NSBoro schools to stagger start of Hybrid learning models by grade

by beth on August 13, 2020

Post image for NSBoro schools to stagger start of Hybrid learning models by grade

The Combined School Committees approved a phased reopening of schools by grade level.

Under the new plans, K-12 students will begin with Remote Learning. Part-time in-person attendance (2x per week under the Hybrid Model) will start with Elementary students in late September. Middle and High Schoolers will have staggered Hybrid starts over the following weeks. Algonquin students won’t step foot in schools until at least October 6th.

A limited number of students “with significant and complex needs” plus English Learners will attend more frequently in all of the above phases.

The decision was made after midnight during a seven hour meeting. The Northborough-Southborough Public Schools administration presented the new staggered strategy during the Wednesday night meeting. The recommendation was one that hadn’t been previously floated to the community.

The staggered schedule was pitched to be “more organized and be more intentional” in how they implement the Hybrid Model. 

Answering questions, Superintendent Gregory Martineau said that they learned from the ESY summer program for special needs students the need for being thoughtful in rolling out the plans. He and Asst. Superintendent Stephanie Reinhorn explained that phasing in allows them to focus on elementary schools to get student and teachers comfortable and work through kinks. Then they can shift resources to middle school, then the high school.

If “health metrics” warrant, in-person attendance would revert to the Remote Learning model. Martineau acknowledged that the staggered schedule brings a risk that older kids will miss a “window” for in-person learning this fall.

Some school committee members asked for the opinions of medical experts. Parent physicians who have been collaborating with the schools were invited to speak prior to the votes.

Epidemiologist Dr. Andrea Ciaranello said that the current metrics support opening hybrid for all ages. She noted that there’s a very good chance that early fall is “our window” to get kids into classrooms. Still, she followed that there may be operational reasons for the district’s phased approach.

Dr. Safdar Medina, the District Physician, stressed the importance of returning kids to classrooms for mental and physical health. Emergency Physician Dr. Amy Costigan said that with the current case level she’s seen, she feels very comfortable with the district’s plans and safety measures.

Upon questioning, Martineau confirmed that he could move up Phases 3 & 4 by one week. The majority of committee members supported an expedited version of the plan:

  • Phase 1 (September 16) Pre-K in person, K-12 Remote only
  • Phase 2 (September 22) K-5 begin Hybrid, Gr 6-12 remain remote only
  • Phase 3 (September 29) Gr 6-8 begin Hybrid, High school remains remote
  • Phase 4 (October 6) Gr 9-12 begin hybrid
  • Phase 5 – TBD – PreK-12 attend full in person

DESE guidance on reopening metricsDESE released information recently indicating that districts with infection numbers as low as ours (green or white in map right) should be sending kids to school either full time or through Hybrid Models. 

Martineau said that school districts still have local control.

School committee members asked many questions before their votes. Concerns included safety during unmasked lunch and snack time, challenges for young kids unused to restricted movement and missing facial cues from teachers wearing masks, delay in older kids connecting with teachers, and much more.

Martineau said the administration is keenly aware of the impact on working families. They are working to identify the families that really need support.

Wellness Director Mary Ellen Duggan said she believes that it’s fine for families to use learning “pods”, as long as they follow safety guidelines. (Some parents are thinking about pooling kids together for remote learning, including under the Hybrid Model.)

Answering questions about the Remote Learning start, Martineau stressed that accountability will make it very different from the spring.

From August 31- September 15, teachers will be in Professional Development for:

  • Training for Health and Safety Protocols
  • Digital Literacy and Technology PD
  • Classroom Set-Up
  • Collaborative Planning

The district also pitches that time to be used for an “Educational campaign for parents and students” and “Educator and student connections”.

The update to parents on the adopted strategy and schedules will go out Friday. The administration is working on launching a dedicated website to share all of the reopening plans. It will include photos demonstrating the setup for classrooms and cafeteria, etc.

For the Stand Alone Remote Program option, the district plans to send out a communication Thursday – with an August 18th deadline for signing up. Reinhorn explained why parents should plan ahead – not just switch to Stand Alone when students begin Hybrid attendance. She pointed out that students would have to be reassigned to different classes. It would interfere with homework assignments and a sense of community they started to build.

