Superintendent's Update 12/3/21

Superintendent's Update 12/3/21
Posted on 12/03/2021
#ABConnects

In this update:

#AB Connects with the Douglas-Gates-Huebner Building Project

AB Students Featured in Energy Storage Project Video

Principal Searches Underway

COVID Public Health Update

Masks and COVID Protocols

DEI Family Advisory

English Language Parent Advisory Council Meeting #2

Protocols for Inclement Weather

Coffee with the Superintendent and School Committee Chair

#AB Connects with the Douglas-Gates-Huebner Building Project

This year, we launched #ABConnects in partnership with Acton TV.  We are excited to share with you Episode #2.  This most recent episode features progress on the Douglas-Gates-Huebner Building Project and is narrated by lead architect Emily Grandstaff-Rice of Arrowstreet Architects.

AB Students Featured in Energy Storage Project Video 

We are excited that this year, the new Tesla battery array at the high school is complete.  More exciting, we had an opportunity to involve our students with the project and they, along with Kate Crosby, the district’s Energy Manager, were recently featured in a video detailing the project.  We hope you take some time to learn about the Enel X | Energy Storage and Demand Response at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School

Principal Searches Underway

As you may be aware, we will again have several openings at our schools this year for new Principals.  This includes the Conant and Gates Elementary Schools as well as the Junior High School.  Conant and the Junior High School have been led this year by interim Principals Abigail Dressler and Jim Marcotte respectively and we had planned for these searches to take place.  In addition, Principal Lynne Newman recently announced her retirement to her school community.  I am so grateful to Lynne for all of her years of service to our students at Gates and she will be missed.  

We have posted the positions for our two elementary searches and have begun receiving resumes from interested candidates.  Marie Altieri is leading the search processes at the elementary schools and has formed screening committees at each school and is currently holding orientation meetings for these important teams.  We anticipate that we will begin the Junior High search in the new year.  We look forward to sharing more about these search processes as we move forward.

COVID Public Health Update

Massachusetts’ 7 day average of COVID-19 cases has risen again over the last two weeks to 1972. The 14 day average incidence rate as reported by the state is currently 22.3  for Acton (up significantly from 8.1 two weeks ago) and 15.5  for Boxborough (consistent with case reports from one month ago). Anecdotally, Acton Nursing Services shared with us earlier this week that they were managing approximately 50 active cases.  This was one of the highest total active case counts since the pandemic began.  Importantly, of these cases, there were no known hospitalizations. I see this as somewhat indicative that we have entered a new phase of the pandemic where we will likely continue to see COVID cases, but see low incidences of significant side-effects or serious outcomes.

In our schools, we have seen a total of 15 positive cases of COVID-19 among students and staff in the last two weeks, and a total of 92 cases this year.  This data includes cases reported during the Thanksgiving week.   A detailed breakdown by school can be found on our COVID-19 Website

We are also extremely excited this week to be including vaccination statistics for our elementary schools!  Our current Covid vaccination rates of students who have received at least one dose for each school are below.

Overall elementary percentage = 70% 

  • Blanchard:  339 vaccinated / 494 enrolled (68%)
  • Conant:  266 vaccinated / 403 enrolled  (66%)
  • Douglas:  265 vaccinated / 384 enrolled (69%)
  • Gates:  240 vaccinated / 369 enrolled (65%)
  • McT:  328 vaccinated / 449 enrolled (73%)
  • Merriam:  352 vaccinated / 457 enrolled (77%)
  • Preschool:  6 vaccinated / 10 eligible 5-year-olds enrolled (60%)

As our elementary students become fully vaccinated, we are removing them from the pooled testing rosters so we can begin to scale that operation back.

Masks and COVID Protocols

We previously communicated that as we enter our next phase of the pandemic where all of our students, including those ages 5-11 have access to vaccines, it is time to begin thinking about relaxing some of the COVID restrictions we have in place.  We will be sharing more information with you in December, but I want highlight some of our current planning:

  • Our schools may now begin mixing student cohorts in order to provide educational services and support.  This does not increase the likelihood of students being exposed to COVID-19, but does have implications for our internal contact tracing process and our schools will keep accurate records of student contacts during mixed-cohort groups.

