Monomoy Superintendent Dr. Scott Carpenter released a nearly 50-page draft plan for reopening Monomoy Schools Thursday, stating that the primary focus is the health and safety of students and staff.
While many districts, at the request of the state, are preparing plans for three possibilities – a full return, a partial or hybrid return, and the continuation of remote learning – Carpenter said the Monomoy plan only includes a hybrid learning plan and plans to shift back to remote learning if necessary.
Pending approval from the Monomoy teachers’ union and the school committee, the plan has students heading back to school on Sept. 14 instead of the previously scheduled first day of Aug. 31. Students in grades K-7 will be returning to classrooms full time, while students in grades 8-12 will adopt a hybrid learning system that has them alternating between in-person classes and remote learning.
Carpenter said the hybrid plan will help address the district’s decision to not only require students in all grades to wear masks, but also to adhere to the six-foot social distancing that will be mandated in all classrooms. At the elementary level where some class sizes make this logistically challenging, if not impossible, classrooms are being swapped to allow classes with more students to use larger classrooms.
The late start will allow educators time to learn the new systems, get familiar with their classrooms, and work out as many of the bugs that could pose problems with teaching both in-person students and those working remotely.
A key factor in having elementary and middle-school students attend school daily is that roughly 45 percent of district families expressed that they are unable to work unless school is in session, Carpenter said in a letter to parents.
“If you think about how many families have been impacted by COVID and the closures related to COVID, there are families who are just financially stressed,” Carpenter said. “We have a role to support them beyond just educating their kids.”
That said, parents will have the option of keeping their kids at home until they feel it’s safe to return to school, pending a vaccine or a drop in new cases, though Carpenter emphasized that such a decision cannot be made lightly since it will impact staffing and instruction.
Busing is also a significant challenge. The state has mandated that only one student can occupy a bus seat to and from school, which means 23 students total on the larger of Monomoy’s buses. Because of this, Carpenter has made the difficult decision to ask parents not to have their children ride buses when possible.
Along with the mask-wearing requirement, school lunches will be served in classrooms, with cafeterias closed to everyone except food service personnel, and students will be encouraged to regularly wash their hands and/or use hand sanitizer, as well as clean their desks with student-safe products. Classrooms will contain a minimal amount of furniture and décor so that cleaning is easier, and school hallways will be one way.
Carpenter said the reason no plan for a full return was presented was that he didn’t feel it was safe.
Carpenter will hold an interactive forum for parents on Aug. 5, and plans to present the final draft to the school committee Aug. 6.
This is a developing story. See the Aug. 6 edition of The Chronicle an update.