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No time off for Lynn students during COVID-19 closures
By Gayla Cawley | March 19, 2020
LYNN — Public school closures in Lynn don’t mean time off for students as they are expected to complete resources that are available online to continue their education.
Although some students may not have computers, Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler is confident the majority of families will be able to access the educational activities.
The city’s schools have been closed to students since last Friday, and will remain closed until at least April 6 to comply with a statewide order from Gov. Charlie Baker, which is another preventive measure aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus.
“The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has encouraged districts to provide remote learning plans,” said Tutwiler. “That is what we’ve done and we’ve done this rather quickly.
“We canceled classes on Friday, March 13 for all students, but we invited all staff for a normal work day and the task with the impending situation was to develop grade level content-based (and) enrichment-based activities and resources for families to leverage during the cancellation.”
More than 4,000 educational activities have been uploaded to the school’s website, which are accessible to families and differ for each of the district’s 25 schools. For elementary schools, resources are divided by grade and content area, Tutwiler said.
“Each teacher has devised their own plan,” said Tutwiler. “We purposely did not do one uniform thing across the district, because teachers know their students best and they know where they are and they know what’s appropriate.”
The purpose of the DESE-recommended activities, he said, is to keep students actively thinking and learning during the extended break from school.
Tutwiler said he recognizes that some students may not have access to a computer at home, but stressed that the materials can be downloaded on any electronic device, such as a phone or tablet, where there’s an Internet connection.
He is confident nearly all of the district’s families will be able to get the materials through their phones or Internet connection, or through using another person’s device or connectivity. Many families also chose to pick up paper packets with the same activities that are posted online this past Monday, Tutwiler said.
If the school closure is extended beyond April 6, the district has been discussing a plan for adding new remote educational activities.
Students are not being asked to submit their work to teachers, but the district still expects it to be completed on a daily basis. The activities are meant to keep kids engaged and are similar to what they’re sent home with each summer, Tutwiler said.
“These are not assignments,” said Tutwiler. “These are enrichment activities and resources for families. We’ve communicated really clearly with our families in all the communication with the closure that it is our expectation that students are engaging in the activities daily.”
As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Massachusetts — as of Wednesday, the Department of Public Health reports 256 cases — Tutwiler said the district is preparing for the scenario where schools would remain closed for the rest of the school year and Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) testing would be canceled.
The three-week closure overlaps the high school’s scheduled English Language Arts (ELA) assessment, but if students return to school on April 7, as planned, there would be enough time to administer testing, Tutwiler said.
As school districts that retain funding from the state, such as Lynn, are required to administer the MCAS, the decision to reschedule or cancel testing lies with DESE, he said, noting that the district is waiting for that guidance from the state.
However, the superintendent does not anticipate a cancellation would impact students’ ability to graduate this year as the March retest for the Grade 10 assessment, a graduation requirement, has already been held.
“Part of the rapid evolution of this situation is there’s no set of plans here or anywhere that I know of that exists that are tailored to this kind of situation,” said Tutwiler. “Right now, we’re hyper-focused on: what are the needs of our (students and) families and how can we best support them? Then, we can start to think about if this goes beyond three weeks.”
Students and families should visit the school’s website, http://www.lynnschools.org/, for updates.