By Vicki Greene, Contributing Writer
MARLBOROUGH – The School Committee voted unanimously in favor of Superintendent Michael Bergeron’s plan to bring students in Grades 6 through 12 back into the classrooms on Tuesday, April 27.
Transitioning out of its current hybrid learning model, however, Monday, April 26, will be a remote learning day for all middle and high school students to allow for final preparation of desks, materials and last-minute administrative details.
“This is a step but is not a return to normal,” Bergeron cautioned the committee April 13. He anticipates there will continue to be positive COVID-19 cases and stressed the need to continue to adhere to all protocols.
Schools to make possible schedule changes
As of the committee’s March 23 meeting, 78 families had indicated in an email survey that they plan to keep their students on a remote learning schedule through this transition.
After reviewing the number of students returning to each building, Bergeron said the average class size will be 23 students. The High School is planning to place 24 desks in each room and can do so, according to Bergeron, within social distancing parameters.
That being said, he warned that some high school classes may need to be rescheduled and/or relocated.
“We may use some larger areas of the school to hold a class if available,” he said.
All desks at the middle and high schools will be set three feet apart. Faculty will be six feet from the nearest student’s desk.
Whitcomb to hold in-person lunch, high school to send students home
At the 1LT Charles W. Whitcomb School, lunch will be served in the lunchroom with six-foot distancing guidelines.
Marlborough High School students will have a mid-morning snack break outside or in the school’s field house during inclement weather. They will be given lunch to take home, however.
The state now mandates that students receive 5.5 hours of in-person learning per day. To accommodate those lunch plans, high school students will take lunch home to have their last class period held as a remote class from 1:15 to 2 p.m.
Director of Finance and Operation Douglas Dias said the district has enough bus drivers to accommodate all these changes. But he admitted it may be a bit “frustrating” for parents if and when substitute drivers are assigned.
A total of 29 buses will run and follow state guidelines of only holding two students per seat. Bus windows will always be open by at least two inches to maintain air circulation.
Dias said there are also no concerns with PPE. He assured the committee that each building has plenty of masks, gloves, gowns, and hand sanitizer with extra supplies in a central location.
Cleaning and sanitizing of each building will continue at night, as the district has contracted with a third-party “to wipe high-touch areas in the schools throughout the day.”
School officials urge vigilance as COVID-19 lingers
Positive COVID-19 cases in the Marlborough schools have stayed consistent with no recent net increase or decrease, according to Bergeron. School Committee members want to keep it that way.
Committee member Katherine Hennessy admitted she was “still a bit nervous” about the return and emphasized a call to families to take action to minimize COVID-19 spread, particularly as April Break approaches.
“It’s imperative that our community continues to communicate,” she said. “…If someone’s not feeling well, don’t come to school.”
“We need to work collaboratively to make this a success,” she told her colleagues.
Administrators address MCAS Testing
As school reopenings continue, Assistant Superintendent Mary Murphy told the Marlborough School Committee April 13 that state Education Commissioner Jeff Riley is planning to recommend that the MCAS English/Language Arts and Math tests no longer be required for 11th-grade students.
That would mean those students, who also missed their test last spring, won’t need to pass these exams to graduate high school. Specific coursework will need to be completed in place of the statewide test, though, Murphy said.
Some juniors and seniors may choose to take the tests if they are applying for scholarships.