AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM OUR SUPERINTENDENT ABOUT SCHOOL CLOSING

April 2, 2020

Dear Needham Public Schools Families:

First and foremost, I hope everyone in your household is safe and healthy. While I recognize the enormous challenge for them, I also hope our young people are doing their level best to maintain social distancing; the science clearly says it's one big way we all can help make this pandemic end sooner.

Given the extraordinary situation we find ourselves in during the outbreak of COVID-19, our students' wellbeing and education remain a priority for the district, and I'd like to share with you how we intend to provide services and supports to our 5,700 students and their families during this period of school closure:

- The district is providing free meal service for any child or teen in need in Needham; there is no eligibility requirement or paperwork. Please read about the Child Nutrition Services Program and help us spread the word about the availability of "grab and go" bags containing breakfast and lunch for those children experiencing food hardship. Any Needham student, no questions asked, can receive a nutritious breakfast and lunch without cost.

- In an effort to be responsive to the educational needs of all our students through the state-mandated closure now extended until May 4th, we collaborated with our teachers and administrators to develop a viable and appropriate Needham Public Schools (NPS) Remote Learning Plan to provide educational programming, services, and curriculum consistent with recent guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Our model is a combination of educator directed and student self-directed learning that varies depending on student age, individual and family needs, access and capacity for remote learning (including access to technology and the internet), and the ongoing health of students and families.

The remote learning plan for our district is designed to help restore a sense of structure and routine to our students. However, remote learning cannot replace the in-person school experience, and we should not expect remote learning to replicate the traditional classroom experience, including the length of the school day. While different, the core of our remote learning plan maintains the district's commitment to academics, social and emotional learning, and equity -- hallmarks of an education in the Needham Public Schools.

An overview of the plan, which will be phased in beginning Monday, April 6th, is available for families to review: NPS Remote Learning Plan. Families and students will be hearing directly from school principals in the next day or two about details and specific schedules for their remote learning experiences. The focus at each school will be on reinforcing skills already taught this school year, applying and deepening these skills, and introducing new learning and concepts. Teachers will be using a range of technologies and practices, materials and resources. The target length of time for student engagement with learning will not be the amount of screen time they will be experiencing. Students will have direct teacher contact time; support time with counselors, nurses, and other related service providers; student collaboration time; and individual student work time. Our hope is students will find the new formats accessible and engaging, and that families will be our partners in the learning process.

Let me stress this point: Our remote learning plan will not replace the classroom or school experience. Students will not be engaged in a 6-hour day with certain activities, lessons, and assignments scheduled in specific intervals with a teacher guiding the learning each step. This will be a truncated and very different learning environment for our students. Although it is impossible to replace the full educational experience virtually, our remote learning program seeks to provide students a range of opportunities to build their mind, body, and spirit. Whether in the classroom physically or virtually, our community will continue to promote excellence and character through our spirit of working together.

- A Remote Learning Support/Services Plan will be made available for families with students requiring special education services. This plan outlines how and to what extent special education, related services and accommodations & modifications will be provided during this period of school closure. Rest assured, we will continue to do our best to remain connected and to support continued learning for all students.

More information will be shared by your child's principal within the day and as the NPS Remote Learning Plan is thoughtfully rolled out each week starting April 6th through May 1st.

Finally, many families have inquired about the status of April vacation. Given that travel plans are upended this spring and that we would like to provide some continuity of learning and services for families, I am exploring with the Needham School Committee the possibility of canceling the April break (with the exception of Patriot's Day), which, in turn, would allow us to shorten the school year with a last day of school to be held on Friday, June 19th. I will consider this carefully with the staff and ultimately make a recommendation to the School Committee which is in the best interest of our students, their families, and our educators.

On behalf of a very dedicated and caring staff, please know how much we look forward to returning to our buildings this spring and greeting every student when we reopen the school doors. We miss them like crazy! We recognize, of course, that there are many factors outside our control right now, and we will respond to the changing situation and solve problems as they arise. What will not change is our commitment to maintain and nurture strong relationships with our amazing students and their caring and supportive families.

Please continue to reach out to me with your questions or concerns. My phone number is 781-455-0400, x11203 or dan_gutekanst@needham.k12.ma.us

Please take care of yourself and stay healthy.

Respectfully,

Dan Gutekanst
Superintendent of Schools

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Welcome to the website of the Needham Public Schools! I hope you will find the information you need to learn about the people, programs, and activities that make our school system a dynamic learning experience for all students.

​The Needham Public Schools has developed a framework for educational excellence, innovation, and equity - a Portrait of A Needham Graduate - that will inform the district's work going forward. Needham Public Schools will support all our students in becoming creative thinkers and problem solvers, communicators and collaborators, socially and culturally responsive contributors, responsible and resilient individuals, and empowered learners. Our students' collective and individual success depends on developing these Portrait competencies in preparation for the future that awaits them. I encourage you to review the Needham Public Schools 2019 Performance Report for examples of current teaching practices aligned with this Portrait vision, along with ideas and challenges for boosting student learning around each of the district priorities.

​Through this website, the Needham Public Schools commits itself to share timely information with students, parents, staff, and community members who depend on updated and helpful information and assistance. I invite you to join the superintendent’s listserve to receive periodic emails about various school programs and events. Please join now!

​Additionally, the Needham School Committee wishes to hear from members of the community about issues and concerns critical to the schools and its many programs. You may contact them at schoolcommittee@needham.k12.ma.us and ask a question or make a comment.

​We are proud of our school district and are happy to share information about the Needham Public Schools with you.

Sincerely,

Daniel E. Gutekanst, Ed.D.
Superintendent 
Needham Public Schools
                   Portrait picture     
PORTRAIT OF A NEEDHAM GRADUATE VIDEO 

VIDEO #2:
STUDENT PERSPECTIVE
 ON PORTRAIT OF A NEEDHAM GRADUATE
   

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