Message From the Superintendent
July 30, 2020
Dear PPS Parents and Guardians,
On July 28, the Board of Education approved my recommendation to change our school calendar. As a result, the first day of school for students will be Monday, September 14. Here is the updated school calendar.
I made this recommendation in light of our re-entry plan. As we’ll be offering two models for schooling in September—a hybrid model that will combine in-person and remote instruction and an all-remote model that will provide instruction only via device—we wanted to allow additional time for our teachers to master Canvas, our new learning-management system, and planning for two types of daily lessons.
In postponing the opening of school by three days, we took professional-development days from later in our school year and moved them to the front.
More details soon about cohorts and plans for student orientation days. Our parent survey will be live on Monday and you will be able to select hybrid or all-remote learning. We are looking forward to your responses.
30 de julio de 2020
Estimados padres y tutores de PPS:
El 28 de julio, la Junta de Educación aprobó mi recomendación para cambiar nuestro calendario escolar. Como resultado, el primer día de clases para los estudiantes será el lunes 14 de septiembre. Aquí encontrará el calendario escolar actualizado.
Hice esta recomendación debido a nuestro plan de reingreso. Como ofreceremos dos modelos para la escolarización en septiembre, un modelo híbrido que combinará instrucción en persona y remota y un modelo totalmente remoto que proporcionará instrucción solo a través de un dispositivo, queríamos dar tiempo para que nuestros maestros puedan dominar Canvas, nuestro nuevo sistema de gestión del aprendizaje, y de esta forma puedan planificar dos tipos de lecciones diarias.
Al posponer la apertura de la escuela por tres días, adelantamos días del calendario destinados al desarrollo profesional de nuestro año escolar. Pronto les brindaremos más detalles sobre grupos y planes para días de orientación estudiantil. Nuestra encuesta para padres se realizará el lunes y podrá seleccionar el aprendizaje híbrido o totalmente remoto. Esperamos sus respuestas.
July 20, 2020
Proposed Re-entry Plan
•PPS can transport students home at 1 pm daily with the exception of Pre-K and students in self-contained Special Ed classes who will be bused home at 3 pm. PPS has investigated every possible option with our contracted bus service provider and there is no option of split session bus transportation. Siblings will be transported at the same hours when possible.
•In-person schooling for most students will take place from 8:30 to 1 pm. From 1 to 3 pm, teachers will provide online contact and instruction to learners. This enables teachers to hold students accountable for their remote learning assignments from earlier in the day and to assess their progress.
•PPS will provide a focused professional-development (PD) program for all teachers and aides so they can provide rigorous, standards-based instruction for both in-person and remote learning formats. We will take advantage of the 1:1 initiative that places computers in the hands of all students. Aides will receive devices so they can effectively support students and teachers.
•After-school activities, clubs, and events won't resume until January 2021.
Based on the Governor’s The Road Back: Restart and Recovery Plan for Education, there are three options for which school districts must plan for September:
We can implement this model only after the State of New Jersey has completely removed all pandemic restrictions.
The hybrid model provides both in-person and remote schooling as detailed in the ensuing slides.
Last month, parents indicated in a survey that 15 to 20% of students may not return in the fall. For those students, PPS will provide a remote-only option if approved by the Department of Education .
Student and Staff Safety
The safe return of students and staff is the primary concern. PPS will provide an environment following recommendations from the CDC, the NJ Department of Health, and municipal health officials. Each school has a Pandemic-Response Team, consisting of staff members and parents, to review decisions.
PPS is adapting school buildings to meet social-distancing requirements that include isolation and treatment areas. All six schools are currently undergoing referendum-approved construction. The hybrid re-entry model depends on timely completion of this construction. There will be some construction at PHS during the school year but it will not affect classes.
For a successful hybrid plan, the district needs:
•The timely arrival of ordered PPE supplies
•Tents or other outside structures -- the YMCA has offered to loan tents to the district, FEMA funds may supply more
•Safe bus transportation protocols
•Teachers who are willing to work in person
Districtwide: Overview of Safety and Other Precautions, Part I
•Social distancing and space requirements limit PPS to a hybrid-schooling model.
•PPS will follow school re-entry guidelines and require students to wear masks .
•Social distancing, shield wearing, plexiglass dividers, daily assessments of student and staff members' health, hand-washing and/or sanitizing stations, and weekly deep-cleaning will be implemented.
•Visitors to the schools will be limited and allowed only if they follow safety protocols.
•There will be medical isolation areas in each school.
•District nurses are being trained in contact tracing.
•Families who prefer all-remote learning may choose that option if approved by the State. Staff who request to work remotely will receive assignments that will support these students if this option exists.
•PPS is working with the YMCA and other community agencies to provide options for childcare during hybrid schooling.
