Message from Chad Leith: January 25, 2021

Dear Morse School parents and caregivers,

Thanks again for submitting your 2nd semester enrollment forms. Over the past week, we have worked to fill our available seats with students who meet the district's eligibility criteria, with input from our grade-level teams and the Morse School Student Support Team. In all, we have been able to honor the enrollment requests of 93% of our families. We hope to have enrollment confirmations to you by the end of the day.

As we take our next planning steps, our goal will be to minimize disruptions and prioritize the health and safety of students and staff. For the 33% of Morse Families who selected remote learning for their children - along with the 7% of students for whom an in-person seat is unavailable at this time - we will continue to provide as consistent and robust an online learning experience as possible. Most remote students will continue to learn from the remote teachers they have been working with since September. For the 60% of students who will be learning in-person, we will continue to follow infection control procedures to keep our community safe.

As I mentioned in the newsletter I sent last week, while March 1st will be the “official” first day of in-person schooling for eligible 4th and 5th graders, we are hoping to phase in our eligible JK-3 students sooner than that, if possible. We will work with our in-person and remote teachers to ensure as smooth a transition as possible for students who will be shifting from remote to in-person classrooms, and will share additional information with you soon.

“No School” on January 27th and February 3rd
As a reminder, in order to help schools prepare for the expansion of in-person learning, the School Committee has voted to convert the next two Wednesdays into full staff professional development days. This means that there will be “no school” for Morse School students on the coming two Wednesdays. In order to be able to meet with staff on those days, Ms. Headley and I will also take a short break from our Wednesday morning “Live Stream” community meetings. However, we will continue to follow our regular in-person and remote schedules on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and we will be back on February 10th with our regular array of Wednesday programming.

Race & Equity Working Group Recap & Next Steps
Many thanks to the staff members and families who joined us for last Thursday's Race & Equity Working Group meeting. Twenty-four members of our community turned out for a conversation grounded in a CNN study on the development of implicit racial bias in children. After watching two short videos (video 1 | video 2), we reviewed the following assumptions:

 In the absence of active anti-racist work, Morse School children of all backgrounds will develop implicit racial biases; and,
 It is likely that adults in our community harbor implicit racial biases, which may impact the way they interact with our children.

The group then discussed ongoing school initiatives and suggested steps we might take as parents, educators, and as a school community to disrupt racial bias development in our children, and to address existing racial bias among adults. Among the group's takeaways was the need to identify a mechanism for measuring the impact of our school's equity improvement initiatives. We will share next steps at our next meeting on February 25th. In the meantime, please consider visiting our Race & Equity page on the Morse School website, which includes specific tools, resources, and suggestions for parents and caregivers.

learning highlightsLearning Highlight of the Week
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, our teachers, specialists, and paraprofessionals continue to design engaging learning experiences for our children. I am hoping to dedicate some space in each of my newsletters to highlight some of the learning activities taking place across our school. This week's highlight comes from our remote 3rd grade classroom, where our math interventionist and remote 3rd grade science teacher Isabel Eccles - in collaboration with Morse School parent and MIT aquatic biologist Julie Simpson - has developed a series of small-group outdoor learning experiences along the Charles River. In the first outing, students used data-collection tools to measure for air temperature, water temperature, salinity, nitrates, pH, and turbidity, and also made observations of the animals they encountered. They were joined by Susan Agger from the Maynard Ecology Center and Gardener Sydney, our Morse School City Sprouts coordinator.

As always, I am grateful for your support and partnership. My best wishes for a great start to your week.

Principal Chad Leith
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