School district issues FAQs on status of return date, spring break, graduation, testing, and much more

by beth on March 23, 2020

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This morning, Superintendent Gregory Martineau issued an update to parents of Northborough and Southborough public school students.

The update includes answers to questions that many have. Underlying them is some uncertainty about what may happen. Martineau explained the schools’ and state’s “current plan”, while acknowledging that things may change.

At this point, many of the district’s decisions are based on guidance from the state. It reassures that the administration is working on a plan for senior graduation and that students won’t be expected to repeat their grade even if the closure gets extended.

The FAQs contain the district’s first reference to spring break the week of April 20th. (At this point, they aren’t cancelling it.)

The update relates that it isn’t too late to apply for an online device to use for the optional learning opportunities, and provides a link on resources for receiving free wi-fi if you don’t have an internet connection. (FAQs clarify that the decision for offering enrichment options, rather than mandating classwork, is at the direction of the Mass Dept of Education.)

It also reminds how to sign up for free lunches.

Below is Martineau’s message followed by FAQs: 

As the first full week of school closure has passed, I want to provide an update and answer the common questions that I, as well as principals and District leaders, are being asked on a regular basis. First, the current plan is that The Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough will be open for school on April 7, 2020. Educators will return on Monday, April 6, 2020, and will have a day to prepare for students to return on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. The District leadership team and I continue to monitor the COVID-19 health situation and are in frequent communication with the local boards of health, Northborough Town Administrator John Coderre, Southborough Town Administrator Mark Purple, local safety officials, Dr. Safdar Medina, District Physician, Department of Public Health (DPH), and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

The Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough are complex organizations. The District is responsible for educating over 4400 students, with varying developmental levels, required supports, and learning needs. Over 900 faculty and staff are employed who are committed to the mission of the District. There are eight collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) that outline working responsibilities and requirements for most employees. The District is working collaboratively with all of the associations and discussing the impact the COVID-19 health situation is having on the overall system.

Although the organization is complex, what is clear and simple is that the Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough’s greatest strength is the people who are connected to the organization: students, educators, staff, and families. If you have any questions or need assistance, please reach out to your child(s) teacher(s), school principal, school nurse, school counselors or me.

Respectfully,

Gregory L. Martineau
Superintendent of Schools

FAQs Included

  1. Why is closing the school an appropriate measure in light of the COVID-19 outbreak?
  2. Is there a chance school could be closed for a longer period of time?
  3. Can I access school food services? How do I go about requesting support?
  4. Can I still request a device for home use during the closure?
  5. What if my family does not have home access to the Internet?
  6. Why is the District not mandating learning for its students?
  7. Will my child be expected to take MCAS this year?
  8. Will April vacation be canceled as a result of the three-week closure?
  9. What can I do to help the District and the community?
  10. What if my child, or a household member, is not feeling well?
  11. How will my child, who has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), receive his/her services?
  12. My son/daughter is a senior at Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) – what are the plans for senior events, such as graduation?
  13. Will my child be expected to take Advanced Placement exams? If the learning experiences are optional, how will my son/daughter be prepared for the exam?
  14. Will my son/daughter repeat the grade/courses if school is canceled for an extended period of time?
  15. How are our faculty and staff doing during this closure?

1. Why is closing the school an appropriate measure in light of the COVID-19 outbreak?
COVID-19 spreads via respiratory droplets from person to person. The virus is more contagious than influenza and lives on surfaces for long periods of time. Reducing the ways people come in close contact with each other is essential to lessen the risk of getting sick. Social or physical distancing is the only way we can slow this virus down. We need to do it now to protect ourselves, the vulnerable and those who can’t protect themselves. Therefore, to practice social or physical distancing schools across the Commonwealth are closed.

2. Is there a chance school could be closed for a longer period of time?
As more is learned about the virus, there is always the possibility that the schools may be closed for a longer period of time. We will continue to update you as we are updated. Due to the dynamic nature of the COVID-19 health situation, there is a high probability that school will be closed beyond April 6, 2020. However, as it stands TODAY, Monday, March 23, 2020, our District will be open for students on Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

3. Can I access school food services? How do I go about requesting support?
Yes, we offered “pick-up” lunch service last week and the service will continue on Monday, March 23, 2020, from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM at Algonquin Regional High School for Northborough residents and Trottier Middle School for Southborough residents.

However, starting Wednesday, March 25, 2020, we will deliver lunches to student’s homes in lieu of the “pick-up” service. The “pick-up” service at Algonquin and Trottier will be discontinued. Delivery will be performed by our school bus company, NRT. We have adjusted routes to accommodate a delivery system. You can expect deliveries to arrive between 11:30 AM and 1:00 PM.

If you already picked up or received a school lunch during week 1 of closure, no action is needed. However, if you would like to have lunch delivered to your home on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until we return to school, please complete the form below:
Lunch Delivery Form
For requests made after March 24, 2020, delivery will begin on Monday, March 30, 2020. All deliveries will be made to your front door. We ask that you not have contact with the staff who are making the delivery.

