Your Weekly Update from Natick High School
From the Principal's Desk
Welcome to the 2023-2024 school year!
Dear Natick High School Families,
The last week and a half has brought so much excitement into Natick High School. We began last week with our Mentor Orientation, wherein over 100 upperclassmen volunteered their time to train to be mentors. The next day, they used that training to lead our 9th Grade/New Student Orientation. It was so lovely to watch them exercise their leadership skills to guide our 9th graders and new students through their opening day. The 9th graders, our largest class in recent memory, totals about 440 students! They brought a lot of excitement as they came together as the Class of 2027 for the first time. I want to extend huge kudos to Mr. Lafaro, Ms. Brown and Mr. Nardi for training our mentors so well, and for welcoming our 9th graders.
Then, it was on to our New Teacher Orientation, where we welcomed 22 new teachers and support staff members. Dr. Cole-Harms, our Vice-Principal for Teaching and Learning, lauded this group of educators as one our most invested and talented groups of new staff. Over their two day orientation, they engaged in activities centered around teaching, learning and Natick culture. I was struck by how many of them had direct ties to Natick; whether they were returning to teach here after a period of time away, or coming home to the school they attended, their pride and personal commitment was evident from the outset.
Last week culminated with Sunday's RedHawk Fest, the back-to-school carnival that NPS co-hosts with the Natick Police and various other community agencies. It was great to see so many students gathering with friends, and staff gathering with their own children. We are grateful for our community partnerships with groups like the Rotary Club, the Natick Police, Natick 180, Spark Kindness, the Fire Department and others; together with you, we work with these groups to form a circle around our young people, and support them towards making good choices as they grow into young adults.
This week, along with district leadership, I welcomed our staff to the school year and shared my vision for our school year. Some of the most important pieces of our work for the year will include refining our teaching practices to reach all learners, and looking at post-COVID student behavioral and mental health challenges. We will also be building a framework for teaching social-emotional skills; this means directly teaching our students strategies for building resilience and for reflecting on how they each learn best. These skills will prepare them to go into adulthood able to learn and do whatever they would like.
All of these days led up to Wednesday (8/30): the day I have been looking forward to all summer. The students arrived! We started the day with our junior/senior class meeting, handed out senior swag and began classes. We redirected lost 9th graders and watched friends reunite after two months apart. It was a great day for all!
Below, you will find some pictures of our opening weeks and some logistical details that may be helpful to you. I hope that your learner came home anticipating the year ahead with an eagerness to learn and try new things.
Principal, Natick High School
Pictures of Our First Weeks' Activities
Sunday, August 27th
Red/Blue Schedule - Weeks 2 & 3
Increased Traffic at NHS Anticipated Next Week (9/5 thru 9/8)
The Natick DPW and Natick Police will close South Main Street, from Cottage Street to the Sherborn Line from Tuesday, September 5th through Friday, September 8th for a major road paving project. During those days, no through traffic will be able to access Route 27 and West Street from the south end of West Street. This road closure will go from 7AM through 4PM on all four days.
Barricades will be set up at West Street and Windsor Avenue, and also just beyond the Mahan Field Parking Lot on West Street, preventing traffic from moving south on West Street toward Route 27.
We are anticipating more congestion in getting in and out of the NHS area from September 5th through 8th, and recommend the following:
- Leave extra time to get your Natick High student(s) to school next week.
- If your students have a bus pass, they are encouraged to ride the bus to and from school.
- Consider carpooling when possible.
More information will be made available if we become aware. Thank you for your help with this situation.
Junior/Senior Privileges Form
Junior and senior students may earn "privileges" (often called "priv" by the students) by earning good grades and demonstrating good behavior and attendance in prior terms. "Priv." gives students the option of having unscheduled blocks in lieu of CDS and study halls. Students with priv. are also allowed to leave campus during these unscheduled times, with parent/guardian permission.
If your student has earned priv., you can give them permission to leave campus by filling out this form. No students will be allowed off campus without a completed form.
Students on priv. are still responsible for being in the school building for all classes and other scheduled blocks, and are still required to provide notes from parents or guardians for all tardies and dismissals from scheduled blocks.
Please discuss this with your student. Your completion of this form indicates that your student agrees to abide by the rules, procedures and responsibilities that govern the Student Privileges Program. These privileges are earned and may be revoked for academic, behavior or attendance concerns. Student privileges are reassessed term by term by the students' dean or vice-principal.
All schools in Massachusetts are required to have a School Council comprised of students, caregivers and school staff, led by the principal (M.G.L. Ch. 71, Sec. 59C). I am looking forward to meeting with this group to discuss our annual School Improvement Plan and other pertinent school issues. This body, along with our PTSO, provide vital links between the school and the community. If you would like to be part of our School Council, please email the PTSO at email@example.com. I will be reaching out to students and staff in the coming weeks to seek volunteers at NHS. Once we have a group assembled, we will discuss a mutually agreed upon time to meet and I will publish an agenda for our meetings on the school's website.
Student Parking - Important Reminders
Juniors and Seniors are permitted to park on campus, with a parking permit decal displayed on their vehicles, in the following locations:
- Seniors are permitted to park in the Memorial Football Lot or the Mahan Baseball Field Lot.
- Juniors are permitted to park only in the Mahan Baseball Field lot.
- No students are permitted to park in the Faculty or Visitor lots without individual approval from administration.
- Students may NOT make their own spots by parking in unlined areas. This creates potential safety issues.
- Students who do not abide by the school parking rules risk disciplinary action including detention, loss of priv. and/or loss of parking privileges.
Obtaining a Parking Permit
To obtain a parking permit, students must register their cars. Students may also obtain a parking permit in the Main Office during school hours.
