SOUTHWICK – Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District Superintendent Jennifer Willard July 30 recommended two options to the School Committee for reopening this fall: Hybrid and fully remote.
Willard said there is no option for all students to return in-person due mainly to costs and staffing.
“Although the district has the physical building capacity to accommodate this model, it would require additional staffing in excess of 20 professional teachers,” said Willard. “Considering the lack of confirmed budget information from the state, this is not a fiscally feasible option.”
Willard said transportation is another obstacle to a full in-person reopening.
“Because of the large geographical area of our district and the current health guidance regarding reduced bus carrying capacity, up to three tiers of transportation would be required for each building. This would be neither logistically or financially feasible,” she said.
Willard also urged families that are able to drive their students to school to please commit to doing so to ensure a safer bus ride for students who need transportation.
Willard said some students would return fulltime for in-person instruction, including students in pre-K through grade four, students with special education plans and English language learners. For these students, school would be four full days per week with a half-day on Wednesdays.
Students in grades 5-12 would be in school two days per week and have remote classes three days per week. Those students were divided into two groups.
“Cohort A are students from Tolland and Granville, and school choice students and students residing in Southwick with last names beginning with A-J will attend in-person learning on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will be remote learning days for these students,” she said.
Cohort B includes school choice students and students residing in Southwick with last names beginning with K-Z, and METCO program students. This group will attend in-person learning on Thursday and Friday. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be remote learning days for these students.
Willard said Cohort C includes “students DESE has asked us to prioritize — our students in specialized programming, such as English Language Learners, students with special needs and students identified as being in the lowest 25% of performance. These students may attend school in-person Monday through Friday, with Wednesdays being half days. Parents will be notified if their child qualifies.”
As for the high school students who attend the CTEC program at the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative in West Springfield, they will continue their typical CTEC schedule in-person and will have their Southwick Regional School academic classes remotely.
A fully remote option will be offered as Cohort D, however, Willard said STGRSD employees would not teach those classes.
“In this model, students will not return to school under the hybrid plan and will instead learn remotely with no in-person component of the plan. STGRSD with liaise with students and families to access this remote learning experience provided by the State of Massachusetts ‘Virtual Academy’ which will provide them grade level instruction. This option is not classified as Home Education,” she said.
In classrooms, students will be required to wear masks and keep a 6-foot distance. Willard said students will wash their hands throughout the day and the majority of their day would be spent in one classroom. Willard answered questions from the School Committee, including how students with Individualized Education Plans who opt for Cohort D would be served, and what would happen in the event that a teacher or student tests positive or comes in contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive.
“No matter what plan a family chooses, we are obligated as a district to provide special education services,” Willard said.
Student Services Director Robin Gunn echoed Willard and said it is the district’s responsibility to provide IEP services regardless of where students are learning.
Willard said DESE has protocols in place in the event that teachers or students test positive or show signs of the coronavirus and STGRSD would follow them, including potentially returning to all remote learning for a two-week period.
Willard thanked staff and administrators for their hard work in creating the safest plan possible.
The School Committee is slated to vote on Willard’s recommendation Aug. 4. She said principals will make a presentation that evening on what a typical day in school will look like as well as a typical day learning remotely.
“Online learning will not be the way it was in the spring,” Willard said, “it will be a structured day.”
The full plan is available online at stgrsd.org.
Once approved by the Committee, Willard said parents would be sent information on the plan and must choose whether their child will attend the hybrid model or full remote learning.
“Then, we can start assigning teachers,” she said.