BBRSD District-Wide Weekly Update
January 15, 2021
In the wake of COVID-19 numbers continuing to rise in our Boylston community, I have made the decision to continue the remote learning model for both Boylston Elementary School and Tahanto Regional Middle/High School for the week of Tuesday, January 19th through Friday, January 22nd, (Monday, January 18th in Martin Luther King, Jr. Day).
Berlin Memorial School will remain open next week in their regular hybrid model. Buses will operate as usual and the school cafeteria will be open as well. Staff in all three schools, Berlin Memorial School, Boylston Elementary School, and Tahanto Regional Middle/High School, will be required to report to their respective schools in person beginning next week.
Parents of students with Special Education services who are identified by DESE as “high needs”
at Boylston Elementary School and Tahanto Regional High School were notified of their schedule last week, and will continue to attend in-person for the coming week. All Preschool students, including general education preschool students, who attend the program at Tahanto Regional High School will be in-person this week and should plan to attend on their regularly scheduled days.
FULL RETURN TIMELINE
I recognize that, in these difficult times, parents are wondering if/when we will ever return to a full-in model in our district. This question has been raised numerous times since we re-entered this fall, and continues to be brought forward to me, most recently in our school committee meeting and by a school committee member.
There are numerous variables in play in our ability to bring all of our students back to school, including, and primarily, safe distancing factors, spiking COVID numbers in at least one of our communities at this time, family and staff concerns, the timeline for vaccines, and financial constraints are some of the variables that have impacted my decision to hold off doing so. Please rest assured, however, that it is my full intention to do so as soon as possible before the end of the school year. I do not want to see our students coming back to school in the fall after experiencing an entire year of hybrid and/or remote learning.
At this time, my goal is to begin returning elementary students into school full time after the April vacation break, followed by the middle school and high school. By then, we are expecting that staff and administration in our buildings will have been given the opportunity to receive the COVID vaccination, and that case numbers will have decreased. The leadership team and I will begin to have more formal planning sessions on this topic beginning next week so that we may be prepared for all scenarios prior to that anticipated return date.
At the request of our School Committee, it is my intention to also hold a community meeting, either in a Town Hall format or as a school committee meeting dedicated entirely to this topic, once preliminary plans have been developed. At that time, we will be prepared to examine the landscape for a more realistic re-entry timeline based on data and discussions with stakeholder representatives.
More information will be made available prior to the meeting. Until then, I continue to ask for your patience and am happy to discuss the current situation and decisions with you. Please email me at email@example.com or contact my office at 508-869-2837 ext. 1107 to set up a meeting.
SNOW DAY REVISIONS
Revisions have been made to our initial Snow Day plan that was sent prior to the Christmas break, based on recent mandatory emergency regulations set forth by the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. (Please refer to the previous newsletter outlining the changes to student learning and live learning requirements in both the hybrid and remote learning models). Please see below the updated Snow Day procedures related to families. An additional procedural form will be sent to all staff through their respective principals.
Procedure for Snow Day Notification (revised January 12, 2021)
The Superintendent notifies administrators of intention to close the school. This may occur the day prior to a snow day if sufficient information on the forecast is available. Principals will instruct teachers to take home any materials that they may need for the following day.
The Superintendent makes a snow day call. All staff and students will remain at home. All school buildings will be closed and inaccessible until further notice.
The Superintendent will specify if the day called will be:
A Snow Remote Learning Day, or
A Snow Day - No School (power outage, etc.)
In the event that the schools are already remote, (and staff is expected to be physically in the building), the Superintendent will indicate in his message that staff should work from home.
The Snow Remote Learning Day will follow a half-day schedule similar to a typical early release day.
Tahanto sessions will run from 7:35 am - 10:56 am (accompanied by an abbreviated schedule for each class).
Berlin Memorial/Boylston Elementary School sessions will run from
8:45 - 11:45am.
All students who are scheduled to be in-person on the snow day will move to a remote hybrid learning model. All students who are scheduled to be in the remote portion of the hybrid model on that day will remain in the remote portion of the hybrid model, following the schedule currently designed for them by their classroom teacher at the elementary level or abbreviated school schedule designed for them at the middle/high school level. This includes any live instructional time scheduled to take place.
Assignments will be posted in Google Classroom by each classroom teacher (including specialists) within a topic marked “SNOW DAY”.
