NPS District News
October 13, 2021
Message from the Superintendent
Dear NPS Families,
On Monday night at the School Committee meeting, we will be sharing our preliminary enrollment analysis report for the 2021-22 school year. We publish this report each fall prior to the final submission of our October enrollment data to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The preliminary enrollment analysis report is followed by a five year enrollment analysis report, published in December, which includes projections and the class size report. Past reports can be found on this webpage: https://www.newton.k12.ma.us/Page/3868
As noted in previous enrollment analysis reports, NPS has been projecting a drop in enrollment based on a number of factors. However, like many districts, our enrollment was impacted by the pandemic as families made the best choices possible for their health, work, and family situations. To determine if the degree of the impact on our enrollment was different from others, we have begun to review data from peer districts. As has been widely reported, public school districts across the state experienced an enrollment decline over the past two years, which coincided with the pandemic.
In our analysis, we found that our percentage enrollment decline from pre-pandemic to this fall (2019 vs. 2021) is smaller than that experienced by most of our peer districts. Please see the chart below for reference.
We have noted that the majority of our enrollment reduction was in grades K-2. One of the silver linings of this reduced enrollment is that we have some of the lowest average elementary class size numbers in decades. This is certainly beneficial as we do the academic and social-emotional work necessary to recover from the pandemic.
The final enrollment analysis report will include additional key findings as our excellent data team examines the data on students who exited our district over the past two years. It will also highlight important enrollment trends, which guide both our financial and facilities planning. This report will be shared in December at both a School Committee meeting and on the webpage linked above.
This yearly report is an excellent resource as we plan for the future. I look forward to sharing further information with you later in the year.
Superintendent of Schools
Medical Advisory Group Evaluation
The NPS Medical Advisory Group met on Tuesday, September 28, 2021 to review, discuss, evaluate, and provide recommendations on health and safety protocols in our school buildings. Following the meeting, the group formulated an evaluation of current practices and ideas for moving forward. You can read the evaluation here: Medical Advisory Group Interim Evaluation - October 7, 2021.
Updated COVID Communication Protocol
As was the case last year, it is our commitment to be consistent and transparent with notifications of COVID cases in our school buildings. As we continue to respond to COVID scenarios, we have adjusted our communication protocols to be meaningful and informative. Moving forward, please note the changes outlined below:
Close contacts will continue to be notified by the school nurse and provided appropriate instructions.
Students in a class with a positive case will be notified following the identification of close contacts.
Principals will inform families of the number of cases in the school per week through either the weekly eblast/newsletter or a weekly email. This notification will take the place of the “all school” notification that was previously sent on the same day as the class notification.
To view all communication protocols, please see this document: NPS COVID Communication Protocol.
District Data for COVID Cases and Vaccination
Information on districtwide COVID cases and vaccination rates can be found on the Newton Health and Human Services website here: NPS COVID Case Count and Vaccination Rates. The data dashboard for testing in the Newton Public Schools, similar to the dashboard last year, will be re-launched next week.
What is the process if a “pool” is positive?
NPS has transitioned to a single swab testing protocol to improve testing efficiency. If a pool is positive, a follow up BinaxNOW rapid antigen test is done for all of the individuals in the pool. The rapid test serves to identify the positive individual. The follow up test is done either on the same day or the next day, depending upon when the result of the pool test is known.
Groundbreaking - Newton Early Childhood Program
On Wednesday, October 6, 2021, NPS, together with Mayor Fuller, broke ground on the new Newton Early Childhood Program (NECP.) Opening next year, the new NECP will be located at 687 Watertown St., which was formerly Horace Mann Elementary. We are excited for this new space for our littlest learners and will be sure to keep you updated as construction progresses. To learn more about NECP, visit their website: https://www.newton.k12.ma.us/necp
National Merit Semi-Finalists
Congratulations to the Newton North and the Newton South students for being named National Merit Semi-Finalists. This year, NPS had an unprecedented number of students named as semi-finalists! According to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation(NMSC,) students entered the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2020 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of Semifinalists, representing less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state.
Arts Award for Memorial Spaulding Art Teacher
Congratulations to Alexandra Etscovitz, Memorial Spaulding Elementary art teacher, for her recognition as the Lynn S. Feldman Distinguished Art Educator Advocate. The award, given by the Arts Learning organization, recognizes arts educators, administrators, and policymakers who advocate for and support arts education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Congrats!
Elementary Conferences and Assessments
The fall conference window for elementary conferences is October 25 to November 5. If you have not yet had the opportunity to sign up, you should be hearing from your child's teacher soon.
In addition, as part of our NPS System-Wide Goals for the 2021-2022 School Year, we will be implementing assessment systems in grades K-5 to identify and address students' strengths and needs in literacy development. In addition to the Benchmark Assessment System utilized every year, we have adopted universal literacy screeners at all grade levels. These screeners meet the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Guidelines for Dyslexia Screening and will enable educators to support students using a proactive, preventative model.
We are working closely with Whitsons, our food service partner, to improve the food services in the district this year. Below are a few important notes about the challenges, as well as some action steps we are talking to resolve them:
Statewide Workgroup - Recognizing the ongoing food supply chain issues, including supply and food shortages as well as labor shortages, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has put together a food supply chain workgroup consisting of ten school nutrition directors, DESE staff, and the USDA Northeast Regional staff. While difficult to resolve challenges that are nationwide and global in nature, it is the hope that the workgroup will inform DESE’s ability to provide guidance and support to local districts.
Weekly Meal Planning - Typically, the menu is planned and set for a full month. However, Whitsons may be updating the menu based upon real-time deliveries, which could require changes. Please check the menu on a weekly basis to review what will be offered based upon foods available to serve. The menu can be found here: www.fdmealplanner.com
Food Service Advisory Committee - This committee, formed prior to COVID, will be reconstituted and will reconvene in the coming weeks to enable critical information exchange and program transparency. Prior to the change in operations required by COVID, the Food Service Advisory Committee met monthly to review operations, share information, and learn from feedback shared by and between key stakeholders – students, parents, teachers, school staff, NPS and Whitsons administration, and School Committee. The committee is intended to represent perspectives from across the district. Previous members will be asked and given precedence if they wish to continue on the committee. If interested in serving on this committee, please contact Amy Mistrot, Director of Business Operations, at email@example.com or 617-559-9038 to submit your name for possible participation.
Free Flu Clinics at Newton City Hall
In place of the school-based flu clinics this year, Newton Health and Human Services will be offering two free clinics at the City Hall War Memorial Auditorium (1000 Commonwealth Ave.) Dates and times are as follows:
Thursday, October 21: 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Monday, November 8: 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Register at: www.newtonma.gov/flu (registration preferred, walk-ins welcome)
Questions? Call: 617-796-1420 or email firstname.lastname@example.org