Massachusetts releases guidelines for reopening schools in fall

Westport-specific plans to be released in August

Posted 6/26/20

WESTPORT -- Superintendent of Schools Gary Reese shared the initial state guidelines from Gov. Charlie Baker and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for the 2020-21 academic …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Not a subscriber?


Start a Subscription

Sign up to start a subscription today! Click here to see your options.

Purchase a day pass

Purchase 24 hours of website access for $2. Click here to continue

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.


Massachusetts releases guidelines for reopening schools in fall

Westport-specific plans to be released in August

Posted

WESTPORT -- Superintendent of Schools Gary Reese shared the initial state guidelines from Gov. Charlie Baker and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for the 2020-21 academic year, which has been modified as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"While prioritizing health and safety as well as getting as many students back in school as possible," districts across the state will now begin to develop three different plans: one for learning entirely in-person, one for a hybrid model that includes in-person and remote learning in the event in-person learning is not feasible due to space constraints and other concerns, and one for remote learning only should there be a second spike in COVID-19 cases regionally.

These plans will be created by a re-entry committee consisting of over 50 members, including students, educators, school faculty and administration. The committee will work together to review the guidance provided by DESE and determine the most effective way to implement each plan within Westport Community Schools. The plans will be submitted to DESE in the coming weeks and the final plan for the district will be announced in August.

"We understand that many families may feel overwhelmed by the lack of information regarding the upcoming school year," Superintendent Reese said. "With that being said, we hope that the creation of these three different school year models helps to alleviate some of that uncertainty. The district will be working hard to ensure that each plan prioritizes the health and safety of those within our community while ensuring our students receive their education. Once further details and guidelines are finalized we will share them with students, staff and families."

Guidelines that must be part of these plans include:

•Setting up cafeterias, gyms, libraries and other large spaces to promote the greatest amount of social distancing possible.

•Requiring students from second grade on, and all adults, to wear a face mask, face covering or face shield while learning in-person and while riding on the school bus. These should be provided by the student/family, but the district will have a limited amount of disposable masks to provide students who need them.

•Providing other preventative measures for students and staff, such as hand washing stations and hand sanitizer, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces.

•Having school nurses wear extra protection, such as face shields and goggles, when directly treating students. A room should also be designated to isolate those at the school who are suspected of having COVID-19.

•Determining class size based on how many students can be taught with social distancing in place, with desks anywhere from three to six feet away from each other.

•Strongly recommending that students, teachers and staff get their regular flu vaccine in order to prevent any disruption to learning.

•Surveying families throughout the summer and possibly the school year to help with decisions such as which children will return to school in-person, technology needs of students learning remotely, and who will need bus transportation in order to get to school

At this time, screening procedures to enter school buildings, such as taking a person’s temperature, will not be required. COVID-19 testing also will not be required for students to return to school.

Additional guidelines, including those for busing, will be released in July.

The initial guidelines, which can be read in full here, are also subject to change depending on how the situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic progresses. The guidelines were developed by DESE’s Return-to-School Working Group, along with experts from the fields of infectious diseases and public health.

Approximately $200 million from the Commonwealth’s federal Coronavirus Relief Fund is available to help with the costs of reopening public schools. Schools are eligible to receive up to $225 per student for eligible costs incurred due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, such as training for school staff, supplemental social and academic services, reconfiguration of school spaces, leasing of temporary facilities and acquisition of health and hygiene supplies.

Other potential funding sources to support school reopening include $502 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund that had previously been allocated by Gov. Baker to cities and towns, as well as $194 million in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund grants.

In partnership with legislative leadership, the state has also committed $25 million in federal funds for a matching grant program to help school districts and charter schools close technology gaps that have inhibited remote learning for students and families who lack access to computers or internet connections.

Specific state funding for each district will be determined at a later date.

2020 by East Bay Newspapers

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.