If a student cannot get online that day, they will have one day beyond the snow day to make up any assignments given during class time as well as any homework that appears in the Snow Day topic folder.
If a teacher cannot get on that day, the student should go to the Snow Day folder and do the work that is in the folder. Students are asked to allow for a 5-minute time gap for the teacher to open a synchronous (live) session, before logging off. (This may be due to a teacher transitioning from class to class).
Attendance for the Snow Day will be taken in person by the classroom teacher and/or designated teacher according to the schedule. All parents are expected to contact the school nurse if their child is feeling unwell and will not participate in school assignments/activities for that day.
Jeff Zanghi, Superintendent of Schools
Department of Teaching and Learning
2021 Assessment and Accountability Update
MCAS Testing Will Continue in Spring 2021
In a memorandum issued on January 5th from the MA Commissioner of Education, the Commissioner reinforced his decision to administer federal and state-mandated student assessments, including the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and the ACCESS language proficiency test for English learners, citing his concerns for anticipated learning loss for students in the Commonwealth as well as across the country as a result of the pandemic. In his memo, the Commissioner stated: “The Department continues to believe the MCAS test is a crucial diagnostic tool to promote student success and educational equity and we remain committed to administering the assessment this spring while recognizing the need for adjustments and flexibility.”
In moving forward, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education indicated that it will utilize the testing results for diagnostic purposes and, at the high school level, to affirm that students are prepared for college and careers as well as provide access to college scholarships.
It is important for students, parents, and staff to be aware that the DESE will take the following steps to modify testing this spring:
Modify the Competency Determination for the Class of 2021: The make-up MCAS administration window for 12th graders scheduled to open on January 14th will be postponed. I will recommend to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) that the competency determination (CD) requirement be modified in English language arts and mathematics for students in the Class of 2021 who have not yet earned their CD.1 The recommended modification would allow students to receive their CD by passing an approved course and demonstrating competency in that subject in lieu of a qualifying MCAS score. Seniors who still want to take the tests may take them later this school year. Members of the class of 2021 will have opportunities to receive additional academic support this spring and summer.
Shorten MCAS testing time for Grades 3-8: The Department will significantly reduce testing time for students in grades 3-8 through a session sampling approach, in which each student will take only a portion of each MCAS assessment in each subject. This modified MCAS administration will preserve the validity and reliability of the test at the school, district, and state levels. When combined with other data points, this approach will provide meaningful diagnostic data at the individual student level.
Provide for Accountability relief: The Commissioner will not name or recommend to the Board any new underperforming or chronically underperforming districts or schools in the upcoming school year. The Department will also consider any available flexibilities provided by the U.S. Department of Education.
Extending the ACCESS testing window: ACCESS testing for English language proficiency is key to strengthening education programs for English learners. As previously announced, the Department is extending the testing window for ACCESS, which normally concludes in February, until May 20, 2021.
MCAS Biology test: The Department has provided school districts flexibility on scheduling the high school biology MCAS test. Schools may offer the biology MCAS to first-time 9th graders in June, instead of or in addition to offering it in February.
These testing flexibilities are one part of the Department’s broader goals to support districts and schools in the second half of the current school year, during the summer, and into the next school year.
Carol Costello, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning
Remote Learning Week 1/19-1/22 Remote Meals!
BBRSD is excited to offer 7 complete breakfast and lunch meals per week! (*5 breakfast and lunch meals for Berlin students attending in person 2 days a week*).
We are offering an assortment of ready to eat sandwich meals (Tuna Salad, Chicken Salad, Ham & Cheese, PBJ), in addition to newly made frozen meals (Cheese Calzone, Pasta & Meatballs, Mac n' Cheese), with a bag of fresh produce per household!
Pickup is at Tahanto Regional Middle/High School. Take the entrance nearest the softball/field hockey field, and idle at the cone near the dumpsters. Stay in your car, and someone will bring the order to your vehicle.
**All children ages 1-18 in the local area are eligible for our free remote meals, regardless of their enrollment status in the district.**
Please fill out the following form (1 form per child) to specify your order and pickup details. If you are unable to pick up during the offered times below please email: firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange alternate plans.
Participating in our remote meal program keeps our food service department working, so thank you in advance!
Bob Conry, Director of Finance and Operations
School and Remote Lunches Are FREE!!!
Lunches are FREE through June 30, 2021, for ALL STUDENTS regardless of income. Enjoy these ready-made lunches at no cost! Order here!
