Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Annual Report of Franklin Public Schools - FY 2021

Note: FY 2021 is last year (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021). The report was prepared to cover the business for the FY 2021 period. This year’s report FY 2022 (July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022) is in preparation now and is normally available for distribution at the polls for the November election.

Message from School Committee Chair
It has been a year of challenge as the COVID-19 pandemic threw the world an extraordinary curveball. Our staff, students and family members came together in a spirit of cooperation, kindness and fortitude. It is an honor for us to serve such a caring, vibrant community, that is Franklin.

A Message from the Superintendent
The 2020-2021 school year was a historic one as schools all across the world navigated school in ways never imagined. Following school closures in the spring of 2020, Franklin Public Schools approached the 2020-2021 school year planning for three instructional models: in-person, remote, and a combination of the two (hybrid). We did so with great uncertainty – we did not know where the pandemic would lead over the course of the year.

FPS began the year in a remote setting while educators became more comfortable with the core mitigating health and safety practices: mask wearing, physical distancing, and hand hygiene. In the fall, successive grade levels of students returned to school in a hybrid fashion with classes split between in school and home learners who alternated. It was truly amazing
to watch educators attend to the learning needs of students in their classroom and at home. This type of instruction does not compare to the value of in-person learning, however our dedicated teachers approached the challenge with the utmost dedication out of concern
for their students. As the peak of the virus waned in the spring and with the advent of vaccines, the district shifted to in-person learning in April, which was a relief to all. Over the course of the year, approximately 15% of FPS students chose to remain fully remote while
learning from FPS educators.

These new labels for instruction don’t fully reflect just how transformed teaching and learning was during the past year and how difficult it was for faculty, staff, administrators, students and families alike. Educators incorporated instructional technology in meaningful and  impactful ways to a degree we have never seen. Our educators did a fantastic job teaching our remote only students, adapting curriculum and instruction to a fully remote environment. Even the in-person experience required adaptation due to the health and safety practices in place throughout the year. The adaptation of instruction was notable in a few subject specific ways. Music and performance-based classes learned remotely at first, then moved instruction
outside, eventually implementing safe practices indoors. Materials intensive courses such as early childhood/elementary, science, art, and physical education had to be significantly adapted to reduce shared use of materials. Our athletics program fielded teams using a modified sports schedule and altered rules for play and spectators in order to keep students
playing but safely.

Through it all, our educators prioritized relationships with students and families as a way to support the social-emotional and academic growth of each child. The pandemic affected every system we have in place and administrators had to adapt policies and practices from arrival and dismissal of students, to lunch and recess, to bus riding, to communication channels, and
more. Our cafeteria staff worked diligently to make and modify the serving of breakfast and lunch for students, which was free for all. The district added numerous additional health measures including medical waiting areas, contact tracing and quarantine requirements, and COVID-19 testing. The stress of keeping everyone healthy and safe weighed heavily on the minds and hearts of our administrators and school nursing staff.

Families experienced great pressures, particularly with students learning remotely at home while parents/guardians juggled their work and parental responsibilities. Families simultaneously feared for the safety of children and family members while also experiencing frustration with restrictions in place.

We also acknowledge that there are members of our community, both families in the community and some of our own FPS staff members, who struggled with job insecurity during this difficult time. FPS is here to support you; we thank the many community group partners who we work with in doing so.

With the close of the 2020-2021 school year, we say goodbye to the Davis Thayer Elementary School. The School Committee engaged in an 18-month study that included an understanding of the enrollment forecast for the district and a study on the educational adequacy of the
building. The enrollment forecast demonstrated a decrease in enrollment over the past decade and an enrollment forecast showing that the elementary population is likely to be relatively stable over the next decade. The Facilities Analysis report noted how the school is not accessible for those with mobility impairments, lacks modern security and safety features, and other structural challenges like small classrooms and instructional space on the second floor.
After much discussion, the School Committee approved the school for retirement at the end of the school year. We spent the spring planning for and implementing a transition of students to the Keller Elementary School, a process currently underway. Despite some excitement about
attending a new school, we also acknowledge the sadness and loss that comes with the closure of a beloved school that has served generations of Franklin school children since 1924.

Our educators also mobilized with greater urgency to expand our work in the area of cultural proficiency. The concept of being a culturally proficient school system is not new. We have incorporated objectives within our District Improvement Plan for several years towards this goal. We have, however, increased our efforts to support each child by affirming diversity, fostering of inclusion, and pursuing equity. Some examples include a revision of our discipline
practices to focus on Restorative Justice, expansion of literature that includes diverse characters, professional development for educators on interrupting microaggressions, and lessons to teach students about the history and meaning behind the new State and Federal Juneteenth holiday. The district’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee will continue this work in the 2021-2022 school year.

I must thank our Town Administrator and the Town Department Heads for their collaboration and cooperation this year. Notably, the Facilities Department stepped up tremendously supporting us with extensive cleaning practices, Personalized Protective Equipment (PPE), the extensive moving and storing of furniture and the installation of UVGI systems in the HVAC, which is unparalleled in other towns and schools. The Technology Department mobilized like never before, supporting the expansion of 1:1 Chromebooks for all students, expanded software, and increased Internet bandwidth. The Board of Health served as an excellent
partner and resource as we navigated the pandemic together.

The collective efforts of the Franklin school community is in service to our students and our vision of their success and achievement of the skills as outlined in our Portrait of a Graduate. This portrait outlines the five essential skills students practice from PreK through graduation and beyond. Developed by community consensus, it was adopted in the fall of 2020 by the School Committee. We noted that these skills will be all the more important as our students
navigate the world following the pandemic. Among these skills are self- and social awareness, cultural competency, perspective taking, relationship building, applying historical knowledge to current situations, multiple literacies including digital and financial, consensus building, and innovative problem-solving. I believe that we will return in the fall and proceed 
forward stronger together. We will take time to reflect both individually and collectively. We will focus on relationships. We will assess our students’ needs and respond in order to continue to promote their growth socially and emotionally as well as accelerate their
learning on grade level standards.

As we return, there will be some things about school that will be changed forever. I do not pretend to know what all of these are but I do know two. The use of instructional technology is here to stay and we must support that with the right hardware, software, professional development, and coaching. The second is the relationship a student has with an adult in their
school building. We have long held a belief on the importance of relationships within the school setting. The pandemic has shown us the deep meaning behind the teachers, the counselors, the administrators, the staff getting to know each child, affirming their identity, and helping them to grow. While Chromebooks can do a lot, they do not replace the relationships that are foundational to it all.

Sara E. Ahern, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

There is more to the Franklin Public Schools section of the Annual Report, please visit the full report and find the remainder of the section on page 182

The full Annual Report for 2021 can be found

The collection of Annual Reports can be found online

Annual Town Report Of The Town Clerk’s Office - FY 2021
Annual Report Of The Town of Franklin - FY 2021

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