Friday, November 20, 2020

Weekly News and Notes, November 20

We have a few updates from UHS this week. There will not be a Weekly update shared next week.

Spartan Podcast

Please click below to tune into this week's Podcast.


State Mandated Vaccine requirements

Influenza (flu) vaccine for all UHS grade levels by December 31st and MenACWY (Meningococcal) vaccine for Grade 11 students, this is typically done at the 16 year physical. This applies to fully remote and in-person students. Documentation by your provider may be submitted to UHS via fax 508-278-8647, email: tschiller@uxbridge.k12.ma.us, or hard copy to the UHS main office. Also, if you have a medical or religious exemption to either of these vaccines please submit documentation.    

Winter Sports

The MIAA Board of Directors was voting on Friday, November 20 to review the recommendations of the Sports Medicine Committee and the MIAA COVID Task Force for fall athletics. When those recommendations are approved (or sent back to revision), we will work with our district athletic committee and league to operationalize them within the winter season.

Right now, we are asking for patience. We do not believe there will be any winter sports starting before mid-December. Mr. Carbone will be sharing information as soon as we can.

Picture Makeup Day

We hope to be scheduling a school photo makeup day for one of the Wednesdays in December, during which students can come to the building and have their photo redone. We are asking anyone who is requesting a photo makeup, or who has not taken his/her picture, to email Ms. Durkin at ddurkin@uxbridge.k12.ma.us, so we can have an idea of how many students we are looking at.


Finally, I have long said that Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. This year, it will absolutely take on a different look and feel, particularly as many of our large gathering are compromised by the pandemic. We remind families of the restrictions placed on travel and urge people to make smart choices and, most importantly, stay safe during this holiday season. In that spirit, we hope that everyone finds something for which they are thankful, be it family, friends, good health, or spirt. 


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Fall Sports 2020: A Requiem

Dear Parents, Guardians, Coaches, and, especially, Student-Athletes:


When we first set out to begin this school year, there were many concerns about the fall season, from logistics, to safety, to scheduling. We asked a great deal of our student-athletes and our communities. In August, we were concerned beyond belief about where our school year would go, how long we would stay in session safely, and whether or not our procedures, despite the hundreds of hours that went into planning, would be fail-safe. To complicate matters, we heard the hew and cry from dozens of prospective student-athletes and families about the impact of delaying the fall season's start, with some imploring us not to cancel - though that was never a consideration.

We are now at the waning moments of this fall season, a season that has had its crest of emotions, an ebb and flow, highs and lows, unlike any season any of us have experienced. With the pod system, traditional rivalries went by the wayside. Some of our opponents because quite familiar, since we had fewer options for some sports' opponents, and the goal of hoisting a state tournament championship trophy, which is so very important to so many of us, also was taken from us. Practices took new forms. Bus rides had different feels. Game strategy, for some sports, adjusted and adapted, whether it was because of new rules or limits to players and tactics. Hand sanitizing and masks became as much a part of our equipment as the ball, the spikes, or the sticks. Fans were mostly respectful of our guidance and limitations, draconian as they may have been considered. 

We managed to get to the end of the season with, really, very little disruption. To that end, our school administration is grateful. We are grateful for our coaches and support staff, for all they rolled with, and being patient with an administration that was imposing new guidelines, some of which were not of our own will and design. We are grateful for our parents, guardians, and fans, who did their best to stay upbeat with student-athletes who were frustrated with these new rules and provided us with feedback, positive and negative. We are grateful, most of all, for our student-athletes, not just for their commitment to their sports, but for recognizing how hard this really was. Personally, I missed getting out to games as often as possible - it is one of my favorite parts of the job. This fall, complications and conflicts made that difficult, particularly as we continue to move the school forward. However, many of us who could not be there in person, were always watching from afar, be it via the erstwhile support of Uxbridge Cable and the live streams, or by getting regular texts from the athletic director.

We all long for those days before March, when things seemed much simpler and sports were just sports, to an extent. We look ahead to winter, with trepidation and anxiety about the rising numbers at the local, state, and national scale. We continue to ask our students, staff, coaches, families, and communities to make extraordinary sacrifices and adjustments to combat a global pandemic and sustain our safety and well-being. No decisions we make have been done lightly, and many of them came with incredible disappointment and frustration, though, as we have now persevered through the fall, we hope that everyone looks back at fall 2020 with a degree of both relief and gratitude for what was accomplished, not what was lost.

