Thursday, December 10, 2020

Superintendent's Update to SC 10.14.20

 Superintendent’s Report to the School Committee

October 14, 2020

  • Cohort Assignments

    • In order to meet the needs of families with children in grades K-8, we are dividing students into cohorts, alphabetically by last name, so that siblings are on the same hybrid schedule.  Cohort A will include students with last names from the first half of the alphabet and Cohort B will include students with last names from the second half of the alphabet.  Exceptions to placement in cohorts are being made for students on Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) so that these students can receive services with peers with similar needs. Siblings of students on plans will be scheduled with one another. 

    • Middle school cohort assignments will be sent Friday, October 16th, while elementary and high school will be sent on Monday, October 19th.  

  • Survey Deadline

    • Unfortunately, the deadline for the survey will not be extended.  Many of you have communicated that you do not have enough information to answer the survey especially without knowing the cohort in which your child(ren) will be scheduled. Similarly, our administrators need information about your decision (whether or not to remain fully remote or participate in the hybrid model) in order to finalize the cohorts to adhere to the occupancy limitations of the learning spaces available in your building during this pandemic.  

  • SPS Hybrid Plan

    • In the Reopening Plan - ReUNITE 2020, which was also linked in yesterday’s letter and published on the website in August, the Hybrid Learning Model was outlined at each level in detail beginning on Page 23. 

    • At that time, the elementary schools proposed two plans either an AM/PM model or the 2:1:2 model.  The AM/PM model can be found on pg. 24 while the 2:1:2 model which can be found on pg. 25. The middle school proposed an AM/PM plan that can be found on pg. 26. The high school hybrid model is the same as was proposed back in August. 

    • As much as we all want our students in school more often and would prefer the AM/PM model we MUST keep the health, safety, and welfare of our students, staff, and faculty at the forefront of our decision making. As a result, in collaboration and many discussions with our Occupational Health Nurse, our School Nursing Department, and our Director of Facilities it was determined that the facilities would be unable to be appropriately cleaned and sanitized during the AM and PM cohorts. Therefore, the 2:1:2 model is the most sound decision for health reasons during this pandemic, which I will note is the only substantive change to the original plan that the middle school created in the original document. 

    • Here is the SPS Hybrid Plan beginning on October 26th.

  • Live Streaming

    • Our district technology department is made up of three full-time employees:

      • Lytania Mackey Knowles - Director of Technology, Digital Learning, and Innovation

      • Vlad Akim - Network Manager 

      • Stephen Silbert - Senior Technology Specialist

    • If you look at the webpage on our website for this department there are other staff listed, however, these are part-time positions with these staff members in other full-time positions in our district.

    • For those who are questioning why we didn’t prepare to live stream immediately when we transition to the hybrid model the answer is we made another difficult choice. 

      • Our first priority was to address the device needs of our students for Remote Learning. This small but mighty Technology Department, along with the help of our high school Tech Ninjas, prepared and deployed approximately 2,200 1:1 devices to students in our district K-12. Our inventory is now over 3,000 devices to be managed and repaired by this department. 

      • In addition, committing to “live streaming” on the same day (10/26) when approximately 1,000 students will be returning to the buildings for the first time in eight months is just unrealistic. Our first job is to assist students with the new safety routines and expectations and teach them how to move around safely in and around the buildings. 

    • We also planned our E-Rate cycle. We could not foresee that COVID would stall the approval of these projects. Our approval just came through last week to upgrade our network cabling so that we can support more bandwidth. The E-Rate window opened again so that we have an opportunity to get more bandwidth at a cost that is not outrageous.

    • Finally, we are working with a consultant to figure out our firewall. Our firewall-which stops ALL traffic into and out of SPS to check it for compliance with CIPA- only handles 1 gigabyte right now. We are trying to find an expansion option so that we can support increased bandwidth. 

    • We have not ruled out remote students viewing live through Zoom, however, as with our entire approach during this pandemic, it will be a phased-in process.   

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