Weekly District Update 10/29/21

Weekly District Update 10/29/21
Posted on 10/29/2021
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.
Oct 29, 2021
District Calendar
November (upcoming week)
  • Nov 3Early Release Day (PreK & Elementary Only)
  • Nov 4Diwali (Festival of Lights)


Please also refer to your school calendar for school-based activities & information.
School Committee
Next Meeting:

Email the School Committee with questions, concerns or comments:
Superintendent Memo
Dear Natick Families,
Well, it is certainly October! October is, in a normal year, the month of highest discipline problems (honeymoon of start of school is over) and lower grade trends. The days get shorter, and while we are buoyed up by the gorgeous fall colors, the frost is on the punkin' as they say.
Many of you and our staff remark that it feels like May in terms of our relative tiredness. 

Thanksgiving Break is going to be a nice reprieve for all. I do want to say that as I have visited students this week, there is incredible excitement about Halloween. Not celebrated in our schools in any religious way, but as a spirit day. Many wearing pumpkins, candy corn and orange and black as the celebration. Halloween is a time for kids to be kids and creativity to shine. It's fun to be something else or create new outfits...the kids are having a blast with it and cannot wait to detail all their Halloween plans.  

It's been a bit since people went out trick or treating and a few reminders of safety, lights, reflectors and buddy systems as well as having parents review candy before eating it would go a long way toward safety.  

I know my mother, when she was still alive, was always cranky giving candy to "big kids" who came by for Halloween. Just recall that those kids may have missed two years of trick or treating and I'd rather have them out doing this than at a party somewhere. It's a win for the kid I hope remains in all of us. (Just know my 15-year-old rolled her eyes at me on the suggestion that she go because she's clearly [her emphasis] too cool for it now....but I tried!)

The dark, the sugar, the excitement, the month, the post-pandemic in-betweens probably mean most of us are tired or draggy. Sleep and exercise are the answer! Regular bed times with adequate sleep go a long way to regulating anxiety and staving off depression. Time off technology also allows the brain to reboot in more natural ways. Check your phone usage times, you might be surprised.  

Calling Natick Students: Your volunteerism is needed!
I am looking for students who might be willing to join the Superintendent Service Brigade. These students' names, ages 10 and older please, are given out when people need small tasks done around the community—raking, yard clean-up, running errands, snow shoveling. 

If interested, please email rcdermott@natickps.org with your students' name and address. We use neighborhoods to help address needs. Many seniors and homebound individuals use this resource.

Also, see below for more information about some of the observances happening in early November!
Diwali (Festival of Lights)
Diwali begins on November 4, 2021.

Diwali, or Dipawali, the festival of lights, is India's biggest and most important holiday of the year, and is celebrated over five days by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists around the world. During this festival clay lamps (called deepa) are lit outside the home to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. 

To those who celebrate, may the illuminating Diwali lights surround you and your loved ones with happiness and positivity. Happy Diwali!
Native American Heritage Month
Monday marks the beginning of Native American Heritage Month. Since 1990, this month has been dedicated to celebrating the diverse cultures and histories of native people in America as well as raising awareness to the challenges faced by native people both past and present.
Veterans and Military Family Month
November is National Veterans and Military Families Month. This is a time to celebrate the strengths of military families and their contributions to the military community and our nation. Thank you!
Thank you! See you around town!

P.S. Don't forget to see below for links to your school newsletters and additional community notices/updates!
Facilities, Space and Capital Planning Discussions
The School Committee will be taking up issues of class sizes and offerings at NHS, space planning for NHS, preschool, and facilities planning for Johnson and Memorial Schools in their next three meetings.  Discussions will occur on 10/18, 11/3, 11/15 at a minimum.

I advise reading the in depth report on Facilities, Space and Capital Planning, or, if you have less time, this Executive Summary.

Also, see the next opportunities for community discussion with the Committee and school administration posted below.

Can't make a meeting? Your voice can still be heard!
Share your ideas with the larger community through our Community Thoughtexchange

Community Forum
Monday, November 1 @ 7PM
Join the meeting via Computer or Phone App:

Meeting ID: 813 9491 6525

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SEL and Upcoming Surveys
Our student and staff SEL and well-being surveys are in full swing and we are eager to dive in. Our School Committee meeting on November 3, will include a district overview of how the district has done on MCAS this year. 

