By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough/Southborough – Algonquin Regional High School and the middle schools of the Northborough/Southborough School District will welcome the return of students to a full time in-person learning model, Monday, April 26.
As it mandates elementary and middle school students to return, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has no set deadline yet as to when high schools should be back in class after months of coronavirus virtual and hybrid learning. The Northborough Southborough Public Schools, however, has been proactive.
Positive trends enable return to in-person classes
The number of students participating in the COVID-19 pool screening each week in area schools is increasing.
During a March 17 Regional School Committee meeting, notably, Northborough Southborough Schools Director of Wellness Mary Ellen Duggan said 2,500 students and teachers had recently been tested with zero positive pools.
With new vaccination sites opening in the area, meanwhile, officials are hoping teachers may soon get long awaited COVID-19 immunizations.
Superintendent Greg Martineau is specifically “optimistic that by mid-May that all of our educators who want the opportunity to be vaccinated will have had the opportunity.”
On the student side of things, new state regulations say individuals ages 16+ will be eligible for vaccinations on Monday, April 19. That will give some students the opportunity to be vaccinated before their current learning model changes.
Return to in-person classes raises logistical concerns
Algonquin Principal Sean Bevan and his team are identifying operational logistics and navigating tricky scheduling components ahead of their new April 26 reopening date. Overall, though, Bevan said on March 17 that he feels comfortable with the April 26 return.
Director of Operations Keith Lavoie said staff are setting up classrooms with an ongoing process of minor but generally supportive teacher feedback.
Secure outdoor spaces using tents will expand the learning environment. Administrators have also added fourth lunch block accommodate student lunch time while keeping the six feet of required social distance while the pandemic continues.
“I think there is some apprehension amongst kids,” Bevan acknowledged of all this. “…We will have to be really mindful that it will be a challenge for lots of people.”
He elaborated, saying, “They have not had a five day school [week since March 2020]. It will be a lot of transition for many of our kids. As we do our dry logistical planning, we have to keep in mind the emotional needs of the kids.”