The Wellesley School Committee (SC) met remotely via web conferencing on April 7 to discuss in part the anticipated roll-out of the Wellesley Public Schools pre-K through grade 12 Remote Learning Model 2.0. The SC was unable to hold its meeting at Town Hall as usual in accordance with state recommendations that Massachusetts residents maintain social distancing measures that include keeping six feet apart from others in order to slow the spread of cornonavirus.
Last month Gov. Charlie Baker announced that Massachusetts schools will remain closed until at least May 4. But as Superintendent David Lussier said, “It may extend for the rest of the year. Gov. Baker will decide.”
Meantime, in response to guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) that has lifted the restrictions on introducing new content via remote learning, WPS is expected on Monday to roll out an enhanced Remote Learning model.
Many Wellesley families are ready for a more broadened and comprehensive way of online education that relies less on enrichment and review of already-learned material for the district’s 5,000+ students.
During community speak Peter, a Hunnewell parent, said, “I appreciate that we have received a comprehensive plan. We need structure and routine for the students. We should recall that parents are not teachers, so anything that can be done to educate is much appreciated.”
Another parent said, “Currently I don’t see the kids covering new material. It seems still to be enrichment. I think the teachers need to ensure we follow the curriculum and we follow the teaching plans that were put together in the beginning of the year so that the kids can learn and progress.”
WPS educational priorities right now
The WPS in its 18-page Remote Learning document has identified its top priorities for remote learning:
- The safety and well-being of families and staff
- Educational equity as “we strive to support our most vulnerable students”
- Maintaining connections between school staff and students
So although some families are clamoring for a more business-as-usual approach to their children’s education that prioritizes academics, the plan put forward is something different. The Remote Learning Model outlines a more holistic approach, one that appears geared toward shepherding staff and families through the closure. According to the document, “Our educators will work in partnership with families to keep our students positively engaged socially, emotionally, and academically…We recognize that nothing can replace the in-person schooling experience and do not expect our Remote Learning model to replicate the traditional school day.”
The Remote Learning 2.0 document outlines the model for K-5, middle, and high school students. It includes details on attendance, morning meetings, homework, grading, and more.
The document makes a distinction between remote learning and online learning as not synonymous in that remote learning incorporates online and offline components. “We want to make sure kids aren’t staring at screens all day, so some of our time is working directly with teachers on pre-recorded videos, other of that time is moving away from screens with kids doing things like independent reading and physical activity,” Lussier said.
The watchword as put forth in the document is reasonable, defined as “meaningful and productive learning that deepens student knowledge and encourages application of knowledge and skills across subject areas…When/if new content is introduced or addressed, teachers must keep in mind that access and mastery will vary greatly among students due to the constraints of a remote learning environment.”
Families have been asked to expect that students will be engaged in remote learning for about half of the traditional day. Such remote learning includes online and offline time, meaning some of that time will be teacher-directed learning, and some will be student self-directed learning.
Within this construct, WPS has identified as a fundamental goal that all students have at least one daily opportunity to engage with a teacher. This opportunity could take the form of a teacher meeting with a full class; or in small groups; and/or 1:1 teacher-student meetings. These virtual meetings are taking place through Google Meet/Hangout, Zoom, or conference calls.
As far as assignments go, much of that depends on the age of the students. Teachers are expected to give weekly feedback to students on their remote learning work and/or participation.
For students with an Individual Education Plan, families have been asked to show flexibility: “We will try to continue to hold a small number of remote/abbreviated IEP meetings. Remember, with limited staff time, we want to focus on students and families, not on paperwork.”
With a school day that encompasses only about three or four hours total per day, including general education activities, the schools have put their focus on preventing regression and maintaining skills.
The doctor is in on Kingsbury St.
Congratulations to Wellesley Middle School Principal Mark Ito, who last week successfully defended his doctoral dissertation remotely. The newly minted Boston College Ed.D (which is a doctorate in Education) hasn’t let a little thing like global pandemic slow him down. Ito has been at WMS since 2004, and was named Principal in 2010.
So it’s now Dr. Ito to the likes of us. We’ll try to adjust.