Gill-Montague District News

"Challenging and Supporting Every Student"

Student Support Updates May 1, 2020

School Lunch Hero Day is May 1st!

Governor Baker has proclaimed May 1, 2020 as School Lunch Hero Day. As a tribute to all school nutrition professionals in the Commonwealth, many of whom have helped schools distribute grab-and-go meals and home delivered meals during the COVID-19 pandemic, DESE will host a virtual celebration at 3:00 p.m. Friday, May 1. School nutrition directors received videoconference details in a separate communication. More information on School Lunch Hero Day nationally is available online.

On another note:

Children's book author Jarrett Krosoczka shares the origins of the Lunch Lady graphic novel series, in which undercover school heroes serve lunch...and justice! His new project, School Lunch Hero Day, reveals how cafeteria lunch staff provide more than food, and illustrates how powerful a thank you can be.

Many, many thanks to our GMRSD food services staff for all that they do! Put simply, you are truly difference makers each and every day in our schools and are making the lives of our students and families a little easier during these challenging times.

School Offices are Open Remotely 9:00-12:00

Our school offices are open remotely from 9:00 am to noon each week day. We appreciate that families need to be able to send communications.


Hello GMRSD Families!

Last week I attended a virtual online video conference that focused on parenting kids during this quarantine, and it was chock full of information! One of the areas covered was about mental health. Most of us and our kids are experiencing anxiety these days, which is a normal, and indeed, a protective reaction to what’s going on. But when a person starts to feel anxious about feeling anxious, it can be overwhelming.

As parents and caregivers, it’s really important to let our children and teens know that we’re there for them, to support them and to listen to them without judgment. This can come in the form of frequent, short conversations, which are often easier to have and also a steady reminder of your support. And don’t worry if you don’t get an immediate reaction: kids – especially teens – won’t always respond with appreciation, but they do hear you, and that’s really important!

If you notice that your child’s regular behavior changes in a negative way, pay attention. It can be in the form of withdrawing to their room for long periods of time, not talking at all, or talking about only negative things, putting themselves down, a change in eating patterns, etc. Follow your gut feelings; it may be time to seek help. Here are some resources:

Your child’s school counselor may be a good start. You can find them and their email address on the school website.

Contact one of our local behavior health agencies:

CSO 413-774-1000
BHN 413-737-2439
CHD 413-733-6624
ServiceNet 413-585-1300

Or you can contact me, and together we can discuss the best plan for your family.

Remember, you are not alone!

Stacey Langknecht

Family Engagement Coordinator


Get Connected to Family Support News in Our Community

This weekly e-newsletter is a collaborative effort by four local coalitions – Greenfield 4SC, Gill-Montague Community School Partnership, Communities that Care, and the North Quabbin Community Coalition, with support from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments.

Click here for the Latest news from the 4-SC & Partnership

Seal of Biliteracy

Attention Class of 2020! You have the opportunity to earn the MA Seal of Biliteracy, which recognizes students who can speak, listen, read, and write in English and a language other than English. By offering the Seal of Biliteracy, we hope to honor the bilingual student community of the Gill-Montague Regional School District and encourage more students to pursue bilingualism.

The purposes of the State Seal of Biliteracy are to:

  • Encourage students to study and master languages;
  • Certify attainment of biliteracy skills;
  • Recognize the value of language diversity;
  • Provide employers with a method of identifying people with language and biliteracy skills;
  • Provide universities with a method to recognize and give credit to applicants for the attainment of high-level skills in languages;
  • Prepare students with skills that will benefit them in the labor market and the global society; and
  • Strengthen intergroup communication and honor the multiple cultures and languages in the community.

In order to earn the Seal of Biliteracy, students must meet the ELA graduation requirements that include proficient or advanced on the State MCAS assessment, as well as demonstrate proficiency in a partner language, such as Spanish, French, Latin, etc. When a student meets the criteria to be awarded the MA Seal of Biliteracy, an official state insignia is affixed to his/her high school diploma and transcript.

