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November 6, 2020

Dear Weston High School Families:

After much thought and reflection, the WHS administrative team has designed a hybrid extended day schedule to be implemented beginning November 16. This decision was reached after careful study and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data, including a student-organized survey, teacher input, feedback from VDL, in-person, and at-home students and discussions with Team Leaders and Curriculum Instructional Leaders. Dr. McKersie and Dr. Craw support the transition to this schedule, which was discussed at the Weston Board of Education’s meeting on November 5.

In reaching this decision we considered the following:

Overwhelmingly in their survey, over 500 students expressed concern with being on-screen for 6+ hours on their off-cohort day in addition to homework time in the evening.

Student and staff feedback supports a return to a “drop 2” schedule, with 6 of 8 periods meeting daily. The pacing of instruction, assessment, and homework obligations work well in this model, and student stress is reduced.

There is a need for a formal extended learning block for students to connect individually with school personnel, including teachers and counseling staff. Academic teachers, special education teachers, and school counselors expressed concern about how to better meet the varied needs of our students, including our VDL students, given the difficulties associated with remote learning. Students will benefit from a designated time when they can reach their teachers and counselors, whether in-person or remote.

Students expressed concern about the impending return of college students to town and the recent increase in cases and quarantines. These factors signal a potential future return to full remote learning, and a new schedule must be able to easily transition to that mode.

The Hybrid Extended Day schedule accomplishes the following:
– On their cohort days, students attend in-person classes from 7:45am-12:20pm. On their off-cohort days, student log in to classes remotely at the start of each period. With the engagement of off-cohort students, overall instructional time is increased.

– Six classes meet per day, with a length of 40 minutes per class; 2 classes drop on a rotating basis. With six classes meeting in-person as opposed to our current four, face-to-face time is increased.- A Wellness Break is scheduled during the third block of the day, during which snacks will be sold and students may take a mask break.

– There is a daily Extended Learning Hour from 1:30-2:30pm, when all teachers will be available to their students for drop-in extra help, required intervention/support, extended learning opportunities, conferencing by appointment, and scheduled support for VDL students. This time can also be flexed to include advisory, class meetings, guidance seminars, assemblies, and virtual field trips without disrupting scheduled class time.

– Screen time for at-home students is reduced to 4 hours 40 minutes of class time, followed by a 70-minute break and then the Extended Learning Hour. (The full day hybrid would have been 6 hours 15 minutes of screen time for at-home students with homework time added to that total).

– Students may remain in the building from 12:20-2:30pm. If they do, they can bring or buy lunch and eat in designated areas. There are specific spaces where students may work that will be monitored by staff. During the Extended Learning Hour students may access teachers and counselors. The Math Lab and Writing Center will be open for appointments. School counselors, social worker, psychologist, and college and career counselor will be available for appointments. Students may access specialized equipment and resources in the art and videography classrooms and PLTW and Science Research labs. As always, the protocols of social distancing and mask wearing will be enforced to ensure safety.

– Afternoon bus transportation will be provided at 2:30 PM daily.

– If a transition to a full-remote scenario is necessary, we would run a similar schedule (without cohorts).

In these unprecedented times, we must consider the adverse impact of stress and anxiety on the adolescents in our community. They are working in an environment of fear and uncertainty. The Extended Learning Hour provides students with access to all teachers outside of class, which is very important to their well-being and academic progress. We encourage students to take advantage of that time both in-person and virtually.

In conclusion, this new schedule better supports the academic and social emotional needs of our students. We are confident that we can continue to provide high quality instruction while ensuring students have the individual support they need during this challenging time.

Sincerely,

Lisa Wolak
Principal