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Superintendent's June 4, 2020 Newsletter

date 6/4/2020

This weekend we celebrate our Belmont High School 2020 seniors beginning on Saturday with a rolling rally and ending on Sunday with a virtual graduation. Please read more about that and other news items below.

The Town honored and celebrated this special graduating class of 2020 through a proclamation at a joint meeting of the Select Board and School Committee on June 1, recognizing June 6 as Belmont High School Class of 2020 Day. We also want to congratulate our seniors for all their hard work during this challenging time.

SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING MAY 28

FY21 Budget Discussion: There was a School Committee Finance Subcommittee joint meeting with the School Committee on May 28. The Committee discussed the School Department budget reduction of $1,020,000 for FY21, which was presented at the May 26 School Committee Meeting. The School Committee will formally vote on the budget at the June 9 meeting.

The School Committee expressed the reservations of the community with the proposed budget reductions. The Committee will also on June 9 vote on a resolution for increased K-12 funding from federal support the Town may receive to give budgetary relief to the School Department should the need arise due to the district's growing enrollment and possible coronavirus challenges in the fall.

FY20 Purchases for FY21: The School Committee approved to use $600,000 from FY20 budget for FY21 purchases. This will include the purchase of devices to ensure every student in the district is provide one if and/or when remote learning is required in the 2020-2021 school year. We will also purchase COVID-19 items related to monitoring and protecting students and staff so items that may be harder to purchase for the fall can be purchased now. 

School Committee Meeting June 9: Please see the additional items on the June 9 School Committee Meeting agenda. Included that night will be a presentation of COVID-19 planning for "what school may look like" in September followed by a Community Forum to solicit feedback.

Before the meeting, those retiring from Belmont Public Schools will be recognized by the School Committee.

BHS 2020 SENIOR GRADUATION WEEKEND

Rolling Rally Saturday: The rolling rally begins Saturday, June 6 at noon. Please see more information on the BPS website.

BHS Graduation Sunday: Students by appointment went to BHS in their graduation robes between May 26 and 28 to receive their diplomas and pose for a picture and video with two family members. The video will be shown during the virtual graduation ceremony on June 7. A link will be given to students and their families for them to view the ceremony.

TONIGHT'S VIRTUAL VIGIL AND THE STUDENT LED RALLY

Please log on to the Virtual Vigil tonight at 7:00 p.m. organized by Belmont Against Racism, Belmont Human Rights Council  and the Human Rights Commission. We also want to acknowledge the student rally that took place in Belmont center on Wednesday, June 3. This student led event is a great example of how we as a community can voice our feelings of frustration and anger as we meet together and use the space and time to support each other.

Belmont Police Chief Jamie MacIsaac heard Preston, one of our students, speaking from the June 3 rally and Chief MacIsaac had these words to say:
“Preston and the other young people that attended the protest yesterday give me hope that they will be catalyst to help heal this country and bring sides that are so far apart back together again. I watched the speech this morning with several officers. When Preston addressed the police and first said “we love you” and went on to say “you are not defined by your badge any more than we are defined by our race”, we all looked up at each other.  Words like this mean so much to us I can’t describe the emotions I felt on hearing them.”

View Preston's speech from the rally.

GOOD NEWS FROM THE VIRTUAL CLASSROOM

Matthew Demonstrates Proper Handwashing Matthew Showing Proper Handwashing Principal Danielle Betancourt shares the Butler Cohort 6 project, which these students planned and created to lead the Butler community in being healthy and safe during these difficult times. The fourth graders leader meet with Principal Betancourt once a week and they discuss, plan, and work on projects that they think will help their school. Here you see a creative demonstration by Matthew on how to wash your hands as just one example in the video.

CMS TEACHER APPRECIATION SPIRIT DAY

CMS Teacher Appreciation Spirit Day CMS Student Council has continued with spirit days during the school closure. The virtual sprit days are the same ones planned when Chenery was open. So far CMS has had a Pajama Day Spirit Day and a Crazy Socks Spirit Day. The third spirit day scheduled was a surprise for the CMS staff; the Student Council Teacher Appreciation Spirit Day. CMS students submitted more than 100 thank you messages and/or short video clips to celebrate the CMS staff.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL REPORT CARDS

From the Elementary School Principals:

Elementary Report Cards will be available to families on June 17. Teachers will be preparing report cards in a manner that reflects the monumental shift in teaching and learning this term.  

What to expect:
The Pro-social and Academic Skills Sections: Due to the necessary modifications of the curriculum taught and standards addressed since the school year was disrupted, as well as the emphasis on social connection over assessment, it is not appropriate to report on student progress towards the usual learning standards.  Therefore, the June period will be blank for these sections.  
Comments Section. Teachers will be providing a brief narrative to summarize the student’s year with highlights on pre-closure strengths and areas of challenge, and will include suggestions to promote growth over the summer.

Please know that we expect all of our children to begin the next school year having had different experiences than we might expect in a typical year.  We are preparing  to meet them wherever they are and are committed to supporting their continued growth and progress.

