Weekly District Update 9/10/21

Weekly District Update 9/10/21
Posted on 09/10/2021
NPS Engage District News - Weekly Message - Natick Public Schools - Parent Academy Logo - www.natickps.org
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Non-Discrimination Statement:
Natick Public Schools does not discriminate in employment nor in its educational programs, services and activities on the basis of race, creed, color, age, sex, gender identity, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions, physical and intellectual differences, immigration status, homeless status, or any other basis prohibited by law.

Federal and State Legislation Addressing Discrimination in Educational Institutions
You will find links to the contacts for each of the following statutes below.
    Hello Natick Families!
    Today—day 4 for kindergarten students and day 5 for all other students—is finally under our belts. If you can believe it, though, this does not get us through one full round of MS (6 day cycle) or elementary schedules (specials are not held in some instances at the start of school so orientations and other training matters can occur with students).
    September is always a choppy month with all the holidays and more than one staffer remarked that this 5 days felt like 50 — I agree!
    Here are a few updates for you!
    Elementary Families and Lunch Options
    A handful of parents have reached out to you regarding elementary lunch options. I want to give the community some context to understand our current operations and capacity.
    Elementary schools are down 17 staff support positions who assisted with supervised lunches, several cafeteria monitors and we have no reserve of substitutes. This reduces our flexibility and capacity to offer multiple venues for lunch at this time. Our industry is affected by the work shortages as well.
    With the first few days of school (we are only on day 5 and day 4 for Kindergarteners) calling for mostly rainy conditions (except today, so glorious!) we prioritized safe and distanced inside lunch given the shortage of supervisors.
    • A safe lunch means addressing allergy needs, helping people navigate lines, turn taking, walking safely while grabbing portable lunches, how to select food and how to find their inside assigned seat.
    • Due to last year’s pandemic conditions, we have two full grade levels who have never eaten lunch at school. Training is required.
    • Inside assigned seats are needed for all kids in the event of inclement weather. Teaching kids how to sit and where to sit is critical for contact tracing. 
    • If there is inclement weather, we will follow the same decision-making process we use when we decide to hold indoor recess and apply it to lunch. This is the principal’s call, not an individual family’s call. A distanced lunch table will be offered to all children with contact tracing parameters documented. 
    • The rules for tracing have changed since August when we first blasted you our return to school handbook; we continue to adapt and had to prioritize indoor safety.
    Routines are the first rule of safety and we are training the students on those routines. This is our first priority. It is a slow process for both our littlest ones who are new to school and the routines AND for some of our bigger elementary kids who have not been in school for over 18 months. It takes some time to train students to do this.
    At this time, due to the staffing shortage, we have not been able to leverage consistent outdoor options that are safe and supervised. It is our intention to do so. Outdoor snack, supervised by homeroom teachers, has occurred regularly.  
    As guided in our Return to School Handbook, families desiring outdoor seating for their children should have their children bring a mat or towel for outdoor dining.
    If it is unclear to your child or you what the options are, please reach out to your principals.
    We Need Your Help!
    To accelerate the availability of outdoor lunching options, every elementary school could use vaccinated volunteers (or, if you want a position as a cafeteria monitor or a cafeteria worker we’d be so happy)!
    Email your principal if you can consistently provide outdoor lunch coverage for lunches at your child’s school.  
    Or if you can be a cafe monitor or substitute—call your principal! 
    Special Education Services
    Special Education at Elementary and NHS
    With the exception of related services that require a student to be pulled out of a class (OT, PT, speech) with a practitioner who is servicing more than one building, all special education services at all 9 schools are being implemented. Giving students the first week of classes with their general education teachers to learn routines etc. is normal and then these related services are added once the child is oriented to the class routines and expectations. Recall that small groups are made within the gen ed classes for many service grids and speech would then, for example, push into the class to service the child in small groups or individually.  
    Special Education at KMS/WMS
    Special Education services have started on day 1 of school. For the first three days, during the WIN blocks, special education teachers have been pushing into the students’ general education classrooms daily, to focus on team-building and SEL activities and so everyone is on the same page with routines and expectations.  Additionally, providers have been conducting reading screenings for special education students identified with a reading disability vertically throughout the school. 
    Starting on Monday all WIN SKILL DEVELOPMENT groups will be in their planned small group locations. All related service providers will be starting on Monday. The related service providers wanted the students to have a full cycle of their specials and general ed classes to go over expectations and understand the team functioning before pulling them. There has been lots of push in support and consultation from day 1.
    Timeline for COVID Testing