Here's an example of our take and bake calzone meal with vegetables and dipping sauce.
Here is one of our ready-to-eat deli meals.
School and Remote Lunches Are FREE!!!
Pupil Personnel Services
Remote Learning for the Week of 1/19-1/22/2021
Parents of students with Special Education services who are identified by DESE as “high needs” at Boylston Elementary School and Tahanto Regional High School were notified of their schedule last week and will continue to attend in-person for the coming week.
All Preschool students, including general education preschool students, who attend the program at Tahanto Regional High School will be in-person this week and should plan to attend on their regularly scheduled days. The School Nurses and Leadership Team reviewed safety guidelines for the preschool students in making this decision. Preschool students attend only a few days a week for a few hours and are limited to their classroom and outdoor spaces. For those reasons, the district determined we could safely bring all preschool students back to school.
Flu Vaccine Update
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is removing the requirement for flu vaccination for attendance in childcare/preschool, primary, secondary and postsecondary education. Preliminary data show that this has been a mild flu season to date, presumably as people have received their seasonal flu vaccine and have been adhering to mask-wearing and social distancing due to COVID-19. Given the intensive Commonwealth-wide efforts regarding COVID-19 vaccination, DPH wants to alleviate the burden to obtain flu vaccination and focus on continuing our COVID -19 vaccination efforts.
Finally, on Monday, January, 25th at 6:30 pm, the Berlin-Boylston SEPAC will hold an Online Basic Rights Presentation and General Meeting. To join, send a message to email@example.com for more details. For more information: http://www.sepac-berlin-boylston.org.
Karen Molnar, Director of Pupil Personnel Services
Dell Technologies is offering our staff and families discounts on their products. You can reach the Berlin-Boylston specific site at www.Dell.com/mpp/BBRSD. The District does not benefit from any sales from this site nor do we recommend one vendor over another, rather this is just offered as information that may potentially provide you with a better price for a Dell purchase.
Paul Mara, Director of Technology
Boylston Elementary School
As you may have read in last week's district communication, the elementary schools have been tasked with increasing what the state calls "Time on Learning" over the course of the week particularly in the hybrid model. The teachers and I have been meeting frequently to determine the best way to implement these changes that will have the greatest positive impact on students while minimizing the disruption to caregivers. This is no easy task.
Caregivers should be prepared to have students log on for live sessions three times over the course of their asynchronous days (either Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday depending on cohort). Classroom teachers will be sending the grade-level specific schedule out to families as we approach a return to hybrid. Teachers will build upon their weekly Wednesday Caring School Community lessons with an additional hour of instruction. And finally, there is an hour block of time each Wednesday morning that is set aside for enrichment. Specialists, principals, and other professional staff members will be providing learning content through a webinar format between 8:45 and 9:50. To be able to differentiate developmental appropriateness, these groups are broken up into K to 2nd, and 3rd to 5th grades. Please be prepared to help students log in with their email address the first few times (particularly in the lower grade levels) The links are below:
K-2nd 8:45-9:50 Link
3rd-5th 8:45-9:50 Link
As you should have seen from the superintendent's communication, we will be fully remote again next week so these changes will not go into effect right away.
The week ahead: Specials week 3
Monday (1/18) No School MLK day
Ace Thompson, Principal
Berlin Memorial School
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has required us to modify (again) our hybrid learning model. This newsletter contains information that you are going to need as we expand our on-line contact hours. We will continue to look at attendance based on student participation in academics. These additions are intended to support that work.
We will be adding live check-in times for remote students in the morning, at mid-day, and at the end of the day. We will also be adding live time on Wednesdays. A document that outlines all of this, and includes Zoom links, can be found here. If you save that, you will always have the links you need.
Classroom teachers will continue class meetings on Wednesdays. In addition, they will be adding an hour of instruction via Zoom. Teachers will send those links out. We will also be starting an Enrichment Block on Wednesday mornings. There will be two sessions - one beginning at 8:45, the second at 9:20. Our Specialists will be presenting to students in Kindergarten thru Grade 2 and Grades 3-5 in both schools. You can find the links to those two sessions below:
(Same Zoom link for both sessions.)
Finally, if you have been to the front of our school this week you may have noticed dinosaur tracks leading to the front door. Worry not, our staff paleontologist (and librarian) Mrs. Eckelman is on the case. It is all part of her Jurassic January event for BMS students when they visit the library!