Athletics are, as another educator administrator wrote last week, an "important and intricate part of the fabric of our communities." To those who helped make this fall a possibility, thank you. To those who gave us something to cheer for, thank you. And to those who remain patient with the prospect of our next seasons and a day when more normalcy returns, thank you.

Yours in black and orange,

Mike Rubin, Principal
Uxbridge High School

Friday, November 13, 2020

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Weekly News and Notes, November 13

We have a few updates from UHS this week.

Winter Athletics

The MIAA sport committees will be providing information to the Sports Medicine Committee next week, after which recommendations for the winter season will be forthcoming. Right now, we have very few certainties.

If we are able to have a winter season, please know that our district will not likely be starting immediately after Thanksgiving, as is the typical practice. We also are not sure if the athletic pod for the winter will be consistent with the pod alignment from the winter. Given the rising metrics and ongoing issues with COVID-19 in both the local and regional areas, we are sharing this concern now because we know that the community has much interest in decisions about athletics. The reality is that it is impossible to speculate at this point, and we will let everyone know what the winter will include once we are certain.

In the meantime, winter registration will be opening on FamilyID in the next week.

Thanksgiving Travel

We are looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday at the end of the month. Please be aware of all travel guidelines and restrictions. If out-of-state travel occurs during the holiday weekend, individuals must quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative PCR test for COVID-19.

Picture Retakes

We have not yet scheduled picture retakes for this year. We will let everyone know when that date and time is finalized.

School Council Opening

We are still in search of a grade 8 and grade 9 parent to participate on our School Council. We meet monthly. Please reach out to Mr. Rubin directly if at all interested.

Spirit Week!

Thanks to our Student Council for organizing a Spirit Week next week. Themes are:


Parent Feedback

The parent feedback that we got from last week's survey (almost 250 responses!) was tremendously helpful. We will be reviewing the composite data with our School Council and leadership team, and, fortunately, the positives outweighed the negatives. For the most part, there seems to be confidence in the building's safety, concern for the upcoming cold and flu season and the virus' autumn surge, and gratitude for the efforts of the staff and administration. We realize that there are some areas where the schoolwork has been challenging to navigate, in terms of assignment and quantity, and we could do a better job of articulating due dates in some areas.

The challenge that was most overwhelmingly identified was that the students in the two cohorts are generally disconnected from each other, which is to be expected, given the logistics. There were also a number of comments that most consistently indicated that some parents, at least those who shared those, want students back in school more days. Some parents also indicated that they do not understand or value the work being asked of students on Wednesday, namely the idea of a passion project, though in grades 8 and 11 these are centered around specific requirements, such as the civics project (grade 8) and financial literacy (grade 11). 

Further, for every person who indicated that there was “too much work,” there was someone indicating that students could be challenged more. Additionally, for some of the specific teachers who were mentioned as needing support in terms of organization or work assignments, there were other parents who commended the same teachers for the same areas. Please know that we continue to work hard at differentiating and adjusting the workload in all our classes, that there is never a perfect solution, and that we are starting to hear successes and challenges typically heard in any given school year is a sign that we have normalized the hybrid schedule, to some extent.

Finally, in the past couple of days, we have had a number of people reach out following the town's recent uptick in positive cases. Please know that we continue to operate very safely at UHS. One of the pieces of advice we have provided our staff is to treat everyone as if they are potentially carrying the virus - meaning maintaining distance, washing hands, and being masked. Because of the many safeguards we have in place, we know that UHS is safe and that risk is minimized. We know that this is inconvenient for everyone, but we are confident that better days are coming. Feel free to reach out if you or your families need any support, particularly as we head to the holiday season.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Weekly News and Notes, October 30

 Good morning,

We have a few updates this week, but if you choose to only read one of them, please focus on the first.

