HARWICH – The hybrid learning system in place at Monomoy Regional High School since school began in September will end on May 3.
“We feel confident we can bring everybody back safely, as long as we maintain social distancing and masking,” said Principal Jennifer Police.
The Monomoy Regional School District wants to be ahead of the ball when the state announces a return to full-time, in-person learning at high schools, now anticipated to be May 17, she said. The district's elementary and middle school students have been in school full time since September.
Monomoy developed a detailed plan for allowing students to return to classrooms last fall that included mandatory masks, physical distancing and regular sanitizing. Improvements were made to ventilation and cohorts were developed to minimize intermixing among students.
By all accounts the plan was a success. Police said there was no evidence of in-school transmission of COVID-19; all positive cases among student originated outside of school. That was reinforced through recent pool testing of high school students. The only tests that came back positive were because a student was “momentarily asymptomatic,” according to Superintendent of Schools Scott Carpenter, and before the results were even received the students had already been taken out of school to isolate.
“We will not continue pooled testing after the April vacation, and we need families and our staff to continue staying home, as needed, and keeping the lines of communication open with our nursing staff,” Carpenter wrote to families last week.
“I think it was another case of, OK, we're making the right decision here,” she said of the pool testing.
Students on a hybrid schedule have attended school in person two days a week and attended remotely on the third day. Those students will be attending in-person five days a week as of May 3.
Students who have been fully remote – a cohort referred to as Seals – are welcome to return to the Oak Street school but, as allowed by the state, can also opt to remain remote for the rest of the school year, scheduled to end on June 18. Currently 167 students attend school remotely; some have already decided to attend classes in-person, Police said. She anticipates about 500 students will attend full time after May 3, and based on average class size, there is enough classroom space to maintain social distancing.
Desks in classrooms had been placed six feet apart, but Police said the desks are oversized so, measuring head to head, students were separated by nine feet. Shrinking the space between desks to four feet – which will actually separate the students by six feet – will allow more students in rooms.
Police said she was concerned about fall and winter sports, but there were no problems, except that the hockey team had to quarantine after a student at another school tested positive. Clubs and other activities have been mostly remote, but advisors will be given the option to hold in-person sessions after May 3.
“It's another indication that with the proper safety precautions, we can sort of ease back into some sort of normalcy,” she said.
Returning to school will be an opportunity to “reset” daily learning habits “we've gotten away from because of the hybrid model,” Police said. “We've ingrained these habits in our kids that I would argue are not productive.” Even though it will only be for the final five or six weeks of the school year, getting back to classes full-time will benefit students, who will also have to take the MCAS test before the school year ends.
It's been a challenging and complicated first year as principal for Police, but she is looking forward to having a full school. “I wish we could have done it three months ago,” she said.