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Superintendent: Schools will rely on metrics before making changes to learning model

by | Aug 20, 2020 | Education, Z-Lead Image Front Page

Moving schools to a fully remote model or a complete return to class will depend on varying factors, including the numbers and specifics of cases in town and opinions of local and state health departments, superintendent of schools Carol Cavanaugh shared with School Committee members at their Thursday night meeting.

The district will look at a number of metrics before making a particular change, she said.

These include the status of the virus, both in Hopkinton and the state; the numbers and demographic details of virus cases in town; the number of absences in schools or classrooms; and potential relaxation of standards by the commissioner of education.

Health department input will be important, she said, noting the decisions will not be done “all by ourselves.”

The School Committee has voted to start school in a hybrid model that will combine in-person education with remote learning. Students will attend class remotely one day, then in person the next.

Some students have opted to attend school in a fully remote model.

Hopkinton has had minimal virus cases of late, which means the schools theoretically could open full-time, based on state guidelines that look at each community’s case numbers.

But lunch is a big sticking point, Cavanaugh said.

Students need to be 6 feet apart at lunch, where their masks will be removed, according to state guidance.

The Hopkinton schools do not have enough room to accommodate all students for lunch at that distance, Cavanaugh said. “The cafeteria situation is the extenuating circumstance,” she said.

If the commissioner lowers the requirement of distance between students, the situation could be revisited.

At the high school level, students who buy their lunch will eat at the cafeteria. Students who bring lunches will be located at the athletic center.

Committee members reviewed a mask policy that requires everyone in the building to wear a mask except for medical exceptions. Cloth masks must cover the nose and mouth, fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, be secured with ties or ear loops, include multiple layers of fabric, and allow for breathing without restriction.

No neck gaiters, bandanas or masks with exhalation valves will be allowed.

Masks should not express obscenities, threats, lewd or vulgar language or carry graphics or slogans that “are disruptive to class,” the policy reads.

Cavanaugh also announced that child care will be provided for Hopkinton teachers in an effort to keep all teachers working, if at all possible. Children 5 and older can attend day care at a rate of $55 per day. The day care will take place at the new modular classrooms at Hopkins Elementary School.

The modular classrooms are a natural fit for the day care. They would not be used for students this year, Cavanaugh said, because a significant portion of the Hopkins community opted for fully remote learning.

The committee also agreed to reimburse families fully for parking or bus fees if they are attending school fully remotely or will not be taking the bus at all. Families that continue to utilize parking or transportation will be reimbursed half the total fee after Jan. 15 if the hybrid model remains in place.

Changes also were made to the attendance policy, assuring that there would be no repercussions if students are absent because of specific symptoms, such as a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, cough, sore throat or fatigue in combination with other symptoms.

Committee member Meg Tyler urged parents to keep their children home if they have symptoms. If the virus gets into the school, she said, “it’s hard to get it out.”

Webinars will be scheduled soon by each school principal to address building-specific questions, Cavanaugh said.

She said she knows that parents have many questions but noted that the principals are still working out thousands of schedules. When answers are determined, they will be shared, she said.

Committee chair Amanda Fargiano encouraged people to participate in the webinars.

Doing so, she said, will make parents “better informed so they guide their students and keep them on task if necessary.”

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