If you are interested, please submit an application (linked here) to Ms. Fortin in guidance via email to by May 10, 2020.

Given school closure and remote learning we will be working out the logistics of administering assessments prior to the third week of May, during the school day, free of charge for any interested seniors.

Tips from Occupational Therapy for At Home Learning

Occupational Therapy, (OT), is a profession which focuses on improving a persons’ ability to perform their “occupation” and daily life/personal skills. In the school setting, a student’s occupation is to be a student and a developing child. To be successful in their classroom they must learn to attend; to use classroom tools (pencil, scissor, glue sticks, keyboard); to participate in games; to work in both groups and independently; and to be as independent as possible in their personal care. The transition to remote learning brings unique challenges for students and families, Below are a few ideas to help your student participate successfully in the learning materials their teachers are providing to them.

The most important thing you can do to help your student be ready for his/her “occupation” is to provide a variety of activities that address all areas of development.


Make time every day for outside time. Large motor play is the foundation for fine-motor and visual skills necessary to succeed in school. Body coordination develops in a progression from first from the trunk; then the arms/legs/neck, and finally the hands/feet/eyes.

Self-Regulation and Sensory Processing

Self-regulation is the ability to control one’s thoughts, emotional responses, actions and level of alertness/attention. It can be influenced by several different factors including sensory processing. Sensory processing is how we process information from the world around us as well as what is going on inside of us to produce an appropriate behavioral response.

Calming Activities

  • Play games that reinforce structure and require waiting/ turn-taking: red light green light, freeze dance, Simon says.
  • Yoga, meditation and belly breathing will help child develop better control of their physical body, thoughts, and emotional states. You can start by sitting still with eyes closed with a slow count of 5.
  • Routines, structure and clear expectations will help your child with self-control. Review any changes to normal routine early.
  • Provide a quiet personal space for your child to calm. Relaxing music, a bean bag chair or soft pillows to burrow in may be helpful.
  • Encourage a variety of play/work positions such as standing, lying on the floor, kneeling.
  • Offer your child a chewy snack to provide organizing sensory input (i.e. Twizzlers, dried fruits, bagels, etc.).
  • “Heavy work” activities (carrying heavy items, push/pull activities, etc.)

Energizing Activities

  • Have your child jump on a mini-trampoline, perform jumping jacks or play hopscotch.
  • Push-ups on the floor or push-ups against the wall.
  • Organized sports activities- running, yoga, karate, gymnastics, bike riding.
  • Climbing on or hanging from playground equipment.
  • Eating crunchy foods (i.e. popcorn, pretzels, carrots, apples, etc.).
  • Play and dance to loud, fast-paced music.
  • Use toys that make noise or light up.

Practice Writing Skills

  • Encourage your child to write about a preferred topic of choice.
  • Help your child make greeting cards for family and friends.
  • Write a grocery list together.
  • Make lists: favorite TV programs, movies, things to pack before a trip.

Writing Reminders

Proper Posture When Writing on a Table Top or using a computer:

  • Feet flat on the floor (A footstool or thick book can be placed under the feet to assist if feet do not reach the floor.) Sit upright in chair.
  • Wrist supported on table. Paper stabilized by non-writing hand.
  • Computer monitor placed at eye level, not on lap or bed.

Letter Formation

  • When printing, prompt your student to use a top down formation: “Start at the top!”
  • Try this routine: You write the letter…Your child writes the letter…You write the letter…Your child writes the letter.


  • Have child use their finger or a Popsicle stick after each word to create an appropriate space before beginning the next word.
  • Use graph paper to give a visual cue for spacing out words and letters.

Letter and word placement

  • Draw a green line along the left margin of the paper and a red line on the right to signal where to “start” and “stop.”
  • If your child has difficulty writing on the line, darken the baseline with a marker.
  • Use a highlighter to indicate where to write between lines.

Attention and Focus

Also refer to the Self-Regulation and Sensory Processing section; strategies may also result in improved attention and ability to focus.