    Please watch our upcoming school committee meetings and for upcoming blasts for how this will unfold in our district. However, here's a rough timeline.
    As of our meeting with the state vendor today, the following hoped-for timeline is now in place: 
    • Symptomatic Testing: will begin in district for those who have consented NEXT WEEK - Monday 9/13
    • Test and Stay Testing: will begin on NEXT WEEK - Wednesday 9/15
    • Pooled Testing: will begin 9/27
    Discussions of scope deployment of pooled testing for staff and students will occur on 9/13 at the Board of Health meeting and 9/20 at a School Committee meeting. At that meeting, mandatory vaccination for extracurricular participation will also be discussed since the vaccination and pooled testing work in tandem and impact implementation, per DESE guidance (i.e. who they recommend for pooled testing).
    Thank you for a good first 5! We look forward to seeing you next week as procedures and routines become more practiced and refined.
    Not seeing the School Newsletters or Community Updates section?
    At the bottom of this email, click on "View Entire Message" to see the full Engage newsletter.
    COVID Procedures
    DAILY COVID Symptom Screening Checklist
    Students and staff who are SICK should STAY HOME.
    Please monitor for symptoms each morning before school by reviewing the COVID Symptom Checklist (link).
    COVID Procedures
    Included in this link are all the COVID Return to School Processes and Protocols (link) you need to know about our return to school. If you and your child are eligible to be vaccinated, please do so. It is the most important step to helping our community. Our three-part testing program, which allows students to avoid unnecessary quarantine and allows us to begin routine, weekly pooled COVID testing as we did last year, will begin as soon as the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education provides us the resources (tests and person power) to execute the program. NPS is also awaiting consents from over 2000 families to allow the testing.
    Please know that the school committee may decide to mandate both vaccinations and pooled testing for any eligible student who wants to participate in athletics or extra curricular activities of any type. Get started on the consent form (in your PowerSchool annual forms) and getting vaccinated now -- don't let anything disrupt your child's full schooling experience.
    PLEASE NOTE: Our school nurses are here to serve students and their medical needs. Please do not call school seeking advice if you or your family are sick or quarantined, traveling or testing. If our nurses contact you, it will be about contact tracing within school and outcomes of our testing programs in school.
    Our school nurses are NOT contact tracers or advisors for the Natick Department of Public Health like they were last year. If your child is a close contact and eligible for any symptom or test and stay testing you will be notified directly. All other calls should go to your Dr. or department of public health relative to your community based COVID cases.  
    COVID Website
    We have updated our COVID information website to include all the relevant information that we share in this weekly email. We encourage you to save the NPS COVID information page (link) and visit often. (The direct link is: www.natickps.org/covid.)
    Additionally, all COVID updates from March 2020 through June 2021 have been archived and are linked on that page as well.
    The links below are updated every week and also available on your school website!
    Back-to-School Resources from the MA Department of Education
    The Department has a new, family-friendly back-to-school page that answers basic questions about the 2021-2022 school year.
    Other back-to-school resources from DESE include a letter from Commissioner Riley and a  back-to-school public service announcement (in English and Spanish) about the upcoming school year.
    Members Sought for Parent and Community Education and Involvement Advisory Council
    The Parent and Community Education and Involvement Advisory Council of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is seeking applications from individuals interested in advising DESE and the Board on topics related to family engagement. Discussions will likely include the Family Portal, the development of information for families, and DESE’s ongoing family engagement work. It is anticipated that meetings will be two hours long and take place four times a year. Meetings for the 2021-2022 school year are subject to change but are scheduled from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on October 28, 2021; January 27, 2022; March 24, 2022; and May 26, 2022.
    The Department particularly encourages applications from parents, community organizers working with families and schools, cultural brokers, and speakers of languages other than English who represent diverse communities and historically underserved students. The Department anticipates being able to provide interpretation and translation for at least one language and possibly up to three.
    Interested candidates should visit the council’s website for application instructions. Applications must be submitted to KathleenT.Rodriguez@mass.gov by Friday, October 1.
    Upcoming Event with SPARK Kindness
    How to Navigate Re-entry (to School) Stress
    Wed, Oct 20, 2021 7:00 PM EST
    How to Navigate Re-entry Stress
    School meals will free for all students through June 30, 2022!
    *The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the extension of free school meals for all students now through June 30, 2022. This extension allows us to serve free meals to all students.*
    The free meal extension from the USDA is temporary and separate from our regular Free and Reduced Meal program.
    If your family might require free, or reduced-priced, meals after this extension, please complete a free and reduced meal application.

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