If you wish to discontinue service, request a change of address, and/or do not receive a lunch that was expected, please email the Director of Operations, Keith Lavoie, at klavoie@nsboro.k12.ma.us or call at: 508-486-5115, ext. 71216.

4. Can I still request a device for home use during the closure?
Devices are still available to families who currently do not have access to a home computer. Please reach out to your building principal for the necessary equipment.

5. What if my family does not have home access to the Internet?
Click here to learn about free Internet access.

6. Why is the District not mandating learning for its students?
Currently, The Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough are following DESE’s requirements by providing alternative learning opportunities based on considerations of equity and the availability of resources. The District’s approach is called NSBORO-CONNECT.

7. Will my child be expected to take MCAS this year?
DESE has not YET canceled administering the spring 2020 MCAS, as of Monday, March 23, 2020. However, Betsy Devos, the Secretary of United States Education, commented in a press release relief:

Students need to be focused on staying healthy and continuing to learn. Teachers need to be able to focus on remote learning and other adaptations. Neither students nor teachers need to be focused on high-stakes tests during this difficult time. Students are simply too unlikely to be able to perform their best in this environment. Our actions today provide turnkey flexibilities for state and local leaders to focus on the immediate needs of their students and educators without worrying about federal repercussions. I’ve spoken with many local education leaders in the past days, and I’m inspired by their efforts to help their students continue to learn and grow. We’re going to continue to provide every flexibility possible to help make that as simple as possible.

8. Will April vacation be canceled as a result of the three-week closure?
April vacation has not been canceled, as of today, Monday, March 23, 2020. However, this may change to accommodate additional learning due to the extended closure. If there is a change, I will communicate to the school community as soon as possible.

9. What can I do to help the District and the community?
Please continue to practice social/physical distancing and encourage your family and friends to do the same. This means you are staying home and going to the store for essentials only (food and/or medicine). As we see the number of cases rise locally, in the state, and nationally, our efforts to follow the strictest social/physical distancing guidelines are imperative. We are all responsible for protecting those at higher risk, this includes the elderly, children with disabilities, or any person with a compromised immune system. Social/physical distancing may feel like an inconvenience, but it is the best way to protect our family, friends, and neighbors. Doing the right thing now will save lives.

10. What if my child, or a household member, is not feeling well?
What do I do if:

I am ill with a fever, cough, and shortness of breath?

  • Stay home and contact your medical provider immediately.

My child is ill with a fever, cough, and shortness of breath?

  • Stay home and contact your medical provider immediately.

Someone in my household tests positive for COVID-19?

  • The entire household needs to stay home, strict self-quarantine, monitor for symptoms and contact your medical provider.

Someone I was in close contact with tests positive for COVID-19?

  • Stay home, strict self-quarantine, monitor for symptoms and contact your medical provider.

I don’t know if I have had contact with someone who has COVID-19?

  • If a person tests positive, DPH and the local board of health are notified. If you are considered a close contact, you will be notified by the Board of Health or DPH and given instructions on the need to self-quarantine and monitor or the need to be tested.

If you have any questions, comments or needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Mary Ellen Duggan, District Wellness Coordinator at mduggan@nsboro.k12.ma.us or 508-486-5115, ext. 71254

11. How will my child, who has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), receive his/her services?
Once schools reopen, our District will provide educational services to all students, including special education and related services in accordance with each child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or, for students entitled to Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) under Section 504, consistent with a plan developed to meet the requirements of Section 504.

12. My son/daughter is a senior at Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) – what are the plans for senior events, such as graduation?
The ARHS Leadership Team is monitoring the COVID-19 health situation closely and is keenly aware of how the current closure is impacting all of our students, especially seniors. The Team is working closely with class advisors and identifying key events that may be impacted and will endeavor to ensure that the ARHS Class of 2020 is provided with as many opportunities to enjoy and celebrate its successes. The ARHS Leadership Team will provide frequent updates to families and seniors throughout the closure.

13. Will my child be expected to take Advanced Placement exams? If the learning experiences are optional, how will my son/daughter be prepared for the exam?
The ARHS Leadership Team is monitoring The College Board’s plans daily and is working closely with ARHS educators who are currently teaching AP courses. As new information is available, the ARHS Leadership team will communicate the new information. In the meantime, I am encouraging AP students to visit The College Board’s AP website to stay connected and updated.

14. Will my son/daughter have to stay back if school is canceled for an extended period of time?
No, students will not have to repeat the grade level or course due to the extended closure. School-based leaders and educators are monitoring the extended closure closely. Educators are looking at solutions to ensure ALL students are prepared for the next grade level. If you have a concern about your child, please reach out to his/her educator or building principal. The District is preparing for various scenarios, including if DESE lifts its current requirements and allows our District to conduct school in a virtual environment and if the closure extends beyond April 6, 2020.

15. How are our faculty and staff doing during this closure?
Many parents have asked how faculty and staff are doing during this closure. Like many of our families, they are adapting to a new reality and trying to stay safe and healthy, while also supporting their families and their students. They too are dealing with the COVID-19 health situation the best they are able to.

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