Community Letter from Gretchen Morse-Dobosz, Superintendent/Principal

July 31, 2020

Dear Community:
I am writing with an update on our planning process for the start of a new school year in the Worthington School District. Our planning process continues to be guided by a vigilant monitoring of public health data in Massachusetts. We are tentatively scheduled to resume student learning on September 8, 2020. A revised calendar will be posted on the school web page and sent to families in the coming week.

As you are well aware, the Massachusetts Department of Education has directed districts to submit by July 31, 2020, a preliminary plan that addresses the feasibility of three options for serving students at the start of the school year. Those options include a full return to daily, inperson learning; a hybrid plan combining in-school learning with some remote learning; and finally, a 100% remote learning program. Our final plan, approved by the School Committee, is due to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) by August 10. Earlier this week, DESE explained that they plan to offer feedback to our preliminary plans no later than August 7th. Districts can file for a waiver if the timeline doesn’t match with a scheduled School Committee meeting. Therefore, the Worthington School District will request a waiver to submit our final plan no later than August 14 (after our August 13 school committee meeting). This gives the School Committee additional time to review suggestions from DESE and take your survey feedback into consideration.

Our district was built with a shared vision that our students would discover and explore their learning environment. During such a crisis, our vision statement supports our community to implement the school vision fully.

Our school, families, and community collaborate to foster a place where all members contribute in a discovery-focused learning environment.

  • We are supportive. We are learners who are inspired to take risks and we find a way with creative solutions.
  • We are progressive. We explore new ways to learn in the classroom, outdoors, and in the community.
  • We are inquisitive. We develop curious, life-long learners who effect change in the world.
  • We are intrepid. We foster a safe environment where children are taught to be courageous individuals.

Through engagement and integration, we invite our community to be empowered, to discover our strengths, and to achieve our maximum potential.

In accordance with this vision of the school and the rural character of our community, our faculty is planning to have the outdoors be our primary classroom. We plan to create varied learning spaces using our expansive backyard, garden, and woods. Teachers will develop lessons where students can read and write outdoors, and the natural environment will act as a resource for math and science standards. We are planning for tents in order to create shade and cover for cohorts.

After careful consideration, we have come to the very difficult decision not to offer preschool for this coming school year. We are truly sad to think of our school community missing our youngest members. However, because of the pandemic, we fear it will be difficult to provide the kinds of hands-on play-based learning experiences so essential to preschool. We also predict significantly lower enrollment this year, making the program financially unsustainable for 2020-21. We assure you this is a decision for this year only; we will enthusiastically welcome preschool back in the fall of 2021. We believe preschool to be an essential part of a complete elementary program.

We recognize that the circumstances of every family and faculty member are different, and that no decision or plan ultimately will satisfy everyone in our community. But rest assured that we are working diligently to explore every option available to us, that we remain guided by the science to keep our students and staff safe and healthy, and that we will be prepared to adjust along the way if the public health conditions or other variables change over time.

As we move closer to a final plan, we welcome input and feedback from all of our stakeholders. We invite you to share your questions, comments, and ideas to help inform and strengthen our plans.

Please complete the Return to School Survey no later than Tuesday, August 4th. We will keep you informed about our progress in developing a final plan. I am confident that we can prioritize both safety and learning as we prepare for the start of a successful school year. Thank you for your patience and cooperation in these difficult times.

Gretchen Morse-Dobosz

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