“Cohort” groups for the Hybrid Model will be shared the week of August 17th. 

The administration didn’t show the detailed results of the survey issued over the weekend. Martineau did say it was divided with more support for Hybrid over Full In-Person and some significant support for the Remote Model and interest in the Stand Alone Remote option. Educator data was more split with about 50/50 Hybrid/Remote.

Answering a question about Algonquin athletics, that’s up in the air right now. They are still waiting on new guidelines from the state and MIAA. Ultimately, Martineau said that athletics would be put up to a future school committee vote as to what’s best for our community.

The meeting lasted seven hours with the votes finalized after midnight. Prior to the vote, two Northborough School Committee members floated the idea of starting the K-5 kids off with half days to get used to mask wearing and protocols. Related motions failed.

Audience Sharing followed the votes with community members sharing their thoughts and questions. As is their policy, the committee collected contact information to get back to commenters in the future rather than responding tonight. (After 12:45 am with commenters still calling in, I’m signing off.)

Updated (8/13/20 7:49 am): I fixed a typo and clarified that the district communication will go out Thursday (today). I had written “tomorrow” after midnight.

Updated (8/13/20 8:45 am): I just realized that the post included words I drafted around midnight, referring to a six hour meeting. The meeting went until 1:00 am, thanks to Audience Sharing. It started at 6:00 pm, lasting seven hours.

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nancy August 13, 2020 at 6:56 AM

Thanks so much for this!!! I only made it through a couple hours so it’s nice to have a recap! Hope you get to sleep in today!


2 Diane R. August 13, 2020 at 7:52 AM

Thanks for posting. Sounds like no one is paying attention to how other schools are implementing the hybrid for safety purposes. What a shame! In addition to Natick implementing an every other week model, Wayland will have a cohort attend for 2 days, deep cleaning will take place, and then another cohort will attend for 2 days.

I sincerely appreciate the input from the medical professionals but unless they’ve lived through a pandemic like this is the past, I personally do not put much credence in their opinions

I’m sorry if I seem like a sword in someone’s side but I am incredibly disappointed that the parents of Southborough were never given enough information to vote in an informed manner on multiple hybrid models.

Nice to see the State’s chart, too bad the town lines are porous…..


3 Diane R August 13, 2020 at 7:54 AM

One last point, the families with high risk members have been forced to either agree to a hybrid model that is not as safe as alternatives or to select fully remote learning. This is not a fair choice with which to be presented.
Good luck to everyone!


4 High School Parent August 15, 2020 at 11:56 PM

Sorry, what is not a fair choice? Full Remote learning – is it what you are looking for staying home and not doing in-person schooling?


5 JoeP August 13, 2020 at 9:38 AM

I am really upset with the high school plan. Kids need to go back to school. Teenagers are already meeting their friends so keeping schools closed won’t stop them interacting and passing on the virus to their families (which appears rare as there are currently no active cases in Southboro).

No one under the age of 20 has died in MA from the virus. The risk is only to older family members and those with pre existing conditions. The vulnerable families can use the full remote option.

Why do the high school teachers need 10 days to get ready for full remote when they have already done this before?

Wouldn’t it be better to save the 10 professional days for emergency use later in the school year?


6 Eileen August 13, 2020 at 2:04 PM

We also need to be concerned about the safety of the teachers and other adults who work at the schools.


7 JoeP August 13, 2020 at 8:37 PM

What is the risk for the adults in the schools?

From the MA website, 542 people between the ages of 30 and 59 (assumed age range of teachers) have died of Covid. Of this age cohort, 54,893 have tested positive. This gives a death rate of around 1%.

However, we know that many more people are infected than are tested. As per the CDC, 10x more people are infected than have been tested positive. So that reduces the death rate to 0.1% or 1:1,000 (Note – this number is likely overstated as treatment has improved since MA deaths peaked in April).

Also from the state website, 98% of the deaths have at least one pre-exiting condition. So if you are between 30 and 59 and you don’t have a pre-existing condition then the death rate is around 0.002% or around 1:50,000.

So my conclusion is that if a teacher has pre-existing condition, they should consider staying home especially if they are older, otherwise the risk is minimal.

By way of comparison the normal mortality rate for someone in their 30’s is 1:600, 40’s 1:335, 50s 1:155.


