School Committees greenlight moving ahead with increased K-5 in-person learning plans

by beth on February 11, 2021

Post image for School Committees greenlight moving ahead with increased K-5 in-person learning plans

Above: Before school committees voted to support the overall plan, members got an updated presentation on the ways the district is mitigating increased risk due to increased in-person learning. (image cropped from presentation)

The School Committees for Southborough & Northborough voted tonight to support administration’s plan to pursue increased in-person learning for K-5 schools 4 days per week.

While some of the details are still being fleshed out, the Committee showed confidence in the decision makers overseeing the process. 

The motions were contingent on the administration continuing its close work with its Medical Advisory Team. The shift in late March would be based on a determination that it is feasible to proceed (balancing the health and safety of students and staff).

The meeting began with a presentation by the administration, including a lot of background on Covid transmission data by the Medical Advisory Team. Although with some updates, the presentation essentially covered the same ground as last week’s webinar for parents. The biggest difference was the back and forth that followed with committee members.

School Committee members were unanimously enthusiastic about the Medical Advisory Team’s contributions to the schools’ efforts.

Learning model shifts for K-5 increased learningAnother influencing factor was the overall sentiment members have been hearing from parents supporting increased attendance. Backing that up was the results of the learning model selections due last Sunday.

Only one Southborough student was reported as shifting from Hybrid to the Stand Alone Remote Program due to the planned changes. Meanwhile, 26 Southborough SARP students switched to the Hybrid model. (You can see more details, including Northborough’s figures in the data right.)

It is worth noting that 23% of Southborough families families didn’t complete the enrollment form. (The district had communicated that anyone who didn’t submit a form would be counted as remaining in their current learning model.)

Prior to voting, members asked questions and raised concerns they heard from some parents worried or upset about the shift.

Details the district acknowledged it is still working through include doubling the number of students who will be riding buses and eating lunches without masks. 

Just this afternoon, the state issued new guidance on school transportation. Operations Director Keith Lavoie said that the regulations will now allow two students per seat, double what they had been restricted to. Southborough member Jessica Devine asked if that meant that students would be closer than 3 feet apart.

Superintendent Gregory Martineau responded that the Medical Advisory Team hasn’t had a chance to discuss the revised state guidance. However, Lavoie noted that even before the state changed its guidelines the district was close to completion of a revised plan that would cover most of the bus routes under the old rules. If there are issues with some routes, families will be contacted.

As for the need to maintain 6 feet distance during lunches, Lavoie said he hadn’t heard need from the schools for increasing lunch periods. Instead, principals were working on finding the space to accommodate more students. In one Northborough school, they are planning to switch their cafeteria and gym to make it work.

Southborough member Kamali O’Meally asked the administration to clarify for parents their thinking on why the additional in-person days are important.

Finn Principal Clayton Ryan, who runs the school for Southborough’s youngest children, spoke about the importance of the social interactions the kids have been missing. He also reminded that they believe consistency of instruction is one of the key foundations for academic success. He said the 2 day per week Hybrid model wasn’t ideal for that.

Amy Souls, Principal of Northborough’s Marion Zeh school agreed. She also asserted there is nothing that fully replicates live in-person learning.

Earlier in the discussion both principals addressed how students are handling wearing masks appropriately. They each enthused that students are doing a fabulous job – not even taking mask breaks when you think they would want to.

As for how teachers feel about the plan to increase student attendance, Martineau acknowledged that about 40% had expressed some concerns about personal safety. The administration and Medical Advisory Team has been working to reassure them and answer questions about safety mitigation.

He stated that overall teachers were dedicated to students and would move forward with the plan. He opined that the student screening program will be an important factor. The Superintendent encouraged parents to sign their children up.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dean Dairy February 12, 2021 at 9:07 AM

If I’m reading that graphic correctly, Masks block nothing and the red virus goes around the back of Ventilation while the blue virus passes through.

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2 beth February 12, 2021 at 9:29 AM

You may simply be joking. But in case anyone is confused by the graphic and thinks it shows masks as ineffective. . .

Referred to as the swiss cheese model, the graphic is used to explain how each layer of “mitigation” reduces the ability of the virus to be transmitted.

The concept is that no one factor can completely eliminate risk. The combined methods greatly reduce risk. They describe it as the difference between a slice of swiss cheese and a stack of slices of the cheese where the holes don’t line up all the way through.

It’s also worth highlighting that they stressed that well fitted masks are one of the most important factors. With worries about a more highly contagious variant, they are considering issuing new/clear guidance to families about masks.

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3 Dean Dairy February 13, 2021 at 12:23 PM

Actually, I was absolutely enthralled by the depiction of the Swiss cheese model – what it could convey visually about multilayered and redundant systems – and that’s why I spent time examining it so closely.

My slight mockery was reserved instead for the otherwise persuasive depiction not matching its description. Indeed, a trivial point when applied to this particular graphic that errantly shows removal of the Mask and Ventilation “cheese slices” would have no effect on mitigation.

Yet it does exemplify something we’ve seen on a grander, more consequential scale from officialdom throughout this pandemic. And therein imparts a lesson to us all.

For example, we’re supposed to avert our eyes and nod in agreement as political leaders arrogate to themselves the power to issue irrational edicts, while extolling their own virtue and receiving media plaudits and an Emmy Award.

Meanwhile, deny and quite likely criminally cover up evidence that what they did in fact was knowingly consign the most vulnerable to preventable and unnecessary death.

Everybody knew it. Yet all the while they told us it’s “misinformation” to say so. The “science” means that to question them is heresy. That is, until somebody on the inside finally spilled the beans… after the election.

All of it based on the rawest of political calculations, not a prior good faith understanding of the science at the time.

The lesson of my little mockery is that maybe we should scrutinize and take a closer look every time something is being put in front of our noses to be believed, no matter how scientific or official looking, and that we be brave enough to point it out when it doesn’t comport.

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4 Sean Connelly February 17, 2021 at 3:46 PM

Beth, why don’t we tie comments to verified Google or Facebook accounts? It might help filter some of the absurdity and vitriol.

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