NPS District News
September 29, 2021
Message from the Superintendent
Dear NPS Families,
As we head into October, NPS faculty and staff are conducting a range of academic assessments designed to familiarize them with the needs of your student. These classroom-based assessments are especially important this year following the challenges of the last 18 months. Our teachers are working closely with their colleagues and administrators to ensure students possess the necessary knowledge and skills to complete grade level work.
In addition to our classroom-based assessments, we will also begin to evaluate the MCAS data for our district, which was released by the state last week. Your student’s scores will be made available to you shortly. While every district in the state saw a decrease in scores, we were encouraged to see some areas where our students outperformed the state trends and even improved despite the pandemic. Nonetheless, we will be analyzing the patterns in our MCAS scores closely and report more on these trends at an upcoming School Committee meeting.
Someone recently asked me how I typically think about my own children’s MCAS scores. While my college-aged children haven't taken the MCAS for a few years, I always considered MCAS scores as one piece of a much broader picture and acknowledged that a number of external factors might impact performance on a single test. I always found the results of the school-based assessments and the feedback from their teachers to be the most valuable data in understanding their learning needs and progress.
State assessments are only one way among many to measure the academic performance of a student or school district. In Newton, there are significant positive signs of the health of our district and the achievement of our students. I am pleased to share the news that Newton had the largest group of National Merit Semi-Finalists (a prestigious national scholarship awarded annually to high school juniors) in recent history. Our high, and increasingly diverse, enrollment in advanced placement classes is indicative of the rigorous course offerings in our schools. Finally, our graduates’ consistent acceptances to highly competitive colleges is an additional data point for the excellence we continue to foster in our schools and the achievements of our students despite a global pandemic.
Given our current environment, we are also keenly focused on how our students are doing from a social and emotional perspective. We know that many students have struggled during the pandemic and these struggles no doubt have had an impact on academic learning. Just as we do with academic assessments, we will also conduct assessments on the social-emotional health of our students this year. Taking note of your students’ connectedness and happiness in school seems particularly critical as we complete this first month of school. We encourage you to reach out to a teacher, counselor or administrator if you have any concerns.
Our district is committed to providing both the academic and social emotional support necessary to support all students. Given the excellent work that I see taking place in our schools, I feel confident that our educators are well positioned to do so.
Superintendent of Schools
COVID Testing Action Plan
Last week was the first week of weekly COVID pool testing in the district. Given the size and complexity of the district, as well as complications with the state contractor CIC Health, we did experience some challenges in implementation and execution.
To improve the testing process and experience and to resolve outstanding issues, we have taken the following action steps:
Aligned the CIC Health staff training process with Newton health and safety practices.
Standardized the testing process across schools.
Consulted with CIC Health and the Broad Institute to modify the testing protocol to utilize a nose wipe instead of a nose blow.
Switched to a single nasal swab collection to improve efficiency on testing day. Positive pool results will be followed up with a rapid antigen test at school.
Conferred with our Medical Advisory Group to obtain approval of testing protocol in school buildings.
Adjusted and refined clerical procedures to ensure accuracy in student testing rosters.
To continue to focus on smoothing out the process in grades PreK-6, weekly testing for grades 7-12+ is paused until we feel confident in our ability to scale the testing operation. We will let you know when testing will begin for those grade levels. However, the symptomatic and Test and Stay testing continues to be available as appropriate.
Please review the Frequently Asked Questions document for answers to the most commonly asked questions about COVID testing. Do you still have questions? Please fill out this form (Questions about NPS COVID Testing Form) and we will add the answer to the FAQ document linked above.
As a reminder, to opt into the COVID testing program, please sign the consent form in Aspen. Here is the Aspen Login Link. Please follow these instructions for accessing and signing the consent form.
Should my student participate in the testing program if they have recently had COVID?