8 Drew S. August 13, 2020 at 11:04 AM

This is a stall tactic. If “health metrics allow”? Northborough positivity rate is .4% and Southborough is at .3%. How much lower do they want it? Are they waiting for a zero transmission rate? Shame on the school district! Other towns with higher transmission rate are implementing hybrid models. Did anyone even bother to look at Westborough’s plan? What were they doing all summer that they need more time?
Time to call the private schools. I wish my tax dollars went with me.


9 Diane R August 13, 2020 at 1:28 PM

From the Westborough School Distric,
“Our hybrid approach will divide our students into two cohorts, Navy and Cardinal. On the days Navy goes to school, Cardinal stays home. On the days Cardinal goes to school, Navy stays home. We will make sure that siblings will be in the same cohort.

Which days each of the groups will go to school is the subject of much debate across the state. Some districts are opting for a one week on and one week off model. While this has some advantages in terms of potentially reducing the COVID-19 transmission rates, this model has serious teaching and learning limitations. The longer students are away from school, the harder it is to keep them engaged and connected to their teachers and their learning. For this reason, we feel it is imperative that our students go to school at least two times a week, and that the number of days in between attending school and being at home be kept to a minimum.”



10 Drew S. August 13, 2020 at 3:40 PM

^^Exactly. Westborough has a good plan.

Yet, somehow our district feels comfortable blatantly ignoring the recommendations of the AAP, leading epidemiologists, local and state health officials, and the Governor of Massachusetts.


11 dr duning-kruger August 13, 2020 at 4:28 PM

popular vote by the parents.

because. democracy. and everyone is an expert. and science is no longer what it once was.


12 interested observer August 14, 2020 at 8:34 AM

not sure I see much difference between the westboro plan you quote and what’s planned for our kids..


13 Drew S. August 14, 2020 at 11:07 PM

The main issue I have with the new plan is the timing. Our high school will not start earlier than October 4. Flu season is right around the corner.

14 LR August 13, 2020 at 2:15 PM

Trying to make long-term decisions based on current data (e.g. current town infection rates) is futile. In economics we have a term for this type of faulty approach to decision making: “The Lucas Critique”. The local numbers are currently (and thankfully!) low due in large part to social distancing policies put in place. Once the policy is changed, assumptions about current infection rates are no longer valid. Not to mention the fact that Southborough is not an island—the virus does not distinguish artificial borders.
That being said, this is not an argument for shutting everything down and hiding at home. Rather, it is a matter of us individually and as a society choosing how we want to allocate our risks/exposures. If what we really care about is the education of our children, let’s talk about what we are going sacrifice to make that happen. For instance, I’d be willing to sacrifice in-door restaurant service and shopping, if it means that my kids and their grandparents are safe.


15 Diane R. August 13, 2020 at 4:20 PM

LR, Great post. Thank you for sharing.

If you look at the map, Southborough borders four towns that are either in yellow (more than 50% of our border) or green. (Please refer to MA map for clarification.) Put my family in the middle of cities and towns designated as okay according to the Massachusetts map, no problem. But the way things are and the way they are going in this country, stopping the transmission of this virus MUST BE THE PRIORITY. Southborough residents depend on its adjacent communities for services.

If interested, in terms of planning in terms of the present or the future, here is an interesting article on behavioral analysis of mask wearing.


Let’s not be myopic!


16 Eileen August 13, 2020 at 4:36 PM

Using a gym is something that could be done without as well.


17 Diane R August 13, 2020 at 4:50 PM

PS: Several threads here are talking about different things so it is important to clarify:

Hybrid, okay, why was a less safe one chosen? Was it the vote? As things have evolved, would the vote change?

Staggering start of schools? Different question. Quite frankly, I was too stunned by the announcement and haven’t had an opportunity to assess its true value…..

We are beyond the days of “Father knows best” so it is important for everyone to be informed and, to be informed, everyone needs to know what is going on in other towns, etc.

I guess we will all see what happens over the next few weeks and months…….

I feel like I’ve done my duty as a citizen of Southborough by posting…..


18 beth August 13, 2020 at 5:05 PM

“why was a less safe one chosen?” I know that you believe it is less safe to run the hybrid the way they are planning. However, the administration did previously address saying that they don’t believe that it is less safe. They have said that the deep cleaning will be done each day.


