EWSD Updates

  • 07.22.20 EWSD Schools to Reopen with Hybrid Model

    Posted by Ben Dickie on 7/22/2020

    Dear Families,


    I am writing to provide you with an update on our plans to reopen our school buildings. To start the school year, the Essex Westford School District, along with many other local school districts, will implement a hybrid instruction model that will include both in-person and remote learning. 


    This plan to return to school is student-centered, focused on social-emotional needs, and designed to keep our students learning at a high level. Most importantly, a hybrid model affords the ability to offer in-person learning in the safest environment possible while adhering to the best practices of the guidance issued by the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE). Here’s how the hybrid model will work:


    • Students will be divided in half, creating two groups
    • Groups of students will attend school in-person two days a week and learn remotely three days a week 
      • For example, half will attend on Monday and Tuesday in person, and then learn remotely Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, while the other half will learn remotely Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and then take part in in-person learning on Thursday and Friday
      • Students and staff attending in person will wear masks and practice physical distancing
      • Groups will be thoughtfully created so they best support families, including grouping family members together whenever possible
      • We are working on scheduling and will have that information to families as soon as possible
    • Students will be learning remotely on Wednesdays. We will use this day to provide individualized support to students, engage in professional learning and planning for our staff, and deep clean our buildings.
    • I understand that many of you wanted five days of in-person instruction, at this point, we are unable to provide this and stay within the health guidelines. However, we are working with partner childcare providers to see how we can offer opportunities for those that need help during your child’s remote days. Our hope is to do this at a limited cost for you. Please know, we are making this a priority and hoping we can make it work.


    While we all agree that nothing compares to the benefits that students receive from in-person instruction, after extensively reviewing the AOE’s guidance and evaluating how to operationally implement those requirements and recommendations in our schools, reviewing survey submissions from our families and staff, and consulting with our reopening leadership committee, we feel the hybrid model will best address the health and safety of our students and staff given the current health data available. 


    Having fewer students in the building at a time will help reduce contact with others and allow for improved distancing. The smaller groups will also allow teachers and staff more time to assess the academic progress and needs of our students. 


    With fewer students in the building, we can better assist them adjust to new expectations while fostering healthy routines throughout the day, such as regular hand washing. In these pandemic conditions, it is also imperative that we continue to improve our remote systems so that we can be ready to adapt if health data requires a shift to full remote learning again.


    We are also preparing to offer a remote-only/virtual learning option for families. More information regarding this option will be available soon. Within the next few days, you will receive additional information that will allow you to choose which model (hybrid or remote) you would prefer for your child(ren) to start the school year. 


    We acknowledge the hardships that hybrid and full remote models may place on families, including our own faculty and staff. Although it will be a challenge, we have heard from many of our families that the hybrid (blended) learning environment is preferred. 


    By working together, openly communicating, and being creative and flexible, we can overcome these challenges together. That said, please understand there are many moving pieces to these plans, and we will need to adapt as the situation surrounding COVID-19 evolves and we receive further guidance from the AOE and the Vermont Department of Health. 


    Finally, in addition to academic work, I want to assure you that our teams will work tirelessly to support your child’s social and emotional needs through this transition. School is going to look and feel different this year, and we know all of our students will need support. We are here for your children and for your family.  


    With gratitude,


    Beth Cobb
    EWSD Superintendent

    Comments (-1)
  • 07.20.20 EWSD Reopening Update

    Posted by Ben Dickie on 7/20/2020

    Dear EWSD Families,


    The Vermont Agency of Education (AOE) provided guidance on an instructional model for all schools in the state this past week. Our EWSD Leadership Team is currently in the process of working with that information to develop a safe and healthy return to schools for both our students and our staff on August 27, 2020. We will share more information with you on what this will look like in an email later this week.


    Between now and then, you can read the latest updates from each of our EWSD Reopening Task Teams below as well as a list of what we already know going into the fall.


    Instructional Task Team

    • No matter what the instructional learning model is:

      • Students will be provided with multiple opportunities and ways to demonstrate their learning

      • Students will have daily opportunities for social-emotional learning and peer-to-peer connections

      • Teachers will be available to provide instruction during the school day, and schedules will be designed to support flexibility as needed to maximize the health and safety of students and staff. This will include minimizing the number of transitions students will experience throughout the day where feasible.


    Resource Task Team

    • Determined it a priority to commit resources to a full-time, one-year School Nurse COVID Coordinator. This position will play a key role in helping the District prepare for and maintain a safe and healthy return.

