Reopening 2020 Superintendent's Updates for families

Superintendent's Update, Octover 22, 2020

Our Transition to Hybrid


Good afternoon Watertown Families,


The State released the weekly COVID-19 metrics today, which indicate that Watertown remains in the ‘yellow’ status, our positivity rate is low, and therefore we will be crossing the Bridge to Hybrid at the elementary level beginning on Tuesday, October 27 for our Cohort A students and Wednesday, October 28 for our Cohort B students.
We are also considering moving our Watertown Middle School students from remote to hybrid beginning the week of November 9, based on continued monitoring of the data and the school’s readiness. The Watertown High School transition to hybrid remains on November 30.

Your child(ren)'s principal will provide more detailed updates in their upcoming newsletters and communications, including start and dismissal times, entry and exit procedures, transportation and drop-off/pick-up procedures, and any other necessary protocols for moving to hybrid. For those students currently learning in the schools, your principal or teacher will share any schedule modifications as we bring our Bridge to Hybrid students into school.

For the past five weeks, Watertown Public Schools adapted and adjusted to reopening in the midst of a health crisis that has seriously impacted teaching and learning. Our teachers and staff are working tirelessly to provide students with appropriate and engaging learning opportunities, remotely for the majority of our students, with our 330 students in specialized programs coming into schools for support services and learning, supported by over 180 teaches and staff members. We have seen many successes and worked to mitigate any challenges, continuously learning along the way. As we have consistently stated, our ultimate goal is to provide learning opportunities in our schools when it is safe to do so, and based on today’s assessment, we are pleased to welcome back our elementary students in grades K - 5 in our hybrid model next week.

Our teachers, staff, and administrators have been preparing for this day by setting up classrooms; labeling entrances, exits, and hallways; measuring distance among the desks; procuring PPE; and generally getting ready for teaching in a fundamentally different way. We welcomed our students with high needs into our buildings to provide additional support and services, and learned from this experience that our students adapt well to our new circumstances and are ready to return to the schools in-person, understanding that this year is different. What we see is that our students are taking the necessary steps and precautions to keep themselves--- and their friends/teachers--- safe. Our fine custodial staff have developed a cleaning protocol according to CDC standards and continue to work diligently to keep our buildings safe and clean. And each of our elementary classrooms has an air purifier to keep the air clean.

A few essential reminders:
All children must have masks and wear them at all times (in the classroom, in the hallways, in the bathrooms, and even outside), except during scheduled mask breaks. Every morning, you must assess if your child has any COVID-19 symptoms and if so, keep your child at home and call the school. Take time this weekend to review the COVID-19 Handbook Addendum which includes the list of symptoms and safety protocols, and reach out to your principal if you have any questions.

It has been quite a journey over the past several months, and I know that we still have a ways to go. I appreciate your support and I understand that there are many opinions about school reopening. What I know for sure is that we all want what’s best for our children- parents, teachers, staff, administrators, and community members.

I will be holding a Reopening Forum next Tuesday evening at 6:00 via Zoom for anyone interested in an update about how our first day went and to learn about next steps. Please also look for my October newsletter next week.

With great appreciation,

Dede Galdston, Superintendent of Schools


Superintendent's Update, August 14, 2020


Watertown Virtual School Enrollment Process

Good evening,

While schools will continue to look and feel very different than in the past, we are committed to creating engaging learning experiences for our students that will enable them to progress and grow as learners in the coming school year. We are focused on ensuring that all students develop their academic abilities as well as their social-emotional learning competencies whether in-person, hybrid, or remotely.

At this time, Watertown will be offering families two options for school this fall: the Bridge to Hybrid and the Watertown Virtual School. The Bridge to Hybrid will have a phased-in approach to hybrid learning and the Watertown Virtual School option will be fully remote for a longer duration. More information about the WPS reopening plan can be found here.

We understand that many families would like to participate in a fully remote learning experience rather than the Bridge to Hybrid. Students (PK-12) will have the option to be part of the Watertown Virtual School (WVS), which is designed specifically to respond to the needs of those students who are immunocompromised and require remote learning. This option may also be appropriate for students who thrive in a remote learning environment and can be selected by any family in the district. Families choosing this model will remain in Watertown Virtual School until at least February 8, 2021 (mid-year), and may remain in the program until the end of the year.

Watertown Virtual School is a separate distance/remote learning school run by the Watertown School District. It will be staffed by licensed Watertown teachers using the same curriculum that all Watertown Public Schools students will use, with adjustments made for online learning. If families choose to enroll in Watertown Virtual School at the elementary level, students may be placed in classrooms that are not necessarily composed of students/teachers only from their neighborhood school, but will have opportunities for online interaction with their neighborhood school peers during specials and Spanish.

For those families interested in the Watertown Virtual School, please fill out the WVS Enrollment Form by Monday, August 24 at 3:00 pm. Students with enrollment forms received after August 24 will be placed on a waitlist until staffing and space limits are determined.

Watertown Virtual School Enrollment Form

Watertown Virtual School (WVS) Features:

  1. Similar schedule, nearly identical assignments to in-person or hybrid models, with consistent live engagement opportunities
  2. Remote model will be different than last spring’s in a number of ways, attendance required, required assignments, feedback and grades provided
  3. Synchronous teaching and learning following the outline of a traditional school day schedule (hybrid)
  4. Assessing our students academically and social emotionally
  5. Supporting and advancing curriculum that is aligned to state standards throughout the year
  6. Consistent teacher as learning coach & main point of contact with families
  7. Building in SEL and opportunities for staff and small groups of children/adolescents to meet and build relationships.