19 Joans August 13, 2020 at 7:02 PM

Thank you for your service, Diane.


20 Diane R August 14, 2020 at 8:44 AM

What does it say on the Westborough School District’s website? Simply that the every other week model is a better choice for reducing the likelihood of transmission (i.e., is more safe). It sounds like you are a cheerleader for the District’s plan and you can’t just simply believe in the slides as they are presented. For example, NJ has a lower positivity rate than MA and THEY ARE BEGINNING THE YEAR FULLY REMOTE! If you look closely at the positivity chart provided by Johns Hopkins University, Rhode Island, a sister state, is on the cusp of turning orange, a greater positivity rate….

In any event, all of this is a tangent. I was hoping not to post this morning so perhaps your questions can be addressed to the community…..

In addition, what has happened with other states that were performing “cleaning.” Covid, that is what has happened. Like I said, put me in the middle of communities where there is not any yellow and I am good to go. Is that understandable?
I’d like to move to NJ!
PS: The choice being given to families that have a high-risk member potentially is discrimination. We should not have to decide between a less safe hybrid model and remote learning. The safety hybrid should be enacted.

And what about the phased start of school approach here in Southborough? Any comments?


21 beth August 14, 2020 at 9:13 AM

I’m not cheerleading. I’m sharing what they said and that I previously posted. The point was to clarify that Southborough has addressed the concern, even if you disagree with them about their determination.


22 interested observer August 14, 2020 at 8:45 AM

What I heard the other night was that the risk to our kids of significant emotional and psychological issues was greater than the risk of bringing the kids back to school under controlled circumstances. The doctor who spoke about this was pretty eloquent and I’ve since seen other news stories on the same thing. Mental health issues and risks amoung our young people are not to be ignored.
That said, it’s up to all of us to drive home to our kids the improtance of social distancing, mask and hand-washing disciplines.


23 Diane R August 14, 2020 at 11:48 AM

Nice post, interested observer. As a psychologist, I agree with the concern about children’s emotional well-being…. Having said that, opting for the hybrid approach with less risk of transmitting the virus seems to me to be an obvious choice. Clearly, I appear to be in the minority on that, preaching to the choir so to speak.

However, I will attempt to continue to provide information to the parents of Southborough in a non-biased fashion as our family has already selected the Stand Alone Remote Learning option. We have selected it, not because we don’t want our kids back in school, but because the hybrid model recommended by Southborough is potentially less safe than alternative models.

If anything is unclear, please feel free to email me at dlromm@gmail.com.



24 High School Parent August 16, 2020 at 12:03 AM

Diane, it is great that you already made a choice. Congratulation!
Let the other Southborough’s family select an option that works better for their family. No need to provide more information other than more details from our district.


25 Diane R August 14, 2020 at 9:09 AM

It’s evident that clarity needs to be provided so I will again quote from the Westborough School District’s website:

“Some districts are opting for a one week on and one week off model. While this has some advantages in terms of potentially reducing the COVID-19 transmission rates, this model has serious teaching and learning limitations. The longer students are away from school, the harder it is to keep them engaged and connected to their teachers and their learning. For this reason, we feel it is imperative that our students go to school at least two times a week, and that the number of days in between attending school and being at home be kept to a minimum.”

Now I will translate: Educating the students is their priority, NOT SAFETY. It’s simply backwards. As the NJ Governor announced, they do not want Covid to return to their state so they are erring on the side of caution and implementing a full remote model.


26 Petunia August 14, 2020 at 2:18 PM

No one needs or wants you to translate or explain anything. People have different opinions than you do.


27 High School Parent August 16, 2020 at 12:10 AM

Agree, nobody is asking for translation. Let’s respect everyone’s choices.
Some families believe there are no reasons to continue with remote learning knowing the facts and data.


28 northsider August 17, 2020 at 2:58 PM

Diane, some families simply cannot sustain any type of at home model. Hybrid will be brutal for families who absolutely must work outside of the home or whose WFH situations do not accommodate also teaching/assisting their kids. What’s safest for one family may be safe for another, on paper. But in real life, bills need to get paid and kids need to be in school. Everyone is doing their best, and everyone will decide for themselves based on individual needs.


