New school district start date approved in Marlborough

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Superintendent updates School Committee on staff and parent concerns

By Vicki Greene, Contributing Writer

Marlborough – Students in the Marlborough Public Schools system will be starting Monday, Sept. 21, following the School Committee’s approval of the 2020-2021 calendar at its August 11 meeting.  The District has already received waivers from the state approving the new start date and the shorter school day (approximately 45-50 minutes shorter days) due to additional bus runs needed to meet state guidelines.

The state granted all school districts an additional 10 days to help prepare for opening no matter what model is used.  Marlborough voted on July 28 in favor of the hybrid model, which means students are in-class one week and remote one-week with students being divided into two cohorts in alphabetical order, to help keep siblings on the same schedule.

Superintendent Michael Bergeron explained that they asked to start on Sept. 21 so they could begin on a Monday which means they have been approved for a 13-day delayed start.

“So, while its sort of an extension of vacation – it’s not – because there’s going to be a lot of activity that’s going to happen (during that time),” School Committee Member Heidi Matthews stressed.

Bergeron explained that Kindergarten screening will take place between August 31 through Sept. 18 so all students can start on Sept. 21.  These extra days will also allow for professional development, ensuring students who need devices and Wi-Fi connections can get them and HVAC or building safety updates can be made if recommended.

Several calendar dates still need to be determined given the new remote environment including parent/teacher conferences, curriculum nights and “meet your teacher” nights.

Bergeron told the School Committee that to date, 65 staff and faculty (approximately 7 percent of total staff) have asked for a medical accommodation or accommodation due to childcare and other issues that would prevent them from teaching in-class.  He explained that they are working diligently with these staff members to possibly have them teach the remote-only program for parents who have requested that state mandated option or to help find childcare solutions for staff who need it.

In addition, he released data on the percentage of students, by grade level, whose parents are opting to keep their children home on a full remote plan; 58 percent of Grades K-5, 26 percent Grades 6-8 and 13 percent Grades 9-12.  Bergeron explained that the state has reviewed vendor recommendations for full remote learning provided by the state and said “he prefers to have the district provide their own full remote curriculum” in line with the current Marlborough curriculum and use his own faculty.

Another major concern expressed by parents, staff and Committee members is air circulation in the buildings.  Director of Finance and Operations Douglas Dias explained that the city hired an HVAC system consultant (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) who has already completed his review at the High School and necessary changes and/or upgrade are underway. Dias said together with the City’s Department of Public Works, the other school buildings are being reviewed and all recommendations that follow CDC guidelines will be taken and implemented.  Several of the older buildings do not have central systems so window openings and the matter of inclement weather will all be part of a plan before school begins.

Bergeron acknowledged that he received a map from the state just prior to the August 11 School Committee meeting with color coded COVID-19 case numbers by town.  He said he will continue regular talks with the local Board of Health and if the data or the state leaders call for a change to a full remote learning environment the district has to be prepared to change gears.

The plan approved on July 28 calls for Pre-K and K to be on an AM/PM schedule. Grades 1-2 will all be in school full-time given the critical years for literacy and all 10th grade students will be in school full-time (all at six feet desk distance). Depending on the class levels some juniors will be required to be in school full-time. All special education and ESL levels 1 and 2 will also be in school full-time.

The District is actively hiring LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses) to help school nurses in each building, additional custodial positions, cafeteria workers, substitute teachers and bus drivers.  Anyone who may be interested and parents with questions are all encouraged to contact the District Office by phone or email.  An FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) is going up on the website.  The District intends to have one for parents and one for students.

For job listing and updated information visit mps-edu.org.