Dear Members of the School Community,
As we prepare for the return of students, the District has finalized its return to school plan. This year’s plan requires schools to socially distance students to the extent possible, and to implement a multi-teared testing strategy. The overall goal is to keep kids safe and in school, and allow our faculty to focus on what their student’s need. Our principals have been given the latitude to make operational decisions based on the needs of the school community they serve, provided they work with each other to ensure a level of consistency between schools and across the District. A copy of the Return to School Plan is attached.
On Wednesday, August 26th, the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education implemented a masking requirement for public school students (age 5 and above), as well as faculty and staff, in all grades, through at least October 1, 2021. The document laying out the Commissioner’s requirements is attached. To provide additional clarification for families, an acceptable face mask will be defined as a disposable or cloth face mask without valves, slits, or holes. As the Commissioner’s masking mandate is effective immediately, masks are now required for anyone entering a school building.
For student athletes, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) has provided their masking requirements, in alignment with the Commissioner mandate, that states “In order to safely maximize full participation of fall sports:
- Masks shall be required for any activity for student-athletes and coaches who are indoors; and
- Masks are not required and will remain optional for any activity for student-athletes and coaches outdoors.”
The masking requirements will be reviewed in an ongoing basis by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in conjunction with the Department of Public Health.
On a final note, the District has been experiencing problems with its Internet Service Provider (ISP). Users have been temporarily unable to access PowerSchool, the phone system, and some Google features. The IT Team has been working with the ISP, and believes they have resolved the issue. We appreciate your patience, as we know kids are working hard to finish their summer reading and getting ready for the new school year.
On Tuesday, August 17th, at 7:00 PM the School Committee will meet and select a new Superintendent of Schools. The meeting will be broadcast live on SMAC - Comcast 6 and Verizon 26 in Stoughton. The meeting agenda can be found here: School Committee Agenda 08-17-21
The District has sent out a survey on face coverings that will remain open until noon on Tuesday, August 17th. A single, personalized link was sent to each family, as well as each student in Grades 7 – 12. There has been some confusion related to the survey, as the software utilized by the District inadvertently identified the sender as “Helpdesk”, as opposed to the Stoughton Public Schools. If you overlooked the email, please take the time to pull it up and complete the survey. The District has already received over 1250 responses.
I would like to remind parents/guardians that the Stoughton Public Schools is working with Transformative Health Solutions to provide a COVID-19 vaccine clinic to those who are 12 and older. The clinic will take place at Stoughton High School on August 26th, from 10am to 3pm. The link to the registration form is as follows: https://bit.ly/SPSClinic
Based on the most recent data provided by the Commonwealth, approximately 56% of those ages 12 – 15, and 71% of those ages 16 – 19, who are living in Stoughton are currently vaccinated. The vaccination rate of our students will absolutely have an impact on the learning environment and the District’s ability to keep everyone in school this coming year. If you haven’t already had your student(s) vaccinated, I would strongly encourage you to do so.
There are ongoing conversations in the community about the merits of students wearing face coverings at school. When making a decision on issues such as this, the District relies on recommendations provided by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Department of Public Health. Once the recommendation is received, its evaluated to determine whether it meets the needs of this particular community and our students. In this case, local vaccination rates, incident rates, and community input are evaluated while taking into consideration the District’s ability to mitigate the impact of the virus through strategies such as social distancing, symptomatic testing, pool testing, and “test and stay” protocols. The District also has to factor in how its decisions will intersect with its responsibility to conduct contact tracing, identify close contacts, and to quarantine students. Leading up to setting expectations on this issue, I believe it’s important that families know that the District is putting in the time to fully understand how all the pieces fit together, and is committed to doing what’s best for this community. I will be presenting the District’s plan to the School Committee on August 24th.
On a final note, the District’s new website should be up and running by Monday, August 23, 2021. Additional updates will follow from this office as we continue to prepare for the first day of school.
I hope everyone is having a relaxing and reinvigorating summer. There are a number of items I’d like to share with you as we continue to work towards a new school year.
The District has just concluded the most expansive summer programing we’ve ever offered. Just under eight hundred students, in Grades Pre-K through 12, took part in one or more programs. In addition to the Knights of Summer and traditional summer offerings, new activities such as acceleration academies, athletic conditioning, music lessons, enrichment programs, and counseling provided students and families with an incredible number of options. The District plans to continue expanding its summer programming based on what we learned over the past six weeks, and looks forward to providing more opportunities next year.
The Stoughton Public Schools has partnered with Transformative Health Solutions to provide a COVID-19 vaccine clinic to those who are 12 and older. The clinic will take place at Stoughton High School on August 26th from 10am to 3pm. To make the vaccination process more convenient for parents, students will have the option of receiving their second shot during the school day. As a parent/guardian it is important to understand that beyond the obvious benefits of being vaccinated, an asymptomatic student who is vaccinated is not required to quarantine if found to be a close contact under the existing guidelines. The link to the registration form can be found at: https://bit.ly/SPSClinic
The administrative team has finished developing its Return to School Plan. Overall, the focus has been on providing students with a regular school experience, while continuing to implement safeguards to ensure the health and wellbeing of our students. To make certain the District’s Plan meets the needs of every student, extra supports have been put in place to include adding two counseling programs, expanding special education and English language education services, hiring reading and math specialists, and expanding after school academic and enrichment programs.
The District’s Return to School Plan will be presented to the School Committee at their August 24th meeting. While the Plan is complete, we’re still waiting on an updated set of guidelines from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education before presenting the Plan to the Committee. The District has reached out to the Stoughton Teacher Association to ensure that any component(s) of the Plan that may be subject to bargaining can be addressed, and any issues resolved before students return in September.
On a final note, the principals will be sending out their back to school letters on August 18th to provide more detailed information on the upcoming school year. Additional updates will also follow from this office as we continue to prepare for the first day of school.