School update: No spring break; last day set for June 16th

Southborough and Northborough public schools have cancelled spring break.* That moves the last day of school up to Tuesday, June 16th.

The decision was made at last night’s Combined School Committees  meeting. This morning, Superintendent Greg Martineau shared the vote outcome. He explained:

This decision reflects a desire to maintain the continuity of remote learning for students and prepares for the possibility that in-person schooling may be suspended beyond May 4th, the current end date of school closures in Massachusetts.

The vote supported the preference selected by the large majority of surveyed parents and teachers.

Prior to the meeting, Superintendent Gregory Martineau asked for input from students’ parents and teachers.** Today’s message shows that 85.3% of the 2,042 parent/guardian responses supported cancelling April vacation to end school sooner. That’s consistent with the 85.4% of 410 faculty and staff responses. (Click thumbnails below for details.)

NSBORO April vacation survey parents results NSBORO April vacation survey faculty and staff results

During last night’s meeting, committee members were supportive of continuing education through the break. Members referred to the choppy stop and start that taking a break would cause. Regional Committee member Kathleen Howland said she participated in an NSPAC meeting. Her impression was that for vulnerable special needs students having issues getting on board with remote learning, the break would be disruptive.

Regional and Northborough member Lauren Bailey-Jones said she worried that having a break would encourage students to get together that week. Regional Chair Cathy Kea wasn’t sure students would behave that way. But, she believed that zoom classes allow kids see their friends and feel less isolated.

Southborough School Committee Chair Keturah Martin said she had been torn about which way to go. Southborough’ Jessica Devine said she had been in the minority. Since her kids did all of the optional learning, she felt they could use a break. Both members understood reasons presented for cancelling break and agreed with supporting the overwhelming community preference.

Northborough’s Kelly Guenette said she heard from many parents wondering if a third option was possible — cancelling vacation but continuing learning to June 22nd. Martineau said that there would be collective bargaining issues.

The Superintendent said that teachers have been working hard. Online teaching is harder than in classrooms. Planning remote sessions takes a lot of time and energy. Ultimately we would have to compensate teachers for extra time. He recommended against it.

Martineau summarized that mose comments from families were those feeling overwhelmed, trying to help kids while working from home. His response was that the district would work with families to accommodate their needs.

He also said many educators urged to continue since they don’t believe students will return on May 4th. Families also noted that they have nowhere to go over break. They are looking forward to getting out in June when they can hopefully leave their houses.

Kea said that she’d seen feedback that high school and middle school families wanted more time per class than was being given.

Martineau said they’d gotten a lot of feedback. He noted that it felt like they’d been doing this a long time, but they were only 4 days in (on 2.0). They’ll be revisiting as leadership team on what is working and not. (Though there won’t be a 3.0.)

He also noted that many of the educators are home with their own young children. They’re juggling this just like the students’ families. 

Southborough and Regional member Paul Desmond said the one reason he’d have supported cancelling break would have been to give teachers a break. He said they deserved applause for supporting continuing to work through vacation.

Martineau’s message stated that the administration has had a positive response to this week’s launch of NSBORO 2.0. But he addressed struggles that some parents are having. He stressed the schools’ willingness to work with families and the need for parents to communicate with them about issues:

The feedback also included suggestions to improve and finetune remote learning. Early next week, the District will be reviewing NSBORO-CONNECT 2.0 and will make adjustments, where necessary. I want to acknowledge the excellent work of our District and school-based leaders, faculty, and staff preparing for NSBORO-CONNECT 2.0. . .

We recognize that our families, students, and faculty are functioning under unprecedented circumstances. The priorities of each family may be different based on their current situation. As such, we want to provide a flexible learning environment that can accommodate each family’s needs. We will work closely with families who need modifications to NSBORO-CONNECT 2.0.

Faculty, staff, and school and District leaders are available if you need support, have an idea, or question. Please do not hesitate to reach out to your child’s teachers, principal, or me. The way we improve is by receiving feedback from our parents and students.

Maintaining connections between faculty, staff, students, and families is paramount.

What continues to be evident is that the District’s greatest strength is our strong community and the way in which we connect and support one another. Educators and families will continue to work together on behalf of our students.

*School break was set for April 20 – 24. April 20th is Patriot’s Day, so that day will still be a day off.

**The input form wasn’t a blind community survey. Required fields asked respondents for first and last name.

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