29 Eileen August 14, 2020 at 2:08 PM

As an older parent whose child is in college, which brings its own health concerns right now, I appreciate your concern, as well as other peoples’ concerns about physical and emotional health during this time. The article you posted talks primarily about Georgia and other areas of the South where the protocols have not been nearly so good as up here , and have had high infection levels leading right into school reopening. The situation up here, at least at present, is different.

I personally do not know which hybrid model is best, or whether students instead should be continuing learning at home for the foreseeable future. We’re in uncharted territory.


30 Drew S. August 14, 2020 at 11:19 PM

Depends on your definition of safety. It’s clear it excludes any mental health consideration.


31 Diane R. August 15, 2020 at 2:59 PM

FYI: The presentation provided to the community of Southborough from the School District states, and I quote:

“Medical Criteria to move forward with any in-person learning, the following metrics need to be met:
4th bullet: Local (Northborough and Southborough) positivity rate ( 7 day average of positive cases per 100,000) < 4%
5th bullet: Central Mass positivity rate < 4%

Meanwhile, if you look more closely at the State map, Southborough's border has two towns, Framingham and Marlborough, that are both in the YELLOW category. Therefore, why does the District define "local" as solely Northborough and Southborough. Hey, we own a piece of Framingham in our backyard…., I can go for a walk and potentially be exposed……

Also, Westborough was white and is now green.

I am just providing information.

And, yes, I felt like I needed to translate because I thought the quotes were obvious, apparently not. Yes, one of the articles refers to Georgia… I just posted it as information. It's nice to see critical consumers.

My husband and I remain confident in our choice, I hope very much that everyone is confident in their choice. We will wait and continue to evaluate the situation before sending our kids off to be with other kids….. Besides, it's only 2 days a week!

If you knew me, you would know that my I do not have any intentions to offend. I am simply fed-up with a lack of accurate and honest information about what is happening in our "local" community. Believe me, my husband and I both work, our children have special needs, I'm taking graduate classes so the last thing we need is less time to manage everything. However, since we have a family member who is at high risk so we must do what we have to do.

Just be informed! Don't take anyone's word….. Look closely at the data…. And then make an informed decision, not based on convenience.

As for mental health, I kind of suspect that this experience will build resiliency, if handled correctly. My God, we are not being bombed and being forced to work in labor camps, as my relatives were…..


32 Eileen August 17, 2020 at 10:32 AM

We are all staying informed, thank you very much. Most people are following statistics about this as closely as you are. You have not said anything I don’t already know.


33 Diane Romm August 15, 2020 at 3:01 PM

PS: Here’s a link to the most recent map. You can find us — Marlborough on top, wide and yellow; Framingham to the right, yellow, Westborough to the southwest, Green. I guess that about covers our town’s borders!



34 High School Parent August 17, 2020 at 10:05 AM

Some people still think that they can push and influence others. If somebody feel more comfortable staying home and protect high risk family members then it is a family choice. No need to push that fears to others. There is a remote option. What is the problem?


35 Diane R. August 18, 2020 at 8:25 AM

A huge thank you goes out to everyone working on behalf of the school district. They deserve a huge amount of recognition for all their hard work, energy, dedication, etc.

The phased-in approach appears to be a better approach in terms of safety so it’s great to have it on the table.

On review of several surrounding school districts, I would like to point out that one of the clearly states that the reason they selected an every other week option is for safety concerns. So now there is mounting evidence that the every other week or two days on and three days off models may help to stem the transmission of the virus.

Regarding what Southborough calls the Stand-Alone Remote option, other Districts are making their full-time remote option more compatible with what the actual district will be doing so that students may be able to cross over more successfully….. Our District is IN FACT discouraging its citizens from selecting that option. (Please read the District’s plan for more information and for exact quotes.)

The choice that is being provided is not based on safety first; and God knows we will all keep our fingers and toes crossed with the school-year begins!


36 interested observer August 19, 2020 at 8:43 AM

Everything I’ve heard and read from the superintendent contradicts your claim that they are making decisions “.. not based on safety first”. You may disagree with their conclusions but I don’t think it’s fair to question their motives.
The Stand-Alone Remote Option may provide increased safety from the virus but is known to increase risk for a wide variety of harmful emotional and psychological issues.
You begin your comment with praise for those involved but finish by suggesting they don’t care about students’ safety! Enough!!!


