One year ago this week, our district shut down in-person learning. Last night, an announcement informed parents that a full return to in-person attendance will be offered to all NSBORO students this spring.
The Northborough and Southborough Public Schools are adjusting their increased in-person learning plans. Instead of moving to 4 days in-person and one day over zoom, K-5 students will be invited return to school for a full 5 day school week starting March 22nd. Plus, the date has been announced for the model shift for grades 6-12. Their full day return is scheduled for April 26th.
The change from the 4/1 model to a full return was based on orders from the state. (I had wondered if the district would seek a waiver to phase in a full return. However, a more detailed memo from the Commissioner was issued yesterday. It appears to have ruled out that as an option for our schools.*)
Parents of the upper school SARP students will be asked to choose a learning model (in-person or Stand Alone Remote Program) by this Sunday, March 14th (“form to be provided”). [Hybrid students aren’t offered a choice, instead expected to transition to full in-person learning.]** As with the lower schools, once a decision is made, students will be expected to remain in that model for the remainder of the year.
The only informational forum/webinar posted in the timeline for parents is scheduled for nine days after the selection deadline, Tuesday, March 23rd.
I reached out to the administration for clarification on the timeline. (Is there an error in the schedule? Or what details will be provided to middle and high school parents to help with their decision making?) I’m expecting the administration to send a follow up to parents to clarify. I’ll update readers when I learn more.
In the meantime, you can click here to check out the webinar that was held in February before K-5 parents’ decisions were due.
So why is there 5 weeks before the increased learning for K-5 and older students? Superintendent Gregory Martineau’s message explains that the Algonquin and middle school principals need more time to prepare:
Reopening our schools is not a simple task and requires careful consideration, planning, and coordination. Principal Bevan, Principal Karb, and Principal Hreschuk are in the process of ordering furniture, tents, adjusting master schedules, planning with the Food Services Department and custodial staff to ensure a seamless reopening.
Click here to read the announcement with explanations. Click the following links for the district’s timelines for K-5 and 6-12.
Earlier this week marked the anniversary of the start of the impact on the pandemic to NSBORO families. On March 9th NSBORO began reviewing and cancelling “non-essential” activities due to concerns over the virus. On March 12, 2020, the administration announced that school would be closed for one day (March 13th) to allow for cleaning. It snowballed from there, with a closure until March 30th announced the next day, and the eventual launch of remote schooling.
Over the summer, the district’s phased plans for reopening schools in the fall had the district starting remotely, with plans to move to hybrid attendance with 2 days in person per week (which happened on schedule Sept – Oct), then hopefully shift to a full return. (There was also the possibility of a back and forth shift.) This winter, the administration revised those plans to insert an increased attendance version of the hybrid model rather than a full return.
Announcements last Friday and two days ago from the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education forced the administration to adjust.* Aside from the difference between 4 and 5 day attendance, the district was already on schedule to slightly beat the state’s new deadlines.
Increased learning for K-5 has been scheduled for the week of March 22nd. (The state’s deadline is April 5th.) On Friday, the Superintendent announced that they would be announcing an April return for the middle schools and high school early this week. The Commissioner’s Tuesday announcement set a deadline for grades 6-8 to return two days later than the district’s plans and didn’t set a date for high schools.
Yesterday, some teachers shared the district’s news with students. An email to parents confirming details was issued after 8:00 pm last night. (I presume this was also discussed during last night’s Southborough School Committee meeting. Unfortunately, I missed that and the video is yet to be posted.)
*Last Friday’s announcement by the Commissioner indicated waivers might be granted to push the full in-person learning deadline and allow phasing it in. (Although, language around waivers seemed slanted towards districts that face bigger challenges then ours in meeting the K-5 deadline.) A second memo issued Tuesday provided more detail. It stressed:
Waivers will not be granted for districts that indicate they cannot return to in-person learning due to space constraints or feasibility issues but are maintaining a physical distancing standard in classrooms of greater than three feet.
When the district presented information to K-5 parents about the 4/1 day model, the administration assured that all distancing would be greater than three feet. That’s reinforced in the Superintendent’s March 10th message which includes under Key Information:
- Maintain six-feet of social distancing during lunches
- Maintain social distancing of three to six feet in classrooms. The District will endeavor to maintain the greatest social distancing possible. Most classrooms would be closer to four to six feet
**Updated (3/17/21 1:31 pm): I initially assumed the deadline referred to both learning models deciding which learning model to participate in when the shift is made. Superintendent Gregory Martineau clarified for me that only SARP students were offered the opportunity to shift.
Elementary families did have an option, due to the organization of the elementary schedule and it being a much more straightforward schedule compared to the middle and high school levels.