Proactively Scheduling 2 Temporary Intervals of Remote Instruction After the Thanksgiving and Winter Holiday Vacations
November 6, 2020
Dear Parents and Guardians,
I am writing to notify you about a proactive precautionary scheduling change that Milestones is enacting in the upcoming holiday season to best protect the health and safety of our students, families, and faculty and promote the longevity and sustainability of our full onsite instructional model across all grade levels.
- Proactively Shifting To 2 Intervals of Remote Instruction After The Upcoming Thanksgiving and Winter Holiday Vacations for All Grades: Out of an abundance of caution based on rising incidence rates of COVID-19 in Massachusetts and trends of transmission occurring during household gatherings, Milestones is going to pivot to schedule in advance 2 intervals of remote learning, each for a period of 2 consecutive school weeks after the Thanksgiving break and the winter holiday vacation (i.e., Monday, 11/30- Friday, 12/11 and Monday, 1/4- Friday, 1/15).
- Rationale: We acknowledge that traditional holiday periods are likely to involve some Milestones families and staff spending time with groups of people outside of their household, traveling (including potentially to areas outside of low risk states) and/or hosting travelers, which will increase exposure to COVID-19. Governor Baker has identified that small household gatherings are a current high source of transmission in Massachusetts, and this week he has issued an updated stay-at-home advisory order as an additional mitigation measure in large part with the goal of protecting the operation of businesses and the sustainability of onsite school instruction. It is critical that everyone in the Milestones community continue to stay vigilant and follow government requirements and best practice recommendations related to social distancing and other preventative measures. However, as our student and staff safety is of the utmost importance to us, we believe it is in the best interest of our full community to operate remotely for 2 weeks after these holiday periods so that when students and staff resume instruction together onsite the risk of COVID-19 transmission due to the preceding holidays is minimized. Our expectation is that any potential travel/holiday activities should conclude by the last day of each of these vacation periods (ex: Sunday, 11/29 and Sunday, 1/3). By proceeding in this manner, we will build in a 14 day period for symptom monitoring, the completion of any State mandated testing or quarantining resulting from travel (if applicable), and will guard against the potential of asymptomatic or presymptomatic transmission in our school community. Similar pre-planned scheduling is being adopted as a precautionary model at certain colleges and universities. With the support of our Board of Directors and Leadership Team, we have confidence that this forward-thinking planning will help to protect the health of our students and staff and enhance our operational ability to safely remain open fully onsite long term, which are our two chief priorities. During these two intervals, students will follow robust remote learning plans that will include their same full day schedule of live instruction and services with faculty. Families and districts will be provided copies of their student’s remote learning plan before we leave for Thanksgiving, and districts will be notified about this plan today. Additionally, we will ensure that all necessary materials and devices are sent home with students prior to each holiday break so that they are best prepared for these pre-scheduled remote learning intervals. Families are invited to contact us in the upcoming weeks before Thanksgiving if you have any questions or concerns regarding your student’s access at home.
- Broader Context Regarding the COVID-19 Prevalence and Local Decision-Making: As you are aware the incidence of COVID-19 in Massachusetts has continued to rise steadily this fall, and Milestones has been actively following trends and consulting with our advisory agencies at the State and local level and our school’s consulting physician. Specific to metrics within our school community: our students reside in over 40 school districts (some of which are currently identified as “red”), our staff reside in a vast number of towns across the greater Boston area, the city of Waltham has been classified as a “red” level district for numerous consecutive weeks and was recently directed to revert back in their scheduled phased opening, and we encountered our first COVID impact within Milestones last week but we were fortunate that this did not include any evidence of a school-based transmission or spread. Milestones is confident that our local success with maintaining health and safety within our school community and promoting feelings of trust and confidence within our school community since reopening onsite in July reflects a collective effort. Families, students, and staff have been working diligently together to follow health and safety guidelines; Milestones collaborates regularly with DESE, DPH, and the Waltham Board of Health; and our Executive Leadership team has a successful track record of exercising additional local discretion since March with making responsible and proactive decisions when we believe they best insulate the health and safety of our school community while best positioning our program to continue to offer onsite instruction at the highest capacity.
Thank you for your attention. We recognize and appreciate that this precautionary decision is conservative and will involve families needing to adjust schedules and students having temporary disruptions to onsite learning. However, we believe that these planned short term adjustments are the most prudent for our long term priorities and goals.