37 Diane R. August 18, 2020 at 8:49 AM

PS: Although I feel like a pinata when I post on this blog, I would nevertheless would like to put what is happening with schools into some kind of historical perspective.

This was my father’s sister and this is from her obituary:

“Born November 30, 1928 in Poland, she was the daughter of the late Alexander and Cecylia __________________

In 1939 at the age of 11, her family was forced from their farm and became refugees. Taken to Siberia, Pakistan, India, Iran, Australia, New Zealand and San Francisco before being accepted by Mexico where she attended school for five years.”

And an article about their situation:

And there is even a documentary. A little piece of history that has almost been forgotten. Thank God for the documentary and the stories…..

The education of these children was disrupted in an incredibly unfortunate manner……


38 High School Parent August 18, 2020 at 12:26 PM

Diane, I was not aware that this is the place to publish our family’s obituary. No need to point out. Everybody is reading the same information. Let’s people decide what work best for their families.


39 DR August 21, 2020 at 7:28 AM

I just emailed Beth this link about Shrewsbury:


Looks like neighboring communities and its members actually “get it.”


40 High School Parent August 21, 2020 at 11:09 AM

It is not neighboring communities. Just teachers. Of course teachers are pushing back. Parents are pushing the other way. The conflict of interests are there. Nothing new is here. If there are families who is sending kids to school then teachers should teach as being essential workers.


41 EM August 21, 2020 at 12:34 PM

The Shrewsbury teachers and residents make very good points. A teacher from Hopkinton made similar points in another article.

But, you should know that your continued assertions that your neighbors are not thinking critically or making informed decisions, and that they don’t “get it”, are off-putting.


42 Tim Martel August 21, 2020 at 1:16 PM

Some quotes from that article:

1. “We feel strongly that anytime in person reopening should be based on more global public health metrics…”

The author fails to note that public health data strongly points towards “on premise” education in MA. I can provide such data upon request.
The author also fails to actually include any data, or reference any data sources.
The author also fails to note that the medical community is strongly/overwhelmingly in favor of “on premise” education in MA.
The author also fails to discuss the negative outcomes for children in a “remote only” learning environment.

2. “The plan does not clearly and specifically address enough measures to mitigate the aerosol of the virus.”

There are no studies that demonstrate that covid can “aerosolize”. It spreads by droplets over short distances. Which can be mitigated by masks, along with proper ventilation.

3. “the plan disregards the fact that children can spread the virus just as easily as adults.”

This has not been proven. Even the study released just yesterday only looks at viral RNA amounts. Which does not talk at all about transmission (see article below).


“Detection of viral RNA DOES NOT EQUAL detection of infectious virus particles which DOES NOT EQUAL transmission risk. Are all these things related? Of course. Are they the same thing? NO.”
[end quote]

So, we have yet another fear-based article with no data to back it up, but plenty of ignorance.

Its truly amazing – I’ve never seen a union work harder to destroy its own model, particularly one which has been so historically successful.


43 Frank Crowell August 21, 2020 at 1:26 PM

Well I wouldn’t say they “get it.”

If the teachers find the situation so untenable that they go on strike, the town offers teachers a 3% pay increase to leave the union and they higher additional teachers to fill the gap (non-union), that’s when I will say they “get it.”

Taxpayers and town officials should never let a crisis go to waste when it comes to sinking a union – particularly when the law is on their side.


44 interested observer August 22, 2020 at 7:06 PM

“Get it”… get what?
Form the article you attached, it seems like some number of teachers want to teach remotely while a slightly larger number worked with the administration to develop their current opening plan.
Let’s face it… every option has its detractors and its supporters.
Time to get behind the ‘official’ plan and make it work. Drive home to your kids the need to comply with all mask and social distancing policies.


45 HSP August 24, 2020 at 11:29 AM

There are a lot of free options with online/remote schools. Teachers can apply to work there ( I guess no union but it is A JOB). Parents can also sign up their children to attend those schools. There are options around but neighborhood’s schools should open their door and follow all precautions. If they do no start now – this school year will be over before they try again.


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