Schools propose phased reopening

Districts would start remote, and work their way toward a hybrid learning model.

Back to school this year will look different for students and faculty.

Island schools are proposing a phased approach to returning students and staff to in-person education.

Superintendent Matt D’Andrea said at an All-Island School Committee meeting that school officials have met with health professionals spearheading the health and wellness portion of the return, and they are suggesting a phased approach.

As part of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) “two-step process for fall reopening plans,” districts must complete and submit a preliminary reopening plan summary to DESE by July 31, then districts must finalize their comprehensive plan documents, submit them to DESE, and release them publicly to their communities by Aug. 10.

D’Andrea said schools are proposing to have the first phase start on Sept. 2, with staff only in the schools for 10 days. This first phase is meant to align with the state education commissioner’s order to reduce the student school year from 180 to 170 days.

The 10-day professional development period is meant to shore up school staff’s understanding of health protocols, and get everyone familiar with the necessary precautions involved with reopening safely.

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done before students can come in,” D’Andrea said. “We are going to utilize the 10 days to educate our staff, and prepare everyone for the safety measures that need to be implemented during the school day.”

After the 10-day staff-only period, school officials are looking at starting remote education for all grades on Sept. 17. During that phase, staff plan to share as much information with the community as possible about plans for in-person learning, and hear back from families about what they want to see during the academic year.

“We would be sharing protocols, and sharing information on remote learning platforms. So it is really getting students ready for both the remote realm, and for when they do arrive at school,” D’Andrea said.

On Sept. 28, under the proposed plan, students in grades K-3 would move into a hybrid learning model, with separate cohorts alternating between in-person learning and remote learning.

Students in grades 4-12 would continue remote learning until Sept. 30, and would transition into the hybrid model on Oct. 1.

“This would allow us to move into the school year slowly and gradually, giving us the opportunity to make corrections, if needed,” D’Andrea said.

D’Andrea said the school districts will be releasing another survey alongside the preliminary reopening plan, asking families what they want to see in regard to in-person learning, and also how many families will take advantage of in-person education, bus transportation, and the school meals program.

In a recent survey sent to families by Island schools as part of the preliminary reopening plan, the figures indicate that there is a high level of concern about the virus, but a strong willingness to return to school. 

One question on the survey asked how likely families are to send their kids back to school if the currently proposed safety measures are implemented. 

The survey showed that 42.9 percent of those surveyed would be “very likely” to send their child to physical school with the proposed safety measures and health guidance.

Some families said they need more information from the school before making a decision, while 8.2 percent said they were “not likely” to have their child return to school.

Of those surveyed who said they would not be sending their kid back to school, 51.6 percent said they will not be sending their child back because of general concern for their child’s health. Another 44.4 percent of families not sending their children back said it is because they do not have enough information.

All-Island School Committee member Alex Salop said that when the final plan is submitted to a public audience, it has to be done in a way that is easily digestible. “Basically, what we are proposing here is a hybrid model with a runway. I think that general idea is what people will be most interested in, and are most likely to support,” Salop said. 

Committee member Kate DeVane asked how the schools will be keeping track of families with kids who go away for the weekend to an area with high rates of COVID-19. 

“If a family goes to New York for the weekend, how is the school managing that kind of thing?” DeVane asked,

School nurse Catherine Coogan said this is one of the questions that is put on the daily prescreening checklist for students and staff — asking whether or not they have left the state, and to where.

Committee member Kris O’Brien asked what the policy and budget ramifications are, and D’Andrea said he would do his best to disseminate that information to the school community. 

“But that information may change as time goes on,” D’Andrea said.

O’Brien also wondered whether the school was looking at the option of using alternative learning sites, either outdoors, or inside public institutions like libraries.

D’Andrea said satellite classrooms are a major consideration for making sure there is enough space for students to learn effectively.

According to D’Andrea, school officials are working on the final reopening plan, which he said is already almost 190 pages long, and are looking to get that plan to the school committee for their next meeting. 

D’Andrea reiterated that the current document is not finalized, and said families can submit questions and input to his email until Monday.

“I know there are many, many unanswered questions that are going to be answered in time, as we get closer to the school year, and as we are in the school year,” D’Andrea said.

Apart from coming up with a plan to safely reintegrate students into their schools, the logistical issues of having kids learn and move about the school while following public health protocols are many.

