By Justin Roshak, Contributing Writer
HUDSON – The Hudson School Committee is focused on restoring regular operations as the district enters a second full year of pandemic conditions.
Staff will return to work on Monday, Aug. 30 with students returning on Tuesday, Aug. 31. This year’s class will see an enrollment boost.
“We have been going through a surge of newcomers,” said Hudson Public Schools superintendent Marco Rodrigues during an Aug. 17 School Committee meeting.
He noted there had been 15 new enrollments in the week before that meeting.
The number of homeschooled students in the district more than doubled last year, from 27 to 56. The count for this year will be available in September.
Bus routes will be posted on August 23. They were generated from parent requests submitted through the district website. Breakfast and lunch will be available free for all students.
Along the way, though, school officials are continuing to grapple with rising rates of COVID-19 infections amid the ongoing national surge.
Rodrigues said the chief goal, after safety, will be a return to consistency.
“It’s been sixteen months of flux and hybrid and sometimes fully remote,” he said. “What we want is to make sure that students are coming to school steadily and on time.”
As the district enters a new school year, it is embracing new freedom to tailor its responses to the pandemic as a number of state restrictions have lapsed.
“We are operating under some specific recommendations, but not any mandates,” Rodrigues said. “I think it’s important for everyone to know that through the pandemic, we were very cautious to make sure the health and safety of all our staff and students were a priority.”
“I think we did a great job of maintaining our schools as open and viable as possible,” he continued.
Classrooms will continue to be laid out for maximum social distancing as Hudson’s physical facilities remain well equipped for desk spacing, Rodrigues told the School Committee.
Remote learning will no longer be available, though. Students not in school, without accommodation, will be marked absent.
In the event of a positive COVID-19 test, anyone in personal contact will be notified.
In what Rodrigues called a “huge departure from last year,” resources for infection testing will now be funded by state agencies, along with designated support personnel.
“We still have some ways to go in making sure that more individuals get vaccinated,” Rodrigues said, saying that, “The more people who are vaccinated, the greater freedom we have and the less risk.”
About 65 percent of Hudson residents ages 12 and older are vaccinated. Among students between the ages of 12 and 15 the vaccination rate is 56 percent. Among high schoolers, ages 16 to 19, the rate is 74 percent.
Masks will remain mandatory for all members of the school community inside school buildings. The only exceptions will be while eating and “mask breaks,” which will no longer be scheduled and instead left up to each teacher to determine.
In line with new guidance from state officials on Aug. 24, masks will remain mandatory for almost all members of the school community through at least Oct. 1. Exceptions will be made for those under the age of five and for those who cannot wear a mask due to medical conditions or behavioral needs.