It is no secret to anyone who has been following the news of late that the fall surge of COVID-19 is upon us. Fortunately, because of advances in treatment, the fatality rate has dropped, but, as we all know, the virus has no borders, no limits, no discretion. Of late, many schools in Massachusetts have been forced into full remote learning environments because of either the number of quarantine cases among the faculty or students. Still more concerning are the number of schools who need to close because they cannot guarantee safety or adequately minimize risks. This is for several reasons, but, most significantly, it is because of an inability to sufficiently contact trace when students are gathering socially on weekends or at night, and with students not always being forthcoming with information.

For example, several weeks ago, there was a gathering in a Massachusetts town with about 40-50 people present. Because the police were called, those in attendance scattered, as is prone to happen. However, because the attendees could not be validated, once one positive case were identified from that gathering, contact tracing was not possible, and an entire community was potentially put at risk. Consequently, athletics in those schools were temporarily suspended, all students forced to learn remotely, and additional emotions for the students and staff identified, from anger to fear to disappointment.

To bring it closer to home, I will share my overt concern with our community. Over the summer, I was inundated with messages from families, coaches, and, most significantly, student-athletes, who were, in their words, "devastated" that we were delaying - not cancelling - an athletic season, out of abundance of caution and safety. This anger made its way all the way to the School Committee level, and I shared at a meeting in early September that my gravest concern was how our seasons were hanging on very much by a thread, given the possibility of a cluster to a school, team, opponent, etc. There were those in the community who did not share my concern, but now, here we are, in late October/early November, dealing with that very potential.

I understand that "kids will be kids," and that we all long for a return to normalcy. It saddens me that kids have lost so much in these times - as an educator and as a parent. I know firsthand how our students miss their regular routines, seeing the same complement of friends at school, and being here like it used to be. I also understand that these are challenging times that require us all to adjust and compromise. I share that desire for normalcy and frustration with the situation. That said, this recent surge and the subsequent potential impact for our school has been keeping me up nights - since the thread I described at the start of the school year is straining and very much on the verge of tearing. If those students are still as worried about their season(s), I would hope that they would put the impact to team, school, and family above a couple hours of social time, or that they would try to be safe during those times.

As we head toward the holiday season, when more families gather, when more travel happens, when there is more likelihood of being in close contact with a broader number of people, please remember that we are in this together, that our actions count, and that what we do can have far-reaching consequences.

Heart of the Arts Award

Congratulations again to Ms. Penza, who earlier this month was presented with the Massachusetts Heart of the Arts award. To watch a quick video of the presentation, click here.


School Photos

We will be taking school pictures next week. The schedule is listed below, as is a link to the order form.


Schedule: 
Cohort A: Tuesday, November 3
Cohort D: Wednesday, November 4
Grade 8: 7:30 a.m.
Grade 9: 8:00 a.m.
Grade 10: 8:20 a.m.
Grade 11: 8:45 a.m.
Grade 12: 9:00 a.m.Cohort B: Thursday, November 5


For Cohort D pictures, we will have an area set up either outside or right inside the gym. Parents who are dropping off can drop off the student just outside the gym and proceed to the student parking lot to wait. When the student is done, they will walk to the vehicle and leave.

We take photos of every student for both the yearbook and for Student ID's. We would like to do our best to get every student's photo taken, even if families do not plan on ordering.

Grade 8 Civics Projects

Our grade 8 social studies team has been organizing the students' civics projects, and some of those projects are starting to take shape. The students' enthusiasm for this work is really exciting to watch, and we are looking forward to seeing how they engage with community and each other over the course of the year. You may see some messages from the school coming from the different groups - they have to do with effecting some sort of positive change in the world, and we sometimes share their surveys or information in order to help them have a real-world experience. Feel free to participate if you'd like!


Finally, on a personal level, I was able to accept the 2020 Massachusetts High School Principal of the Year this week, at a ceremony that the Massachusetts School Administrators' Association hosted here at Uxbridge High School. While the pandemic cancelled the typical plan for the award, it meant so much to me to be able to accept the award here in Uxbridge, with our staff, administrative team, School Committee, and my family in the audience. As I shared that day in my remarks, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to work at this school and with this community, and while awards like this are validating, they hardly mean the end of the work. We look forward to continuing to keep our school moving forward, even in these challenging times!

Be safe and stay well.

Mike Rubin
Principal, Uxbridge High School