Reopening of Schools

  • July 28, 2020 Update
     

    I wanted to give you an update as we continue to plan for the coming school year.

    The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has announced that in collaboration with the State teachers’ unions, there will be changes related to the start date and required time on learning hours for the 2020-2021 school year. In a memo from Commissioner dated 7/27/20, he reported the following:

    It states that “DESE and the unions have a shared commitment to the safety and well-being of students, families, and staff; they are collaborating to support a successful start to the school year; and they recognize the need to provide additional time for educators and staff to prepare for the start of instruction. To provide sufficient training for educators and staff, I will reduce the 180 day and student learning time requirements for the 2020-2021 school year to 170 days and 850 hours (for elementary schools) and 935 hours (for secondary schools), so long as districts begin providing instruction to students no later than September 16, 2020”.

    This statewide mandate will give teachers more time to adapt the curriculum to provide a strong academic experience regardless of whether students are participating in remote learning, full in-person learning or hybrid learning. It will also give the district additional time to reconfigure schools to allow for safe distancing, sufficient outfitting of the required protective/cleaning equipment, creating health and sanitization protocols and developing and implementing multiple trainings related to the new health and safety requirements for public schools.

    In Winthrop, our Return to School Task Force has been diligently working to comply with the state guidelines in designing a plan to reopen schools that meets all the safety and health requirements. On July 31, 2020, the WPS will be submitting a Preliminary Opening Plan Summary to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that consists of 3 scenarios:

    1. Full In-Person Model :100% of our student population returning to in-person learning. Ex. An in-person scenario for all schools, with students spaced at a minimum of 3 feet apart, using gyms, cafeterias, and libraries for classroom space as well as for the purpose of lunch, breakfast and mask breaks.

    2. Hybrid Model: Reduced number of students returning to a mix of in-person and remote learning. A hybrid scenario would divide students into two groups and rotate them between in-school and remote learning on separate days, spacing students 6 feet apart when they are in the school building. Siblings would be assigned to the same groups across schools and levels as much as possible. Specified groups of students with special education (high needs groups), ELL, and economically disadvantaged students would attend on all in school learning days.

    3. Full Remote Learning Model: 100% of students participating in remote learning from home. A fully remote model that follows a similar schedule as in-school learning, with attendance taken, grading, feedback and varied models of instructional session.

    We understand that all of these scenarios present challenges to our families and students. We will also be presenting these preliminary plans to the School Committee on August 3, 2020. We anticipate providing a more detailed final decision and plan to our families by the second week in August as advised by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  

    We appreciate your ongoing support during this challenging time. Our priority is to provide our students with the best education possible while protecting the health and well-being of our community. Please continue to visit our website at www.winthrop.k12.ma.us and view the Return to School Tab where you can view updates and provide comments related to the planning process.

    Lisa A. Howard, M.Ed

    Superintendent, Winthrop Public Schools

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