont Educators Association, and externally with our neighboring school districts in an attempt to approach the new learning environment in which we find ourselves.  We will also take guidance from the most recent update from the Commissioner of Education that was released yesterday.  You can view that guidance here: COVID-19 Information and Resources “Remote Learning Recommendations During COVID-19 Closures” dated March 26, 2020.

This statement has been modified to reflect the most recent closure decision and as such, varies from the statements put out by the districts named on the original document.

Student Learning During School/District Closure 

A Joint Statement on Shared Beliefs/Goals

As the Chief Child Advocates in our respective communities, we are coming together to focus on what is best for students in the coming months. We understand that the  extension of the school closure is creating many conversations about what learning should look like during this time away from the classroom.  This vision of education will be best coming from those of us who work with children. Our shared belief is that, in future years when children reflect on this time in their lives, what they will remember most are the positive connections they felt at an uncertain time.

School is a special place - a sacred place. All of our communities stress that learning has its foundation in the relationships developed between learners and teachers, whether adults or children. There is no way to replicate this environment in a digital format in the middle of a pandemic over a week/month or two. We are deeply concerned about the physical and emotional health of everyone in our school communities. As such, we commit to planning and supporting learning that lessens stress and anxiety. 

Part of this commitment means developing the skills and tools necessary to evolve and prioritize these relationships over the coming months. We are asking all of our educators to check in with their students. Many are already going far beyond connecting. They are doing incredible work untethered by current educational policy to ensure that students feel safe and remain connected to their learning.

We recognize that there are countless challenges for identified learners who need specialized instruction in content delivery and know that we will not be able to solve all of these challenges in the short term. As such, we will continue to focus on safety and connection while providing students with support, reinforcing learning opportunities, and enrichment while we discuss and prepare our plans toward sustaining and advancing students’ academic skills and curriculum.   As we finalize our plans with our educators you  should expect to hear from your teachers and principals next week as to the updated expectations and shift in our approach to engagement.

Our school communities will continue to make connections, value relationships, develop and deepen learning skills, understand service and community, maintain health and well-being, and focus on a greater good. In remaining focused on the social and emotional needs of our students and offering learning experiences that support those needs, we believe that our students, your children, will be well served during this school closing.

To all students and families –I want to let you know that our teachers, custodians, food service workers and administrators and all staff miss you. We wish we were all back in school – with you.

As a father of a senior in high school and a junior in college – these are stress-filled days. I encourage all of us to continue to follow all of the Governor’s recommendations to keep our physical distancing and stay connected socially via technology. During this difficult time, communication and connectedness is socially and emotionally important in our efforts support each other.

Respectfully,

John P. Phelan
Superintendent of Schools
Belmont, Massachusetts






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