Hot Off the Press - What School Will Look Like In September

It’s Here! The long-awaited guidance from DESE regarding reopening school in the fall. The 33 page document provides a thorough outline of how school districts in Massachusetts should plan for reopening in the fall. We’re happy to see that DESE wants to prioritize getting students back to school in person, provided it is safe to do so. If the COVID numbers continue to trend in a positive direction coupled with enhanced safety measures, there’s a very good likelihood your children will be returning to school this fall. These recommendations are based on current medical information, scientific understanding and the infection rate.

Realizing that school will look considerably different and in preparation for several scenarios, DESE is requiring districts to plan for three circumstances:

1) in-person learning with new safety requirements;

2) a hybrid of in-person and remote learning; and

3) remote learning.

In addition, each plan needs to include specifics for special student populations which includes students with disabilities and English learners. In August, these finalized will need to be filed with DESE and posted on the school districts’ websites.

In-Person Learning

Masks – must be worn by adults and all students in second grade and above. Younger students will be encouraged to wear masks. Parents will need to provide their child’s face coverings. Reusable masks are allowed with the understanding they will be washed daily. Everyone on a school bus will need to wear a mask, regardless of grade.

Physical distancing – DESE is suggesting that schools aim for six feet of distance between individuals where possible. Desks ideally should be spaced six feet apart, where feasible, and face the same direction.

Groupings – DESE is advising elementary students remain with the same group throughout the day. For middle and high school students, DESE is encouraging schools to minimize mixing student groups to the extent feasible.

Arriving procedures – No formal screening procedures are required, so temperatures won’t be taken. However, it’s required that staff and students upon arrival will wash their hands. Additionally, it’s required that students wash their hands before eating, before and after using masks as well as after using the bathrooms.

The guidance that was issued today is silent regarding after school activities, bus transportation as well as students who receive instruction via pull-out services in accordance with their IEPs.

Hybrid Model

Hybrid programs anticipates students will alternate between in-person and remote learning. For example, one week in school, one week out of school. It appears districts have some flexibility in developing this plan. In this situation, high-need students should be prioritized for full-time, in-person learning when feasible. DESE is anticipating that this model will be implemented when COVID numbers increase and with guidance from the medical community.

While the guidance issued today is an initial blueprint for school districts to consider when developing their learning plans (in-person, hybrid and remote) there will be additional guidance issued in July. We will continue to monitor developments and do our best to get you timely information. Should you have concerns or questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here to help!

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