September 24, 2020
Dear Masconomet Community,
We’ve had a great opening week at both Masconomet Middle and High Schools. We began our school year for students on Monday under our remote learning schedule that was developed by a team of teachers, parents and administrators in August as part of our School Reopening Plan. Building on the lessons we learned under remote learning last spring, this schedule balances the need for academic rigor and supporting the social-emotional needs of our students. Our teachers have been formally engaged in planning for the start of school since the beginning of September through completing training on instructional practices that are suited to remote learning, and on technology tools to support these practices. Our staff training sessions also included work on anti-racist educational practices, meeting the learning needs of all students, social-emotional learning and COVID-19 health and safety practices. Our teachers are well-prepared to meet the challenges of teaching and learning in a remote environment.
In order to ensure the health and safety of our staff and students, the Masconomet District commissioned an Indoor Environmental Quality Study to assess the air quality of our facilities. In late August, the firm Environmental Safety and Hygiene Associates collected samples from throughout our school buildings in order to assess the overall indoor air quality in our buildings. We received the final report on September 21st, which contained the following conclusion:
“The laboratory testing results did not identify any significant elevations of airborne fungal spores, airborne culturable fungi, or culturable bacteria. In addition, all COVID-19 air samples were negative for the presence of COVID-19. The HVAC laboratory results of the AHUs [Air Handling Units] and VUVs [Vertical Unit Ventilators] did not identify any significant elevations of culturable fungi or culturable bacteria. In addition, all COVID-19 HVAC swab samples were negative for the presence of COVID-19. Finally, visual evaluations of the AHUs and VAVs [Variable Air Volume box] indicated that the units were fully operational, filters were clean and recently replaced, units were clean and in very good condition, and the building(s) are subject to good airflow and exchanges. Therefore, in our professional opinion, the air quality of the building(s) at the time of the study is safe and we see no reason why staff and students could not occupy the building at this time.” (“Indoor Environmental Quality Study Masconomet Regional Middle/High School,” p. 10)
Because of this positive test result, we were able to welcome all teachers and paraprofessionals to work in-person in our schools beginning this past Tuesday. It was definitely different to see teachers working alone in their classrooms conducting their lessons via computer, but overall it was great to have everyone back!
We’ve also made significant progress towards completing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Masconomet Teachers Association. On Monday, we reached a tentative agreement on the MOA. The document outlines the agreed upon changes in working conditions for teachers for the duration of the pandemic emergency. The next step in the negotiations process will be for the Teachers Association to hold a vote to ratify the agreement. If the vote successfully passes the Agreement, the School Committee will hold its own acceptance vote, hopefully as early as October 7th.
While we’re fully engaged in remote learning, we’re also continuing to work towards implementing our plan to move to our Hybrid Learning Model. We’re receiving and deploying equipment, such as hand sanitizer stations, air purifiers, and window fans, installing new signage around student traffic flows, and continuing to develop written protocols regarding how students will learn in our buildings during our hybrid learning model.
We still have work to do before we are ready to accept students for in-person learning. As part of our School Reopening Plan that was submitted to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in August, the School Committee will be re-evaluating our instructional model and considering whether to move to our hybrid model at its meeting on Wednesday, October 7th. While the local COVID-19 infection rates remain low, this is only one factor of several that the School Committee will be considering as they make the decision to institute our hybrid plan.
One emerging challenge to moving to a hybrid model is the large number of faculty and staff members who have requested accommodations to work from home during the pandemic under state and federal law and their collective bargaining agreements. As it would be impossible to find substitute teachers with the experience and qualifications of our current teachers, we’ve advertised to hire Classroom Proctors to supervise students in the classroom while they continue to receive remote instruction from our highly-qualified faculty. Moving to a hybrid model will not be possible unless we’re able to hire enough proctors to supervise the classrooms of teachers working from home under these accommodations. We’re also looking for applicants for the position of Hallway/Cafeteria Monitor to help students safely move through the buildings and to supervise our lunch periods and daily mask breaks. Applications can be submitted through the above links. Please pass this information on to anyone you think might be interested as filling these positions is integral to our ability to move to our hybrid model.
We will do our best to keep you informed as we continue to work through the many challenges that teaching and learning in a pandemic have thrown our way. This time has certainly not been an easy one. We appreciate your continued patience and understanding as we continue to work to meet these challenges.