    • Agreed to assign budget resources to hire a group of COVID Response Assistants to help with a variety of needs that will be present in our schools when we reopen.


    Operations Task Team

    • Operations focused this week on the seamless delivery of meals by Child Nutrition Services that includes maximizing all opportunities within multiple frameworks of learning for the 2020-2021 school year.


    Communications/Stakeholder Task Team

    • Looking to create a video to help show safety precautions/measures for when students return

    • Discussed ways to better reach families needing translation

    • Developing a FAQ for families and staff

    • Continued to work on a webpage that would act as the hub for all new updates




    The AOE and Vermont Department of Health has provided the following as part of guidance on A Strong and Healthy Start:


    • All staff and students will be required to wear facial coverings while in the school buildings, as well as outside where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Students who have a medical or behavioral reason for not wearing a facial covering should not be required to wear one and those decisions should be made in partnership with the health care provider and school nurse. Facial coverings may be removed during outdoor activities where students and staff can maintain physical distancing and have ready access to put them back as needed when activity stops. The use of clear facial shields for students and adults is allowable as long as they meet all of the health guidance of the Vermont Department of Health.

    • Establish a COVID-19 Coordinator to establish, review, and implement health and safety protocols.

    • All employees, including those already working, must complete a mandatory training on COVID-19 health and safety requirements

    • All students and staff must have a daily health check at the first point of contact, where they will be asked COVID-related questions and have a temperature screening conducted

    • If there is a case(s) of COVID in one of our schools, decisions about closure will be made based on guidance from the Agency of Education

    • All students, staff, and contracted service providers should engage in hand hygiene multiple times per day

    • Students are required to stay in an assigned section of the school yard as opposed to mingling with other classes

    • Communal spaces such as gymnasiums and cafeterias should be closed for their intended use; these spaces, however, may be used as an extension of the classroom to allow for physical distancing

    • The use of lockers and locker rooms will be prohibited.

    • No outside visitors or volunteers will be allowed except for employees or contracted service providers for the purpose of special education or required support services, as authorized by the school or district

    • Schools will coordinate with families, school staff, and community and State resources to assess and assist in the psychological and emotional recovery of staff and students


    With gratitude,


    Beth Cobb
    EWSD Superintendent

    Comments (-1)
  • 07.17.20 EWSD Update: Facility Access

    Posted by Ben Dickie on 7/17/2020

    Dear EWSD Families,


    During this COVID-19 public health emergency and prior to the restart of our instructional school year, the Essex Westford School District must limit open access to its facilities to ensure the safety of its workforce, and by extension their families, and our communities as a whole. These restrictions come out of an abundance of caution and are intended to allow the District to focus on a strong and healthy start to the next school year. 


    General access to buildings during this COVID-19 public health emergency, and prior to the restart of our instructional school year, is limited to EWSD essential workers and community partners offering school-age programming to our students and families. Otherwise, all EWSD facilities will be unavailable to families and the community members until further notice.


    If the circumstances warrant, curbside pick-up or drop-off of materials can be arranged by appointment only. In extreme cases, where critical needs cannot be met electronically, virtually, or by curbside pickup/dropoff, in-person appointment or access can be arranged with at least 48 hours advance notice. 


    In all cases, anyone accessing an EWSD facility must strictly adhere to the district’s COVID-19 Program and Exposure Control Plan which can be found on the EWSD website.

    Comments (-1)
  • 07.16.20 EWSD COVID-19 Centralized Purchasing of PPE

    Posted by Ben Dickie on 7/16/2020

    Dear EWSD Families,


    The Essex Westford School District (EWSD), along with all public school districts in the nation, is facing unprecedented times during this public health crisis. It will be imperative for the health and safety of our students, staff, and community that we have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE), disinfectant spray & wipes, hand sanitizer, and other materials necessary to respond and control the virus.


    For that purpose, the EWSD is embarking on a centralized purchasing process for select items. With our Property Services Department leading the way, the new system will be a central access point for nurses, administrative office staff, department leaders, and others to secure necessary goods and materials to promote health and keep our school facilities safe.


    Some of the significant advantages of centralized purchasing are:

    • Economies of scale resulting from the pooling and integrated overall planning of the routine requirements of multiple departments.

    • Development of standard specifications for the goods and materials to be purchased, resulting in more uniform quality across the entire district.

    • Reduction in inventories because of closer supervision regarding the number of materials on each purchase order and greater utilization of the available supply of materials through transfers and substitutions.

