School Committee prepares to make decision on school format for fall

Aug. 7, 2020 | G. Michael Dobbs

UPDATE: The Springfield School Committee voted on Aug. 6 that the school district will begin the year on Sept. 15 remotely. At the end of the first marking period, the public health situation will be evaluated to cnsider a hybrid model with students attending schools part–time.

SPRINGFIELD – On Aug. 6, the Springfield School Committee will vote on which model it wishes to adapt for the upcoming school years.

The committee heard information about the three models at its at its meeting on July 30.

What has been decided is school will commence on Sept. 15 rather than Aug. 31. The new start dates are Sep. 15 for grades 1 – 12, Sept. 21, for kindergarten and Sept. 28 for preschool. The additional time would be used by teachers for preparation and training.

The three plans to be considered by the committee are a 100 percent in-school model, a 100 percent remote education model, and a hybrid model that would mean students are educated in school on some days and remotely at home on other days.

The district conducted a survey to determine which approach parents liked the best. The results indicated that if school opens with a hybrid model, then parents prefer a schedule where students are in school two days a week and working remotely from home three days a week as opposed to a schedule where students work remotely from home for an entire week every other week. About 32 percent were interested in only remote learning.

School Superintendent Daniel Warwick noted regardless of the final plan, all parents and guardians will have the option to have their child continue their education remotely only.

Warwick said the district's task was to prepare the three plans according to the themes established by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Warwick noted in his presentation that among those guidelines would be to have a plan that "prioritizes having as many students in school as often as possible."

There is also a focus on keeping staff and students safe through the requirement of wearing masks all a day except for eating and during mask breaks, as well as keeping students socially distanced in class by arranging desks six feet from another.  

Warwick said the district has already "purchased millions of dollars of PPE equipment" and noted much of it was paid by grants that did not affect the district's budget.

"Every student would have a consistent schedule," Warwick said. The focus would be on the core subjects, although there would be a lesson plan for all classes, he said.

"The plan would be the highest needs students would come in as often as four days a week," he added.

Warwick said there is not a single school in the district large enough to allow for 100 percent of its students return and manage to be social distancing. DESE suggested a three-foot distance but runs counter to CDC guidelines.

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