Reopening Update: Hybrid recommended for ARHS, while sports still being pursued; Committees to vote on starting model(s) in mid-August

by beth on July 31, 2020

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Above: The administration for Algonquin (and lower Northborough and Southborough Schools) presented their Reopening Plan to the Regional School Committee this morning. (image cropped from webinar)

Yesterday, I shared that the Northborough – Southborough Public School administration was recommending a Hybrid Learning Model for K-8 Schools. In this morning’s Regional School Committee meeting, the same recommendation was made for the high school.

Like with the lower schools, the administration could meet the 100% guidelines for the state, but it wouldn’t allow for a full 6 foot distance between all students. 

Meanwhile, Algonquin is still working on offering sports in the fall – including competition with other schools. Though, nothing is certain at this point.

Principal Sean Bevan acknowledged the real attraction that students and families have for athletics and extra curriculars. Details are still being worked out as to how students might be transported to school for sports and extra curriculars like music programs on days that they are remote learning from home.

The Athletics Director is working on multiple scenarios. Bevan acknowledged that they may need to scale back as things develop – even down to just in-school competition. One compromise option he referenced was continuing varsity competition while limiting the less competitive sports.

A Combined School Committees Meeting planned for next week will ask for approval of the districts’ Reopening Plans which covers all of the models.* Superintendent Martineau clarified that a final recommendation and official school committees votes on which model to start the year under won’t happen until a subsequent meeting, likely on August 12th. He also noted that different models could be adopted for the three different districts: Northborough K-8, Southborough K-8, and Algonquin Regional.

The detailed draft Reopening Plan will be emailed to parents today. (Though given the timing of previous weekly updates, it is likely to go out in the evening.) The district will also be holding Community Forums next week and is working on a community friendly website with FAQs.

Much of this morning’s presentation covered the same ground as the K-8 meeting earlier this week. You can find those details here

Still, there were some important details I missed yesterday and others new to the Algonquin specific presentation. So, here are some more highlights. 

Some more generic safety details:

Regular, Deep Cleaning – The district invested in electrostatic sprayers to clean classrooms. They are also enhancing protocols for high traffic areas to make sure they are disinfected properly. Older students will be instructed to wipe down their desks. There will be reduced use of lockers.

Screening and quarantining students – Parents are asked to keep anyone with any of the symptoms from a checklist home until they are cleared. If a student experiences a symptom, they will require a negative Covid-19 test or a doctor’s diagnosis of an alternative cause to return to school.** Otherwise, the student will be required to remain home for 10 days. If a student is tested positive, there are protocols for Quarantining for 14 days those who had close contact.

Assigned Seats – Seats will be assigned in classrooms. That will allow for easier contact tracing if a student becomes symptomatic or is confirmed infected. 

Buses

  • Seats will also be assigned on buses.
  • The district is looking to reduce the proximity of passengers across aisles vs a diagram issued by the state. They hope to seat students closer to the windows with the tall seats between used as barriers between the rows of kids.
  • Despite the allowance of seating siblings together, the administration will aim for one kid per bench seat if possible to keep greater distance between students across aisles.
  • Parents will be given the chance to update the bus registration choices they made in the spring.

Hybrid “Cohorts” will be determined across districts – Reinhorn answered a question:

cohorts are being determined simultaneously across all 10 schools and where it does not follow the alphabetical model, the schools will collaborate to ensure that the placement is effective for all students involved.

The districts will work to make Cohorts consistent for families, even if they have different last names. Committee member Paul Butka asked if they considered picking the Cohorts based on geography, to lower transportation costs. It is an idea they have looked at. One issue that the administration has to deal with in balancing groups based on classroom breakdowns and selected courses.

Switching students from Hybrid to Stand Alone Remote Learning – Assistant Superintendent Stephanie Reinhorn answered a question about allowing a student to opt out of attending school after the year begins:

yes it is possible, but we would want to consult with a family to determine timing so that it supports a coherent experience for the student and to be sure they don’t lose credit for courses they are engaged in.

Algonquin Specific Details:

Revamped learning schedule

Bevan noted that under the circumstances, the school was looking at replacing the current bell schedule. That schedule varied the length of some periods by day of the week. They will look at a more consistent schedule to allow for the alternating day attendance. He noted the 80 minute learning blocks had been most useful for the kinds of labs that will already be more limited by safety restrictions.

Keeping students engaged on remote days

Bevan noted the “high appetite” for keeping students engaged in the classroom even while remotely working. One desired option is streaming the classroom. But it may be difficult for teachers to manage the remote teaching while running the in-person classroom. 

Student fees 

The administration is still working out its recommendation for student activity fees and parking fees. They weren’t ready to share that this morning.

The bottom line is that a lot more details will be available through the email parents will receive today. But expect a lot to remain unspecified for now, since educators still need to work through many of the challenges this summer.

*The schools are required to submit to the Department of Education an official, comprehensive plan on August 10th. To allow pivoting between models, that plan needs to include the 100% In Person Model, a Full Remote Learning Model, and a Hybrid Model that incorporates both for students. They also need to include a Stand Alone Remote Learning Model that allows families to opt out of In-Person schooling this year even if the school is implementing the 100% or Hybrid models.

**To return to school, they would also need to meet other, regular health guidelines around fever, etc.

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