A Look Ahead Return-to-School 2021

A Look Ahead Return-to-School 2021
Posted on 08/06/2021
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.
Aug 6, 2021
Dear Natick Families,
I write to you hoping you are enjoying some summer fun and a bit of sun now and then! My family and I tried to get off our devices and savor the time we have left with our son before he heads off to college.
We miss you and your children but are grateful everyone has had some time to rest and recuperate. 
Here’s an update on our work to prepare for the open of school.
Return to School Safety Updates
Recently, the Commissioner of Education, the Governor, and the Department of Public Health issued their shared recommendations for Covid-19 protocols for the reopening of schools in the fall. Over the next several weeks the District will review these recommendations and work in collaboration with the Natick Board of Health, the regional Superintendents, the School Committee, and other school-based leadership, to determine what is best for our town. I will be attending the Natick Board of Health on August 9th for an early discussion of draft recommendations.  We will communicate a final reopening update by August 20th.

This plan will change and I will notify the community any time this occurs and the state has placed responsibility on local communities to respond to their town/city needs instead of making state-wide decisions at this time. Given the differences in pandemic conditions town by town, you will see different approaches to reopening across the Commonwealth. There is no one model for reopening.
The state has indicated remote learning will not be possible this year as it was last year. However, for students and families who have documented family medical issues and can gain medical documentation, supports are eligible for remote instruction. Otherwise, DESE has indicated that remote learning will not count for schooling as it did last year. If you have such a need, please reach out to Dr. Nolin ASAP at annolin@natickps.org. A doctor must be able to sign an exemption for your child and we must register for remote instruction prior to the first day of school (August 25, 2021 is our internal deadline) to ensure access.  
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
´╗┐This past year, we were fortunate enough to be able to refresh library and classroom libraries with an eye to ensure that our reading and research materials create a sense of belonging and positive identity for students of all races, genders, gender identities, cultures, first languages and family structures. We will resurrect our call for members of our community who represent the diverse family and student body among us to join us in a district Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) advisory group. 
If you are interested in doing this work, please indicate your interest and share why you would be a strong candidate for representing our town and school’s diversity by emailing Dr. Nolin at annolin@natickps.org, with the Subject line: DEI Advisory.
Summer Highlights In Review
  • We have created support structures for students we know are entering school with learning gaps or struggles. 
  • We served over 1,000 students in our Summer Scholars, Enrichment, Extended School Year, Credit Recovery, English Language Learner and Title I programs offered and served over 6,000 meals (breakfast and lunch) remotely and in all of the programs to students this summer. 
  • We have worked diligently to complete the Kennedy building and surrounding pathways. Our staff have been taking courses in COVID recovery, trauma, supporting struggling learners, reading instruction and new department of education guidance on dyslexia, creating equity in every aspect of our school system, and, of course, staying abreast of CDC and health recommendations. 
  • A team of teacher leaders (30) also took courses in designing coursework and curriculum with equitable access at the center, and (20) teacher leaders took a course on the science of reading and/or gaining additional expertise in reading and reading issues. Training teacher leaders then allows them to train within their buildings and departments in the coming year. 
Join the Natick Public Schools: APPLY TODAY!
We have hired over 45 staffers, trained and onboarded 5 new leadership staff and two additional district reading specialists.
We are looking to fill paraprofessional positions, food service positions and daily substitute positions.
Know any candidates?
Please encourage them to apply. It’s a critical time to be completely staffed—the kids need us in this year of recovery—and I don’t want our staff “filling in” for absent colleagues at high rates. Please use your networks to invite people to join us.
Click here for opportunities: https://natickps.tedk12.com/hire/index.aspx 
Although parents/guardians will not be hired for positions within their child’s school building, we’d still love to have you in the district!
Town + Schools Partnership = Success for Natick!
The Town of Natick and Natick Schools have been involved in team building and planning retreats together to build a stronger Natick. We took fitness and leadership classes together all summer! We spent time discussing and crafting joint priorities, building understanding, developing long range planning and crafting a strategy that unifies policy, practice and how we support our staff. The finances may still be unpredictable at this point in the pandemic, but the care and partnership is quite solid, kind and collaborative. What a win for our town!

Pictured above: Jeremy Marsette, DPW director, Bill Spratt, Facilities director, Karen Partenen, Parks and Recreation director, Jamie Errickson, Acting Town Administrator, Susan Ramsey, Director of Community Senior Center, Jillian Wilson Martin, Town of Natick Sustainability Coordinator, Marc Wey Leadership facilitator. 
Picture right: Employees from police, fire, DPW, town hall, schools, senior center convene on Tuesdays and Thursdays with NHS Fitness Coach, Mike Buono to do bootcamp (no joke!) and many staff also convene at the library for yoga with Marianne Davis, our School HR Director and resident Yogi.  
We are doing everything we can to be aligned and efficient for our employees and town residents. We do not know what COVID will do to our future financial, system and regional recovery, but we know we have done our best to be the strongest leaders together for Natick.
Focusing on Important Return-to-School Ideas
While our schooling experiences will look more like “normal” school years when we open September 1, we will still have to remain flexible and responsive to our local health data and emerging science around COVID.
While we are all concerned that students continue to grow academically, most of you and our staff are prioritizing student social and emotional well-being as we transition back to school. First, we know that many staff and students have not been in school since March 2020. In late August, we are offering tours and orientation experiences for students in more grades than usual (e.g. we know that our current 6th graders, did not have their typical 5th grade orientations to middle school). The principals at each school will make clear to you when you can visit or what these experiences may look like. 
Upon return to school, our staff will be guided to build relationships and deliberate classroom cultures of equity and belonging. Many of our students have not been back in school since March of 2020, many have indicated worries about remembering building layouts, routines and how to “do” school at the same level as prior years. We will need to re-orient and retrain our students and give them the loving, reliable support of their teachers, mentors, coaches and support staff to help them get back in a groove. Trauma research also indicates that giving students control over their own goal setting helps to heal from COVID learning traumas, gives hope for the future, and bonds teachers and students in common goals.
Central office leaders have put together a series of toolkits for our staff to assist in prioritizing areas you told us were of concern for your children: collaboration and social skills, self-direction and initiative, goal setting (support for executive functioning skills have been identified world-wide as a major need post pandemic due to fewer live social and play experiences), as well as what I call “detoxing from the lizard brain”--a brain that has been on social media and online so much it seeks the quick hits of those tools and false socializing vs. the more labor intensive and slow social benefits of live, in-person socialization. It is this lack of authentic group social activities that build student resilience for student conflict and relationships and this is a primary area of concern for our students. School is an academic-focused institution, but it is socially constructed and children grow in a social medium. Learning is social. We ask for your support in detoxing students from their devices and returning to as much practice in social and conversational settings as possible.
For families, we will be offering parent book groups to support the return to school, focus groups, and Dr. Nolin Dispatch episodes, and SPARK Kindness collaborations designed to support parent needs during this time. I look forward to seeing our students back in classrooms again, so that we can wrap around our young people and, through the power of our learning community, model resilience for them, lift them up, inspire them, and have a healing, centering and learning-filled year. See you on the journey!


Anna P. Nolin, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools


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