December 8, 2021
Dear NPS families,
Last week, I was asked about what positive developments we are seeing in schools this year that did not exist prior to the pandemic. One of the things that comes to mind is the facile ways in which our educators and students are using technology. Just this week, a fourth grade teacher told me that her students entered the school year with technology skills that she could never have imagined. It has been exciting to see all of our educators and students building on the technology skills that they thoughtfully developed and demonstrated over the past year.
Whenever I discuss the value of technology, I immediately preface my remarks with the caveat that there is no substitute for face-to-face learning. It is one of the many lessons that we have learned over the course of the pandemic. However, equitable access to a device has provided our educators with a whole new range of tools to use with students. As some of you will recall, prior to the pandemic, the only students in our district who had regular access to technology were our high school students. This year, all students in our district in grades K-12 have regular access to a dedicated device. The availability of rich online curriculum resources in a range of subject areas provides our educators with many more options to determine the best vehicle to meet the learning goals of their particular lesson.
For example, our students are deepening their understanding of math concepts through the use of ST Math at the elementary level and Desmos 6-8 Math curriculum in Grades 6 to 8. Desmos is a blend of paper and technology, providing learning experiences that are dynamic and interactive while also allowing for creativity and collaboration. Parents of elementary students may now be familiar with Ji-Ji, the penguin mascot in ST Math, who has captivated our students and motivated them to help Ji-Ji cross the screen by solving challenging puzzles. (Ji-Ji is pictured above!)
As we proceed, our collective challenge is to determine the most effective uses of technology in a range of curriculum areas and to decide when technology is the most effective medium to maximize student learning and engagement. In many cases, our educators have the capacity to give students more choices, which is a positive development. While the work is challenging, we are fortunate to have an excellent team of instructional technology specialists at all levels that partner with our teachers to experiment, pilot and implement. I look forward to continuing the exploration of how technology can enhance the student learning experience.
COVID Health and Safety Updates
The NPS Medical Advisory Group met on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 to evaluate current data and provide recommendations on current health and safety protocols. Below you will find links to their most recent recommendation, as well as the updated health and safety plan.
Medical Advisory Group Recommendation - November 9, 2021 (presented December 6, 2021) (link)
Presentation to the School Committee is here: School Committee Health and Safety Update - December 2021 (link)
Updated health and safety plan is here: Back to School Health and Safety Plan - Updated December 2021 (link)
Winter weather is upon us as we expect a bit of snow this week! Here is a quick reminder of our snow day notification procedures.
To receive text messages, you must opt-in. To opt-in, please login to Aspen, navigate to the contact information section, and select “yes” for SMS messages in the drop-down box below your cell phone number.
Following a storm, many of our students will continue to walk to school. We have collaborated with Newton DPW to create maps showing sidewalks that will be plowed, ensuring safe routes to school. Please access the maps here.
For more detailed information on school operations in winter weather, please visit our webpage here: https://www.newton.k12.ma.us/weather (link)
Please see an important message from the City of Newton below:
The Department of Public Works and Parks, Recreation, and Culture have worked diligently to improve our snow removal operations and response time. However, we anticipate the combination of the supply chain issues and especially the driver shortage to increase the amount of time it takes us to clear streets, sidewalks, and parking lots. In the event of a winter storm, the Departments of Public Works and Parks, Recreation and Culture will make every effort to clear the streets, sidewalks, school bus stops, and school parking lots for students and teachers before the school day starts. Please know that depending on the storm there may be more times that school openings will be delayed or school will be canceled.
School Calendar for the 2022-23 School Year
Inclusive Schools Week - December 6-10
Inclusive Schools Week is an annual event sponsored by the Inclusive Schools Network (ISN) and Stetson & Associates, Inc., which is held each year during the first full week in December. Since its inception in 2001, Inclusive Schools Week has celebrated the progress that schools have made in providing a supportive and quality education to an increasingly diverse student population, including students who are marginalized due to disability, gender, socio-economic status, cultural heritage, language preference, and other factors. The week also provides an important opportunity for educators, students and parents to discuss what else needs to be done in order to ensure that their schools continue to improve their ability to successfully educate all children.
Newton South International Host Families Needed!
As part of NPS’ continuing commitment to global education, each year international students apply to attend Newton South. For the past 7 years, these dynamic international students have engaged the community and formed relationships that go well beyond the school building.
Local host families are needed beginning in January 2022. Educatius Group, NPS’ corporate partner in this initiative, encourages all families to apply to become a host family – families with young children, no children, and/or high school age children.
The following resources are provided to host families:
1. A generous monthly stipend paid to all host families
2. An orientation program for the international students and host families
3. Host family and student support, available twenty-four hours a day
1. Are fully insured
2. Are between ages 14 – 18
3. Have their own spending money
4. Speak English
5. Maintain strong GPA
If you are interested in providing a culturally enriching experience for your family, our international guests, and the students at South, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text her at 508-246-7028.
News from our Schools!
Horace Mann Elementary
Horace Mann students recently participated in a school-wide Read-a-Thon to encourage independent reading and raise funds for the school. Students set a goal to log 100,000 minutes of combined reading time across the school in just three short weeks - ambitious! If students achieved the goal, Principal Nardelli promised them a surprise reward. Well, the students exceeded their goal and Principal Nardelli delivered on his promise. Here he is greeting students at the bus last week as the Horace Mann Hawk. Congrats to all Horace Mann students!
Just before Thanksgiving, the Kindergarteners at Memorial-Spaulding held a gratitude parade. What a great way to show kindness and caring!
Brown Middle School
Beginning this week, Brown Middle School counselors are providing students with a workshop on Stress Management. They are beginning with eighth graders and will then present the same information to seventh and sixth graders later this year. Students will learn what anxiety is and how the brain works when you become stressed. They will also learn techniques for calming themselves when they feel overly stressed. This is an incredibly valuable program given the stress students have experienced over the past two years.
Newton North High School
A real benefit from the new high school schedule is the opportunity for students to attend “virtual” college visits during the WIN (What I Need) blocks. For Fall 2021, more than 60 college admissions representatives have already “visited” Newton North during each WIN block. Every Monday, students from our junior and senior classes have the opportunity to sign up for these “College Visit Zooms” in Advisory.
So far, more than 860 students attend these visits and North counseling staff is thrilled that so many students have been eager to take advantage of these opportunities. The pandemic has made physically visiting colleges a challenge for many students, so these “visits” have been really important for helping students gauge their interest in a particular school and determine if it might be a good fit for them. North staff look forward to continuing to be creative in staying connected with colleges virtually. A complete listing of the "College Visit Zooms" can be found HERE.