If your student was diagnosed with COVID in the past 90 days, they should NOT PARTICIPATE in the weekly testing program. The antibodies from a recent COVID infection could trigger a positive test result, even though the student has recovered and is no longer infectious. We do encourage you to opt into the testing program so that the student can be tested following the 90 day period. Our nursing team will be sure to note on the testing days which students should not be tested because of a recent COVID diagnosis. Privacy and the reason for not testing will be strictly maintained.
Vaccine Clinic this Saturday, October 2nd!
Newton will be hosting COVID vaccine clinics for people 12 and older at two separate sites. Here are the details:
Where: Gym at Newton South (140 Brandeis Rd., Newton)
When: Saturday, October 2nd
Time: 8:00 a.m - 12:00 p.m.
Link to Register: https://tinyurl.com/NEWTONSOUTHVAX
Where: Cafeteria at Newton North (457 Walnut St., Newton)
When: Saturday, October 2nd
Time: 8:00 a.m - 12:00 p.m.
Link to Register: https://tinyurl.com/NEWTONNORTHVAX
WALK-INS ARE WELCOME!
Anyone under the age of 18 needs to be accompanied by an adult or have the state’s consent form filled out (available here). Please see the health section of our webpage for translated versions of the flier below.
Oak Hill Ribbon Cutting
Hispanic Heritage Month
September 15th - October 15th is National Hispanic Heritage Month. Hispanic Heritage Month is an annual celebration of the history and culture of the U.S. Latinx and Hispanic communities. NPS faculty and staff will take this opportunity to highlight how those communities have influenced and contributed to American society at large. See below for one way in which our libraries are celebrating this month.
Instead of mailing home MCAS Parent/Guardian reports this year, the district will post the scores to Aspen via the Family Access Portal. Scores will be posted by Monday, October 4, 2021.
As a reminder, state tests are just one of many ways that we measure student progress. We have multiple district assessments that we use to understand your student’s progress and the success of our district’s academic program. The best way to understand your student’s progress is to check in with their teacher.
Middle and High School Families: Chromebook Repair Fund
Update Student Information in Aspen
Thank you to the families who have already logged into Aspen to update your contact information and complete required yearly forms. It is important that your contact information is updated and your permission preferences (student directory, photo releases) are documented for the 2021-22 school year.
If you have not completed the forms, we encourage you to take this step as soon as possible. Here are the Instructions for Updating Student/Family Information in Aspen. If you are having trouble logging into Aspen, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
WALK - ROLL - BIKE - BUS - October 6, 2021
Newton will celebrate International Walk to School Day on Wednesday, October 6. Will you walk, roll, bike or bus this year? Choose what works for your family to celebrate International Walk to School Day this year! Held annually, this event joins together students from over 40 countries. Visit www.NewtonSafeRoutes.org for more information about walking, rolling, biking and taking the bus.
Bus Registration is Closed
Bus registration is closed. If you need bus transportation, please contact the Newton Public Schools Transportation Department at 617-559-9051 or email@example.com.
We continue to work closely with our food service partner to address your concerns and questions about meal quality in all of our schools. We are working to address these challenges as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible.
Please review answers to the questions we have received most frequently on this webpage: NPS Food Service Webpage.
We do have a very real need for additional food service workers, employed by Whitsons directly, or lunch monitors, employed by Newton Public Schools. If interested yourself or if you know someone who might be interested, please apply on the district website at https://www.newton.k12.ma.us/domain/62.
Be sure to access your school’s monthly meals menu here: www.fdmealplanner.com.
Elementary Job Openings
Our elementary schools have openings for the positions listed below. More information is available on the NPS webpage. You may also contact your school principal for more information.
Full time positions:
Special education aides (30-35 hours/week)
Behavior Therapists (30-35 hours/week)
Part time positions
Elementary Lunch Attendant/Monitor (10-16 hours/week)
Instructional Support Staff (1-3 days/week)
Literacy aides (6-19 hours/week)
Math aides (6-10 hours/week)