It is easy to overlook, with all the COVID-related changes we are confronted with each week, the amount of great work being done by teachers here (and across the district). I thought you might like this reminder.
John Campbell, Principal
Mrs. Eckelman, BMS School Librarian
Worry not, our staff paleontologist (and librarian) Mrs. Eckelman is on the case. It is all part of her Jurassic January event for BMS students when they visit the library!
Mrs. Eckelman, BMS School Librarian
Tahanto Regional Middle/High School
Tahanto Today January 15, 2021
This Week’s Schedule
Please remember that we are fully remote until January 22nd
** Please remember to give teachers/staff 24 hours to return emails**
The Tahanto faculty and staff would like to send a big THANK YOU to the STAAGS PTO for providing a wonderful and healthy breakfast this past Wednesday. Your thoughtfulness and generosity brought smiles and energy to all of our faces.
Student Learning Time
At the December 15 meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Board adopted additional amendments to the Student Learning Time (SLT) regulations, 603 CMR 27.00, on an emergency basis. The amendments (download) establish minimum levels for live instruction and synchronous instruction that districts operating hybrid and remote learning models must provide. The amendments include the following standards, effective January 19, 2021:
Districts and schools operating a hybrid learning model must provide students with access to at least 35 hours of “live instruction” over a 10-school day period, averaged across the grades in the hybrid model (excluding pre-kindergarten and kindergarten). Live instruction means the combination of in-person and remote synchronous instruction.
Students must have an opportunity to interact with educators each school day, including a required daily “live” check-in between students and educators.
Districts and schools operating a remote learning model must provide students with access to synchronous instruction each school day; and
Districts and schools operating a remote learning model must provide students with access to at least 40 hours of synchronous instruction over a 10-school day period, averaged across the grades in the remote model (excluding pre-kindergarten and kindergarten).
In order to ensure that Tahanto students are meeting the required daily “live” check-in, as well fully engaged during synchronous learning with their teachers and peers, beginning January 19th we will be requiring students to turn their cameras on during instruction if they are currently not doing so.
If parents and students have concerns regarding privacy, students are encouraged to do the following:
Use an appropriate virtual background
Angle the camera so it only shows the students face and ceiling
Use a sheet/blanket or blank wall as a background
Tahanto Collaboration with Tower Hill
In collaboration with Tower Hill Botanical Garden, Tahanto Art presents Community, Connectedness, and the Legend of the Red String, an installation on view during the Yarnstorm Exhibition! Come view our school tree, that is adorned with student created Origami, in this yarn-bombing exhibition which runs from January 16th - March 31st, 2021. Please read our statement about this important work below:
Drawing on the Japanese Legend of the Red String and themes of community, connectedness, and collaboration, the students at Tahanto Regional Middle/High School have created a site specific art installation for Tower Hill Botanic Garden's exhibition, Yarnstorm. The Legend of the red string states that every person's pinky finger is tied to an invisible red string that will lead him or her to another person with whom they will make history. Although the string may get tangled, contracted, or stretched, as surely often happens, it will never break. While community activities, and even art exhibitions, have been looking differently since the start of 2020, it is important to remind ourselves that we are all still connected to one another. Students created works of origami that symbolized their experiences throughout quarantine, and although our strings might all be slightly stretched right now, our community is intact and continuing to create light.
For more information regarding this exhibition, please visit: https://www.towerhillbg.org/yarnstorm/
To reserve tickets online (in accordance with social distancing guidelines), please visit:
Heath Office Updates
The Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health along with the MA Immunization Information Systems, will once again be surveying the complete immunization status of all grade 7 students. This year that will include the documentation of the mandated flu shot. Please ask your child's doctor to fax (508-869-6202) your child's immunization record as soon as possible.
This year, the State will also be surveying the immunization status of grade 11 students. Please ask your child's doctor to fax that to me at 508-869-6202 which is a confidential/dedicated fax line.
Questions? Contact Janet Sequeira, School Nurse at (508)869-2333 ext. 2303
Please make sure that student-athletes have Covid related supplies (masks, sanitizer, plenty of water) in their gym bags.
Drama Club News
The Tahanto Drama Club is planning to perform a one-act play," Home of the Brave" in February.
Auditions are opening up again to fill our cast list; one main role and two supporting roles. We also are looking for a student who is interested in supporting the technical needs of putting on a virtual play.
