District News and Events
March 25, 2020
Dear Duxbury Community,
I hope this email finds you well. It is almost unbelievable, and admittedly unsettling, at how much the world has changed in the last two weeks. Our “new normal” is not easy, and presents a myriad of challenges, but Duxbury is a strong community and we will get through it together. We might even come out stronger.
I want to say candidly that Duxbury teachers and administrators are coming to terms with the constantly-evolving situation, and we are all finding it difficult to keep pace. There are still too many questions and not enough answers. However, although it feels like months, we are only seven school days into this new way of life, and the number of challenges it has presented for schools is immeasurable. We have been asked to effectively transform public education overnight. While I know many parents are feeling anxious, myself included, we are doing our best to balance the needs of many people who belong to our school community, including students, families, and staff.
We are asking you to keep in mind that while we have many students who are capable of completing assignments independently at home, we also have many students who require significant support in order to complete tasks and organize schoolwork. We are committed to providing continued learning for Duxbury students, but as a public school, we must also consider equity of access.
Possibility of Extended Closure
Although I have no inside knowledge, and I could be mistaken, I think it is important for us to prepare for an extended school closure. Currently, our return to school date is April 7, but it is likely to be longer. If reports from epidemiologists, virologists, and other experts are any indication, it is unlikely we will return to school by the end of April. We hope to hear from State officials by March 27, if not sooner, and we will share any new information as it becomes available.
Transition to Distance Learning
Given the probability of an extended closure, on Monday, March 30, we will be transitioning to a more formal structure for our remote learning plan, with a greater emphasis on academic assignments, student engagement, and deeper learning, especially for students in grades 6-12.
Our administrative team has been working tirelessly this week to assess what is currently working, and what is not working, and we are revising our plan to provide more consistency and to set clearer expectations. You should expect to see a message from your building principal/s in the next day or two, with more detailed information about a revised remote learning plan.
It is important for families to understand that the level of instruction for remote learning will not be equivalent to what is taught in the traditional classroom setting. We need to be more sensitive than ever to the needs of our students and families. We recognize that parents and guardians will be in charge of their children’s learning, and they will likely have less familiarity with content and pedagogical knowledge; thus, students will have less explicit structure, support, and time for learning than they would receive in a typical school day in our buildings.
I am asking for your understanding as we try to strike the balance of keeping you informed, but not overwhelming you with information. The principals are working to streamline communication efforts beginning next week, and I am confident we will see improvement in this area. That said, we want to err on the side of providing too much, rather than not enough, communication.
A final thought
As educators, we are obviously committed to academics, and in Duxbury, we are committed to academic excellence. However, we are equally concerned with students’ mental and physical health, especially in these stressful and unsettling times in which we find ourselves. We are now transitioning to a remote learning plan that allows for meaningful interaction with content, and a high level of student engagement, but we also strongly encourage a daily exercise plan, self-care activities, and exploration of non-academic pursuits.
I want to leave you with an article from Education Week that a trusted colleague shared with me: “Remember, Online Learning Isn’t the Only Way to Learn Remotely,” by Kate Ehrenfeld Gardoqui. As the author points out, “This time of school closure provides a magnificent opportunity for us to envision the kind of learning that is different from what happens in classrooms.” As my colleague said to me, “now is as good a time as any to try out new ideas and new ways of thinking!“
John Antonucci, Superintendent
March 17, 2020
Dear Duxbury Community,
As we consider what the next three weeks, or longer, will look like for Duxbury families, we thought it was important to share with you what we consider to be our two primary goals:
- Maintaining “continuity of learning” for our students, with a three-part focus on Brain, Body, and Self.
- Maintaining our sense of community.
In the last two days, it has become clear to me that there are two competing viewpoints in our community. Some families are seeking structure and assistance with creating routines, and are looking for guidance on how to maintain academic skills remotely. Other families have indicated that they are in “survival mode”, and are concerned about their capacity to support academics at home. Our intention over the short term is to provide some OPTIONAL learning activities and resources that will assist you in keeping students occupied and productive throughout the day. All we ask is that you do your best, whatever that looks like for your family.
Our focus on supporting students’ healthy brain, body, and self, is informing our decisions and planning. We continue to work closely with the District Leadership Team and the Duxbury Teachers Association, and are developing plans to accomplish the following:
- Make available technology devices to students in grades K-6 (who do not currently have a personal or district-issued device available).
- Share out a comprehensive list of resources and curriculum activities by school/grade.
- Communicate district and school-wide virtual learning events.
