By Cindy Zomar, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – In keeping with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education guidelines, Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School prepared plans for three reopening scenarios, to include 100 percent face-to-face, 100 percent remote learning, and a hybrid concept.
“Due to the varying comfort levels of families, we will be offering two options: a hybrid model or a fully remote option, with the understanding that the technical side of learning will be significantly impacted by the remote setting run simultaneously with our hybrid model,” explained Superintendent-Director Ernest Houle in the document presented to the School Committee.
In the HYBRID 50 model proposed (with students at 50 percent capacity), students will be grouped into cohorts by technical programs. Since Assabet already has a rotating week-on/week-off schedule between academic and technical sides, the model would capitalize on that. For example, freshmen and juniors would be in school in person for their technical week, and the following week would be at-home learning while the sophomores and seniors would be in the building. All academic teachers would be in the school every day as all remote classes will be taught from the classroom. Students would receive 80 percent of academics online, but one period per day during their normal technical week they would move to an academic class, traveling together as a cohort to minimize exposure.
Robert McCann, director of Academic Programs and Title I, said that attendance will be mandatory in virtual classes and there will be numeric grades in the gradebook. He went on to explain that due to time and space constraints, honors classes will not be taught separately but instead students will take the College Prep level courses and be given additional work to qualify for honors credit.
Principal Mark Hollick stressed that all safety precautions and protocols will be in place, including assigning points of entry and staggering dismissal to the buses and parking lot.
The regional school buses students within its member towns of Berlin, Hudson, Marlborough, Maynard, Northborough, Southborough and Westborough at no fee. Parents will receive a survey to determine if they plan to use the buses to help administrators prepare appropriately. Out-of-district students should contact their sending schools. At this point, there will be no late buses running.
With the reduction of some state funds and the additional expenses surrounding PPE and sanitation processes, there is a $1.6 million shortfall in the budget at this time, but Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Kris Luoto feels that the HYBRID 50 model will help balance the budget, retain student population, and recruit new students for 2021-2022 as they see that the technical programs are still up and running.
Due to the new restrictive schedule, space limitations and budget deficits, physical education, art and music will not be offered, causing staff members, parents and recent graduates to express concern.
“Now is not the time to cut those programs,” said school psychologist Shannon Barry. “The social-emotional well-being of the students is at stake. We can expect double or even triple the number of students needing support services in this time of great uncertainty, and these courses offer that extra support.”
In response to the dissenting views, the School Committee agreed to add the phrase “at this time” to the statement about the lost electives and voted 6-1 to accept the HYBRID 50 proposal plan.