Districtwide Overview of Safety and Other Precautions, Part II
•The NJSIAA (the governing body for NJ high-school sports) will delay definitive decisions regarding athletics until September 15.
•Employee assignments will be adjusted to assist in morning arrivals at our schools.
•PPS will implement a new learning management system. There will be training for staff members, parents, and students to support our transition to this platform, called Canvas.
•In the scenarios that follow, students doing in-person learning will be divided into two cohorts, A and B.
•Pupils attend school five days per week with a 3 pm dismissal on M-Tu and Th-F. On Wednesday, in-person instruction ends at 1 pm , but remote schooling continues until 3 pm. (Grant requirements dictate five full days of schooling.)
•Staff members will wear masks. PPS encourages parents to have all children use face coverings.
•Preschoolers will ride buses separate from their older schoolmates.
•Schedules will be developed to allow siblings to ride together when possible.
- Cohort A attends school in person on M-Tu and learns remotely W-F. Cohort B learns remotely M-W and attends school in person on Th-F.
- In-person days take place from 8:30 to 1 pm. Teachers will interact with their remote learners daily, between dismissal and 3 pm.
- Special Education pupils in self-contained classes (one cohort) attend school five days per week, 8:30-3:00 on M-Tu and Th-F, and 8:30-1:00 on Wednesday.
- Learning for most pupils is remote on Wednesday to allow:
- Custodial staff to fully sanitize classrooms and common spaces before a new cohort arrives. Deep cleaning will also take place on Saturday.
- Teachers and students to become accustomed to all-day remote schooling in case we have to close because of local COVID or flu infections.
- For ongoing staff planning and training to support instruction from 1 to 3 pm. Our calendar adjustment eliminates some professional development days.
•During an A Week, cohort A attends school M-Th; cohort B learns remotely. During a B Week, cohort B attends school M-Th; cohort A learns remotely.
•School dismisses, M-Th, at 1 pm. Teachers interact with their remote learners daily, M-Th, between dismissal and 3 pm.
•Transportation needs necessitate a 1 pm dismissal and no lunch will be served, which means minimal loss of instructional time as compared to a full day and eliminates challenges related to distancing and mask-wearing during meals.
•Special education students in self-contained classes (one cohort) attend school five days per week: 8:30- 3:00, M-Th; 8:30-1:00, F.
•Remote-schooling on Friday, for most students, with teacher support, 8:30-1:00, allows:
•our custodial staff to sanitize fully most classrooms and common spaces before a new cohort arrives.
•teachers and students to become accustomed to all-day remote schooling in case we have to close because of local COVID or flu infections.
•for ongoing staff planning and training to support instruction, 1:00-3:00, and elimination of some professional development days from our calendar to enable sustained instruction.
• a swing day for when a holiday eliminates one of the other weekdays.
•Alternating in-person attendance weekly provides more continuity of instruction, particularly for long-term projects and lab experiments. Additionally, a weekly model enhances our ability to determine if students develop adverse health symptoms.
Students with Special Needs
•Special-education students in full-time, self-contained classes, PK-12, attend in-person school daily.
•Students who require related services receive instruction during their in-school time.
Arrivals, Departures, Movement, and Other Arrangements
•Each school will implement safety protocols to keep students socially distanced during physical transitions into and out of school buildings and from one classroom to another.
•In the elementary schools, specials teachers will come to pupils' classrooms to reduce mass movement through halls.
•JW and PHS will use block schedules and a staggered passing time to minimize the number of students in hallways during transitions.
•To the extent possible, teachers may use outdoor spaces for classroom instruction. In elementary schools, lunch will take place outdoors in good weather; in inclement weather, pupils will eat in their classrooms.
Instructional Paradigm for Remote Learning
•In-person schooling focuses on direct teaching, guided instruction, and ongoing assessment and feedback.
•During remote schooling, which includes both synchronous and asynchronous instruction, students read supplemental texts, complete independent tasks and projects, and engage in small-group activities. Zoom sessions take various forms, including individual conferencing, small-group interactions, and, more rarely, whole-class sessions.
•Teachers address specific curricular standards through experiences and assignments that meet course or grade-level learning expectations. Follow-up occurs during in-person schooling to hold students and teachers accountable for the formers' progress.
•All teachers utilize Canvas, the new learning management system.
For staff, our academic year will begin on Tuesday, September 1, rather than Wednesday, September 2. For most students, school will begin on Monday, September 14, instead of on Wednesday, September 9. School orientation plans will be announced in August.
•These calendar changes allow for robust professional training for our staff in:
•Canvas (the new learning management system).
•Trauma-Informed Practices (to enhance the social, emotional, and mental health of adults and students who have experienced pandemic and racist trauma).
•Effective use of aides in remote-schooling.