D’Andrea said transportation would be a challenge, because the buses would only be able to fit “a small fraction of the number of riders on the bus,” so the school would need to stagger start times for different grade levels. 

The state education department recently released guidelines for school transportation as a supplement to the fall reopening plan. These guidelines include windows being open whenever possible, a bus monitor, assigned seating, and significant reduction of maximum ridership. For example, a 47-passenger bus will only be allowed to transport a maximum of 15 passengers at a time.

The hallway and classroom dynamics are also of concern, particularly for schools that are not as spacious, and require students to pass close by one another in the hallway.

“Students would need to be kept in cohorts in the same classroom all day for the lower grade levels. For older students, this would be very challenging,” D’Andrea said. “Teachers would need to travel from class to class — I don’t think we could accomplish that at the high school; we have to have students moving through the halls.”

If the pandemic worsens and more people become infected, D’Andrea said students and staff would need to be ready to rapidly transition to a remote model that focuses on student participation and engagement.

“We would aim for a consistent schedule and getting regular feedback from the community,” D’Andrea said. He said the school district would continue to provide lunches to families, along with the technology necessary for remote education.

46 COMMENTS

  1. Why do they need the 10 days to prepare when the students aren’t arriving until October? Most teachers this past Spring spent a couple of hours a day at most teaching online. If that’s the plan again this September then why not start schools when they were supposed to start and the teachers can fill out their day with “professional development”.

    • BS it is really simple: two fold, D’Andrea and D’Augustino. Teachers would not take a 10 day cut in their pay, and Admin could not allow them to stay at home, unsupervised, and still pay them. So the teachers have to come in, and have meetings, and more meetings. There are already days built in to the school year of PD, and most contracts are for 186 days. Also, D’Andrea wants to limit as many days without students as possible (hence the 170 suggested by the state), and keep students out of the building. He can do anything on his own. P.S. Why would Dingledy allow teacher such as Auto, Woodworking, Culinary, Art, Music and Theatre to teach this year, without a reduction in their pay? Oh… the Unions…. This is a total scam.

    • Dear BS. I am going to assume that you do not teach, because if you think for one minute that teachers only spent a few hours a day teaching, you are so gravely mistaken. Providing remote time and work is so much more time consuming than being in the classroom, where you have the benefits of set routines, schedules, and the environment to help with education. Every teacher I talked to spent way more hours working than they normally did if they were in person; myself included. I was working 60+ hours a week to get the kids even a basic portion of what in-person can do. Do not disparage what you do not know about. We have extremely dedicated teachers here on MV.

      • I think it’s safe to say that remote learning is nobodies cup of tea and everyone has made the best of an imperfect situation.

      • mvmadway– good reply to BS — I have a high school teacher in the family. She said it was crazy hard and time consuming to teach remotely last spring She said she had never worked so hard.
        BS has no idea what they are talking about, and is just spewing their usual ignorance based BS.

        • Do teachers overdo the “we work 60 hours on a coal mine and nobody appreciates our pain” schtick? Probably on some cases. But at the end of the day they do an important and difficult ult job and deserve our support.

    • Teachers are nothing but lazy sots ripping off the taxpayer.

      How long would it take you to do a good job of adjusting your teaching style to best deal with Covid – 19 realities.

      • ajay- it sounds like you are an expert in education! I hope that you sign up to be a substitute teacher in our schools this year, I’m sure teachers have a lot to learn from you. What do you say? Do your part and help the schools out and not sit on the sidelines!

  2. School leaders need to have these meetings in person. They need to lead by example. To earn the publics trust that it is safe to meet in groups with PPE and distancing and there is no anxiety that goes along with it. The meetings should be in a classroom or a bus.

    • You are onto something there. It does seem a little odd for people to be isolating themselves behind a computer screen saying “kids, it’s safe to gather in a room!“ It would be nice if they led by example and practiced what they are advocating for our children

  3. For a society so swayed by ” science” and scientism, there is NO reason not to open schools as usual.
    The media has accomplished their objected and instilled irrational FEAR into America .

    • Spread of Covid – 19 is a reason to not open the schools.
      If the Island begins to sees a Covid – 19 death a day the schools will be closed.
      A week, most likely.
      A month, should be.
      .