Students must bring photocopies of the following to obtain a permit:
- A copy of their driver's license*
- A copy of the car's registration*
- This form filled out an signed by a parent/guardian and the student
- $200 - Cash or check accepted. (Checks should be made out to Natick Public Schools.)
* Please note that we will be KEEPING these photocopies for our records.
Parking permits are distributed on a first-come-first-served basis.
Cell Phone Use in Classrooms
At our 9th Grade/Transfer Student Orientation, we discussed how much easier it is to connect when we look up (at the world around us) versus looking down (at our phones.) NHS teachers have echoed this sentiment, noting that student cell phones are a consistent distraction that impacts students' class engagement.
So, last year, our 9th Grade English teachers piloted a policy where they asked students to place their cell phones into a “cell phone parking lot” - a repurposed over the door shoe holder - at the front of the classroom. This led to a marked decrease in distraction, and while many students may have initially been reticent, they later told teachers that they were relieved to be free of the phone for the block. As we enter this school year, many of our teachers will be using this classroom management strategy, wherein they will expect students to utilize a cell phone storage unit as they enter the classroom to limit the distractions to the learning environment. (Accommodations will be made for students who need to check insulin monitoring using a phone app., etc.)
This practice is in line with current guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), which is encouraging schools to pilot cell phone policies that restrict or ban cell phone use. Further, DESE's announcement follows the announcement from the Massachusetts Board of Education, which is considering implementation of a statewide policy regarding student cell phone use in schools. As a district, Natick School Committee will be considering a policy for NHS and other schools.
As you are talking to your adolescent about this, you may find this recent article in The Atlantic Magazine helpful.
Free Breakfast and Lunch for All Students this Year
Governor Maura Healy's Office decided to institute free breakfast and lunch for all pubic school students in Massachusetts.
In the NHS Dining Hall, you can pre-order your lunch so it is waiting for you when you arrive!
With Nutrislice, students can pre-order their lunches, so they are ready when they get to lunch. Just order through this link by 9:30 a.m. each day, and lunch will be ready to pick up in the far left line near the salad and sandwich area. Students' names will be on the receipt attached to their orders. Just grab and go!
Student Food Delivery
Similar to last year, we are asking students not to order food to be delivered to school during school hours, or during school-sponsored after school activities. We are also asking you to refrain from ordering food to be delivered directly to your NHS student by outside vendors while at your student is in school.
Food delivery to the school building creates a higher likelihood of unfamiliar adults requesting access to the building. It also creates issues with class engagement, as students seek to meet their food delivery during scheduled class time. A more directive policy cementing this practice has been approved by the School Committee’s Policy Subcommittee and will be moving forward to the School Committee for final approval.
In the event that you need to drop-off food to your child, please check it into the Main Office.
Thank you for your cooperation.
A Message on Yearbooks!
Accessing Student Schedules
Student schedules are now visible in the student/guardian portals. Please know that the first few days of school are especially busy with schedule changes. Students should plan to refresh/download their schedules daily for the first week in case of changes. If students need to make schedule changes, they should make an appointment with their guidance counselor. If there are questions about their schedules, students can see their counselor or Vice-Principal Dr. Cole Harms, who will be available in/around the Main Office. For juniors/seniors who have questions about priv. status, they should see their guidance counselor or grade-level administrator. The grade-level administrators are as follows:
- Mr. Strother - 9th grade (Room 348B)
- Dr. Cole-Harms - 10th grade (Main Office)
- Mr. Hoye - 11th grade (Main Office)
- Mr. Galvin - 12th grade (Main Office)
Parents and caregivers, please note that when you log into PowerSchool for the first time this year, you will be prompted to fill out the necessary annual forms for each of your students. It is essential that you attend to those forms.
Having trouble accessing your PowerSchool account? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for help.
A Message from the Guidance Department
Upcoming Event Sponsored by Natick 180
Information from the Health Clinic
If you would like to make an appointment for medication drop-off, please send an email to email@example.com. Please remember to bring the medication in a pharmacy labeled container along with MD orders and parent permission forms. These forms are located HERE and on the NPS website under Departments: Health Services: Health Guidelines. Please take a moment to review the medication policy.
Parents/Guardians of Grade 11 Students: Please make sure to provide the health office with a recent copy of your student's physical. This needs to be received no later than September 29th. This may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 508-651-7167.
Parents/Guardians of Grade 11 and Grade 12 Students: if your student is age 16 or over, per Massachusetts State requirements, the Health Office must have documentation of your student's Meningococcal Conjugate (MenACWY) vaccination on file. If you have already provided documentation (i.e. included in a recent physical), please disregard. This documentation may be emailed to email@example.com or faxed to 508-651-7167.
Additionally we would like to stress the importance of completing the online PowerSchool Emergency Forms for your student(s). These must be completed each school year. The nurses use these forms to access important health information and contact numbers. These forms also include permission to administer Tylenol and/or Ibuprofen; please note that these medications will not be given without a signature from a parent/guardian.
Your NHS Nurses,
Nicole Marcinkiewicz, RN, Carrie Harding, RN, Kelly Keene, RN
Calling Your Student in Absent
Thank you to our PTSO for their ongoing support to our students and faculty. Our PTSO is looking for more volunteers to assist them with their work for the school year. You can learn more about the NHS PTSO, and how to get involved by visiting their website. Thank you in advance for your help!
You can subscribe to their monthly newsletter at the top of their webpage.
Reminder for Parents Who Want to Volunteer--CORI Checks
Reminder If you want to volunteer in schools, you must have a CORI check conducted and you must go into the building with identification (drivers license or passport) to do this. Click here for description of what a CORI check is and does. Without a CORI check, you cannot volunteer in the school. Here is the form to fill out for a CORI.