Administrators continue planning for a safe, effective return to school
As the school year draws closer, educators and administrators in Wareham Public Schools are faced with the daunting task of creating a safe and effective way for students to learn during the pandemic.
On July 29, School Committee members listened to input from Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood on how to accomplish that goal.
The Massachusetts Department of Secondary and Elementary Education requires every school to submit three potential plans for reopening. One is for a fully remote approach, another for a fully in-person reopening, and another for a hybrid learning approach.
So far, the hybrid approach seems to be the most likely option, since school officials have said that they want to be able to resume in-person learning, but a full reopening is impractical due to safety and financial concerns.
In order to comply with new social distancing guidelines, the district would need to hire 158 more teachers and staff to maintain smaller class sizes, which could cost over $8 million.
In Wareham, educators and administrators have suggested a hybrid approach that would separate students into cohorts. One group would go to school on Mondays and Tuesdays, while the other would learn remotely. The two groups would then switch roles on Thursdays and Fridays, while both groups would learn remotely on Wednesdays, while the school is cleaned thoroughly.
During the July 29 workshop, Shaver-Hood proposed additional measures that could make this plan both safe and effective.
She suggested that the schools start off almost entirely remotely, and then switch to the hybrid model later on.
This would allow teachers to build relationships with students and make sure that they understand all of the new safety measures before adopting the hybrid approach.
“Our job is to keep kids safe, and to do that, everyone must follow the protocols,” Shaver-Hood said.
She suggested that starting on September 16, small groups of students could take their turn going to school to meet teachers and learn the new protocols,while the majority of students would learn from home.
Then on October 5, the alternating hybrid approach could start.
Some classrooms are not big enough to allow students to sit six feet apart, which is mandatory for them to take their masks off to eat at their desks. Having large groups of students in the cafeteria could also be dangerous during the pandemic.
Therefore, Shaver-Hood suggested shortening the school day and sending students home with lunch.
This would mean that students would only spend four hours in the school building before going home to finish the school day remotely.
This would mean that students would only spend eight hours of face to face learning per week.
Exceptions could be made for students with a higher need for in-person learning, who would be allowed to go to school four days per week. Examples include students with disabilities that make remote learning more challenging, students who are homeless, or those whose first language is not English.
The Wareham School Committee will vote on which of the three approaches to adopt on August 6.