Note on CMS and BHS Report Cards: Chenery Middle School and Belmont High School have previously communicated to families they are issuing the familiar looking report cards using the grading policies established early in the pandemic closure.

SOCIAL ENGLISH PRACTICE OVER THE SUMMER

From Director of English Language Education Lindsey Rinder: The English Language Education Department is organizing BHS volunteers with younger English Learners to practice social English through the summer. The 40 mentors (and growing!) will meet virtually with their mentees at least once weekly to form positive relationships, to foster cross-family connections through similar and diverse cultural and language backgrounds, and to have fun! Interested high school volunteers may apply to be mentors through this application.

BPS FOOD SERVICES

Please see the Food Services website for Wednesday meal-kit food content, food delivery, drive-through hours, and other information.

NEW BPS HEALTH AND NURSING WEBSITE

After many months of work by our Health Department and IT team at Belmont Public Schools, there is a new look to the health and nursing website. The primary goal during the redesign process was to create a more user-centric and responsive resource across all platforms and devices, review all existing content and add more information related to the school health programs. Specifically, they wanted to make it easier for families and staff to find information about our Health and Nursing services from mobile devices; with content delivered by a robust content management platform.

New features are: Notices and News Blog, contact your school nurse form, forms and resources for staff and families, a Google Translate tool, and a web reader on each page, making the new site accessible to people with different abilities and accessibility devices.The new site has a new Health Notices and News section upgraded with the ability to easily share posts on social media, such as a new Twitter account, as well as enhanced communication within our school community, supported by improved email templates. All posted notices and news will be available within our free Belmont Schools app. Please see the new Belmont Schools Department of Health and Nursing Services website.

USEFUL INFORMATION

We have put links in previous newsletters to useful information. We will be placing them here from the various newsletters for your convenience.

Town and State:

Organizations:

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

The Superintendent's Newsletter has a section dedicated to your questions. Your questions can be sent to Newsletter Questions Google doc.

Those of you who want to see the questions that were already answered in the Superintendent's Newsletter can go to the Superintendent's Newsletter Questions Archive.

BHS Principal Isaac Taylor has started his own FAQ document families can view. They have broken the document down into sections for all students, each grade level, and will update the document as more questions arise.

What will extended school year/summer school look like this year for kids on IEPs?

It will be remote, similar to how school is being provided now.

With the recently released guidelines for an in-person graduation, will Belmont reconsider their decision to have a virtual graduation?

The guidelines for graduation released by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education align with the decision by the Belmont Public Schools to hold a virtual graduation and an opportunity for students to gather, health permitting, in August.

Looking back at previous newsletters, I see that kindergarten fees have been touched upon and are being considered for next year. I am interested in the  "contingency plans for the 2020-21 school year" for the extended pre-school program tuition.

We are in the process of developing contingency plans and will present draft plans at the School Committee meeting and public forum on June 9. There are no decisions yet at the level of preschool program tuition.

Have any of our BHS seniors won National Merit Scholarships this year? We usually see an announcement at some point.

Information will be released by Belmont High School soon regarding seniors who won National Merit Scholarships.

With all the issues surrounding school re-opening and budget cuts, can we just eliminate school buses for the next year? It would close the issue on bus safety, and the money could instead be spent on in-person school reopening. I think all the efforts need to be made to safely reopen with as much in-person learning as possible for the benefit of our children.

Per Massachusetts law, we have a legal obligation to provide busing, and we cannot eliminate that from the budget.

Will report cards be in the same format? (Elementary Schools) 

Elementary report cards will include only a narrative for each student; it will not include reporting on student's progress toward the learning standards due to the shift in the curriculum and instruction during the global pandemic.

Will you be including student and family voice in the planning for reopening? Seems like important to hear from the community to inform your decisions. We are all in this together.

Yes, students and families will have opportunities to share their opinions at the community forum and with a survey distributed after the forum. We are also meeting with stakeholder groups, such as the PTO and PTA presidents, who have also solicited feedback from families.

If you end up implementing a Hybrid opening in the fall, in which only a portion of students can attend school at one time, will you work to ensure that children from the same family can all attend school at the same time, even if they are not in the same school?

Yes, if we implement a hybrid model for opening school in the fall, we will work to ensure that siblings will attend school at the same time.

While the format of classes for the 2020-2021 school year is uncertain, the curriculum should meet certain standards. Can you please ask the elementary curriculum directors to share their vision for the content/delivery of grade level ELA and math/science curriculum for the coming school year? I am concerned that there is not enough reading comprehension or writing instruction/practice in the current model. There is also too much reliance on Lexia and DreamBox in the lesson plans.

All curriculum decisions will be made in collaboration with the principals, curriculum specialists, curriculum directors, and the assistant superintendent. We will spend the summer making adjustments as needed, taking into account standards that were not taught in 2019-20 and that need to be included in 2020-21, as well as adjustments needed going forward due to changes to school operations (full opening, hybrid opening, remote learning). Remote learning in 2020-21 will include adjusted modalities to increase engagement and learning outcomes in all curricular areas, PreK-12

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CMS Teacher Appreciation Spirit Day  Matthew Demonstrates Proper Handwashing  Matthew Showing Proper Handwashing 



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