    • drive2– 70,000 new cases and over 1,000 deaths a day, and you say the media has “instilled irrational FEAR into America “? I assume you are talking about Fox news. They have really been pounding the fear factor into Americans about the number of shootings in democrat run cities, and the “terrorist” burning our cities down. Fox’s top stories today; BLM protest, NYC shootings (not deaths) at 777 so far this year, and crime in the cities. I am very afraid.
      But it’s great that you are not concerned at all about opening schools during a pandemic with those kind of numbers. If we take the word of many conservatives, we need only wait until after the election, and the virus will miraculously disappear. Nothing irrational about that, I guess.

          • Mr Jenkinsen. I am not talking about MV only but the entire USA. Not one case of transmitting covid to a teacher from a kid.

          • Andrew- schools been out all over the USA all summer, not just on the island. That said, there may be international evidence.

          • Andrew- schools been out all over the USA all summer, not just on the island. That said, there may be international evidence. Otherwise it’s like saying nobody got a sunburn at midnight.

          • You pick the one article with ” Christian” in the headlines. Typical secular media agenda. The virus will certainly spread anywhere.

          • This Christian camp super spreader was all over all the reputable news sources. These super spreader kids and counselors went home to 10 different states.

          • drive2 — perhaps the administrators of the christian camp were the only ones stupid enough to rely on a guy who has been dead for 2,000 years to protect everyone. Rational administrators have canceled summer camp programs, or at the least, took rational precautions. Praying is not an effective deterrent to COVID-19.

        • Andrew– ok– so what will you say when we have thousands of students giving corona to teachers in October ?

          • Sorry, Andrew, facts are on Don’s side here. Israel tried a widespread reopening with lower case numbers than we have in the States and had to reverse course because of large numbers of students and teachers testing positive. Corinth High School in Mississippi had several students and staff testing positive after their recent reopening. Whether or not this is acceptable risk is another question, but the notion that schools are transmission-free environments is contrary to documented fact.

          • There are many good and diligent teachers everywhere. However the Teachers unions dont want Charter Schools and dont want home schooling. They want more pay for less work, and they want Biden to win. This is all about the election and sustaining fear when there should be none.

        • How many people know, with any certainty, who they got their Covid – 19 from?
          Not one, not even one.

          You silly goose.

        • Andrew– how could anyone PROVE that any particular kid gave any particular teacher any particular disease ?

      • Making this political. Really? Lol. It’s a virus. Please research the numbers of those under 18 dying from this. More are being killed in auto accidents.

        • Automobiles are the leading cause of death for 5-18 year olds.
          Should we wait until Covid – 19 deaths exceed automobile deaths, in 5 -18 year olds, before we consider taking any loss of freedom actions.

        • The under-18 demographics have parents, teachers, healthcare workers, older siblings, grandparents and the general public to think about. And they go out in public to enclosed places like churches, stores, restaurants, movies etc with their caretakers, with friends, or by themselves if they’re old enough. What part of SPREAD is so difficult to understand?

  4. The public schools are really setting kids behind. Many of these kids will never catch up with students at private schools who are in class or are in effective distance learning.

  5. It remains to be seen how many private schools will be open.
    It remains to be seen how many parents will be sending their children to private schools this year.
    They tend to be better educated and have a higher belief in science.

  6. Our leaders chose business over education, the American way. Boarding schools are largely returning, to Massachusetts no less, where they will get an education and our students will be at home.

    • Why will your students be at home.
      Because you are not willing to pony up the $20,000+ a year?

      All it will take is one Covid – 19 student death to slam shut a boarding school.

      Boarding schools are in a position to take some risk.
      Most can not survive a year with no tuition income.
      (Public schools do not have that problem, they are not dependant on tution.)
      Boarding schools can slam shut on 4 hours notice.
      It takes a public school 4 hours to decide if they should call for a School Board meeting to discuss the Covid – 19 case all the while protecting the student’s privacy.

  7. I taught in the inner city schools for 10 years. Remote learning is NOT going to occur in these areas. These children do not have the needed devices nevermind internet access. The achievement gap widens even more. For what? FEAR

    • Drive, if what you say is true, you have direct experience and insight that carries more weight than armchair conjecture. I’ve suspected that the sociological and technological infrastructure in these urban environments would make remote learning an uphill battle.

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