It is with great anticipation that I write this article with only a few weeks remaining before the start of the school year. It goes without saying that I look forward to seeing all of our students, families, faculty and staff returning to each of our schools. From my perspective, our schools are too quiet during the summer months, and I look forward to seeing the smiles, laughter, and the energy that our students bring each and every day. With every new year comes opportunity, and the prospect of a full year of in-person learning brings tremendous potential for student achievement and engagement. While there may be periodic quarantines (unfortunately, this is still likely to occur), our schools will remain open unless directed to do otherwise. The first day of school for the Suffield Public Schools is September 1, 2021, and we cannot wait to pick up where we left off in June.
With this being said, the following information highlights some of our district’s key initiatives for the upcoming year. More information regarding these topics will be posted on the district website and in many of our district and school communications over the next several weeks.
Pandemic Response Planning
Due to everything that we learned during the 2020-2021 school year, the district has thoughtfully developed a “Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Learning Plan” for 2021-2022 as required by the Connecticut State Department of Education. We have included the strategies and protocols that were implemented successfully last year, and we have made revisions with new guidance we received from Centers for Disease Control, the Connecticut Department of Public Health, and the Connecticut State Department of Education. A summary presentation of the return-to-school plan will be presented during a Parent Zoom call in August, and it will be added to our School Model Status webpage for the community to access.
2021-2022 School District Calendar
Prior to the conclusion of each school year, a committee of faculty and parents meet to develop multiple calendar proposals for the subsequent school year. The Board of Education then reviews the committee’s recommendations and sets the school district calendar. The district calendar contains important information such as professional development days, parent-teacher conferences, holidays, vacations, and school start and release times. If you would like to access this year’s calendar, it can be found on our district website under the “Parent and Student” information tab.
As we have developed each year, the district has established a set of District Priorities for the 2021-2022 school year. These priorities, which focus on professional learning, curriculum and programming, and academic achievement, serve to guide our schools in the advancement of student learning and instructional improvement. Over the next several weeks, our schools will be utilizing these priorities, along with the Board of Education Goals, to update our district and school-specific Advancement Plans. The Suffield Public Schools Advancement Plans are a means of fostering coherence between schools, monitoring our success toward meeting our goals, as well as aligning resources with areas of need. We encourage community members to review our District Priorities and Advancement Plans on our district website.
Portrait of a Graduate
As part of our ongoing commitment to excellence, Suffield Public Schools has been working with community partners and stakeholders to determine the essential skills students need to develop throughout their K-12 experience. These essential skills will ensure that all graduates are well prepared for college and career opportunities. This work, called the Portrait of a Graduate, aligns to both the newly developed standards required by the New England Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges, NEASC, and Suffield Public Schools BOE Policy 6146.
We would like to thank all of our Board of Education members, students, parents, and faculty and staff who participated in our Portrait of a Graduate feedback sessions during the 2020-2021 school year. This fall, a subcommittee with members from each of our stakeholder groups will convene to synthesize the feedback we received regarding the essential skills we believe are most pivotal for our students to acquire while attending the public schools. The group will then present their findings and offer recommendations to the Board of Education during a special workshop. Following this presentation, the Board of Education will work with our consultant and the administration of the district in finalizing Suffield’s Portrait of a Graduate.
SHS Capstone Experience
As a result of the Portrait of the Graduate, NEASC, and Graduation Policy requirements, Suffield High School has implemented a new Capstone Experience for students in the Class of 2023 and beyond. The Capstone Experience is designed to engage all learners in developing, identifying and demonstrating the critical skills and learning expectations needed for future success. These skills include being an effective communicator, critical and creative thinker, collaborator and contributor. Students will have four years to complete their Capstone Experience with their Wildcat Advisors, school counselors and teachers. During their senior year, students will be required to present their projects to a committee of teachers, administrators and community members.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) & Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programming
Over the past several years, the Suffield Public Schools has continued to strengthen our programming to support students interested in pursuing careers in the STEM, manufacturing, and technical fields. We believe that STEM and CTE programming can be successfully integrated into school programming at all grade levels, and we are very proud of the programs and opportunities our four schools have developed for our students. For the 2021-2022 school year, there will be two significant upgrades to physical spaces within the middle school and high school to attract and engage students in our STEM and CTE opportunities. Our two facility upgrades for next year followthe integration of STEM labs and STEM Teachers at the elementary school level in 2020-2021. The large STEM Lab that is in development at SMS will accommodate a wide of array of STEM programs and activities such as robotics, drones, and manufacturing. In addition to a minor “summer upgrade” to the physical space of one of our technology rooms at SHS, the school is set to begin a multi-year partnership with the Connecticut State Department of Education, aimed at enhancing CTE pathways for high school students.
Student Athletics and Activities
With the addition of the Director of Athletics and Student Activities, we look forward to furthering our athletics and student activity programming throughout the Suffield Public Schools. The pandemic has reminded us of the importance of student involvement in extracurricular programming, especially as it relates to their physical, social, and emotional well-being. We are tremendously excited about the prospects of enhancing the extracurricular opportunities we provide to our students, as well as, finding new and creative ways to engage with our students, our families, and the community of Suffield.
Facilities Master Plan
In February 2021, the Town of Suffield has engaged with Tecton Architects to develop a long-range facilities master plan for municipal and school buildings. As noted on the Town Website under the “Facilities Master Plan” tab, it provides the following description and goals of the efforts that are currently underway:
“The Plan” will assess the use and condition of select Municipal and Board of Education facilities and adjacent land to establish a priority, schedule, and budget for the most effective use; modernization, replacement, or expansion that will create a framework for the Town’s Capital Plan for the next ten (10) years.
- Goal #1: Create a comprehensive master plan for public buildings that will serve the Town’s needs for the next ten years.
- Goal #2: Assess the current use and space needs of public facilities.
- Goal #3: Establish a priority, schedule, and budget for replacement, consolidation, or improvement.
- Goal #4: Create a framework for the Town’s Capital Plan and debt service in accordance with the Debt Management Policy.”
I hope that our families follow closely the progress of this plan, as community input in the master plan will assist the Town of Suffield in making important decisions for the future.
In closing, I would like to thank everyone in advance for your support of the Suffield Public Schools. The school district continues to provide our students, families, and community with a wonderful educational program, and we look forward to being back in session and getting our school year underway.