Thanks to LINX for sponsoring our latest Wellesley, Mass., education news. In this unprecedented time LINX has built outdoor classrooms and is using Elm Bank Reservation fields so that children can continue to have the in-person learning experiences they need and want, while staying safe. True to its mission of providing the best classes experience for each member of every family, LINX has created new classes for remote school students, pandemic pods, micro-schools, and temporary home schools!
Location: 141 Linden Street, Wellesley, 02482
Welcome back to in-person learning, Wellesley. Today is the day when students, teachers, and staff will at last re-enter school buildings. It’s been a long time coming. Wellesley went to a remote-learning style of education back in mid-March, when schools were closed due to COVID-19 concerns.
It’s been seven months since the double doors clanged shut, but now that the hybrid model is kicking in, students in grades 2 – 12 will start in-school learning for two out of five days per week. Pre-K through grade 1 students will have four days of in-class learning. Wednesdays will be half-day remote learning for all. Approximately 500 students across the board have opted to enroll in Wellesley’s new Remote Learning School.
We’ve taken a different approach to marking the return of students to bricks-and-mortar education this year, since showing up at school drop-off points to take a few pics seemed like a bad idea. Instead, we met recently with Wellesley’s newest school principal, Grant Smith, to get an outdoor tour and find out how the head of Hardy School is settling in.
Smith comes to Wellesley by way of Winchester’s Vinson-Owen Elementary School, where he served as principal for nine years. Before that he worked for the Lexington school system, a post he took to be closer to family after teaching 3rd and 4th grade in Chicago for many years. Smith grew up in Swampscott and after graduation attended Calvin College (now Calvin University), a private Christian college in Michigan of about 4,000 undergraduates. He earned his master’s degree in school administration through Cambridge College in Boston.
When Smith accepted the Hardy job, he knew the town was in the middle of a big decision process about moving from seven elementary schools to six, and that Hardy might potentially close. He was undaunted by the prospect. “I knew a big decision was coming. But I also knew it would be a matter of years before the decision would have a direct effect on the Hardy building.” (As it turns out, on Sept. 4 the School Building Committee voted 7-6 to build a new elementary school at the Hardy site over Upham.)
Smith says he was more concerned about what the pandemic would mean for the school community. “All of us knew this would be a unique start to the school year,” he said, “but in spite of the chaos, it was possible for me to ease into my start in Wellesley.” Smith’s July 1st start date meant that he entered a work-in-progress when it came to figuring out how the recommendations and requirements of the State and the local Board of Health would be implemented as the academic year grew closer.
“It’s been done with the support of the larger administration team, the PTO, the teachers,” he said. “It’s definitely been the busiest summer. The logistical elements of a return have been challenging, and we’re continually revising and updating what we do.”
The big issues that Smith says he and the team have grappled with are how they can make school feel as normal as possible; how they can meet the needs of the kids when they are engaged in in-person learning at Hardy; and how they can meet the needs of kids when they are out of the school building.
For now, this son of an elementary classroom teacher is focused on creating a school year that moves to a new rhythm of learning. He’s been getting to know kids and families by sharing his love of children’s literature. As students engaged in remote learning, Smith dropped into each classroom via Zoom to introduce himself and do read-alouds of his favorite books. “This is providing a great way for me to start to get to know the Hardy students and providing the chance for students to get to know me as a caring adult in the community.”
Welcome to Wellesley, Principal Grant.