Letter to Families – April 24, 2020

Dear Malden School Community,

I want to thank you for your continued support during this pandemic. We are all navigating these uncharted waters together. These are extraordinary times and we will pull together as a school community to help make Malden stronger. As we have seen in the past six weeks, this situation is fluid and we are constantly making adjustments to our plans. During this time, two words may help you understand how we are working with our school community: patience and safety. Many of you are trapped at home and looking for answers. It may look like things are not moving quickly on the outside; however, I can assure you that inside our team, we are going very fast. Please be patient and understand that the decisions we make are made with safety as the first priority.

As we heard on Tuesday, April 21, Governor Baker extended the closure of all schools in Massachusetts through the end of the school year. For Malden, our last day of Remote Learning will be Friday, June 19, which was the scheduled 185th day of the school year. Using the suggestion of DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley, School Districts would not be required to go beyond the 185th day of the school year. During the press conference announcing the school closure, Commissioner Riley also noted that the next phase of remote learning will follow. Late Friday evening, DESE released the new guidelines. We expect to receive further communication from DESE early next week. When we receive that guidance and direction of the next phase of remote learning, we will then begin to work on that plan. We will aim to have the plan ready by May 8, but please keep in mind that there are multiple steps involved in the process: writing the actual draft, vetting the proposal with several groups for feedback, scheduling discussions with union representation, and sharing with school committee – all of which must be completed before sharing it with staff and the larger learning community. In the meantime, the current Remote Learning Plan is still in place and resumes on Monday, April 27. Activities for the week of April 27th were developed and shared with teachers before the April break, so we are ready to go on Monday.

We know that access to technology is needed now more than ever. In early April we distributed over 750 Chromebooks to families who lacked a device. This is in addition to the 1800 that are already part of a 1:1 initiative in Malden High School. We surveyed families, created appointments, secured and labeled devices, and had over a dozen administrators don protective gear to distribute these devices over four days. The priority was to families who needed technology at home and did not have it. We are very proud that we have over 2,500 devices out in the hands of our students.

We realize that there are some families who did not sign up at the first round of Chromebook distribution. We are pleased to announce that we will be offering a second and final distribution of Chromebooks. Currently we are surveying and capturing information of families who may still need a device. By the middle of next week we will have a new survey for families who need a Chromebook. We will be delivering these Chromebooks instead of doing a pick-up distribution. The delivery is made possible due to many Malden volunteers of the Malden Neighbors organization and some community partners. Deliveries will take place between May 7 and May 11. We are very thankful for our volunteers to assist in this. This will be the last opportunity to request a Chromebook, so please make sure you fill out the online request form.

We also are aware that some families lack Wifi connectivity. The state is aware of this and is trying to leverage their influence with internet providers to provide free hotspots. There are several free hotspots in Malden. We will be looking to see what we can do to help with this as well.

We consult daily with our Public Health Department and with our Emergency Management Team in Malden. They are the experts in this pandemic and safety is the top priority of the Malden Public Schools. We will err on the side of safety. I know many of you are hoping to get into the school buildings (which have been sanitized) and retrieve personal belongings. We will not be able to do that until there is a relaxing of the restrictions in Malden. Hopefully we will be able to have people enter the buildings in June, but it will be a highly coordinated and strictly regulated process with our public health and safety partners. When we reach this point of re-entering the buildings to retrieve belongings we will notify you.

We know that there are many more questions than there are answers. We know that you are now entering your seventh week of being home, in many cases trying to work from home, trying to balance your time and your children’s time on learning. We understand that this is difficult for you. It is difficult for us as well. In a few weeks, we switched hundreds of years of education to a new paradigm. We know it is not perfect. We also know that nothing will replace our traditional school. If there is a positive during this pandemic, it is that our educators entered the field because of a love of students. This unplanned six week absence has only reinforced to our staff that they are truly committed to, and sorely miss our students.


Stay safe and healthy,
John Oteri
Malden Public Schools