Lowell Public Schools Newsletter - February 2021
Message from Superintendent Boyd
Dear Students, Families, Staff, and Community Partners,
Welcome to the second installment of our monthly district-wide community newsletter - the LPS Connector. Our February issue provides the latest updates from the district, highlights some of the great work happening at our individual schools, and pays tribute to Black History Month.
As we head into the February vacation week, I’m already looking forward to Monday, February 22 - our first day back from break. This will mark an important milestone for LPS - for the first time, since mid-December, we’ll be able to welcome some of our students back into our school buildings for in-person learning.
The COVID-19 rates here in Lowell continue to improve, and based on the Commonwealth’s latest weekly report released on February 11, the average number of daily cases per 100,000 residents is now 51.0, while the “percent positivity rate” (the percentage of tests that are positive here in Lowell) is now 6.01. Take a look at the chart below for the downward trajectory of the COVID numbers of the past 4 weeks (The latest COVID-19 data can also be found on our COVID-19 Dashboard on the LPS website. I encourage you to check out this valuable resource.)
So, as a result, those students in substantially separate special education programs - who were previously participating in our in-person learning model - will return to campus starting Monday, February 22.
Our second group of students will return in-person on Monday, March 1 - those students, who are not in a substantially separate special education program, but were previously served in-person this school year as part of our original school reopening plan.
As I wrote to you last week, April 1 remains our target date for expanding in-person learning for additional students beyond those who were assigned to in-person learning at the beginning of this school year, and we will continue to keep you posted about the feasibility of meeting this next target date.
Below, please find some helpful information for our families making the transition back to in-person learning on February 22 and March 1. For our families continuing with remote learning, we will keep offering our students a safe and meaningful educational experience virtually.
Have a safe and relaxing February break. Thank you for connecting with us and being a part of our Lowell Public Schools community.
Dr. Joel D. Boyd
Superintendent of Schools
With our first group of students set to return to in-person instruction on February 22, and our next group returning in-person on March 1, here are some updates and reminders to help guide families through the transition:
Massachusetts COVID-19 Travel Order
With February break starting, please be mindful of the state’s COVID-19 Travel Order if you plan to travel during the vacation week, especially for families of students returning on February 22 or March 1. Having our COVID-19 numbers continue to decline is key to being able to keep our students in our school buildings.
LPS COVID-19 Dashboard
The latest COVID-19 data, updates and information can be found on the LPS COVID-19 Dashboard. Please check out this great resource.
COVID-19 Testing Program
As part of the reopening process, we will be offering voluntary free weekly COVID-19 testing. This testing will lower the risk of spread of COVID-19 by helping to identify those positive cases in people who do not show any symptoms of COVID-19. In order to participate, parents/guardians will have to sign a consent form for their child. Click here for the consent form.
This COVID-19 test is quick, easy and it does not hurt. It is a nasal test that gently swabs the lower inner nostril. We will accommodate all students’ needs to help them be comfortable during the test.
The test is free. You do not need to pay for the test or have insurance to get the test.
The more students and staff who participate, the safer our schools will be. Please click here to read more about this testing program.
What To Do When You Feel Sick
Do you feel sick or have COVID-19 symptoms? Please refer to this helpful and easy to follow chart for guidelines about if you should go to school and how long you should isolate or quarantine if you do have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19. Please be sure to contact your school nurse if your child develops COVID symptoms or has been identified as a close contact or tested positive for COVID.
LPS Face Mask Protocol and Guidelines
Students, staff, and any person entering our school buildings are required to wear a face covering, unless there is a documented exception. Masks potentially slow the spread of the virus and can protect against the transmission of the virus from people who may have the virus and be asymptomatic. Please review the LPS Face Mask Protocol and Guidelines.
COVID-19 Cleaning Protocols
As students return to school, we will make sure we continue to follow strict safety guidelines in order to keep our students and staff safe. Air purifiers will be checked to ensure they are running in proper order, hand sanitizer stations and classroom dispensers will be filled, and desks and all surfaces will be regularly cleaned.
Our custodial staff will continue deploying additional disinfecting treatments in our buildings, such as using a disinfecting fogging/sprayer machines, especially when a COVID positive case has been identified.
For those students returning in-person on February 22 and March 1 who receive transportation, the transportation schedule will remain the same as the last time they were attending school in-person earlier this fall.
