In-person learning at Oak Bluffs School begins Monday

Hybrid plan will leave Mondays and Fridays remote for some grade levels.

Oak Bluffs School committee members do a virtual wave after voting in principal Megan Farrell’s back-to-school plan. — Screenshot

The Oak Bluffs school committee approved a back-to-school plan developed by principal Megan Farrell that will incorporate remote learning for certain grade levels on Mondays and Fridays.

The schedule is as follows:

  • On Nov. 2 Grades 5 and 6 will return to in-person learning Monday-Thursday from 8:10 am to 2:40 pm. Fridays are remote.
  • Grades 7 and 8 will be in person Friday Oct. 30, Nov. 6, Nov. 13 from 8:10 am to 2:40 pm. Monday-Thursday will be remote.
  • On Tuesday Nov. 17, grades 7 and 8 will switch to full in person Tuesday-Friday from 8:10 am to 2:40 pm. Mondays will be remote. This schedule will continue for the rest of the year.
  • Also on Nov. 17 grades 5 and 6 will switch to Tuesday-Friday from 8:10 am to 2:40 pm. Mondays will be remote. This will continue for the rest of the year.
  • K-4 will be in person Monday to Thursday. Grade 4 will be 8:10 am to 2:40 pm and K-3 will be 9:10 am to 1:40 pm.

Students will be assigned seats spaced six feet apart and will remain in their homerooms for instruction while teachers rotate into homerooms. There will be one special per week. Physical education and music may be held outside. Lunch will be eaten at a student’s assigned desk and each grade level will have lunch and recess one at a time.

The school is providing students with two mask breaks per day. Teachers are also encouraged to keep windows open and hold classes outdoors when appropriate.

Each grade level will enter the building using assigned entrance and staging areas. A similar assigned plan will be used for pickup at the end of the day.

The schedule allows for Farrell to have half of the building open, allowing more space for students.

“It will add to the health of the social and emotional well being of our teachers. Their job right now is incredibly difficult. School is not school like we know,” Farrell said.

Oak Bluffs School has 411 students, but the same amount or fewer staff than other Island schools with much lower student populations.

Farrell said having the remote days was important for the mental health of the teachers as well as lowering contamination risk.

“That will provide not only the social and emotional break for them, but stopping some of the mitigation possibility of the virus and helping me staff the building,” Farrell said.

First grade teacher Ellen Berube thanked the committee for all they’ve done. She specifically thanked Farrell for her leadership at the school. She added that she wanted to remind the committee and administration of the teachers as they implement the back-to-school plan.

“I want to urge you to do all that you can to keep us safe,” Berube said. “I just wanted you to think of us and remember us as you can sometimes get administratively focused and we’re still out here and I’ve been in first grade now for almost a month and it’s hard work, it’s really hard work.”

Berube added that her students have been great about wearing masks and doing the right thing, but it has proved challenging keeping students socially distanced.

“It’s strangely isolating to be a teacher this year. The office is not open to all teachers, the library is not open to all students. There’s a lot of reasons that we don’t have the same community feeling that we used to and that’s a big loss for me,” Berube said. “It’s the hardest year that I can remember for me as a teacher and I’ve been at it for a long time.”

The committee unanimously approved Farrell’s plan and praised her leadership.

“I challenge the rest of the Island and all of the other K-8 to catch up and devise a plan that’s as wonderful as our plan because we are blessed with Dr. Farrell,” committee chair Lisa Reagan said.