    • Better and more responsive reordering and potentially improved delivery times.


    This approach has already been met with success. EWSD Property Services recently processed 9,600 lbs (six pallets!) of new personal protective equipment, including face masks that were ordered in recent weeks. We are working hard to build an inventory of these valuable items to distribute to our schools as we prepare for safe reopening in the fall.


    In anticipation of the need for quick access to cleaning materials, Property Services is also providing COVID Carry Caddies with a starter supply of cleaning materials, hand sanitizer, and masks. This is a new program that will grow over time as the District does its very best to procure and distribute needed PPE throughout the EWSD.

    Comments (-1)
  • 07.13.20 EWSD Reopening Update

    Posted by Ben Dickie on 7/13/2020

    Dear EWSD Families,


    The EWSD Leadership Team is continuing to prepare for the possible scenarios of what school will look like when we return on Thursday, August 27, 2020. With that, we have broken out into four task teams (resources, instructional, operations, and communications/stakeholders) to help accomplish this work most effectively.


    We will have more guidance from the Vermont Agency of Education this week, which will direct us with an instructional model.


    You will be receiving weekly updates from our task teams during this process, which will focus on the work that each is taking part in, how the latest updates from the Vermont Agency of Education affect our work, and also what information is dependent on outside sources. The first set of updates can be viewed below.


    Thank you for taking part in our recent Thoughtexchange, the feedback that it provided will be very influential in our work.


    With gratitude,


    Beth Cobb

    EWSD Superintendent

    Instructional Task Team

    • Recommending all grade levels follow an established scope and sequence that includes whole group, small group, and one-on-one instruction/feedback.

    • Social distancing practices/PPE/technology will allow students to remain within cohorts for learning. Recommending teachers intentionally teach/train students in using Google Classroom/Seesaw for if we need to move to a remote environment.


    Resource Task Team

    • All ordering and staffing decisions are being made based on what is essential for health, safety, and learning. We are running all decisions through an equity lens.

    • Waiting on guidelines specific to safe cohort size, appropriate length of an instructional day in a remote environment, and clarification on what is reasonable/feasible in some recommendations.


    Operations Task Team

    • Met with EWSD Transportation Manager Jamie Smith to learn more about transportation during the Extended School Year summer services that are currently taking place to help us better understand the needs for this fall.


    Communications/Stakeholder Task Team

    • Distribute a weekly email communication to be delivered each Monday morning to families with updates and information. The frequency will pick up as the summer moves on.

    • Create a page to store all reopening information similar to the one the EWSD uses for COVID-19 updates. This is in development.

    • Parent survey creation (sent out on July 10).

    Comments (-1)
  • 07.10.20 EWSD Reopening Family Survey - Input/Feedback Needed

    Posted by Ben Dickie on 7/10/2020

    Dear EWSD Families,

    Please take a few minutes to fill out this brief survey to help the Essex Westford School District's planning efforts for reopening our schools in the fall.

    EWSD Reopening Survey


    *Please complete this by Friday, July 17.  


    Thank you and have a great weekend,

    The EWSD Leadership Team

    Comments (-1)
  • 07.09.20 EWSD Reopening Thoughtexchange Results

    Posted by Ben Dickie on 7/9/2020

    Dear Families,


    A Thoughtexchange was sent to each family in the Essex Westford School District to ask for feedback on the following question:


    “What’s on the top of your hearts and minds as we plan for a safe return to school?”


    We had 1,949 parents participate, offering 2,582 total thoughts, and 65,991 ratings. You can read the full results from the Thoughtexchange here.


    Please know that our number one priority is to ensure the health and safety of our students, staff, and the larger community as we continue to plan for equitable access to learning this fall. This was evident as well in the comments and thoughts from parents and staff alike.


    Our district is following the guidance of the Vermont Department of Health, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Vermont Agency of Education as we prepare for the many possible return to school scenarios.


    One of the items that surfaced from the parent Thoughtexchange was around the wearing of facemasks. Following the Agency of Education and Vermont Department of Health guidance, facemasks/face shields will be required this fall for all students and staff, unless there is a medical reason that is provided.


    We greatly appreciate your feedback in supporting our collaborative efforts to ensure the health and education of the entire EWSD community. Please be on the lookout for a survey coming out in the next week for families with more in-depth questions around topics such as remote learning, transportation, etc.


    With gratitude,


    Beth Cobb
    EWSD Superintendent

    Comments (-1)