East Longmeadow School Committee discusses whether to continue in-person learning

Jan. 7, 2021 | Miasha Lee

EAST LONGMEADOW – Jan. 4 marked the East Longmeadow School Committee’s first meeting of the year. It began with Health Director Aimee Petrosky giving them insight on the town’s COVID-19 metrics.

In October, East Longmeadow had 122 cases total. There were172 cases total in November with 31 of those being pediatric cases, and 351 cases total in December with 44 of those being pediatric cases.

Petrosky stated, “The last three weeks we have been a red community and I think that has a lot to do with the holidays.”

With more in-person learning scheduled for Jan. 19, Chair Gregory Thompson asked Petrosky if she knew about transmission within the schools and if there was evidence of any transmission in their schools or other schools. Petrosky addressed the topic by stating, “There’s only been one known transmission within our school systems and with prompt contact tracing we were able to really keep that at a minimum.”

Pediatric Doctor Greer Clarke added, “My knowledge is that in the surrounding school districts and in our school district there hasn’t been a significant amount of transmission within the schools. Even those kids who are in the hybrid model or in the case of the parochial schools who are 100 percent in school, they’re not having any transmissions.”

The meeting continued with Superintendent Gordon Smith on an update of their learning model. Students will be placed in a cohort alphabetically, A Cohort and B Cohort. Each Cohort has a full week of in-person instruction followed by a week of remote instruction attending classes through live streaming. Students who have chosen to remain in the fully remote instructional model will connect to their classes via live streaming. Smith also informed families if they want to change the instructional model for their children, they should alert the school on the 15th of each month. The change will take place on the first school day of the next month.

Addressing transportation, the safety protocols forced East Longmeadow Public Schools to reduce ridership to only the students whom they are legally required to transport. Smith said they will be sending out more information to families first to see what their ridership looks like when added to their list accordingly. The ELPS will continue to work closely with the Health Department to conduct effective close contact tracing. Families will now need a contingency plan, which Committee member Elizabeth Marsian–Boucher highly advised them to have for every single day in case of a classroom, building or the district have to close temporary and go completely remote.

The committee asked families, students and staff to have patience as they move forward.

“We’re asking a lot of our staff now to transition to another learning model. Certainly, they’re there to step up to the task and they’re working hard in preparation. We have a lot to learn and there will be some trials and tribulations,” replied Thompson. “Be patient with us and understand that the staff is doing the very best that they can and we are certainly appreciative of that. As a community collectively, we’re going to get through this and get these students, the ones that are coming back in Cohort A and B, some in-person learning.”

At the end of the meeting, the committee made a motion to accept the Early Childhood Targeted Special Education Program Improvement Grant in the amount of $2,524. This grant is for the Pre-K program to buy additional supplies.

The committee also approved a waiver what would allow interested students in eighth grade to join the ELHS ski team.

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