School committee meeting called for Thursday at 12 p.m.

Updated teachers contract on the agenda

The Abington School Committee has called a meeting for Thursday afternoon to discuss an update to teacher contracts that will allow for more online learning opportunities for students while schools remain closed due to COVID-19. 

The committee will meet remotely at 12 p.m. via the Zoom meeting app to hear more about the proposed memorandum of agreement with the Abington Education Association. The public will be able to dial in and listen to the meeting.

“Remote learning was not in the current contract,” said School Committee Chairman Chris Coyle. “This memo is updating the terms of how this is going to be handled.”

Gov. Charlie Baker announced last week that all public schools in Massachusetts will remain closed until at least May 4 as part of social distancing efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Baker had originally ordered a three-week closure that would have sent students back in early April.

Details about the proposed agreement between the school department and teachers association were not available prior to the meeting. 

Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Jeff Riley issued guidance to all public school districts last week on creating new remote learning curriculum. The recommendations include setting up “meaningful and productive learning for approximately half the length of a regular school day” through a combination of educator-directed and self-directed learning, and reinforcing skills already taught this school year. Remote learning tools, according to Riley, include large-group video or audio conference calls, 1:1 phone or video calls, email, work packets, projects, reading lists, online learning platforms, and other resources to effectively engage with students.

Schools Superintendent Peter Schafer said department leaders have been working to devise a plan to implement the state’s new guidance and provide additional instruction for Abington students while they remain at home. However, doing so has required them to take into consideration myriad factors including whether students have availability to a computer and internet connection at home, family challenges, modifications and accommodations for special education students, training for teachers, how to grade or provide feedback on assignments and protecting student information. 

“Teachers are basically working at transforming education into something completely new in a matter of days,” Schafer said. “We will certainly emerge from this with a new set of improved technology and remote teaching and learning skills.”

The school department’s goal is to have a new remote learning plan ready to roll out this coming Monday. Schafer said the teachers association has been “superior” to work with during this process.

The dial-in number for Thursday’s meeting is 1-646-558-8656, and the meeting ID is 518366733.

[Note: This article was updated after it was originally published to reflect that the date of the meeting was changed by the school committee from Tuesday to Thursday.]

Below is the text of a letter Abington Schools Superintendent Peter Schafer sent to parents on March 30
On Wednesday, March 25, 2020, Governor Baker announced the extended school closure until at least May 4, 2020, and on Thursday, March 26, 2020, the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education, Jeffrey Riley, released recommendations relative to Remote Learning in Massachusetts schools. 
Remote learning cannot replace students’ experiences with faculty, staff and peers; however, in these extraordinary times, we must help students continue their learning. Beginning Friday, throughout the weekend and today, the district, in partnership with the Abington Education Association, has been discussing, evaluating and determining the most effective means to address issues relative to remote leaning, such as: device availability and connectivity within households, providing live or recorded instruction, how much time and how often students spend on classwork in a given week, the most efficient way to schedule assignments with family challenges for both student and educator, how to meet the needs of diverse learners in a remote learning environment, how to provide feedback and grade assignments, the impact of remote learning on high school course credits, the addition of new content vs. review of previously taught standards, and the safety and security of personal information using all remote learning tools.
This week, through remote professional development, educators are being provided instruction to assist in the delivery of remote content. As a result of this training, along with an immense amount of planning by educators, we are anticipating a rollout of remote learning experiences for all students beginning on Monday, April 6, 2020. Additional information and guidance will be provided as soon as possible. As this crisis evolves, we will adjust as needed.
The Abington Public Schools Continuity of Learning Website continues to have many excellent resources for your child to engage in as you await the implementation of a more focused remote learning program for your child.
Thank you for your continued patience and understanding as our educators transform education into something completely new and different in a matter of days!

Peter Schafer, Superintendent