Principals, directors, department heads and superintendents, are meeting with our staff to check in on their well being using empathy interviewing, a staff thought exchange and PLC meetings to focus and align departments and "take items off the plate" to reduce stress and pressure from departments. Teachers all want to be excellent at all times and often pressure themselves to try to achieve perfection. We are having empathy discussions with struggling staff and goal letting sessions in order to lessen stress, stay focused on doing a few prioritized items well and setting a safe and caring tone and culture.  

In turn, we are asking departments how accommodations are being made for students at the secondary level in the same way relative to grading, and for all students relative to the adjustment to school routines. Students in grades 6-12, receive grades and we are working to scale and define supports for each level that help students to obtain the mastery they need and send a message of support/works toward resilience-building. 

A focus on grades in the current climate inevitably leads to students telling us they are "upset that adults think we can just get back to normal grades." So you' ll hear us talking to students about this and focusing on skills and mastery vs. GPA and test scores. Our skill benchmarking systems grades K-8, help us ensure that we are tracking key skills. If your child is struggling we will reach out to address with you; as always, calling your child's teacher or principal can also be good to do if you are experiencing worries as a family.
Staff Goal Setting
All staff professional goals are due this time of year and I have been impressed with the goals set at every level--many taking equity study and self-reflection on bias and racial understanding as their goals. Many also take on new ideas, research and routines to personalize learning and support for your children.  Staff also set unified student learning goals which directly affect student achievement. 

For example, all 3rd-grade teachers share a unified academic set of goals for the year, all English teachers at NHS share one, etc. This allows us to unify across teachers and buildings to ensure a strong, consistent Natick Public Schools experience. I am so uplifted and renewed with optimism after reviewing the goals. We have tremendous staff in NPS! 

I also wanted to share with you that just as we made a Profile of a Natick Graduate to guide our district work.
We also worked with our faculty and staff during closure to develop our Profile of a Natick Educator. Our profile informs hiring, professional development and goal-setting for staff.
Vaccines and Exemptions
We are working toward our vaccination documentation for staff and students. We are now working through those students who are eligible for vax but have either said no or have not filled out consent for testing so we can see who is ineligible for extra curricular activities. This process will be done by November 15.

Nurses and schools will be reaching out to you if your child does not have documentation of vaccination OR consent to test — you would have given consent via the powerschool portal. Please respond in a timely fashion so we can protect our community and make pooled-testing available for those who need it and do not yet have it.

Our stats today:
  • 425 students in grades 7-12 are unvaccinated
  • 356 students 9-12 are unvaccinated or did not record their vaccination in state database (some doctors do not use it) — we will to reach out for documentation
  • 113 students 7-12 have no vaccination info and have also not filled out any testing consent paperwork (and in some cases none of their beginning of the year forms) — we will reach out
  • 28 students have no vax info and have actively filled out all forms indicating NO to testing of any type. We will reach out.
  •  The last two groups are 141 kids who currently are ineligible to participate in extracurriculars. We will continue to call and verify who needs what over the coming weeks.  

If you are wondering about whether we can, like Hopkinton HS, apply for 80% mask exemption at NHS, the answer is no, we are not currently eligibleWe are 200 kids shy of making that number. 

We believe, however, that once we go through the communication process noted above, we will. However, we'll have to meet with Board of Health and see if that would be their vision. We would do this at their December meeting since we know before their November 1, meeting on Monday that we don't have the data. Also, by then, we may have a sense that all the kids ages 5-11 are moving to vaccination status too. 

I think DESE made a good call with the January 15, extension of the mask requirement...by then, hopefully, we'll all be heading toward mask-free living!
Vaccine Clinic
In the coming weeks, we expect the FDA and CDC to recommend COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11 years old. We’d like to provide you with current information and resources on vaccination and, when vaccination is approved for this younger age group, we encourage you to have your child vaccinated to protect themselves, your family, and the school community.
While COVID-19 is generally less serious for school-age children than for older adults, children can become infected, and some may get very sick or suffer serious complications. Children can spread COVID-19 to others. Fortunately, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for individuals ages 12 and up and is currently under review for recommendation for children ages 5 to 11. The COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective against infection, serious illness, hospitalization, and death. Over 70 percent of Massachusetts youth ages 12-17 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Getting your child vaccinated will help limit COVID-19 spread in our school and community, and it can help keep your child and their schoolmates in school. 

We encourage you speak to your child’s doctor about their plans to administer the vaccine once it is made available and raise any questions or concerns you have about the vaccine and your child.

