Message from Superintendent Boyd
Dear Lowell Public Schools Community:
I am pleased to share with you this report which provides an overview of our draft plan to safely reopen schools in the fall while also improving upon our remote learning model for families who opt for at-home schooling.
Throughout this summer, Lowell Public Schools staff have been hard at work preparing for this upcoming school year, envisioning what a safe return to our buildings could look like, and examining if it would be possible to have students, teachers and staff back in the classroom. Prior to the end of last school year, we formed a task force of principals, teachers, support staff and parents from throughout the district to look at every possible model of education for the 2020-2021 academic year, so I am confident we are prepared for any scenario that we may be faced with in September and beyond.
The plan contained within this report leverages the best thinking of the task force, as well as feedback we’ve received from across the community - including survey responses from over 2,500 families and virtual discussions with over 1,000 parents, staff members and students during community forums. We recognize this preliminary report does not answer every question about reopening school. Please know that more details will be provided leading up to the first day of school.
Currently, the decision on how to go forward with the start of the 2020-2021 school year is a local decision. And here in Lowell, it is clear that families want to have choices when it comes to how we return to school in September. With this in mind, if the local health data continue to move in the right direction and it remains safe for our students to be on campus, we are prepared to offer families an option of either full-time, remote learning or full-time, in-person learning to start the school year.
COVID-19 certainly remains a concern here in Massachusetts, but this state - once a hotspot for this virus - is in better shape than much of the country as we have taken serious steps to mitigate its spread. Physically returning to school means we will continue to follow strict health guidelines - wearing masks, socially distancing and keeping our buildings clean. We can’t - and won’t - cut corners when it comes to the health of our students, staff or community. We are not looking for flexibility in adhering to safety protocols - we will maintain six feet of distancing at all times. We will also be limiting the interactions one group of students has with another. We likely won’t be eating lunch in the cafeteria or holding large assemblies, for instance.
While the current data suggest we can safely return to the classrooms and halls of our buildings, we know that not every family feels comfortable sending their child back right now. So, in addition to being able to physically return to our school buildings, we are also going to offer a remote learning option for our students.
This iteration of remote learning will look different than what we saw in the spring. The district has purchased enough devices that every student will receive one this coming school year. There will be a consistent technological platform for each grade level and required attendance, as well as greater feedback for students through a more typical grading scale.
Developing these two options for families and coming to a conclusion of what would be possible for our students in September wasn’t an easy process. We know nothing can take the place of the daily in-person interactions that our teachers have with our students. But these in-person interactions can only happen if it is safe to return to our schools. We were all hopeful that this pandemic would be in the rearview mirror by this time, but unfortunately that is clearly not the case.
Providing options to families of in-person or remote learning is a decision backed by health data and a decision made after a thoughtful and extensive planning process. So, whether it will be by logging on remotely or by physically returning to the classroom, we are prepared to offer your child a safe and meaningful educational experience to start the 2020-2021 school year.
I am confident that 2020-2021 will be a great school year for each and every one of our more than 14,500 students. I’m looking forward to welcoming our students back to school in the fall - even if at a distance - and remain honored and humbled to serve as your superintendent.
Dr. Joel D. Boyd
Superintendent of Schools