Address: Butler Elementary School
90 White St,
Belmont, MA 02478
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Dear Butler Families,
Welcome to the new school year, which promises to be unlike any we've ever experienced. I hope that you have been able to find time this summer for joy and relaxation with those closest to your hearts. I know you have been bearing the brunt of this exceedingly difficult time in trying to manage so many uncertainties and balancing the care and wellbeing of your children while trying to maintain your own wellbeing.
Please remember to prioritize time to take care of yourselves. I know it is easier said than done, but I cannot stress enough how important your self-care is for the wellbeing of your children.
While our plans continue to evolve as we get new information and learn with and from each other, here are some updates as we begin the new school year.
We will be approaching teaching and learning this year in phases. Our first phase will be in remote learning.
The slide show linked here outlines the remote schedule that was presented at the School Committee Meeting. Some of the highlights of the remote model are:
It is much more rigorous than that of the spring and is as close as possible to replicating a regular school day, with a focus on small groups and interaction.
Each day begins and ends with a class meeting designed to build community, connection, and focus on social emotional learning.
The remainder of the day offers academic workshops that will begin with a short whole-class lesson (sometimes live, sometimes pre-recorded) followed by individual and small group instruction with rotating groups of children. Children will work on and off the screen during these workshop times to practice and build skills. Teachers will work with small groups of students throughout the day, differentiating their instruction for the children in front of them.
There will be common break times for our younger students and a universal lunch/recess time for everyone in our school to allow families to eat and take a break together.
The schedule is consistent throughout the district to allow for collaboration and clear routines for students, staff, and families.
As with any school year, children spend the first four to six weeks building community and learning the routines and expectations of the classroom. The same will be the case this year. The beginning of the year will be filled with opportunities for community building, activities to practice digital skills and routines (like getting in and out of meetings), and independent work as we build up to the workshop model.
Parents and guardians are invited to learn more about our remote learning program at our Remote Learning Information Night on September 3rd at 7 PM. Due to the anticipated volume of viewers, we will live stream this event and will send out a link later this week.
The first day of school for children will be on Wednesday, September 16th. The first day, and every Wednesday during remote learning will be a half day of school. You will receive more information about how to access remote learning during the first week of school in the upcoming weeks. Kindergarten families will get a separate message about the start of the year later this week. Our teachers are beginning the school year this week and have ten days of learning and planning sessions to get ready for the major shifts in teaching and learning.
We are hoping to be able to send out class lists by the end of this week. We know how eager everyone is to know about classroom teachers (and our teachers are eager as well!). Thank you so much for your patience, as we have had to consider many new and evolving factors before we assigned classrooms. It is important that we did this work very carefully because we cannot make changes to placement after we have sent them out to you. One small change can have a domino effect for all of the lists. As a school and district, we are aligning our instruction so no matter who the teacher is, grade-level teaching points will be pretty consistent, which will help students in the same grade learn together, if that is your arrangement.
Another enhancement to our remote learning this year is the addition of at home learning kits. We have thoughtfully ordered learning materials and supplies aligned with the needs of each grade level so that children can have more opportunities for off-screen work and practice. Each child will get a kit specific to her/his/their grade-level. Your child's teacher will help you and your child learn how to use the materials and supplies in the kits.
You will not need to purchase any school supplies for your child. What your child does need is a place to work during remote instruction. This may be a desk in their bedroom or maybe the end of the kitchen table. Involving them in creating this space might be a nice motivator and help support their stamina when it comes time to sit down and really get to work. It would be helpful to limit distractions (like toys or tv) from this area so they can better focus. If you wish, you could get a few things for your child’s at-home work space to make it more engaging and motivating like some cool pens and pencils, fun post-it notes, fancy paper, a supply caddy or small note board might make it more fun! (FYI, each child is getting a white board and dry erase markers in their kits)
We are working on a schedule to allow opportunities for the children to come in and meet their new teacher(s) prior to the start of the school year. We are aiming for Monday and Tuesday, September 14 & 15, and will send out the schedule once it is finalized.
We have an incredible group of caring, skilled, and dedicated teachers in our school community. We all desperately miss the children and are trying to do extremely difficult work while missing the best (and most rewarding) part of it: working directly with children. Please understand what a huge shift this has been for our teachers in their practice and expect some (many!) “mistakes” in the beginning of the year. There will be times that connections don’t work or kids are unable to get into meetings. Helping your children understand now that we are all in learning mode may help soften those disappointing moments. Believe me when I say that teachers judge themselves more harshly than anyone looking in, and my message to them is to give themselves some grace and space to not be perfect. I am asking you to please do the same.
Our Butler teachers are strong, caring, and human. They have worked above and beyond this summer to be ready for your children in a very anxious time. Let us all continue our important partnership together with patience and grace. This time is not easy for anyone.
Thank you so very much for your amazing support, partnership, and kindness. So many of you have reached out to me this summer and offered suggestions and warmth that really were uplifting and reminded me what an amazing community we have in the Butler School. I am grateful for each one of you and miss you all. Please feel welcome to reach out any time.
With warm wishes for good health and peace,
Danielle Betancourt, Principal