Small Classes, Plenty of PPE Advised School Reopenings

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BOSTON — Schools planning to reopen in the fall will have to reduce their class sizes to no more than 10 students and keep students 6 feet apart as much as possible. 
 
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issued guidelines Friday on required sanitation supplies and safety for reopening schools this fall. 
 
The memorandum covers the first 12 weeks of school and includes social distancing protocols based on the understanding of COVID-19 at the present. 
 
That includes smaller classes at 10 and no more than two staff in a classroom at time. Whenever possible, the students should be isolated in smaller groups with a "consistently assigned teacher" and not mix with other students and staff. 
 
Desks will have to be 6 feet apart and protocols put in place for exiting and entering the classroosm. 
 
Schools across the commonwealth were closed in mid-March to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 7,000 Bay Staters to date and infected more than 100,000. The expectation is that schools will be reopening in the fall although local districts are considering a hybrid of remote learning and in-class schedules to reduce the number of people in the buildings at any one time. 
 
Most of the guidelines are the same as current expectations for people in close quarters: stay home if sick, uses face coverings with exceptions for age and medical conditions, frequent hand washing, and keeping 6 feet apart. 
 
Schools also must develop protocols to isolate students who become sick during the school day and a specific room must be maintained for students with COVID-19 symptoms that is separate from the nurse's office or other space where other ailments are treated. 
 
A lot more frequent cleaning will also have to be done within buildings, and personal protective equipment will have to be stocked up. 
 
"We are issuing this guidance on key safety supplies now so that districts can begin the ordering process for critical items that may be harder to procure and/or have longer potential delivery times," states the guidance from Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley. "In this document, we provide specific information that will allow districts and schools to make these key safety purchases as soon as possible."
 
Schools are advised to have 10 disposable gloves and 10 disposable gowns per staff per week, or 120 of each for each staff and faculty member. They should also have on hand at least four gallons of hand sanitizer per classroom based on 100 percent attendance. 
 
Parents are expected to provide face coverings for their children but schools should have backup disposable masks for them. 
 
DESE is not advising temperatures checks at this time because of the "significant number of both false positive and false negative results." This was determined after consultation with the COVID-19 Command Center's Medical Advisory Committee.  
 

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North Adams School Committee Votes for Remote Learning

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Committee on Tuesday rejected a hybrid school reopening model to vote 3-2 to go full remote. 
 
The decision to start school with the remote option was apparently influenced by a letter the School Committee members received from the North Adams Teachers Association expressing concern over re-entering the schools because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
Committee member Tara Jacobs said she was not comfortable potentially exposing staff to the novel coronavirus in motioning to go with the remote option to start and later transition to a hybrid model. 
 
"There's no good scenario but the decision to open the school and have someone dying or having health conditions for the rest of their life ... ," she said, motioning to start the school year remotely.
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