•Better hybrid learning and the opportunity to eliminate some of the problems that arose during the sudden switch last spring to remote schooling.
In addition, our starting date delay will give the Technology Department another week to ensure that all the devices we have purchased for our students are ready to go on Day One.
After disseminating our tentative plan, which reflected input from staff members from most job categories and all schools, we convened our administrators and supervisors for two days and had them analyze and critique our proposal from the perspectives of teachers, students and parents. The result is this revised version of our initial plan.
In addition to inviting community input via email (PPS received over 100 emails that have helped shape and refine plans), there will also be two Zoom forums:
•Tuesday, July 22 for staff members who served on our committees to develop the plan
•Thursday, July 23 for parents who are on the executive boards of our PTOs.
•In addition, we invite everyone—students, parents, staff, community members—to submit questions about this revised plan by emailing email@example.com. Based on these questions and on feedback in our forums, we will refine our plan and submit it to the Board of Education for consideration at the July 28 public board meeting.
•On Thursday, August 3, PPS will submit the Board-approved plan to the NJ Department of Education.
The health and safety of our community of learners and providers will guide our final plan.
School Will Be Different in September
July 9, 2020
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Princeton Public Schools recently approved two significant technology purchases, a one-to-one computer and tablet initiative and a new Learning Management System (LMS). A study of technology and implementation over the last few months revealed that both devices and delivery systems needed to be replaced. The cost for the new devices falls within the technology department's existing budget due to low-interest financing.
When school resumes in September, both synchronous and asynchronous learning will be enhanced with the new devices and management system. The new purchases provide the youngest students, in Pre-K to Grade 1 with iPads. Students in second to fifth grades will receive HP Chromebooks, while students in sixth to twelfth grades will be issued MacBooks that are compatible with the programs the district currently uses. PPS teachers utilize Mac laptops in performing their teaching duties.
The plan to move to a one-to-one device-per-student system was based on equity for all students, affordability, and practicality in terms of what applications PPS teachers use in the classroom. The $2.6 million price tag reflects technology costs over the next five years and is essentially “budget neutral” in the sense that yearly payments are equal to what PPS had budgeted for technology on a yearly basis. The forecasted costs, including payment for the financing of equipment, are equal to no more than our currently-adopted budget with a 2 percent increase going forward. Financing technology leverages the district’s purchasing power at very low interest rates, less than 2%, allowing the district to be more flexible in how it purchases its equipment.
PPS currently provides iPads, Chromebooks, and Apple laptops for shared student use. Sharing devices among students in the COVID-19 era is discouraged and considered a health risk. Sharing will no longer be practiced in the district.
The technology department evaluated devices from various companies including HP, Dell, Lenovo and Apple. The costs for PCs with similar specifications to the Macs came with extra fees related to setup and deployment. While it was clear that Chromebooks were less expensive in the short term, the price difference in the long run was not significant enough to offset the reduced functionality and instructional disadvantages of Chromebooks as determined by the PPS faculty and technical experts. A bring-you-own-device (BYOD) program was considered but in the final analysis was not a good solution based on the experience of other districts. The drawbacks of BYOD included classroom management issues, technology licensing and support, as well as network security.
As PPS prepares for reopening in September, it is imperative that the district upgrade its devices and learning management system. The technology initiative was deemed the best choice based on price, equity for students, and educational functionality for a K-12 district. Specific details about dates, devices, and distribution policies will be provided in August.
Dr. Barry Galasso
July 1, 2020
Today is my first official day serving as PPS Interim Superintendent of Schools. I am fortunate to have met many of you through Zoom meetings and phone calls. Thank you for the warm welcome you have extended. For those of you I have not had the pleasure of meeting yet, I look forward to seeing you both in person and virtually in the near future.
We have many important decisions to make in the next weeks regarding the reopening of our schools. The health and safety of our students and staff remains my top priority. I will emphasize transparency and welcome your feedback as we move forward. I want to hear your thoughts and I encourage you to offer input to proposed plans as they are disseminated.
My goal is to provide preliminary reopening details to parents by early August. Our reopening teams have visited every school building to evaluate needs such as physical distancing markers, plexiglass shields, hand sanitizer dispenser locations, and other crucial changes that need to be made to the buildings prior to reopening. We are closely monitoring fall enrollments in our schools as part of our planning.
The re-entry plan will, out of necessity, be fluid. Modes of instruction and attendance patterns may change abruptly. As individual states reopen this summer, we will keep a close watch on COVID-19 spread. An increase in the number of cases in New Jersey or Mercer County, a spike of illness in Princeton, or an outbreak of illness among our PPS staff may affect our plans. We will prepare for as many options as possible, including following state guidelines for mandatory quarantines for students and families arriving here from other states.
