Hampshire Regional School Committees to meet to discuss return to school plans

July 28, 2020 | Chris Maza

WESTHAMPTON – The Hampshire Regional School Committees will host a joint meeting to vote on its preferred reopening plan on July 30.

According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) guidance released on July 15, a preliminary reopening plan summary should be submitted to the state by July 31 and comprehensive plan documents are due for review and public release on Aug. 10.

Hampshire Regional School District Superintendent Aaron Osborne told the school community via his Facebook group that the district was originally under the impression that school committees would vote on their preferred course of action after the Aug. 10 deadline, but an update from Commissioner of Education Jeffrey Riley on July 23 indicated such a vote should take place before final plans are submitted.

“Please be aware that this was a surprise to many superintendents on our call yesterday and many school districts are having to alter their meeting schedule. This is especially challenging for the Hampshire districts with five separate committees who will each need to vote. We had been discussing an Aug. 11 meeting so that we could approve a model immediately following our plan submissions, but obviously this changed,” he wrote.

When contacted by Reminder Publishing and queried if such a change in guidance had occurred and, if so, why, DESE Media Relations Coordinator Jacqueline Reis said, “Not exactly, but we strongly encouraged superintendents to involve their school committees in this decision.”

The preliminary reopening plan study is a two-part process. The first includes key findings from the district’s feasibility study on in-person learning and the district’s preliminary thoughts on which of the three models it would use in the fall. The second requires a brief description of the three reopening models districts were directed to develop. “This form will allow DESE to collect key summary information about the district’s reopening models and other planning considerations,” Riley wrote in the July 15 guidance memo.

The comprehensive plan documents would include changes to the plans based on additional guidance from DESE, including transportation, which was released on July 23, and transportation. Riley stated in the July 15 memo, “We strongly recommend that you work with your school committee (or equivalent board) on policy questions relevant to the final plan before submission.”

HRSD released a draft of its plans for all three options to the public on July 17. The full draft plan is available at https://www.hr-k12.org/re-opening-fall-2020-e6f48ce4#.

Osborne did not return a request for comment as of press time.

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