Superintendent Weekly Update

March 25, 2021

Dear Mohawk Trail & Hawlemont Families,

It's officially spring! We've made it through the harsh winter months and during a pandemic, nonetheless! In thinking about how quickly this month has flown by, and as we continue planning for a return of all students to our physical classrooms, I wanted to pause for a moment and reflect.

The past year has been filled with challenges, but it's also been filled with hope, resiliency, and dedication by our students, staff, families, and communities to make our districts the best they can be and MORE. Like the season ahead of us, the days ahead will be filled with more light... growth... and the promise of great things to bloom. We've made it to this point because we've come through this *together* and as your superintendent, that makes me so proud to be part of this district. I truly mean it when I say, THANK YOU for making Mohawk Trail & Hawlemont great places to learn and grow.

As we head into a month filled with new routines and schedules, I ask that you remember to be kind to yourself and have patience. For some, returning to the classroom will be a new experience this year and there may be some nerves along with it. For others staying remote, they may feel more disconnected as their peers head into the physical classroom while they remain learning at home. Whatever your situation may be, remember that your school community is here to support you; so don't hesitate to reach out to us (your building principal, teachers, our district staff)!

With that said... here's what's happening!

* Return to Learn Updates / Elementary and MTRS

* BSE Ventilation Repair Updates

* COVID-19 School Planning Task Force Update

* School Committee Meeting, April 14

* MTRS Eighth Grade Students Selected to Participate in Project 351

* School Spotlight: Colrain Central School

MTRSD Return to Learn Updates / Elementary & MTRS

Our elementary schools are gearing up for a full in-person return for all students starting April 5 and we look forward to seeing our students back in the physical classroom! Last week we asked caregivers to be in contact with their building principals ASAP to share their child/ren's plans for attending school for the remainder of the year. One final reminder for both elementary and MTRS families, if you have not yet indicated how your child/ren will participate in learning for the rest of the school year, PLEASE contact your building principal immediately. Getting an accurate count of our in-person and remote classrooms is critical for our final planning and preparations.

Additionally, we continue to plan for our 7-12 Return to Learn Phase III at Mohawk Trail Regional School but still do not have updated information or clarification from the Department of Secondary or Elementary Education regarding the full in-person return date. Right now, we're making our plans in anticipation of a possible return toward the end of April / early May. Again, no dates have yet been released by DESE and will share what we hear soon as learn more!

As we plan for an in-person return at Mohawk Trail Regional School, please SAVE THE DATE for an upcoming Virtual Town Hall anticipated for Thursday, April 8. More details to come - so stay tuned! As with our elementary virtual town hall, the event will be broadcast via Facebook LIVE and live streaming via Vimeo at

Food Service Co-Directors Distribute Free Lunches

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Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School Ventilation Updates

In preparation for our Return to Learn, ventilation repair work continues at Buckland-Shelburne Elementary. On March 15, we received Jamrog's updated air test reports indicating several rooms in the older wing of the building still need of ventilation adjustments and/or repairs.

What does this mean? Essentially, this means these rooms do not meet the air exchange rates solely using our HVAC units without additional mitigation strategies. To address these ventilation air exchange rate issues, we looked closely at each room. In several rooms obstructions to the vent panels prevented accurate readings. Removing these obstructions and retesting should provide us with more accurate results.

In the interim, we continue to use HEPA air filtration units in all rooms that didn't meet the air exchange in addition to opening windows to meet the appropriate air exchange rates. We will also continue to utilize outdoor learning time for fresh air as much as possible during our school days. These strategies, combined with the additional mitigation strategies in place for our school buildings (following the FAB FOUR, increasing our sanitizing/cleaning, etc.), continue to help keep our students and staff safe in our classrooms.

Our next steps: We anticipate our engineer from Hensor will complete a new air change analysis within the next two weeks. Pending results from the new test results, we can make decisions regarding any potential/further repairs. Updated reports, once available, will be posted our COVID-19 information page:

Once received, final test results will be shared with our local Board of Health, who oversee and make decisions regarding the safety of our public buildings. And, as always, I will continue to provide you with updates as they develop.

COVID-19 School Planning Task Force Update

The COVID-19 School Planning Task Force met today (Thursday) to discuss this week's state, county, and district COVID-19 caseload. While numbers in our region and district remain quite low, this is a good reminder to us all that we MUST stay vigilant in our efforts to follow our FAB FOUR. With warmer weather upon us and the promises that spring brings, now is NOT the time to ease-up on all the hard work we've done to keep our communities safe.

Following the FAB FOUR in combination of all the mitigating strategies we have in place will help to keep our students, staff, and community healthy and safe.

Additionally, our District Nurse Leader Donna Weber has been working very hard with our community partners at the Franklin County Sheriff's Office and FRCOG to arrange for our district staff's second-dose COVID-19 vaccine clinic. We anticipate the next staff clinic will be held around April 12. If you have any COVID-19-related questions, please don't hesitate to contact Donna ( or reach out directly to our partners at FRCOG, (413) 774-3167, ext. 153.

Practice your FAB FOUR!

A critical reason why our Franklin County COVID-19 caseload remained low is because of YOUR dedication to the FAB FOUR! These four small steps help to keep us healthy and safe!

Wear your mask; wash your hands; practice physical distancing; and stay home when you are unwell!

