NPS District News

March 31, 2021

Message from the Superintendent

While the pandemic has presented significant challenges to address and overcome, it has also offered opportunities for us as a district. Tomorrow evening, I will share my FY22 budget with the community and describe specific plans as we look forward to the next school year.


I believe this budget provides us with the resources necessary for a successful return to our buildings and the capacity to provide a full-range of academic and social and emotional support to our students. Our collective challenge is to build upon some of the valuable lessons we have learned over the past year while returning to many of the school structures and routines that we so cherish.


Below you will find information on a few of the areas we are evaluating, learning from, and planning for in the short and longer term. More information will be shared at School Committee meetings in the coming weeks.


As always, we hope you find this newsletter useful. Please provide feedback or comments to: community@newton.k12.ma.us


Sincerely,

David Fleishman

COVID-19 Testing

As NPS prepares for a full in-person return to school for students at all levels, we STRONGLY ENCOURAGE families to enroll their student (s) in our COVID-19 testing program. Testing is one of the best ways we have to quickly identify infection and reduce the possibility of in school transmission.


Here are 3 reasons to enroll:


  1. It’s easy! Complete the opt-in in Aspen (here’s the link!) High school students then create an account at JCM (do it here!) for access to a QR code they use to check in their sample. Pre-K - 8th grade students will receive their QR code from school staff.

  2. It’s painless! This is NOT the “touch your brain” swab! This is a sample taken from the front of your nose with a Q-tip like swab. It’s super-fast and painless.

  3. It makes a difference! The more students who participate, the better data we have on infection rates in our community. This means we can quickly identify infection, reduce the risk of in school transmission, limit quarantines, and keep our schools, athletics and other important activities open for the rest of the year!.


PLEASE NOTE: You must log into Aspen to sign the consent form. This is NOT the testing/consent form you signed through Project Beacon for the rapid test.


We ask all families to strongly consider enrolling your student today. Thanks in advance for doing your part to keep our schools safer.

Start and End Times K-12 and High School Schedule

For the past several years, NPS has been exploring the adjustment of high school start times to support more developmentally appropriate start times for adolescents. The exploration sought to limit any negative impact to start times at the elementary and middle school levels - a significant challenge given that start and end times at all levels are intertwined due to a tiered bussing system. At the same time, we developed a new high school schedule to facilitate a change in times and to support strong instructional practices in our high schools.


Because of the pandemic, the district had the unique need and opportunity to adjust both the start time and the schedule at the high schools. The positive experience this year has created additional support for the implementation of adjusted school start times and the new high school schedule. We plan to share specific proposals with the School Committee at our meeting on April 12th and will continue to work with our planning team and NTA partners to prepare for possible adjustments. Background information can be found on our Fall Planning webpage and our High School Start Time webpage.

Middle and High School Grading System

Last week, our middle and high school families received a survey asking for feedback on the adapted grading policy that was implemented this year in response to the pandemic. While this change was prompted by the pandemic, the district had been thinking deeply about grading for the past several years given the impact of grades on the mental health and stress levels of our students.


PLEASE NOTE: We are in the beginning stages of a process to review and evaluate our current grading system. We will continue to use the pre-pandemic grading systems (A,B,C,D,F) next year. Below you will find background information on the process, timeline, and anticipated next steps.


Based on lessons learned from this year's grading system, the ongoing impact of the pandemic, and our collective learning about equitable grading practices, the district has formed a 6-12 grading working group, which includes representatives from all six secondary schools, as well as the assistant superintendent for secondary education and our director of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Each discipline and grade level is represented by individuals from the six schools. Over the course of this year and next, we will examine the issue of grading through the lens of our district values of social-emotional health and equity.


The work of the group includes reviewing scholarly research on the impact of grading policies on students’ social and emotional well-being as well as their learning and academic achievement It also reviews the impact on students with disabilities, students of color and those of varied economic status. At the core of this work is gathering feedback from faculty, staff, students, families, college admissions, and other stakeholders on their experience and the possible impact of any change. The survey families received last week was the beginning of this effort to understand the family experience and point of view.


An update on this work will be shared at the School Committee meeting on April 12th and will be shared with families in upcoming newsletters.

Transportation

Elementary Bus Passes

New and updated bus passes have been uploaded to Aspen. If you are a current bus rider, your seat assignment has changed. Please log in and download a new pass. If you are new to the bus, login and download your pass (find instructions on this page.) No students are permitted on the bus without a bus pass.


Middle and High School Bus Passes

Bus registration for middle and high school is now open. If you are NOT a current rider and wish to take the bus, log into our online registration system here: MySchoolBucks bus registration link. Current riders who wish to cancel their pass should have received an email with a cancellation form. All riders will be required to download a new pass on April 12th as seat assignments will change.


Other great ways to arrive at school: Walking, Biking, and Cycling!

As we plan for a full return to school, we know there will be increased traffic at our schools. To help mitigate traffic congestion and improve safety, our Safe Routes to School Teams have been working hard to identify safe and efficient ways for students to walk and bike to school. They have even identified spots for families to park a few blocks away from the school building and walk the rest of the way. We do ask families who are driving to review the Blue Zone rules.


Below are links to information and resources available on the NPS website:


Walking and Biking: https://www.newton.k12.ma.us/Page/3320


Safety Information and Maps: https://www.newton.k12.ma.us/Page/3426


Safe Routes to Schools website: https://sites.google.com/view/newtonsaferoutes

School Committee

Over the next two week, the School Committee will hear the FY22 budget. Below is the schedule:


Thursday, April 1st

Superintendent Presentation of FY22 Budget (presentation recorded and posted to School Committee page on district website


Monday, April 5th

Special SC Meeting on FY22 budget (no public comment) - 7:00 p.m. (Zoom login information here.)


Thursday, April 8th

Special SC Meeting on FY22 budget (no public comment) - 7:00 p.m. (Zoom login information here.)


Monday, April 12th

Public Hearing on the FY22 budget - 6:00 p.m. (Zoom login information here.)

Preschool Screenings

The Newton Public Schools is conducting preschool screenings for children ages 3 to 5 years old in an effort to identify children who may have a disability and are in need of special education support. It is designed to review a child’s development and assist in the identification of children who should be referred for further evaluation to determine eligibility for special education services. This is a free and optional service for Newton residents only. The screenings will be conducted throughout the remainder of the 2020-21 school year on the last Thursday of each month. If you have questions or concerns regarding your child's development and would like to have your child screened, please contact Trish Szoke, NECP Assistant Director, at (617) 559-6050 to schedule an appointment.

S.P.A.C.E. Camp registration is now open!

S.P.A.C.E. Camp (Summer Program for Academic and Creative Endeavors) will be held July 6th - July 29th. Full and half day options are available. Camp will be held at F.A. Day Middle School, 21 Minot Place, Newtonville.


S.P.A.C.E. is a four week enrichment program run through the Newton Public Schools specifically designed to enable campers to explore, learn, and connect with their peers under the guidance of highly qualified educators. Two programs are offered - an upper school program (campers entering grades 5- 9) and a lower school program (campers entering kindergarten-grade 4). Campers will be engaged in music, arts, STEM, performing arts, project based learning, sports, language arts and more!


Please visit the website to learn more: https://sites.google.com/abschools.org/space-camp/home Email with questions: SPACE@newton.k12.ma.us

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