Massachusetts is currently in Phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout. As of publication, everyone in Phase 1 and individuals 75 and older are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Those accompanying residents 75 and older to vaccine appointments can also get a shot. Early education and K-12 workers are currently slated to be eligible for vaccination later in Phase 2. For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit the state’s website.
Also, check out these helpful resources from the Lowell Community Health Center and the Greater Lowell Health Alliance:
As a school system, we value hearing from you as we strive to continuously improve our service to students and families. We want to provide your child with the best educational experience possible and your feedback is instrumental in this process.
We are currently conducting the following surveys:
- District Satisfaction Survey (Complete by February 17th) - We are seeking to understand your satisfaction level with your child(ren)'s school/district in the following areas: academics, communication, operations, and safe and welcoming environments. If you have children that attend more than one school, please complete a separate survey for EACH school (i.e. if you have a 3rd grader in an elementary school, a 6th grader in a middle school and a 10th grader in high school, please fill out separate surveys for each school).
- Return to School Parent/Guardian Survey (Complete by Feb 23rd) - This survey is for parents/guardians of fully remote students who never attended in-person this school year. We’re seeking feedback on parents’/guardians’ desires, if any, for their child(ren) to participate in in-person learning when conditions allow us to expand our capacity for in-person learning beyond the initial 25% that started the school year on campus.
- 2020-2021 Kindergarten Experience Survey (Complete by February 17th) - In this survey we are asking parents/guardians of current Kindergarten students about their child’s Kindergarten experience this year.
These surveys are available in English, Arabic, Khmer, Lao, Portuguese, Spanish, Swahili and Vietnamese. Links to these surveys can be found here: https://www.lowell.k12.ma.us/districtsurveys.
Highlights From Around the District
Wang Middle School Teacher's Mobile Classroom Giving Students Unique Remote Learning Experience
'90s kids (and parents) may remember the television show The Magic School Bus where Ms. Frizzle takes her class on a series of memorable field trips.
Turns out the Lowell Public Schools has its own real life version.
Needing a more reliable internet connection, John King, a 6th grade science teacher at the Wang Middle School, had a creative solution - he bought his own bus and converted it into a mobile classroom, giving his own students a unique learning experience as they take part in remote instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The mobile classroom allows King to teach from any location, so students are able go on virtual field trips - for instance a lesson about the ocean and erosion right on a beach on Cape Cod.
Photo below is from The Lowell Sun.
Fun (And Educational) Groundhog Day Lesson at the Pyne Arts
Groundhog Day coincided with a big snowstorm in the Lowell area. Grade 3 students at the Pyne Arts learned some interesting facts about groundhogs in the morning and did a science challenge in the afternoon. Students had to build a home, a model of a home, or some type of protection for a groundhog based on what they learned about the creatures earlier that day.
Some did this activity outdoors getting a chance to spend time out in the snow. Students had the opportunity to share their ideas with their peers during the next science block.
Take a look at the photos for some samples of their creations!
New Mural at the Greenhalge
'No Rhyme or Reason Random Rap-In Ractivity' at The BRIDGE
"Each morning, the BRIDGE begins the day with Rap-In, our version of a community meeting. We did this in-person at school, and now, remotely. As we all struggle to engage students in this one-dimensional forum, in which our students are uncomfortable showing themselves on screen, a fun tool that we have created within our daily Rap-In, is the No Rhyme or Reason Random Rap-In Ractivity.
"Students are asked to take on a brief insignificant challenge, with sound effects enhancing their experience, like a game show. For example, find in your house something alive, or a photo of something alive, and show it on screen. Go outside, get a handful of snow, and show it on screen. Show us a picture in your house that makes you smile. Show us a favorite food in your kitchen. Find someone in your house and give them a high five on screen. All of these activities require students to wake up, stand up, and turn on their screens, even if briefly. Any student who participates gets his/her name in a box for a student raffle drawing for a lunch that Friday."
Looking Back at Lowell's Past
Recounting Barzillai Lew's Impact on Lowell in Honor of Black History Month
By Rebecca A. Duda, Ed.D., Family Resource Center Coordinator
February is Black History Month. Why February? The origins of Black History Month date back to 1915 when historian Carter Woodsen and minister Jesse Moorland established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). In 1926, the ASNLH sponsored a National Negro week in February, to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The purpose of the week was to celebrate African-American history. Over the next several decades, the week-long celebration grew around the nation. In the 1960s, during the Civil Rights Movement, it evolved into a month-long celebration and became known as Black History Month. In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month.
