Welcome to the 2020-2021 school year at Waterford Street School! These past six months have presented unprecedented challenges for families and schools as we grapple with how best to safely educate our youth amidst a global pandemic. My experience with the outstanding staff and families of Waterford during this time has given me great confidence that, together, we can rise to the challenge of providing our kids a quality education, regardless of the mode of learning. This summer I reviewed teacher and parent input from last spring, as well as worked with our district, school, and family reopening teams, to plan for a successful and productive start to the year.
Start of the Year:
Mode of Learning: The superintendent proposed and the school committee approved a full-time remote learning model to start the year for most of the district’s students with the potential to shift to a hybrid learning model when it’s deemed safe to do so. Therefore, our preschool students will begin the year learning from home. However, the state has asked districts to prioritize some in-person learning for “high needs” (cohort C) students. This includes students who spend a large portion of the day in a substantially separate classroom and our preschool students. As soon as we are able to finalize when and if preschool will move to some in-person learning, we’ll reach out to families.
Start Date: The first day for our 1st grade and Kindergarten students will be September 15th. The first day for our preschool students will be Monday, September 21st.
Technology: Similar to the spring, we will ensure that every family who needs a device for remote learning, will receive one. There will be a process to distribute these devices just prior to the first week of school. Students will receive either an iPad or Chromebook tablet - both of which have a touch screen feature.
Online Learning and Communication Platforms: We very much understand the need for our young students to conduct online learning through a platform that’s easy to use and doesn’t require as much adult assistance, while still providing outstanding virtual instruction capabilities. To this end, we purchased a building-based license for the Seesaw remote education platform. This easy-to- use, engaging, and interactive application will enable your child to hear and see their teachers model directions and skills and, more importantly, virtually apply and practice these skills. Teachers will use the Seesaw app to communicate with you and your child as well. There are also a variety of other applications teachers will adopt to aid instruction. Opportunities for parents to learn about these programs will happen during the early part of the school year. We understand that children only have a certain attention span and tolerance for online learning and there will be many activities and learning opportunities for kids offline too.
This online learning will look different than the spring when teachers were thrust into a new virtual instruction environment for which they were not trained. While I feel our staff did an incredible job with last spring’s unique circumstances, they will be receiving more training and this year’s remote learning will be more robust. From a parent perspective, there will also be some differences - virtual attendance will be taken and grades based on progress toward state standards will be issued. We are very aware that many families have work or other requirements that make assisting their child difficult, and are focused on finding ways to help these families and their children with remote learning.
As a father of five children spanning ages 3-13, I know how much these school decisions impact your family decisions. I also realize that the information outlined above still contains many unknowns that present challenges for this family decision making. We are aware of and are considering the following factors as part of this process:
Many of our preschool students receive special education services through an Individual Education Plan (IEP).
Learning remotely can be challenging for our youngest learners, particularly when families are working and not able to help.
The current cost for a remote and even hybrid preschool may not work for many families. We are, therefore, going to waive the tuition cost this year for all of our peer model students (special education students already attend tuition-free).
Many families rely on our program for not only learning, but childcare. While our plan is evolving, we understand and respect that the current plan may not work for some of our families with this consideration. If your plans do change regarding preschool at Waterford’s preschool program, that better meets your family’s needs, please kindly contact us to let us know. You can reach out to our school secretary, Sue Blood at firstname.lastname@example.org /978-632-1605 ext. 5400 or Jen Coxall at email@example.com/ 978-632-1605 ext. 5102. This will enable us to reach out to some families on our waiting list for whom this mode of learning will work.
We know some families are wondering who their teacher might be and which session (a.m./p.m.) they’ll be attending. We will send another letter in the near future with this information.
Please know that our kids and their families are at the heart of our decision process. We will continue to update you as plans evolve.
For those of you returning to Waterford, I look forward to seeing you again! For those new to our school, I can’t wait to meet you! Please feel free to contact the school with any other questions or concerns.