September 20, 2020 - Please read to the end!

Dear Dawson Community,

I hope that everyone is enjoying the cool, crisp fall air! Great night for a fire and awesome to have Patriot Sunday Football back.

I want to thank the entire Dawson Community for working together to get started this week. Provided the challenges inherent in starting the year remotely, everyone in the community (students, teachers, parents, and administrators) have had to work harder than ever. I am awed in many ways by the ability of our staff to adapt to remote learning. The time and energy that putting together lessons, and structuring a day for elementary students in this fashion are not easy at all (Ask a teacher and they'll tell you!). That said, our staff was awesome and they loved seeing their students and being together again. Of course, as a staff, we also understand that being a parent in this environment is just as challenging, especially if you are managing multiple school-age children and working as well. As I have said many times over the last month to anyone I have talked to, this is really hard, for everyone.

I have been involved in opening schools for over twenty- eight years as a classroom teacher and the last ten years as an administrator. The beginning of the school year is always a time of transition and challenge. Typically, the issues we face are related to transportation, schedule changes, student interaction concerns, separation anxiety, and various other items (lunch seating, bathroom usage, etc). All the while classroom teachers and staff are building routines, making changes to schedules, trying things out, and seeing what works well and what doesn't with students/ classes.

This year, these challenges have been replaced by microphone issues, connectivity concerns, link confusion (which link?), Seesaw?/ Google? Zoom?, confusion regarding live vs. off-screen learning, etc. Collectively, as a staff, we have an enormous amount of experience dealing with the more 'typical' aspects involved in opening the school year. This year, we are all navigating these 'new' challenges together for the first time - many veteran teachers stating that it is like their first year teaching again.

Even during a typical year, it takes a solid ten-to-fourteen days for routines to build and for the school day to begin to feel more organized and cohesive. This year it may take even longer than that. We are asking staff to build community, introduce routines, solidify routines, 'be there' for students and integrate new technology skills. All the while, we are asking staff to simultaneously make sure that they are present for students and involved, all the while making sure that they are not having students on-screen for 'too long'. The work of a teacher is challenging when students are in the classroom, and it certainly is more challenging when students are on the other side of a computer screen with all the other variables previously mentioned involved.

Moving forward, I continue to ask that our staff and students be provided with the opportunity to adapt and grow. In my ' virtual principal question and answers' before the year, and alternatively, in many phone conversations I have had with families, as well as in my community updates, I have talked openly about the need for us to 'get started' so we can find out what works, what doesn't, solicit feedback and make changes and alterations as we move forward. Keeping in mind that all families experiences are not the same, provided differences in the developmental age and/ or needs of individual children, the number of children in the home, child care, adult support available, technology skill, and/ or many, many other variables that may impact upon a remote learning situation. These variables will continue to be a part of our experience during remote learning (and as we move into hybrid).

Ultimately, we are in this together. And while we all would prefer the situation be different, as a community, I believe it is vital that we share a fundamental understanding that our teachers (staff), parents, and students are doing their best day-to-day to make remote school as successful as possible. I have asked that our teachers continue to seek out ways to communicate with families and solicit feedback to support our ability to adapt and meet student/ family needs. We want to find success now so that when we do return to 'normal' school, we can feel assured that our students are in a position to move forward with the confidence that the adults around them managed this time period as well as possible. Kindness, grace, communication and a willingness to mutually partner with one another will always lead to improved outcomes, even if not perfect.

I appreciate and love our community and feel a deep sense of commitment to what being a 'Dolphin' represents. This situation will continue to test our resolve. That said, facing and overcoming a challenge is what ultimately builds character and forces as to grow as individuals.


Melissa Wallace, Principal

Important Dates:

  • September 24, 2020, at 7:00 pm- Dawson Virtual Parent Coffee - Questions and Answers - Remote Learning

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 770 9923 1495

Passcode: 6e89pP

Remote Learning Reminders:

• Log on 2-3 minutes before your meeting time - Please tell your child not to log back into the classroom until the correct time as the teacher maybe not be on and we want to make sure all students are in a SAFE learning environment.

• Set up your student in a well-lit area away from noise and distractions - please review with your child not to travel anywhere with the device ( bathroom, outside, etc)

• The ideal area is:

-a table & chair, facing away from televisions/electronics

-a room separate from where the family business is occurring (not in a busy area)

- please do not have your child lying on a bed during remote learning.

- please make sure all family members are wearing appropriate clothing.

• Make sure your student is wearing appropriate clothing and is comfortable. Just like we are in school.

• Minimize the need for breaks and maximize learning time by having your child eat prior to the meeting, sit with a cup of water to drink, and have them use the restroom beforehand - again remind your child not to bring the device into the bathroom.

• You are welcome to sit beside your child to support them. Help them, and their teacher, by keeping your child seated, keeping the camera stabilized, and reminding them to follow directions. Please do not give them answers to questions or worry about their performance.

They are here to learn and are not expected to answer everything correctly. Also - please refrain from asking your teacher questions during learning time. You can email them with your questions.

• If the connection is spotty, or in the event of technical difficulties, please

exit the meeting and try to reload the page.

Rules of the Digital Classroom: Proper Etiquette for Online Learning
A Parent's Guide to Distance Learning | Surviving the Virtual Classroom

Work Packets

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Moving forward, many grade levels are planning on having supplemental packets available for students (your teacher will communicate this to you). We have black and yellow bins labeled by grades outside of Dawson.

When picking up materials, please make sure to wear a mask and follow social distancing expectations. We also ask that groups to not congregate in the front of the building. . Thank you!!


I have received some questions related to the email that went out on Friday afternoon regarding Remote/ Hybrid. I will provide more information regarding this after the school committee meeting and our leadership team meeting this week. At this time, I do not have the answers, and I apologize for that!!!!


The volume of emails/ calls/ etc. continues to be high, so if I missed your call/ email after a day or two, please feel free to 'remind' me. It is not intentional! I mention it not as an excuse, but only so everyone is aware that I am trying. Thank you!

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I often reflect on this rock that I found at the Clinton Reservoir a few years back. I have it on my desk so when I am worried, sad, or even angry it grounds me to remember to always be kind and understanding.

This year, I think we need some kindness! If any family/ student has a positive item/ picture or story that they would like shared with our community... I'd like to help.

Cognitively, we all know that social media/ news is filled with negativity and stories that represent the worst things that happen around us. All the while, many awesome accomplishments/ positive stories and generally beautiful and kind things that are happening around us are often ignored. Well... we have the power at Dawson to change that if we so choose.

A couple of ways to share kindness about the Dawson Community :

The first option for our social media users... Combine the hashtag #OnceADawsonAlwaysADawson with #DawsonisKind or post to the Dawson Facebook wall (https://www.facebook.com/holden.dawson.986)! Get those stories out there.


The second option for anyone in the community. Send me an email message with a story/ picture that represents the concept of #DawsonisKind. I'll keep an electronic file and share it in a future update!

It may not work, but I'd like to give it a try and offer to be a conduit to spread the message of celebrating positive moments with KINDNESS.