In celebration of Black History month, let’s look at the Barzillai Lew who lived in Lowell’s Pawtucketville neighborhood and whose family has a square named in their honor not far from Lowell High School.
Barzillai Lew was born on November 5, 1743 in Groton, MA to Primus and Margret Lew. Primus and Margret were free African-Americans who owned their own farm. Primus was a musician who served in the French and Indian War. His musical talent rubbed off on young Barzillai who learned to play the fife, which was a common musical instrument in the 18th century.
In 1767, Barzillai Lew moved to Chelmsford and bought the freedom of Dinah Bowman for $400; slavery was not abolished in Massachusetts until 1783. They married but their life in Chelmsford was interrupted when the American Revolution began. Lew joined the Chelmsford regiment led by Captain John Ford. Ford’s regiment fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. Lew was the regiment’s fifer.
After Bunker Hill, Lew joined a Dracut regiment and that regiment marched off to Fort Ticonderoga in 1777. (The powder horn he used during the Revolution is housed at the DuSable Museum of African-American History in Chicago.) Lew was one of the 250,000 African-Americans who fought for the colonists during the Revolution. Four percent of the Continental Army was African-American.
After his service in the American Revolution, Lew returned home and the family moved from Chelmsford to Dracut. They owned a farm on what is currently known as Totman Road in Lowell’s Pawtucketville neighborhood (Pawtucketville was part of Dracut until 1872).
Lew and his wife Dinah had thirteen children. The family was active in the Pawtucket Congregational Church on Mammoth Road not far from their home. Lew passed along the family’s musical gift to his children and the family was active in the church’s choir. It should also be noted that the church organized the first anti-slavery meeting in the area in 1832.
Barzillai Lew passed away in 1822 at the age of 79.
He was buried in Claypit Cemetery which is located behind the Bowlero (Brunswick) Bowling Alley. It is unclear if Lew ever had a marker on his grave but at least since the late 19th century there has not been one. However, a replacement marker from Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C. was ordered and the Lowell DPW will be installing it in Claypit Cemetery in the near future.
So, as we celebrate Black History month this February, let’s remember the contributions Barzillai Lew made to the nation and his community.
Black History Month Calendar
Black History Month Lesson at the Moody
Pappathan writes, "Each day, I change the poster behind me on Zoom to a different Black leader. Today, we talked about Amanda Gorman. We talked about who she is, and how we have seen her reading her poetry at the Presidential Inauguration and again at the Super Bowl! We did an interactive read-aloud of her poem "The Hill We Climb," and discussed what it means to us, and how it inspires us."
LPS Students Learn About MLK
Students in all grades at the Murkland Elementary School learned about Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy in Content Literacy, learning how MLK spread his message using love, peace and spoken word. They connected to MLK’s dream by sharing their own dreams for society.
At the end of the MLK unit, Art and Content Literacy students combined to draw MLK and fortified their learning with a biographical music video. A bitmoji choice board about MLK’s life as well as a Black History Month library was made available to all students on the Content Literacy and Art websites.
See some pictures from the Murkland below.
At the Lincoln Elementary School, Grade 2 students made recordings sharing their dream or what they learned about MLK. Here is one second grade student's dream.
Grade 3 does an annual Kindness Campaign - usually with a sock collection to be donated to local shelters - however, this year connecting it to the work of Dr. King, the students have written their own speeches, and made promises to "Pay it Forward," looking to make a difference in the world. So, they have been on a writing campaign. They have made and created cards and letters that the school/teacher have mailed off to local nursing homes and hospitals, letting people know they are never alone and that we stand together during this COVID-19 health crisis.
What's In a Name?
The McAuliffe Elementary School
This January 28th marked the 35th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Our S. Christa McAuliffe Elementary School is named for one of the seven crew members on that mission.
S. Christa McAuliffe, 37, was a Framingham, Massachusetts native, and a high school social studies teacher from Concord, New Hampshire. She was selected from more than 11,000 applicants to take part in NASA's Teacher in Space project and was set to be the first teacher in space. Many watched the television broadcasts of McAuliffe making history the morning of January 28, 1986, including students at the high school where she taught.