The components of the Watertown Virtual School are still in development and may depend upon the number of families that choose this option. The plan may be coordinated entirely by WPS staff or academic content may be provided through a state-approved program for distance/remote learning that is in the midst of being developed with frequent updates provided by the Commissioner. Participating in this option means that students and staff will regularly participate in complete online instruction.

For families of students with disabilities who require or prefer a full, extended virtual learning experience in the Watertown Virtual School, WPS will provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) remotely, assuring all aspects of the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan are implemented.

I will be holding a Community Forum on Tuesday, August 18, at 6:00 pm and I am more than happy to discuss and share information about the Watertown Virtual School options. Interpretation services can be provided for the forum. Please reach out to Ariel.Kennebrew@watertown.k12.ma.us if you would like to request an interpreter.

We are pleased to be able to offer this excellent opportunity to our Watertown families and look forward to a successful online program. A more detailed plan for the full WPS Bridge to Return can be found on the Watertown Public Schools website.

Best,

 

Dede Galdston

Frequently Asked Questions about Watertown Virtual School

When will the Watertown Virtual School start?

The first day of school for students will be the same for all Watertown Public Schools, which will be September 22. Technology distribution and orientation will take place September 17-21 for all WPS students. As such, please plan on being available during these three days.

What’s the difference between the comprehensive Bridge to Hybrid and the Watertown Virtual School?

The comprehensive Bridge to Hybrid will be available to all students and will last as long as a decision is made to return to in-person learning. With that in mind, it’s meant to be a short-term online solution. The first possible date for the transition to hybrid learning will be October 27.

Watertown Virtual School is designed to be a long-term option for families who want a fully remote learning experience for their students. While taught by WPS teachers, elementary students may not be taught by their regular teachers from their neighborhood schools, depending on enrollment. Elementary Virtual School students will, however, participate in Spanish and specials with students from their home schools.

We ask that students remain enrolled in Watertown Virtual School at least through the end of a semester, or February 8.

What’s the same about the comprehensive Bridge to Hybrid and the Watertown Virtual School?

Our curriculum and commitment to providing the best for our students remain consistent in both offerings.

At the Elementary level, students in both models will be placed in A/B cohorts and will follow the same online schedule. Sample elementary schedules can be found here.

At WMS, students in both models will be placed in A/B cohorts and will follow the same online schedule. Sample middle school schedules can be found here.

At WHS, students in both models will follow the same online schedule. WHS students will not be placed in cohorts. Sample high school schedules can be found here.

Can a student move from the Bridge to Hybrid to the Virtual School?

Classes will be developed based upon the number of students who enroll in the Watertown Virtual School. If there is space available, students may be able to join the Watertown Virtual School during the course of the year.

Is the Watertown Virtual School free?

Yes

Is there an enrollment cap for the Watertown Virtual School?

At this time, we are not planning to have a cap on the Watertown Virtual School enrollment. Families who submit enrollment forms after August 24 will be placed on a waitlist as we assess staffing and class size limits. We encourage any family interested in the Watertown Virtual School to submit the enrollment form by August 24.

Will Watertown Virtual School use the same curriculum as the Bridge to Hybrid Program?

Both the Watertown Virtual School and the Bridge to Hybrid will offer the same content standards that students would receive in a normal school year, using the platforms Seesaw for grades PreSchool to 2 and Google Classroom for grades 3 through 12. In grades K-8, teachers in a given grade level will utilize a ‘Weekly Learning Plan Template’ ensuring students across the district are focusing on the same learning targets and standards. Here are the DRAFT WMS Weekly Learning Plan and DRAFT WHS Weekly Learning Plan .

While in a fully remote model, all WHS students, even those choosing to enroll in WVS will be attending live classes over Zoom. Continuous planning is underway this summer, and we’re planning that Watertown High School Virtual School students may continue to have access to the same Zoom instruction with the same teachers during a hybrid opening at the high school. If we are not able to arrange that, WVS students will continue to learn virtually, and teacher assignment may change.

An additional option for families who want a fully online program will be available as well, using the Edgenuity Platform. This program may be administered by our partners at the EDCO Collaborative and will be monitored, not taught, by WPS faculty. The Edgenuity program will cover the same Massachusetts standards and learning targets as the Watertown Virtual School but will use the fully online platform. Thus, the majority of learning will be asynchronous and online. This is a good option for families who are not able to follow a traditional school schedule. Click on this link for the Edgenuity student experience demonstration.

Are Watertown Virtual teachers also teaching in the Bridge to Hybrid School?

It is possible that at the middle school and high school level, WPS teachers may be teaching in both models, as students take content-specific courses.

How will specialized courses at the high school including Advanced Placement (AP) classes be offered at the Watertown Virtual School?

We will be offering AP courses either through students virtually attending courses at WHS, or by accessing online curriculum through Virtual High School (a program that WHS has used for several years), or the Edgenuity curriculum.

How will science be taught?

Science courses will include online lab simulations and at-home lab experiences.

Will the Watertown Virtual School offer music, band, or chorus classes?

Students will attend specials and electives with their Bridge to Hybrid peers virtually. All specials, whether in the Bridge to Hybrid program or the Watertown Virtual School program will be online. At the elementary level, specials and Spanish are the times when WVS and Bridge to Hybrid students will come together in their home schools.

Students can join or remain in activities, athletics, and clubs that are offered as extracurricular activities.

What technology will be provided?

Watertown Virtual School will provide Chromebooks for students in grades 1 through 12 and iPads for students in grades Preschool through kindergarten.

Link to the Watertown Virtual School Enrollment Form