Vaccine Clinics for Kids Ages 5-11
I have been working with a private donor and the Natick Board of Health, and we have two vaccine clinics for 5-11 year olds ready to go. We are just waiting another week while the FDA fully approves and the vaccines are released. It is our vision to do Saturday clinics at both middle schools. I will also (hopefully) provide tours with our student leaders of the new KMS while people are there. NATICK VACCINE CLINIC DATES ARE TBD

There are also hundreds of vaccination sites across the state that have indicated their willingness to vaccinate children ages 5-11. Many accept walk-in appointments, including CVS and Walgreens pharmacies, Market Basket and other grocery chains, and community health centers. More information on these sites, as well as safety information and helpful questions and answers, are all available at www.mass.gov/covidvaccine.

As a reminder: 
  • The COVID vaccine is free for all, and no ID or insurance is needed to be vaccinated;
  • You can get vaccinated even if you are undocumented. Getting a vaccine will not impact your or your family’s immigration status. The Public Charge rule does NOT apply to getting the vaccine.

Getting your family vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones. We appreciate your help to keep all of our students, faculty, staff, and volunteers, as well as our community, safe and healthy this fall and all year long. 
Celebrating Veterans Day in our Schools
In the coming weeks, we will be celebrating our veterans by reprising our Veteran Reading Day, which is one way we celebrate our veterans in our schools.

This year, in partnership with the Natick Community Services Department and Veteran Services Director and the Natick Army Labs, veterans will be visiting kindergarten classes on November 5, to read to students. To ensure that this event is safe for all, we have implemented COVID safety protocols. All veterans participating in reading day are fully vaccinated and will be fully masked while around students.
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10/29/21 UPDATE
Weekly COVID Case Update
Please see below for the weekly COVID case updates. Click on the image to enlarge.
Stats for the week on this image show:
                                                                1 COVID positive student at Wilson, no close contacts
                                                                1 COVID positive staff member, with 6 close contacts
Chart Terminology:
CC's = Close Contacts

CC does not mean that these students are in quarantine. Depending on the circumstances, masking and vaccination status, location. As a reminder, direct contact from school nurses and principals occur if a person is a close contact.  We share the close contact information and remind everyone that vaccination helps to avoid needing to quarantine should a close contact occur.
The following close contacts are exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols:

  • Asymptomatic, fully vaccinated close contacts: Individuals who are asymptomatic and fully vaccinated are exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols. 
  • Classroom close contacts: An individual who is exposed to a COVID-19 positive individual in the classroom while both individuals were masked, so long as the individuals were spaced at least 3 feet apart, is exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols.  
  • Bus close contacts: Individuals on buses must be masked according to federal requirements. As such, individuals who are masked on buses when windows are open are exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols.  
  • Close contacts who have had COVID-19 within the past 90 days: An individual who has been previously diagnosed with COVID-19 and then becomes a close contact of someone with COVID-19 is exempt from testing and quarantine response protocols if:  
  • The exposure occurred within 90 days of the onset of their own illness AND
  • The exposed individual is recovered and remains without COVID-19 symptoms.
10/29/21 UPDATE
Pooled Testing (grades PreK-6)

Weekly Update:
This week we had one (1) infected pool K-6 (at Lilja).
Testing Schedule:
  • Mondays: Wilson, Lilja (including PreSchool) and BenHem
  • Tuesdays: Kennedy, Brown, and Johnson
  • Wednesdays: Memorial (including PreSchool) and Natick PreSchool at NHS

Routine COVID Safety Checks, or pooled testing, will begin on Monday, September 27 for students in PreK through grade 6. (View this kid-friendly video to see how samples are collected.)

A staff member will come to the classroom door. Students who have consent will blow their nose, sanitize their hands and then go out into the hallway. Students will be provided with a swab, which looks like a Q-Tip. Students will be instructed to swab both nostrils by placing the swab slightly into one nostril and rub it in a circle 4 times and then repeat with the other nostril. The swab will then be placed into a tube with other swabs. This is the pool. Students will then return to class. 

If a pool comes back positive, parents will be notified and the students will then be tested with the BinaxNow rapid test. This will allow us to identify the positive case. If the pool comes back negative, no further testing or notification will occur.  

If your child has tested positive for COVID in the past 90 days, please complete the form linked below, as we do not have updated information from the Board of Health. If students have been positive in the past 90 days participate in pooled testing, this will result in a positive pool. We need to ensure that these students are not tested within the 90 day period. This information will remain confidential.

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.
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 Information 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.)
The links below are updated every week and also available on your school website!