WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — School officials across the commonwealth are anticipating a Thursday announcement of state directives regarding the 2020-21 school year.
But they have been disappointed before.
"We were hopeful we would have the [education] commissioner's guidance," Mount Greylock Superintendent Kimberley Grady told the School Committee's Education Subcommittee on Tuesday. "We were supposed to have it the week of the 15th, now we're in the week of the 22nd. We were hoping it would be released this morning. We received notice five minutes before the governor went on [Tuesday morning] that we weren't going to be receiving an update until — they were hopeful for Thursday, now."
In the meantime, the Lanesborough-Williamstown district is doing what it can to develop plans for the fall that can be adapted to whatever framework state officials announce.
Grady outlined for the subcommittee the teams the district has created to help create a road map for the start of classes: instruction, wellness, technology, operations, facilities, governance and parents.
By design, all those groups include representation from various stakeholder groups, including parents, faculty and staff, and Grady said the administrative team worked with the leadership of the school's union to form the working groups.
Grady said the groups have been meeting, though they're in a bit of a holding pattern while waiting to see what comes out of Boston. The assumption is that some of the state's pronouncements will be mandatory directives and some will be guidance that will allow for some flexibility and local control.
She said that at this point, the district has no statement to make about what the start of school might look like.
"The options to reopening … [are] modified in-person, the hybrid model and strictly remote learning," she said. "Those are the three options that … we've been focused on.
"So we're having the subgroups doing the work to gather the information and start looking at the hybrid model and what that will entail."
The working groups are developing surveys that will be sent to parents and faculty to get feedback on how remote learning worked in the spring in order to inform decisions about how to implement that model in the future.
And the district is gathering input from local doctors about how to approach decisions that the commonwealth leaves up to local jurisdictions, Grady said.
Dr. Trevor Bayliss joined Tuesday's virtual meeting of the Education Subcommittee to share his thoughts, and said he was concerned about talk he has heard about throwing open the schoolhouse doors without regard to social distancing.
"I mostly reached out to [Grady] thinking about this process and knowing how incredibly difficult this all is ... wanting to say, as a medical provider in the community, as someone who takes care of a particularly vulnerable group of patients who lives among us, to represent that voice and represent a medical perspective on what what we do here … I don't have answers to some of the nuances," said Bayliss, a doctor of hematology and oncology. "Part of my impetus to reach out was a concern of … a petition going around in terms of opening school without social distancing or masks.
"That concerned me, and I saw at least one [School Committee] member who was potentially in a decision-making process who endorsed that. I just wanted to reach out from a medical perspective to say that we wanted to help. I've been in touch with the pediatric group, locally, the family practice group locally, and we're coalescing those folks to say we're here to support our community. We don't have answers, but we're certainly willing to help guide these difficult decisions."
Grady reported that the parents group looking at the reopening issue echoed Bayliss' comment on masks.
"Our parent group was pretty vocal this morning with some concerns and wanting to make sure we were soliciting input from families in regard to reopening … and social distancing and if no masks were to happen, many of them wouldn't want to be sending their students back," Grady said.
Grady said her plan is to have each of the road map groups prepare a presentation for the full School Committee so the entire panel can hear the recommendations at the same time.
The Education Subcommittee decided to hold its next meeting to check in on the process on Wednesday or Thursday next week, after some of the working groups, hopefully, have had a chance to work with the guidance and directives from the education commissioner.
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