School Committee considers proposal for March 29 return to full-time in-person instruction

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Schools could reopen on a full-time basis in Hopkinton on March 29, according to a proposal presented to the School Committee on Thursday.

The proposal, prepared by the reopening planning team tasked with looking at the issues involved with returning students to schools full-time, offered a plan for the high school, middle school and elementary schools.

The high school would see the biggest change, with students attending class in-person the bulk of the day but having their final class of the day remotely.

In-person instruction would run from 7:25 to 11:45 a.m. with no lunch served in the school. Students would then be transported home, taking a grab-and-go lunch if they choose.

Students would log back in at home at 12:45 p.m. and the final period of the day would be taught via Zoom. The final period class changes each day.

Hopkinton Middle School students would remain in school for the full school day, from 7:25 a.m. to 1:52 p.m. The schedule would for the most part remain intact, superintendent Carol Cavanaugh said. A few classes could grow larger and two classes would require students to have a new teacher, she said.

Lunch would be served in the cafeteria, gymnasium and auditorium. Middle school students would have their own after-school bus run, which would incur a cost to the schools.

The current elementary school schedules for Hopkins, Elmwood and Marathon schools would, for the most part, remain intact. Some small group instruction could need to be rescheduled, but all personalized services would be met, Cavanaugh said.

Lunch would be served in cafeterias and gymnasiums. On days with inclement weather, physical education classes would become indoor wellness lessons due to the gymnasiums being used for lunch.

In general with the reopening, lunch remains a “6-foot dilemma,” Cavanaugh said. Architectural drawings show that each lunchroom — in all five buildings — is too small for the current population. This problem is exacerbated by the COVID restrictions, Cavanaugh added.

The revised plan is to use gymnasiums, auditoriums and other larger spaces in the buildings to seat students, but it requires the purchase of about $100,000 in furniture, Cavanaugh said. Lunch monitors would be hired to provide coverage for all spaces where lunch would be served, she said.

“Hundreds of things need to happen,” including purchasing furniture, determining schedules and dealing with transportation logistics, Cavanaugh stated.

Remote learning would remain an option through the end of the school year.

Parents of students currently in the hybrid model approve of the return to full-time learning, based on survey results presented Thursday.

Seventy-two percent of parents of high school students supported a full-time return for hybrid students, even if guaranteed only 3 feet of social distancing vs. the current 4 feet.

Seventy-four percent of middle school parents and 78 percent of elementary school parents supported the return even with reduced social distancing.

The responses were different for staff members, with 76 percent of educators opposed to a full-time return this spring with 3 feet of social distancing. Asked about a return under the same circumstances in the fall, 68 approved the return.

The Hopkinton Teachers Association “unequivocally rejects the latest timetable presented by the superintendent for a ‘full return’ to school,” association president Becky Abate wrote in a letter read in part at the meeting.

“The HTA is fully aware of the desire of multiple stakeholders, including Hopkinton educators, for students to return to traditional in-person school,” the letter reads, “but even the strongest desire does not excuse reckless action. The hasty nature of this plan is problematic on multiple counts.”

Added Abate: “We have serious concerns about the logistics of a full-time return and what it would look like in practice for the entire school community.”

The School Committee will host a public forum next Thursday (March 4) at 7 p.m. to seek further public input on the issue.

There was no clear determination as to when a final decision would be made about reopening.

Gov. Charlie Baker and state education officials have called on schools to return to full-time education by April, starting with elementary schools.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. It’s important to note that parents of HHS students currently in the hybrid model weren’t given a survey about their preference. They were offered a choice between “return to school full time” or “change to fully remote” based on a hypothetical set of circumstances and the complete elimination of the hybrid model. A switch to the fully remote model would involve a change of instructor and would have no guarantee of continuity with their current place in the curriculum–ridiculous things to foist on our kids at this point in the year. I would be curious to know many parents–like myself–chose the “return to school’ option because they felt painted into a corner by what was presented, rather than because they ACTUALLY want to send their kids into the school full-time with more students in the classrooms. To be clear, I DO NOT support the full-time return to school; given the removal of the hybrid option, however, it may be less damaging to my student than switching to the fully remote model. I shared these thoughts in the comment section at the end of the survey, but I have no way of knowing if anyone has even bothered to look at it. Frankly, it seems unlikely that the comments were considered, given the turnaround from sending the survey to parents (on Feb 22) to the report of the “findings” from that survey on Feb 25.

  2. Heather,

    These surveys were manipulative and designed to paint you into a corner. We do strictly remote and it was the same way in a survey earlier in the year. It should be noted that we never received any survey on February 22nd. Without getting into all the details, I agree with you that students should not return to full time in person until the Fall when everyone has been vaccinated. And why cause all the disruption and stress that will occur to everyone for the remaining two months of school.
    It was ironic that this big push comes out this week to get kids back full time ASAP and the HS has three cases in two days.
    My kids have been remote all year and will remain remote until the end of the year!

  3. It seems to me that this superintendent has absolutley no intention of properly dealing with the teachers’ union or parents and it is deeply distrurbing “during these times”. It is amazing that the school committee continues totolerate this. as a past member of the Holliston Finance Comittee we dealt with two extremely qualified superintendents, who thankfully were able to and were aware of their duty to balance the best interests of the students, schools, teachers. parents and the town.

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