No later than Friday, March 20, building principals will follow up with grade-specific plans that outline initial sets of OPTIONAL activities and academic content. We want to be clear that while school is not in session, our aim is to assist with maintaining current levels of learning to minimize regression. These learning activities will not be graded, and will be designed to allow for connectedness to teachers/classmates, and inspire student learning. We know that students are more motivated to complete optional work when they know their teachers are reviewing it.
Circling back to our three focus areas of brain, body, and self, we believe all three are of equal importance. As families deal with the challenges that come with a “full house”, we strongly encourage a daily exercise plan, self-care activities, and exploration of non-academic pursuits. Please look out for more information in the next couple of days. In the meantime, I thank you again for your patience and flexibility!
March 16, 2019
Dear Duxbury Community,
As I am sure you have heard by now, Governor Baker has ordered a three-week suspension of school operations at all public and private schools in the Commonwealth. With this new directive, the Duxbury Public Schools are scheduled to reopen on Tuesday, April 7. A few key points that I know are of interest to families:
- The last day of school is scheduled for Monday, June 22. At this time, I do not anticipate that changing.
- There has been no decision made about whether or not to cancel April break. We will consider our options in the coming days.
- MCAS testing requirements are being looked at by DESE, but at the very least, the testing windows will be extended or postponed.
During the next three weeks, it is critical that students and their families, as well as school staff, stay home as much as possible. If you leave your home, it is essential to follow the Center for Disease Control and MA Department of Public Health’s guidance on social distancing by avoiding crowds, canceling social gatherings, and maintaining a safe separation of at least 6 feet from others. We have a collective responsibility to protect ourselves and the community, and I strongly urge Duxbury residents to abide by the Governor’s restrictions.
We are obviously in unchartered territory, and like you, we are still digesting the news. The Commissioner of Education is urging schools “to begin planning for how best to equitably provide alternative access to student learning opportunities during this period and potentially beyond.” To be clear, we are not equipped or prepared to replicate the school day remotely - we will simply be looking for ways to allow students to sustain their academic skills until we return to the classroom.
Members of my central office leadership team are scheduled to meet Tuesday morning to continue planning, and the full District Leadership team will meet on Wednesday. We will communicate our progress to the school community by the end of this week. In the interim, there are many educational resources on our school and teacher websites, or in Schoology for our secondary students, and we encourage students to continue reading and using the many available apps and learning websites that companies have made free during this unusual circumstance. We will be providing a comprehensive list of recommended PK-12 learning tools as soon as possible.
Finally, please know that the schools are following the same rapidly-changing news as you, and it has been difficult to keep pace. We are committed to doing the very best for Duxbury students during these unprecedented times, and I am asking for your patience as we work through the many challenges that lie ahead. We are fortunate that the foundation of the Duxbury Public Schools, and the entire Duxbury community, is strong. This is a temporary setback, and our students, faculty, and staff will get through it if we continue to work together. Thank you very much.
March 13, 2020
Dear Duxbury Community,
This message is to inform you that the Duxbury Public Schools will be closed from Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 27. Over the next two weeks, we will reassess to determine if a longer closure is warranted. This decision was made earlier today in consultation with, and in line with, other South Shore districts.
Earlier this morning, our District leadership team participated in a conference call with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH). On that call, we learned that the state is not recommending statewide school closure at this time, and thus the decision remains in our hands. Although we still do not have any presumed cases of this illness in our area, I believe being proactive in this situation is important. My top priority is the health and safety of Duxbury students and staff, and I believe that the decision to close the District is in direct alignment with this responsibility.
Although I firmly believe this is the right decision at this time, it is not an easy one. Duxbury children and families rely on our public schools as a key component of their larger community. In addition to academics, students receive important special education, health, nutrition, and social service support from our schools. We are aware of the impact of interrupting these services and are actively planning for the provision of alternatives. We are also aware of the difficulty that many families will have, trying to balance daycare with their professional and personal responsibilities. In short, we know that closing schools is a major disruption in the community.
As always, we are committed to sharing new information as it becomes available. Please look out for further communication in the coming week. Thank you all for your patience during these very trying times.
March 12, 2020
Dear Duxbury Community,
To say that we are living in an uncertain world right now would be an understatement. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and the nation’s response, is obviously unprecedented, and continues to evolve at a rapid pace. We are committed to providing the highest level of transparency, and we are doing our best to keep members of the school community informed with the most current information and guidance that is available to us. I have many of the same questions you have, and share many of your concerns. As information becomes available to me, you have my commitment that it will be immediately passed on to you.
