Dear Masconomet Community,
On March 9, 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) issued “Guidance on In-Person Learning and Student Learning Time Requirements.” This guidance announced that all Massachusetts middle schools must return to full-time, in-person learning by Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Masconomet’s current plan is to return students in grades 7 and 8 to full-time, in-person learning on Monday, April 26, 2021, which is the Monday after April Vacation. In the March 9th “Guidance,” DESE also announced that all Massachusetts high school schools will be required to return to in-person learning later this spring. The exact date for this shift is expected to be announced by DESE in April. I anticipate that this date will be sometime in early May. Last night, I presented the School Committee with an update on where the Masconomet District stands relative to this guidance from DESE..
Our timeline for returning students to in-person learning after April Vacation will give our teachers and staff members more opportunity to receive the vaccine prior to working with larger numbers of students. As of today, preK-12 educational personnel became eligible for vaccination at Massachusetts’ state vaccination sites. I was also happy to hear that Governor Baker yesterday announced four dates will be reserved at the state’s mass vaccination sites to administer vaccines to teachers, school staff and child care workers. These dedicated dates, along with the promised delivery of more vaccine doses to Massachusetts, will go a long way to ensuring our educators are better protected from contracting COVID-19.
As per DESE’s announcement, parents will have the option of choosing whether to send their children to school in-person, full-time, or to have their children attend school remotely. This decision will be binding for the rest of the school year. Students who choose to attend remotely, will continue learning in their current classes through Blackboard, our online learning platform. Unless they are absent for a COVID-related reason (illness or quarantine), students who have elected to attend school in-person will be marked “absent” for any days they are not physically present in school and will not be allowed to attend classes remotely.
As with our current hybrid model, in-person learning at Masconomet will continue to implement health and safety mitigation strategies designed to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission. These mitigation strategies include mandatory mask-wearing, hand-washing and respiratory etiquette, cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities, and contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine. One change in our mitigation strategy is in regards to physical distancing. Since October of 2020, our practice has been to ensure at least 6’ of physical distancing between students. As per DESE’s “Guidance,” 3’ is now the minimum distance required between students. As a result, we will be re-arranging our classroom spaces to meet this new standard. The exception to the 3’ physical distance standard is when students are unmasked, such as during lunch or a mask break, where 6’ of physical distancing will continue to be required.
Over the next several weeks, we will make the necessary preparations to return our Middle School Students to in-person learning on April 26, and our High School Students shortly thereafter. These preparations will include conducting a survey for parents, guardians and caregivers to indicate whether their children will attend school in person or remotely for the rest of the school year, measuring and re-arranging furniture in our classrooms to ensure the required 3’ distancing is achieved, and making necessary arrangements to ensure other critical operations, such as lunch, can be carried out with the necessary mitigation strategies. Parents should expect to receive the survey indicating their choice of in-person or remote learning early next week.
As we reach the one-year anniversary of our initial closing of schools on March 13, 2020, it seems we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel that is the COVID-19 pandemic and can contemplate a return to some sense of a normalcy. Our adherence to COVID-19 mitigation strategies designed to stop the spread, combined with the increasing number of individuals who become vaccinated, will hopefully continue to result in a decrease in the number of people affected by this disease. I look forward to seeing the return of all of Masconomet’s students to in-person learning, beginning with our Middle School on April 26th. We will continue to update the community as more information becomes available regarding our reopening plan. Thank you for your continued support.