Please contact Mrs. Gustavson directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to apply.
School Committee Policy Update on Travel during COVID
Please read the following update to the travel policy. TRAVEL: All staff and students are expected to comply with Governor Baker’s Travel Orders. In addition, if staff/students of any age travel outside of states deemed “low risk,” staff/students would be required to quarantine for 14 days regardless of test results.
Families, please contact the nurse if you have traveled outside of Massachusetts to a “high risk” state. Currently, the only state that is not deemed to be high risk is Hawaii. Now, if you are going to Hawaii there is also a policy stating that you must take the principal with you :)
These restrictions are put in place to keep everyone safe and healthy. We appreciate everyone’s commitment to this.
Every Tuesday after school in the Library Conference Room we are offering math support for all students in grades 6-12. No need to sign up, just show up!
Important Clarification for Attendance
School districts must take attendance for every student, every period regardless of the mode of learning. If your child is absent from school whether your child is remote or in person, please follow the same procedures:
Call (508)869-2333 x 2303 to report your child absent. If your child is absent due to a medical appt. (doctor or dentist) please bring a note to the main office from the doctor’s office the next day your child is at Tahanto.
If your child is going to be late to school for either remote learning or in-person please still call the above number and make us aware of this. Remote attendance will be taken within the first 10 minutes of class.
Each student has 3 parental excusals that can be used during each semester for absences that are not subject to a doctor’s visit. To use parental excusal please write a note and have your child bring the note to the main office on the next day your child is in person at Tahanto.
If we do not receive a call notifying us of the absence, the secretaries in the main office will be contacting parents/guardians.
If you need further clarification or need to ask a question specific to your child’s attendance, please do not hesitate to contact Sue Boudreau at (508)869-2333 or send an email to email@example.com.
This is a clarification for all parents/students. If you are scheduled to be in person for learning, you may not choose to learn remotely unless you are not feeling well in which case a parent would call the school nurse.
If a student stays home due to not feeling well, a parent may write a parental excusal which should be brought into the Main Office upon the student's return to school. If the nurse excuses the student's absence for the day and allows the student to study remotely, students in a different cohort should contact their teachers to let them know they are planning on studying remotely as they may not have access to the Google Meet links/materials needed to work remotely.
FREE School Lunch
School lunch in the cafeteria is free to all students until 6-30-2021, or until federal funding is depleted. Snack and extra meals are not included. Click here for more information.
For the latest from the Counseling Department, please click HERE
Parents of high school students, please make sure that your email address is up to date in Naviance. This will allow you to receive up to date information from Mrs. Rodman.
Ms. Ford’s Virtual Office
I developed this Virtual Office to provide students with the opportunity to have fun while learning about different coping skills, relevant topics such as Anxiety, and space where they can explore content to help them strengthen their social-emotional skill set. I update the office with new links and content weekly and even have had some suggestions from students too. So far this has allowed me to interact with students in a different way while teaching them they can "virtually do anything". A lot of students and parents have recognized that it is hard to utilize coping strategies while at home or when they do not have immediate access to them. In this office, they can explore what meets their needs and gain insight on areas they need additional support, and feel connected.
Are you or your child having trouble logging onto your PowerSchool? Parents, do you need an account set-up? We encourage parents and students to have their own accounts. With that said, please reach out to Mrs. Esposito with any account-related concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org. As a friendly reminder, we DO NOT send home report cards. All grades can be viewed on PowerSchool. If you have multiple children in grades 6-12, parents can view each of their child’s information from one account.
Have you logged into PowerSchool but are unable to see grades? At the very top of the screen, above the student’s name there is a tab for Grades and Attendance, select the tab for them to appear. (This is different from the tab on the left-hand menu bar). Anything in blue, you can click on and it will provide detailed information like classwork, grades for an assignment, and days absent from the class. Your child’s teacher email information is also provided, should you need to reach them with any questions or concerns.
Diane Tucceri, Principal
Sally Stukuls, Assistant Principal
Yarnstorm at Tower Hill Botanical Garden
In collaboration with Tower Hill Botanical Garden, Tahanto Art presents Community, Connectedness, and the Legend of the Red String, an installation on view during the Yarnstorm Exhibition! Come view our school tree, which is adorned with student-created Origami, in this yarn-bombing exhibition which runs from January 16th - March 31st, 2021.
SEPAC Meeting 1/25/2021