School Committee hears presentations on reopening

July 28, 2020 | Dennis Hackett

SOUTHWICK – The Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School Committee met for a regularly scheduled meeting on July 21 for three educational presentations for reopening in the fall, discussing feedback from three feedback webinars, and how the district will support students in the fall.

The committee began the meeting with an educational presentation from Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jenny Sullivan about the feedback the district received from staff, families, and students about remote learning from last school year.

If parents are uncomfortable sending their children to school as a result of the virus, Sullivan said they can opt to keep their kids home and be provided curriculum for at-home learning.

She said, “If you choose to continue with remote learning, then the district will provide the curriculum and instruction remotely so that your child can continue to learn, but from the safety of your home.”

She added that if parents change their minds later in the year, the district will work with them to help reintegrate their students.

However, if the district were required to completely jump back into a remote learning scenario, the coursework would look more like a normal school day than in the spring.

"If we do have to enter into remote learning, it will not be the crisis response manner in which we did it in the spring, it will be much more rigorous and will more closely resemble a full day of school,” Sullivan said. “We will be drawing in parents and teachers to come up with some best practices for remote learning to make that as engaging and as rigorous as we can.”

Sullivan added that she will be posting an additional list of questions and answers for anyone that was not able to attend one of the three webinars.

After Sullivan’s presentation, the Director of Student Services Robin Gunn gave her own about how the district would be supporting students in the fall.

She said, “Our overall goal is to determine proactive steps to support the social emotional learning needs for our students at all grade levels. It will be a critical issue not just an issue for students with disabilities, but all of our students have faced trauma and challenges we may not know anything about.”

For the final presentation, Superintendent of Schools Jennifer Willard discussed the district’s current reopening plan for the fall.

One of the focuses for the plan is to keep “the most dependent learners” in school as much as possible.

She said, “Our plan was really centered around the belief that we need to have our younger students in as much as possible and we also know that our students who are on an IEP (Individual Education Plan), who learn differently and learn English as a second language must be in school as much as possible.”

One of the biggest differences from the spring remote learning is that all work will be graded, and school will no longer operate on a pass fail system.

Willard said that the district is currently focused on implementing a hybrid learning plan since at this time full in-person learning would be impossible.

“Right now it is not a feasible plan for our school district, it would require over 30 additional teachers to what we have now to make the full in-person model work so currently we are working on a hybrid model.”

At the time meeting, Willard said the District was still working on how the hybrid model would work at the different schools and said, “What can I assure you is what we are going to do in Kindergarten may not be what we do for twelfth graders. We are creating a plan that meets the needs of students in that grade.”

She added that students in grades two through twelve will be required to wear masks at school while all students must wear masks on the bus.

While the Department of Secondary Education is requiring three models for learning in the fall, Willard emphasized the importance of having the three plans, regardless of the requirement from the state.

“The most important thing is to really have a solid plan now that is both hybrid and remote because we want to move back seamlessly between our hybrid plan and remote learning if there is a spike in COVID cases in our area,” she said, “Things are flexible and fluid, as we get new information, we can adapt our plan.”

As part of the reopening process Willard said the district sent out a survey on July 29 to get feedback from parents about the final plan ahead of the final draft deadline on Aug. 10.

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