Shrewsbury snags approval to delay fifth grade return to in-person learning

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ShrewsburyBy Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Shrewsbury – State officials recently green lit a waiver request from the Shrewsbury Public Schools to delay its fifth-grade students’ return to full-time in-person classes. 

A somewhat unique situation, Shrewsbury had to file the request after the state lumped fifth grade in with younger students on its elementary school reopening timetable. 

In Shrewsbury, though, the fifth grade operates not out of elementary schools, but out of local middle schools.

Reopening timeline solidifies, in part, thanks to waiver

Speaking at a school committee meeting, March 24, Schools Superintendent Joseph Sawyer said students in grades K-4 will return Monday, April 5.

Grades 5-6 will return in a “phased-in” format starting on Monday April 12. 

Grades 7-8 will return starting on Monday, April 26 in a similar manner while grades 9-12 will return May 3.

Now clear, the plan is for Shrewsbury to use COVID-19 grant money to purchase approximately 1,600 desks and 300 tables for students because existing school furniture does not accommodate three-foot physical distancing.

Assistant Superintendent of Operation and Finance Patrick Collins alluded to those buying challenges in a broader sense, March 24, when saying a “phased-in” approach is necessary for logistics to work.

The district does not only have to buy furniture. It must also reconfigure classrooms and learning spaces, shuffling furniture and student-teacher assignments.

Lunch provides challenges

Another logistical hurdle Sawyer acknowledged, centers on providing sufficient seating for lunch. Collins said that the district has already procured two tents for the Paton Elementary School and the Oak Middle School to help with that, mirroring strategies recently seen in other districts like nearby Westborough.

He said the district is now in great shape for elementary level students to return on time, April 5. Higher grades, though, will need additional time.

Reopenings offer hope for administrators, students, staff

Speaking, March 24, Sawyer stated, “We are heading into the final stretch here and it’s going to be some real positives because of getting kids back to school more frequently and in person.

He added, though, “This is the time when people need to support one another and give grace to one another so that we can finish this race as strongly as we can…”