We are anticipating another round of guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) tomorrow, and we will share any new information with you. In the meantime, please see below some very important messages:
Cancellation of community events and field trips
To support national and local efforts to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel all evening and community events in all of our facilities effective immediately and until further notice. Additionally, all student field trips will be cancelled. This decision is consistent with the State’s latest guidance for public events. We want to acknowledge that our students, staff, and families have invested a lot of time and energy in preparing for these events. However, at this point, we need to make decisions that safeguard our community in the long term.
The use of school buildings by non-school groups will be discontinued until further notice. Here are some examples of events that are cancelled or postponed until further notice:
- Student performances
- Indoor athletic facility rentals for sports
- Community events and meetings
- PTO meetings and other parent events
At this time, we have not cancelled school-based extracurricular activities including athletics and clubs as we await additional guidance.
We understand that some parents may make personal decisions in the best interest of their own family when it comes to sending their children to school, and we will support those decisions. If you choose to keep your student(s) home due to Coronavirus concerns, it is imperative that you communicate that to the school administration. In that event, absences will be marked as “excused” with the understanding that students will be required to complete missed coursework.
Talking with children about Coronavirus
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has an excellent resource to help adults have conversations with children about COVID-19 and ways they can avoid getting and spreading the disease. If you are interested in this information, please click the following link: Talking with children about Coronavirus Disease 2019.
This situation is evolving, and we will continue to provide updates as news develops. We appreciate the many parents who have reached out with questions and/or feedback about the District’s response and decision-making. As always, working together as a cohesive community is the best solution when responding to this type of challenge.
March 10, 2020
Dear Duxbury Community,
As the implications of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continue to evolve, I want to share with you the most current information that is available to us, as well as update you on our local responses.
- Coordination with Town and State Officials: I want to reiterate that we will continue to make our decisions based on guidance from local, state and federal public health agencies, in particular the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH). In recent weeks, Duxbury school personnel have been in constant contact with these agencies, and have also been collaborating with town officials, other school districts, and state associations.
- Quarantine Protocol: Duxbury students and families will be required to follow the quarantine protocol from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH). We have been asked numerous times about the protocols for members of a household who are living with those in self-quarantine. Specifically, if one person in the household is in self-quarantine, are the rest of the members of the household also required to be in self-quarantine? According to the most recent guidance from MDPH, the answer is no. That could obviously change if household members become symptomatic, and at that point, we would consult MDPH for further guidance.
- Voluntary Notification: Families are urged to voluntarily communicate with the school department about possible exposure of any member of your immediate household, or concern about possible symptoms of the virus (fever, cough, or shortness of breath). If you have information to share, I ask that you contact your school nurse or the school administration immediately using the contact information below. All communication is confidential.
- High School: 781-934-7650 (school nurse x4414)
- Middle School: 781-934-7640 (school nurse x4416)
- Alden School: 781-934-7630 (school nurse x3107)
- Chandler School: 781-934-7680 (school nurse x2105)
- Cancelation of School Events: As of today, we have not canceled any school events or school activities, and unless there is specific guidance from local or state officials, we will continue to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. We appreciate your patience as the situation evolves. We trust that families will make individual decisions in the best interest of their own family when it comes to attending school-related events and we will support those decisions.
- Cleaning/Disinfecting: As I communicated to you last week, we have enhanced our cleaning and disinfection protocols throughout the district. This past weekend we had five extra custodians on duty doing a “deep clean” of the schools, as well as applying extra disinfectant to all surfaces, door handles, etc.
- Hand Washing and Sanitation: We continue to reinforce with students and staff best practices for minimizing the spread of germs. In addition, we have installed dozens of additional hand sanitizer stations in strategic locations in all four schools, and distributed hundreds of containers of Clorox cleaning wipes to classrooms and offices.
- Confidentiality/Privacy: As with any medical information, confidentiality about our staff, students, and families must be maintained at all times according to federal regulations. Information about reasons for absences, travel history and illness cannot be given out and must be protected. As we continue to manage the COVID-19 situation, it is also essential that we adhere to our commitment to community and caring relationships. How we talk about COVID-19, so that no students and/or families are spotlighted or profiled is our top priority. Support, empathy, and kindness are of paramount importance during these uncertain times.
- Resources for families: As I communicated last week, you can stay informed about the COVID-19 outbreak by visiting both the MDPH and CDC websites.
Once again, we remain deeply committed to student and staff wellness and will continue to keep you informed of updates or changes as advised by our local and state departments of public health. Thank you very much.