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Message from the Superintendent of Schools
Message from the Superintendent of Schools
Paul Smith
Sunday, March 15, 2020

When one door of happiness closes, another opens;

but often we look so long at the closed door

that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.

~ Helen Keller


To the East Hampton School Community:

The “door” of familiarity, routine, and regular expectations has been closed to us.  But I hope you look upon the situation and realize that a new door has opened.  This new door leads to a community working together for the good of each other, our children, and our senior citizens.  The way may not be clear, but the door is open and it begs us to enter together, hand in hand.

You have my pledge that our schools will continue to work to educate and feed our children.  We will not sit back and hope for a good outcome; we will work every day to ensure a positive outcome for all.

On Monday, March 16 we will use the day to help families prepare for our distance learning program that will commence on Tuesday.  Monday will be a “Pick up” Day during which the schools will be open for parents to come to school and gather materials that are needed for the next two weeks.  At some schools, there are prepared learning bags and Chromebooks begin offered.  Students may wish to gather materials, texts, and instruments.  The High School, Middle School, and Center School will be open from 9:00 AM-Noon.  The Memorial School will be open as follows in order to facilitate easy access to parking and the classroom materials:  Grade 3 (8:00-9:00 AM), Grade 2 (9:00-10:00 AM), Grade 1 (10:00-11:00 AM) and PreK & K (11:00-Noon).  Memorial families with children in multiple grade levels can choose the most convenient time and gather all materials at once.  In addition, Memorial friends/neighbors will also be able to sign for and take packets for each other for those unable to come to Memorial.

On Tuesday, March 17 we will begin Distance Learning.  We are in the process of working with the state to certify and approve our distance learning plan that includes online and hard copy learning.  We expect that our clearance will come on Monday and Tuesday will begin the first day of this new educational model of learning at home.  Our learning will take place online and through paper materials being provided by the schools.  Parents have already been informed of some of the details by your school’s Principal and by Tuesday, parents and students will receive direct communication from each of their teachers.

Why are we doing distance learning in East Hampton and some towns are not offering learning during the closure? None of us know how long the closure will be.  In East Hampton, we know that we will be closed for at least two weeks and we have chosen, with the cooperation of our teachers, to continue learning to best extent that we can.  The system will not be perfect, but as a school district we feel it is better to offer some sort of instruction rather than close down completely.  In the case of a longer closure, we will still continue to offer distance learning. 

Any parent, who feels that they are not receiving regular instructional planning from their teachers should contact the building principal immediately.  Like other businesses, our teachers will be working from home and will be spending a minimum of 6-hours per day “teaching.”  All teachers will check email at least three times per day and most will be using Google Classroom and ParentSquare emails to communicate plans for students.  Parents should expect a combination of online learning and learning using hard copy materials.  At any point, if you need assistance contact your school! 

Plan on regular communications from your teachers.  If you become ill or your children become ill, let teachers know so they can accommodate your needs and the work for your children.  We are considering the days of distance learning to be school days and will count them as part of our required 180 school days.

Many of you may have heard the Governor last week declare that he was waiving the 180-day requirement for schools.  What this means is that schools may shut down completely and then, upon return, only make up lost days until June 30.  For our district and many around us, if we shut down for 10 days, 20 days, or longer and returned at some point, there would only be 8 possible make up days between our scheduled last day and June 30.  As Superintendent of Schools, I have made the decision, with the cooperation of our principals and teachers, that we will not just sit back and lose and undetermined amount of school days only to make up 8 as an exchange.

Please help your child set up a learning regimen that becomes a regular part of each day.  Set aside time each day for “school,” reading, journaling, etc. in order to help set up a routine.  Help us treat each weekday as a school day.  Our current plan is to return to school on Monday, March 30; however, we will only return once we have clearance from local and state health officials.  Our plan for distance learning is to continue for as long as the school closure continues.  At this time, we do not plan on holding distance learning school days on Good Friday or the April school vacation week that follows, should this become a long term school closure.  We will be following our school calendar and maintaining as regular a schedule as possible even though the setting has changed to instruction at home.

As we work together with the intention of uninterrupted instruction, we do realize that, early on, there may be bumps in the road.  But, please know that we will work with all of our students, our families, and our teaching staff to make this work.  My expectation is for the East Hampton schools to set the highest standards in the continuity of instruction in the state during this trying time.

I am grateful to the many parents, community members, and service clubs, as well as our own cafeteria staff who are working to prepare meals for students.  You will receive information as to the availability and pick up site as the program begins.  I have no doubt that the best aspects our East Hampton community will shine through any situation we face. 

Please contact me if you have questions or concerns at 860-365-4000 or psmith@easthamptonct.org.  I am also open to meetings in person to answer questions over coffee (with the appropriate social distancing).

My best wishes for good health and good learning,

Paul K. Smith, Superintendent