Sadly, the day soon turned tragic as the Challenger broke apart 73 seconds after liftoff, killing all of the crew members. In his remarks to the nation that evening, President Ronald Reagan said: "The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."
Seven years later, in April 1993, a brand new school opened on Beacon St. in Lowell, named for the local hero.
More than 40 schools around the world have been named for McAuliffe. Ours fittingly has a motto of "Reach for the Stars!"
For more on McAuliffe and the impact she had, watch this WBZ-TV segment (video also embedded below) from the 30th anniversary of the Challenger disaster.
School Site Councils
As part of the Lowell Public Schools’ commitment to providing equitable funding and resources across schools, our district engages in a decision-making process called “site-based budgeting” which prioritizes allocating funding directly to schools. Site-based budgeting and decision-making places the school at the center of planning, goal setting, and budgeting for school improvement. It provides opportunities for teachers, families and administrators to work collaboratively as part of a School Site Council to make decisions that meet the needs of each school’s student population.
Per the Massachusetts state law, each school must have a school site council which is primarily comprised of the principal, parents, teachers, community members and, at the secondary level, students. The principal determines the number of seats on the council, and the parent and teacher designated seats are filled by way of election. The principal is also able to appoint community members and additional staff representatives to the council, but must maintain a majority balance of teacher and parent representatives.
All members of the school community are welcome and invited to attend their school’s site council meeting, and information on upcoming school meetings can be found on each individual school’s website 48 hours prior to a school’s meeting. Each school site council’s members can also be found on the school site council webpage.
For any questions related to a particular school’s site council, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the council's principal co-chair, parent co-chair, or teacher representatives.
The Latest Happenings with LPS Food & Nutrition
We hope you enjoyed the chocolate dipped strawberry Valentine’s treat students received on Friday, February 12 at our meal sites. A delicious way to begin February vacation!
Meal Service for School Vacation Week
- Monday, February 15: All meal sites will be closed for the Presidents’ Day holiday.
- Tuesday, February 16 through Friday, February 19: One grab & go meal site will be open at the STEM Academy (43 Highland St.) from 11am - 1pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. All other meal sites will be closed during the vacation week.
Harvest of the Month
Harvest of the Month is a program from Lowell Public Schools Food & Nutrition to encourage healthy food choices by increasing students' exposure to seasonal foods, while also supporting New England farmers and building excitement about school meals.
To celebrate February's Harvest of the Month vegetable, butternut squash, we will be featuring creamy butternut squash mac and cheese on Wednesday, February 24 at all meal sites. Butternut squash will be procured from local farmer Joe Czajkowski, a third-generation farmer whose farm is located in Hadley, MA.
Meal Service Schedule & Menu
All 10 of our grab & go meal sites will be back to their regular schedules after the February break, starting on Monday, February 22.
The Lowell Public Schools Technology Help Desk sets up a service tent at different times and locations each week. We post this schedule on the district website, email it to families, and share it on social media.
This service is available for any students or staff needing help with a device issued by the Lowell Public Schools.
If you need any assistance during the February vacation week, there will be a Help Desk service tent on Friday, February 19 from 9 am until noon at the Stoklosa Middle School (560 Broadway St.).
You do not need to make an appointment. Just remember to wear a mask and bring the device charger.
If you need to reach the Help Desk, please call 978-674-2024, or email email@example.com. A student or staff email account must be used in order to email the Help Desk.
Update on P-EBT Cards
Eligible students will receive Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) funds through the 2020-2021 school year. P-EBT funds can be used to help you buy healthy food for your student and family. You can use P-EBT to buy food like fruits, dairy, breads, or meats/poultry/fish. P-EBT can be used at stores that accept SNAP, like grocery or corner stores, and online at ALDI, Amazon or Walmart (if you receive P-EBT you are likely eligible for SNAP, monthly food funds. Apply at DTAconnect.com).
Eligible students in a fully remote learning situation will get $117.20 per month. Funds will be added to your card on the 25th of each month for the month before (for example, your February P-EBT funds will be based on your students’ learning situation in January).
No longer have your P-EBT card? Request a replacement card at DTAconnect.com/pebt or call 1-877-382-2363.
For more information about P-EBT benefits, visit MAp-EBT.org.