  • Choose a location in the home with minimal distractions when completing structured activities such as homework or studying.
  • Break down instructions into simple 1-2 step directions.
  • Have student repeat directions to reinforce understanding.
  • Use a visual timer to gradually increase attention to a non-preferred activity.
  • Allow your child to take short, intermittent movement breaks.
  • Use a reward chart with stickers or check marks to reinforce positive behaviors.

Dressing and Organization

  • Practice dressing skills through pretend play with dress-up clothes or dolls.
  • Help your child up until the very last step to allow him/her to successfully complete the dressing task. Do less and less as your child can do more and more. For example:
  • Assist with fastening the zipper but allow the child to pull it up.
  • Help your child put each leg into his/her pants but have your child pull his/her pants up independently.
  • Teach your child to locate the tag first to identify the front when putting on shirts or jackets.
  • Have your student gather all needed materials before beginning a task.
  • Use a checklist of the steps in an activity to encourage independence.
  • Designate a spot to keep school supplies and use binders or folders by subject.

For more information on Fine Motor, Visual Motor, and Perceptual Skills please visit our website when signed onto your Google Classroom with the link below:

We look forward to seeing you when we return to school. Linda Gordon, OTR/L 4/30/2020

Guidance for Using G-Suite for Education Tools & Family Help Desk

Dear Families

In addition, to re-sharing these short Youtube* tech help videos we also wanted to let families know we have developed a district "Family Help Desk" as a means of troubleshooting tech challenges that families may experience. As teachers are all working remotely, we ask that you contact your student's teacher first and describe the technology issue you have. Please include your name, student's full name, phone number/email, type of device, and a description of the problem. The teacher will then submit a ticket on your behalf to the family help desk so we can work with you on solving the problem. We are happy to be able to offer this service as we are all adapting to various challenges (including those presented by technology!) of remote learning.

We also encourage families and students to try one or more of these videos. You may find the answer to one of your questions here.

Accessing Google Classroom

Guide to Using Google Meets

Parents and Students Guide to Google Classroom

How to Find Shared Docs, Files, and Folders in Google Drive

How to Create and Insert a Table in Google Docs

Guide to Google Sites-Create Your Own Free Website with Ease

Accessibility Guidance for using Chromebooks

* Please note these videos are posted on Youtube which unfortunately includes advertisements! GMRSD doe not endorse any products presented but wanted to offer the instructional content of the videos as families and students learn to more effectively navigate these technology applications.

Family Play Time! Guidance from our District Physical Therapist

Family play time and family life sure has changed during this time of lockdown due to the Coronavirus! It’s a tough time for our usually busy and active children who are missing out on school activities including all the fun physical activity and movement that goes along with a day at school. Did you know that it is recommended that children between the ages of 5 and 12 get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day. Physical activity can contribute to making kids happier, healthier and more resilient. Physical activity also has a powerful and important impact on learning and academic skills.

So what could be a better time than now, when we are staying at home and respecting social distancing, then to get active?! Active games can provide an important balance between physical and mental health for children and adults. Staying physically active helps the brain cope better with stress and anxiety. This is a perfect opportunity for families to get out and play. Get creative in your own backyard. It is the perfect time for gardening and sprucing up around the house. Rake, sweep, dig and plant some flowers. Turn your backyard or driveway into a game space. Play basketball, kickball, frisbee, throw and catch, chase bubbles. Go for short walks or long walks. Ride a bike. Don’t know how to ride a bike?

Here are two websites to help you teach your children to ride a bike.

1) This video helps a child learn to balance and gain confidence on their bike without pedals:

2) How to Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike. This video gives excellent instructions to help a child take the next steps to riding a bike

Here are some other family fun activities on making obstacle courses both inside and outside and some websites to get you started.

We will never forget these days of the pandemic which have been so powerful and confusing! Hopefully, let’s look back and see the special opportunity we also shared as a family. Enjoy the beautiful spring and don’t forget to dance!


