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.