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The Mohawk Trail Regional School's Trailblazer Model has several key areas which impact student experiences both directly and indirectly--from innovative, hands-on collaborative learning; co-teaching and our advisory program; to putting our educators in the driver's seat for decision-making at the school through a distributive leadership model!

What is distributive leadership?

It's a fundamental shift in how we think about leading change in our school--allowing our educators the space to create change; lead; and collaboratively have their voices heard regarding school policies, programs, and initiatives.

As a result, the school has several working groups that oversee key pieces of the Trailblazer model including an advisory task force, equity task force, instructional leadership team, portfolio task force, and Mass IDEAS team. In addition to these internal work-groups, the school offers several workgroup opportunities for school staff, students, families, and community member involvement including a community equity group, principal's advisory cabinet, schedule committee, and trailblazer community group

What do staff think about distributive leadership?

Recent staff surveys at MTRS indicated that approximately 87% of respondents felt the distributive leadership model helped educators to feel "empowered to make changes at our school."

"I feel a strong sense of ownership over what's happening at the school and I believe that many of my colleagues are equal contributors to the school that we're trying to create."

--Classroom teacher & task force participant

How does this impact MTRS students?

Providing our educators, students, and community with the opportunity to create change is powerful! And listening to our educators and students' needs is important. The distributive leadership model allows MTRS to deliver instruction and programming that is valuable and relevant. Our students directly benefit from the collaborative efforts by our stakeholders who continually push our school forward. Listening to our workgroups, programs like the new advisory model at MTRS this year are a direct result of initiatives that are put forward, thoughtfully planned, and implemented to benefit our students.

Last fall, MTRS was showcased by Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) for our distributive leadership work. Read the article HERE. The MTRS Mass IDEAS team also led a virtual convening last month for the other Mass IDEAS grant recipients across the state focused specifically on distributive leadership. The school has been highlighted for their work with distributive leadership and its impact on school culture.

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MTRS Eighth Grade Students Selected to Participate in Project 351

Eight students at Mohawk Trail Regional School (MTRS) have been selected to represent their towns as a 2021 Project 351 Ambassador: Logan Moore, Ashfield; Isabelle Pettengil, Buckland; Makayla Tatro, Charlemont; Palmer King, Colrain; Chayim Mojallali, Hawley; Owen Heilman, Heath; Grady Patenaude, of Plainfield; and Adrian Grant, Shelburne.

These students join eighth graders representing the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns for a transformational year of youth-led service, leadership development, and civic engagement. Since its founding in 2011, approximately 4,122 eighth graders have developed the courage and skills to lead change as ambassadors. This year, these young leaders will surpass more than one million neighbors positively impacted through their service.

According to Taffy Ruggeri, MTRS school counselor for grades seven through nine, student ambassadors were selected by their teachers based on their leadership qualities and potential for helping others through service.

“These students encompass characteristics of responsibility, enthusiasm, inclusivity, and kindness,” she said.

Ambassadors are currently engaged in a four-week Service Leadership Academy to build the knowledge and skills to lead and serve. Highlights include a Community Meeting with First Lady Lauren Baker and anti-bias, anti-discrimination training through the Playbook Initiative, a partnership with the Boston Celtics.

“Project 351 kicks-off our second decade inspired by the compassionate leadership of more than 365 unsung heroes and quiet leaders. At this time of critical community need and increased polarization, Ambassadors’ demonstrate the extraordinary impact realized when we unite in common cause,” said Carolyn Casey, executive director and founder of Project 351.

On Sunday, March 7, ambassadors celebrated the official start of their service year at a virtual “launch” featuring remarks from Governor Charlie Baker and honoring the legacy of Civil Rights hero and Congressman John Lewis. This launch marks the start of ten months of community-building and transformational service in support of high-impact nonprofit partners including Cradles to Crayons; Hope & Comfort; Wonderfund; and hundreds of food pantries across the state.

Presentation of 2021 Superintendent's Award

2021 Superintendent's Award - Amelie Rowehl


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MTRS to Live Stream HOME volleyball games on Vimeo

COVID-19 can't stop us from cheering on our home team! The MTRS Athletics department will be live streaming the HOME games on our district's Vimeo channel


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School Spotlight: Colrain Central School

Colrain Central School's fifth graders continue to do the good work of community reporting with their online newspaper the North River News. With growing popularity, the paper has moved from a bi-weekly to a weekly format encompassing a wide variety of topics by our young journalists. From story ideas to the creative content itself, the paper is completely student-driven.

According to teacher Melissa Norwood, the class is currently working on establishing the paper's masthead and discussing the future of the publication (passing it on to the next class or carrying it with them into sixth grade). Decisions. Discussions. Brainstorming. Collaboration. These are all important aspects of this hands-on learning opportunity that is completely driven by our students.

Miss the latest edition? You can always visit Colrain Central School's Facebook page or website for a link to the latest edition to the North River News.

Keep up the great work, fifth grade! Who knows, maybe we'll have some guest columnists here in the future!

North River News

Colrain Central School Fifth Grade Newspaper

Colrain Central Fourth Graders Conduct Science Experiments

Using the power of the spring sunshine, fourth-graders headed outside to conduct solar panel science experiments. In this clip, Kayden shares observations on how the panel works. GREAT observation, Kayden! Head over to the Colrain Central School Facebook page for additional observation clips and pictures from their experiments!
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Thanks for all you do to make Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont School Districts GREAT places to learn and grow!