Gina Caputo, MS, PT

Building Language Skills Through Everyday Activities at Home


The resource linked above would be appropriate for early education students in PreK- through First Grade. Older students could also benefit from it, especially the sorting and folding laundry part!!

Additional ideas to promote language development skills include:

Cook and/or bake!

  • Practice sequencing and following directions using recipes.
  • Elicit conversations while preparing the food!
  • Practice organizing while creating shopping lists.

Keep a journal:

  • Have your children practice their written expression skills by documenting activities they have been engaged in since the school closure. Have you gone on any hikes or walks? FaceTime or Google Meets with friends or family? Write about them!

Talk, talk, talk!

  • READ together! Make predictions about what you think might happen in the story. Talk about things you’ve already read.
  • Talk about your day
  • Talk about the weather
  • Talk about movies you watch
  • Have discussions about plans and include your children in those plans!
  • Practice keeping those conversations going!!

**Adapted from Playing With Words 365

Our District Speech & Language Therapists MISS your children! They have been busy conducting telepractice sessions, joining google classrooms, and creating posted activities and lessons to support children's communication skills during this time of remote schooling. If you have concerns or concerns please reach out to them via email found at:

Special Education Update & Family Informational Sessions Offered

Remote Learning Plans:

Our special education teachers, related service providers, and support staff have been hard at work teaching remotely and collaborating with colleagues as we put the finishing touches on student specific remote learning plans (RLP). These plans will be sent out over the next few days articulating special education service delivery approaches, resources, accommodations, instruction, and service delivery times. We encourage families to be in regular contact with the school and if you have any questions about the RLP to please be in contact with your student's liaison.

Would you like to participate in a question and answer virtual conference session about special education and student support topics? If yes, please send an email to Director of Pupil Services, Dianne Ellis at with FAMILY Q & A in the subject line. We will then be in contact with you to offer times in which you can join a virtual session with district administrators to address questions you may have.

We want to offer our continued guidance and support during this time of extended school closure. In working together, we will get though this!

Dianne Ellis

Pupil Services Director

DESE Letter and Family Resource Toolboxes (Second posting)

In case you missed this in our 4.18.20 newsletter...

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has asked that districts distribute the letters linked below to communicate actions taken by the department to support districts, students, and families during this time of school closure. Additionally, the department has published a "family toolkit" in English as well as multiple languages that reflect the diverse language needs of our Commonwealth.

DESE Family Letter in English

DESE Family Letter in Spanish

To access this family letter in other languages please click visit the DESE website

Family Resource Toolbox in English

Family Resource Toolbox in Spanish

To access the family toolbox in other languages please visit the DESE website

Special Education Resources for Families and Teachers

Take the Time to Complete Your Census: it's Important!

We want to take a quick moment to urge families to complete your census if you haven't already! Responding to the census is not only your civic duty; it also affects the amount of funding our community receives, how our community plans for the future, and our representation in government.

Specifically, data from the 2020 Census are used to:

  • Ensure public services and funding for schools, hospitals, and fire departments.
  • Plan new homes and businesses and improve neighborhoods.
  • Determine how many seats your state is allocated in the House of Representatives.

Responding to the Census

The 2020 Census is happening now. You can complete your questionnaire online, by phone, or by mail.

Home and Distant Learning Activities from the US Census Bureau

Public Service Announcement: Celtics Writing and Art Contest

The Boston Celtics and the Arbella Insurance Foundation are challenging K-12 students in Massachusetts to submit an essay of 400 words or less or a work of art about PRIDE (Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Decisions, Education). All entrants will receive a free downloadable poster, and the top 50 submissions will win a basketball signed by members of the Celtics. Submissions are due by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, May 4. More information is available online.

GMRSD Student Services & Family Engagement Department

  • Special education
  • Guidance & School Psychology
  • English Learners
  • Specialty services- OT, PT, speech & language
  • Nursing & health education
  • Home & hospital tutoring
  • Homeless education and more
  • Family Engagement Coordinator

Dianne M. Ellis, Director of Pupil Services