As we look to the future, we will be mindful of patterns in transmission, including any changes brought about by the new variant.  We continue to plan for the following protocols to be relaxed, but may make changes to this plan as we assess COVID-19 incidence rates in our schools and community between now and the New Year:

  • We are tentatively targeting Tuesday, January 18 as a date to relax mask requirements in our secondary schools.  This allows us to get through the holiday travel season and allow time for our elementary students to be vaccinated (who may have siblings in secondary schools).  Based on current state requirements, only students or staff who are fully vaccinated would be able to remove masks.
  • We do not yet have a date to relax elementary mask requirements, but will communicate more about this as our vaccination rate reached the 80% threshold requirement by the state prior to relaxing mask requirements.
  • We are currently looking at amending protocols to allow volunteers to participate in school activities again.  We will be developing some protocols for this and communicate more when we have additional details.
  • We want to begin planning a more normal return to student activities, including field trips and events as we progress into spring.  We will provide additional details as we have them.

I anticipate that the next several months will be another period of transition for our schools as we work to return to more normal operations.  I want to recognize that we may continue to see periodic changes in the course of the virus, but with the wide availability of vaccines which have reduced the risk of transmission and greatly reduced the risks of serious complications, we want to begin a gradual and planful course of actions to return to normal school for our students.

DEI Family Advisory

In September 2019, we created a DEI Family Advisory group of parents.  Key functions for our DEI-FA include:

  • Serving as a source of ideas and information regarding student and family experiences related to cultural beliefs, race and racism, socioeconomic status, gender identity, disability, language, and more
  • Engaging in dialogue to build upon shared values and to celebrate the diversity of our community
  • Supporting our efforts to close gaps that exist in student opportunities and outcomes

We held our first meeting for the year on November 23rd, where we learned together from Dr. Arnisa Amante-Jackson and talked about the ABRSD Draft Protocol to Address Incidents of Hate & Bias and how DEI-FA members can provide feedback.  Our December meeting will focus on trends and patterns from the districtwide family curriculum survey and soliciting input about the District’s next steps.

English Language Parent Advisory Council Meeting #2

Collaborative partnerships between schools and families are crucial to student engagement and success. One way we do this is through our English Learner Parent Advisory Councils (EL-PAC).  Because ABRSD has more than 100 multilingual learners, we are required to have an ELPAC.  

 

On Tuesday, November 30, Assistant Superintendent Dawn Bentley and English Language Department Chair Maryann Young facilitated a livestream ELPAC meeting with multilingual families that was interpreted.  Dr. Young shared information from the multilingual family survey about district communication, Director of Special Projects Andrew Shen did a tutorial on how to use the Remind app, and Dr. Bentley provided a learning session on setting up a Parent Portal account in PowerSchool, how to access it, and how to complete/update a form, such as the Emergency Contact Form.  

 

If your child is currently enrolled in our English language education program or was previously enrolled and you are interested in joining our ABRSD EL-PAC, please email our English Language Education Department Chairperson, Maryann Young, at [email protected].

Protocols for Inclement Weather

It is that time of year again in New England when we begin to think about snow, ice and possible school closings.  This year, we will use traditional “snow days” in the event it is unsafe to operate our schools or buses.  It is important to note that the state does not provide an option for remote school days, so this is not a decision that can be made locally.  I want to remind families that our No School, Delayed Opening & Emergency Release Procedures are posted to our website.  I would encourage families and staff to review them soon.

Coffee with the Superintendent and School Committee Chair

School Committee Chair Adam Klein and I will continue to host opportunities for families to engage with us as we go through the year.  Our next meeting is on November 17th at 7:00 p.m. via zoom.  We will send a link to families a day or two before the meeting.  Our next opportunity for families is:

  • Dec 15 at 8:30 am

If you would like to submit a question or questions ahead of time, you can do so here: https://forms.gle/csgmLpVf8ksfR1xF6

Other Upcoming dates include:

  • Jan 12 at 8:30 am
  • Feb 9 at 8:30 am
  • Mar 9 at 8:30 am
  • Apr 6 at 7 pm
  • May 4 at 7 pm
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