School Committee: District supports teachers in reopening

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Editor’s note: Hopkinton School Committee chair Amanda Fargiano issued the following statement regarding negotiations with the Hopkinton Teachers Association.

With the return of Hopkinton teachers scheduled in just 10 days, the district and the Hopkinton Teachers Association (HTA) are working hard to finalize a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for fall reopening. On Thursday, August 20, 2020, Superintendent Dr. Carol Cavanaugh shared with the Hopkinton School Committee a few of the accommodations the district is making to support the teachers and their families during this pandemic, as well as some supporting data:

On-Site, Flexible Child Care: With many teachers facing child care challenges due to changes in school schedules for their own children, the district is pleased to announce that we will host on-site, flexible child care for district teachers at Hopkins Elementary School, with options for families to sign up for only the days they need at very reasonable rates. By utilizing the four new modular classrooms with a separate entrance, this Kidsborough program for teachers’ families will be able to safely serve up to 60 children ages 5 and up in a contained space isolated from Hopkins classrooms.  Although providing on-site child care typically requires a lengthy licensing process, Hopkinton is extremely fortunate to provide this option due to our pre-existing relationship with Kidsborough at Hopkins and our availability of an appropriate, separate space.

Teacher Retention: Also at the School Committee meeting, Dr. Cavanaugh spoke at length about the work being done to retain all Hopkinton teachers during this pandemic. Said Cavanaugh, “We wanted to make sure that we are keeping all of our teachers intact.” Because supporting and retaining Hopkinton teachers is so important to the district, HPS will invest roughly $225,000-$250,000 to cover the cost of in-person proctors and other required supports for teachers who qualify for remote accommodations. So far, only one teacher is facing a possible reduction in schedule. With the exception of a few specific, higher-level high school courses, Hopkinton students will be taught by Hopkinton teachers in all learning models, hybrid and remote.

Safety: In addition to this week’s announcements, Dr. Cavanaugh previously shared (on August 13th) details of the district’s investment in workplace safety. Some of these investments include: all necessary and appropriate PPE, plastic face shields available to all teachers, plexiglass dividers for any teacher needing to do extensive one-on-one work with a child, well-maintained and high-quality HVAC systems with the highest level filters appropriate for each specific system, multiple disinfecting spray guns at each school, de-densified student populations with a minimum of six feet for social distancing, an outside facilities consultant’s audit of our buildings for COVID precautions, and hand sanitizing stations installed throughout the buildings.

Data: Both teachers and administrators have said that an in-person education model is the best learning model for students, not only for academics but also for social/emotional wellness. With the empirical data of Hopkinton’s low COVID case count (currently one active case), extremely low percent positivity rate (0.4%), and an unshaded (fewer than five cases) designation on the state’s re-opening chart, the state, the district, and the School Committee believe the data supports bringing Hopkinton students, teachers, and staff into the schools with our precautions in place. Although the pandemic continues, our extensive investment in safety measures and protocols, our Board of Health/school nurse partnership in contact tracing since March, our positive experience with Hopkinton summer programming and camps, and the recent announcement of state-supported mobile rapid testing options for K-12 all combine to support our teachers and students who will begin the new year in the hybrid learning/elected-remote model.

Negotiations between the HTA and the district continue on Monday, August 24th.

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