Educational institutions have never dealt with a pandemic on the scale we are now experiencing. I will draw on the talents of our staff, health officials, town leaders, and Board of Education members, as well as my 35 years of executive leadership to develop our options. Our decisions will be based on scientific evidence supported by our medical advisors, the educational and health needs of our students, and common-sense.
I look forward to working with a community that takes pride in its guiding principles of providing fair and equitable opportunities for all.
Please contact me with any questions you may have.
Dr. Barry Galasso
June 30, 2020
Princeton Public Schools would like to wish outgoing Superintendent Steve Cochrane well and thank him for his many positive contributions to our district. On July 1, Dr. Barry Galasso will assume the post of PPS Interim Superintendent.
June 1, 2020
Message from Steve Cochrane
Dear Students, Staff, and Families,
Like many of you, I am deeply upset by the actions – and inactions – that led to the death of George Floyd. As a white person, I am angry and saddened. I can’t begin to speak, however, to the level of anger, sadness, fear, and sheer exhaustion felt by those in our communities of color. I want to offer my condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Floyd. I want to offer my condolences as well to all those in our community who experience racism regularly, who have been fighting it throughout their lives, and who continue – despite the efforts of so many – to experience genuine fear when their children walk out the door.
So what do we do? I don’t have easy answers to this question. I believe we need time to grieve, and to feel, and to listen to one another – and particularly to listen to our students and families of color.
What I can offer at this time is an affirmation of our values as a school district, our support of our students, and our continued commitment to use the power of education to make a difference in the world.
Affirming Our Values
Our Equity Principles as a district can be found here. They begin with the statement: We are color brave – not color blind. First used by Mellody Hobson, the phrase “color brave” acknowledges that the color of someone’s skin shapes their experiences in the world, and that we can only overcome systemic biases and cultural injustices when we talk honestly about race. As a district, we are continuing to have those honest conversations as we consider our curriculum, our teaching, our hiring, our emphasis on restorative justice, and our distribution of resources. Do we always live up to our values? We do not. Nevertheless, I believe we are willing to look honestly at our shortcomings, and address them. In that spirit, I want to highlight the current work of the Board in developing Equity Impact Statements to help ensure that, moving forward, every major programmatic and budgetary decision for our District will be filtered through the question: Who does this decision benefit and who does it disadvantage?
Supporting Our Students
Our students need our support. Many have seen the video of the events leading up to Mr. Floyd’s death, the death of a Black man in the custody of white police officers. They have watched the reactions to that death play out across the country and perhaps in their own homes. They undoubtedly have questions, concerns, fears and hopes. And we are here for them. Our Supervisor of School Counseling, Kristina Donovan, sent a message today to our families. “We, the counseling department, see you and we hear you,” she wrote. She described our counseling offices, whether real or virtual, as “safe spaces” for students to share their lived experience. She provided links to articles to help students and families process these difficult events. She also commented on our continued work with Dr. Tara Doaty to build our capacity as a school district to support our students with our implementation of trauma informed practices. You can find Dr. Donovan’s message here.
In addition to the work of our counseling department, all of our school administrators are working with their Equity Teams on ways to support our students and families. I know that at PHS, Principal Jessica Baxter and Dr. Joy Barnes-Johnson are planning zoom sessions with students to allow them to talk through their feelings and share their ideas.
Educating to Make a Difference
Nelson Mandela once stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” As a school leader, I have to believe that. As I consider the educational objectives we have for our children as they graduate from our schools, I can think of none higher than racial literacy. We have state and national standards for language literacy, math literacy, scientific literacy, even economic literacy, but there are no standards for the ability to navigate a culturally complex and often racially unjust world. I am proud of the teachers and students who have pioneered the racial literacy elective we have had at Princeton High School for the past two years. And I am proud of the efforts underway to expand an understanding of racial literacy to all students by making it a part of our peer group lessons for ninth graders and by creating an online course that students and teachers can take together. As the District continues to advance its mission of equity, and as I prepare to retire as superintendent, I would ask our teachers, counselors, administrators, students, parents and community partners to continue to work together to develop a K-12 pathway to racial literacy, one that provides our students with the knowledge, skills and values they need at each stage of their development, and one that culminates in their ability to address injustice wherever they see it.
On Sunday afternoon I attended the Not In Our Town ceremony honoring 13 Princeton students who are role models in their efforts to advance racial equity, literacy, and justice in our community. The students acknowledged the anguish so many are feeling here and across our country, and yet they showed deep resolve to continue their efforts and deep gratitude for the adults who support them. Those students gave me a glimmer of hope in these dark times – as did the song they sang at the end.
Here is Rise Up by Andra DayRise Up by Andra Day. For those of you who are struggling as I am, perhaps it will bring some needed solace and inspiration.