Re-Entry Community Letter - 7.31.20

  • July 31, 2020 

    Dear Families, Students, and Staff   

    I am writing with an update on our planning process for the start of a new school year in Randolph Public Schools. We are tentatively scheduled to resume student learning on September 16, 2020.  More information will follow regarding what the school days will look like. 

    Our planning process continues to be guided by a vigilant monitoring of public health data in Massachusetts. Wcontinue to monitor the indicators about the virus to ensure that the data moves in the right direction. The Governor has enabled our state to begin reopening.  To do so we are working to develop protocols that strongly comply with health and safety precautions so that we can begin to safely reopen our public schools. 

    As you have heard, the Massachusetts Department of Education has directed districts to submit by July 31, 2020, a preliminary plan that addresses the feasibility of three options for serving students at the start of the school year. Those options include a full return to daily, in-person attendance, a hybrid plan combining in- school learning with some remote learning, and finally, a 100% remote learning program.  Our preliminary reentry plan was approved by the School Committee last night, and is due to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) on August 10thOver 95 staff, teachers, administrators, parents, community partners, students, and School Committee members participated in the planning sessions.  Given the significant changes these plans will require in the way schools operate, we also must negotiate our proposal with all employee unions impacted: teachers, maintenance, and paraprofessionalsWe are on a very tight timeline--a mere two weeks until the August 10th deadline set by the DESE for submitting preliminary Fall plans. 

    Of course, we know that under normal circumstances, students would be best served in schools every day, interacting with their peers and engaged in live classroom learning. While our educators and families worked incredibly hard last spring to implement remote learning, we know that approach presented enormous challenges, did not reach all students (particularly those with the greatest needs), and is not an adequate substitute for in-person interaction with teachers. When out of school, our students also lack access to all of the academic, mental, and physical supports that help ensure their social-emotional well-being, particularly in navigating the effects of trauma during these tremendously challenging times. Therefore, we believe our families and students deserve more than a fully remote learning plan.  

    Based on our survey data, approximately one-third of families are planning for the fullremote sessions.  We are working to provide a robust remote option so that your children engage in a substantive learning experience. 

    In order to adhere to the school re-opening guidance provided by DESE, consistent with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Pediatric Association, we also do not believe we can safely  meet physical distancing requirements with all students and staff in the buildings at the same time. We are maintaining six feet of social distancing which exceeds DESE’s three-foot recommendation.  However, to do so, we must make significant changes in our school schedules and operating procedures to make a partial return to in-person learning both safe and successful. This approach will require strategies to ensure physical distancing, a change in school schedules, as well as a series of other critical health and safety measures, including wearing face coverings, washing hands frequently, cleaning and sanitizing facilities, screening regularly for symptoms of illness, and staying home from school when sick, among others. Our planning process includes a comprehensive set of strategies and investments to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus. 

    As a result, we will pursue negotiations with all impacted unions for a hybrid learning plan, which would bring the students back into school buildings for in-person instruction in smaller, socially distanced groups on a rotating basis, combined with a robust remote learning program on the days students are not scheduled to be physically in schoolThis plan also enables us to bring a subset of students in greatest need of in-person instruction and support, particularly students with significant disabilities, back to school every day – but also in smaller, distanced settings with all other precautions in place. 

    We recognize that the circumstances of every family and staff member are different, and that no plan ultimately will satisfy everyone in our community. But rest assured that we are working diligently to explore every option available to us, that we remain guided by the science to keep our students and staff safe and healthy, and that we will be prepared to make adjustments along the way if the public health conditions or other variables change over time.  

    As we move closer to a final plan, we welcome input and feedback from all of our stakeholders. We invite you to share your questions, comments, and ideas to help inform and strengthen our fluid plans. I will schedule a community forum in mid-August to discuss the reentry process and to answer questions.  More information regarding the community forum will follow. 

    We will keep you informed about our progress in developing a final plan and in our negotiations with the unions. We will continue to post updates on our website and social mediaI am confident that we can prioritize both safety and learning as we prepare for the start of a successful school year.  Thank -you for your patience and cooperation in these difficult times.  

    “We are all in this together”. 

    With Randolph Pride,  
    Thea Stovell