September 23, 2021 

Good afternoon,

I had really high hopes that this would be the week where we’d have five full days of school without significant interruption. An early release due to a power outage was not on my radar for the week, however! Thank you to all our families for their flexibility and patience yesterday. I am sorry that families did not hear from the district until about 15 minutes before our students were actually released. That was not the plan. Turns out that communication gets complicated when we don’t have power, and so our colleagues in the Central Office were delayed in getting out the message about the early release. We know that it wasn’t an ideal situation, but I certainly appreciate the flexibility that you showed us yesterday. I’m hoping for smooth sailing the rest of this week into next week.

As we continue to transition back to school this year, one topic has cropped up a few times this week from our staff: proper mask-wearing. By and large, our students are awesome at wearing their masks. The issue we currently face is that some students think it’s okay to wear their mask just below their nose. As part of the morning announcements yesterday, I reminded everyone that we are working to build a community here at RJ Grey. I went on to say that being part of a community means that we all pull our weight, and that includes wearing our masks to cover our mouth and nose because it helps protect all members of our community. I pointed out that “if we can see your nose, you’re wearing it wrong.”

When I say “the issue we currently face...,” I’m talking about approximately 20-30 students. This is not the typical behavior of most of our students. Our message to teachers when a student isn’t wearing their mask correctly is that they should remind the student to wear it correctly. If we need to continue to talk about it, the teacher or another adult will contact the student’s family to help reinforce that message. So if you get a call or email from a staff member here, this is the context whereby that call might be made.

The context of mask-wearing becomes important when we consider that RJ Grey has had two positive cases over the past week. While we are in much better shape with vaccinations than other areas of our state, and certainly our country, we know that mask-wearing, ventilation, and hand hygiene are all good mitigation strategies to keep the virus from spreading. 

There has been a shift in how we communicate with families when their child is considered a close contact. Starting last fall, when we would identify close contacts, our nurses would make calls to any family whose child was considered a close contact. Starting this past week, as a practice across the district, we will send an email to families whose children are considered a close contact. If a child is a close contact and then needs to quarantine or do additional testing at school, the family would also receive a text message that would alert them to the email. This practice, we hope, will keep the job of contact tracing manageable and will allow for our messages to be translated appropriately for families. We will always let families know who to contact if there are follow-up questions. For RJ Grey, that’s likely me, and I’d defer to our awesome nurses for medical-related questions. While we do hope for a small number of positive cases at RJ Grey, I wanted you to be aware that this is our protocol this year. The total case numbers for the district can be viewed at this site

And while I continue to share info on this topic, I’ll reiterate that having your child vaccinated is one of the best ways we’ve seen to keep your kids and our community safe. 85% of our current student body is at varied stages of vaccination (either one or two shots). If you are looking for resources to get your child vaccinated, I’ll direct you to this site. And if you have questions about vaccinations that we can answer, I direct you to our nurses, Erin Doherty or Joanne Chadwick. We are very fortunate to have really great school nurses at RJ Grey. Please reach out to them if you have questions related to your child’s health.

The last thing I wanted to share is that your children have likely already started, or soon will start, the iReady diagnostic assessments in their math and English classes. The Junior High is entering its second year of using iReady, which is an online program for reading and math that will help our teachers determine your student’s needs, personalize their learning, and monitor progress throughout the year. The goal is to help us identify areas of need for some of our students to then direct instructional practices to help improve those areas. We’ll do our iReady assessments three times this year in order to track progress. The students are not given a grade on these assessments - results won’t be calculated into term averages - but they will provide our staff with data and areas of focus as they continue to provide strong instruction.

Here is a preview of things to come:

-Monday, September 27: Early Release at 1 pm for staff professional learning

-Thursday, October 7: Back to School Night virtual resources shared with families

-Monday, October 11: No School for Indigenous Peoples’ Day

-Monday, October 18: Early Release at 1 pm for staff professional learning 

That’s it for this week - I hope your families are well and that you enjoy a nice September weekend.

Take care,

Jim Marcotte

Posted by jmarcotte On 23 September, 2021 at 3:34 PM  

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