Dear Northfield Public Schools Families,
First, thank you for your hard work, flexibility, and patience as we all adjust to distance learning. While I know there will continue to be challenges and problems to solve, I am incredibly proud of how we have all approached this sudden shift to distance learning. I know that changing routines and adjusting to a different reality is not easy. I know some of us are still working through that change. I want you to know that you are all seen and appreciated. This situation is obviously far bigger than just our educational system and I have admiration for how our Northfield Public Schools family — students, parents, and staff — are handling it. A couple of bright spots in these surreal times:
Northfield Middle School teacher Steve Taggart is producing 130 face shields using the District’s 3D printers. These face shields, a vital piece of personal protective equipment for those on the front lines of COVID-19, are being “printed” for Northfield Hospital and Northfield Police Department staff.
The District continues to provide free meals to those who need support. Last week, our child nutrition staff served over 4,800 meals! Remember, this free meal service continues and you can learn more here.
Dozens of community members, including many Northfield Public Schools families, are sewing fabric face masks for use in our community. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended people wear face coverings when they are in public locations where social distancing is difficult (i.e. grocery stores, pharmacies.) I am so impressed with how our community continues to step up to help protect each other.
I want to acknowledge recent media reports regarding concerns about Zoom, the video conference platform the District is using as part of our distance learning plan. Our technology services department has taken reasonable steps recommended by experts and provided clear directions to our staff for protecting their video conference meetings with students. These include using the software’s waiting room feature, turning on meeting passwords, and ensuring instructions for joining the video conference are only shared with the relevant class/section. One of our distance learning goals has been to prioritize relationships with our students and video conferencing is an essential part of it. Virtually all digital platforms experience problems. Our commitment is to continuously improve in all aspects of our work and we are vigilant about all of the digital services being used to support distance learning. Actions taken by Zoom and the District’s use of security measures for our accounts and devices greatly increase the reliability of this tool. We continue to develop contingency plans to be “digitally agile” during these rapidly changing circumstances. If you have questions about these items, please feel free to contact me directly.
Finally, I want to remind everyone that while the Northfield Public Library building is closed, it continues to operate online during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can see their description of services and other information here.
I am so grateful for each and every one of you. This pandemic will get worse before it gets better. How we treat each other is critical — we will all have to look at each other in the eye when it is over and I want us all to be proud of our actions. Please keep doing good things for our friends and neighbors. It’s what we do!
Matt Hillmann, Ed.D.
Northfield Public Schools