Back to school in Barrington: Desks, busing and new teachers

District leads tour for state's Facilities Readiness Team

By Josh Bickford
Posted 9/11/20

Michael Messore walked into the classroom at Nayatt School on Wednesday morning, Sept. 2, and was transported back in time.

Fifty years earlier, nearly to the day, Michael Messore-the student had …

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Back to school in Barrington: Desks, busing and new teachers

District leads tour for state's Facilities Readiness Team

Posted

Michael Messore walked into the classroom at Nayatt School on Wednesday morning, Sept. 2, and was transported back in time.

Fifty years earlier, nearly to the day, Michael Messore-the student had walked into a similar classroom at Nayatt School and stared out at the straight rows of desks.

On Wednesday, Sept. 2, Mr. Messore-the superintendent was leading a tour of the district's six public schools for members of the state's "Facilities Readiness Team." Walk-throughs will be conducted at each and every school in the state prior to the return to class. It is an important step, said state officials, to ensuring that schools are as safe as possible for students and staff.

Mr. Messore said the tour was extensive — it started early in the morning and did not conclude until mid-afternoon. Barrington administrators also met with members of the Facilities Readiness Team to discuss topics such as air flow inside the school buildings and HVAC systems.

But it was the pencil-straight rows of desks that caught Mr. Messore's attention.

For years, teachers and curriculum leaders have emphasized collaborative work spaces, grouping up desks or sitting students together at larger tables, or allowing them to congregate in hallway work areas. Officials even equipped the new middle school with uniquely shaped desks that allow for a variety of grouping and alignment options.

"We spent years transitioning away from the straight rows," Mr. Messore said.

But spacing requirements tied to limiting the spread of the coronavirus have impacted classroom set-ups. This fall, local classrooms will feature plenty of straight rows of desks, carefully distanced from each other.

"Overall, it's a safe look," Mr. Messore said.

The superintendent said Barrington schools were "in pretty good shape" heading into the final week of preparation before public schools are expected to reopen. Monday, Sept. 14 is the first day of school in Barrington, with some students returning for in-person learning and others logging in at home for distance learning.

Mr. Messore said one of the remaining tasks is to distribute the PPE (personal protective equipment) to the different schools. He also said a video is being finalized that shares key training protocols to teachers for cleaning their classrooms.

For months, Barrington officials have been working hard to build plans for the upcoming school year. Some of the plans focus on the delivery of instruction; other plans detail the health and safety upgrades; and still other plans are directed at balancing the needs of at-home virtual instruction with in-class education.

"Thank goodness we had the additional time," Mr. Messore said, referring to the governor's decision to delay the start of schools by two weeks. Initially, public schools were expected to re-open on Aug. 31.

The later start date has also afforded educators additional professional development days.

New educators

Mr. Messore said a number of new teachers have been hired for Barrington schools in the past few months — their enthusiasm for teaching in Barrington has been impressive, he said.

"Every person I have hired has had such a sense of excitement," Mr. Messore said.

The superintendent added that Barrington schools are still looking to fill some additional vacancies. He mentioned openings for a high school nurse, assistant principal at the high school and special education teachers. Mr. Messore said the district is also looking to hire an assistant director of special education.

"We've been wanting that for a long time," Mr. Messore said.

In addition to the new hires, Barrington has also experienced a high level of movement throughout the district, with educators changing schools and grade levels. Mr. Messore mentioned Sam Schacter, who is moving from high school math to middle school math.

Which bus, which stop?

The Barrington Times has traditionally printed a bus schedule for local schools, listing all the buses, the stop locations and pickup and drop-off times.

This year, however, school officials are handling the bus schedules differently.

The district will notify each individual family about their specific bus assignment: which bus, which bus stop, and which bus seat the student will be sitting in. School officials are also increasing the minimum distance for bus ride eligibility for elementary school students. In the past, students in grades K through 5 living farther than three-quarters of a mile away from the school have been eligible for a bus ride. This year, however, the distance has increased to 1.4 miles. The minimum distance remains at two miles for the district's older students.

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