CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Hoosac Valley Regional School Committee was updated on plans for students return to the classroom next week.
"I just wanted to make sure we got this information out there," Superintendent Aaron Dean said Monday. "We have sent messages to families and have made posts on the website to keep folks as informed as we can."
Grades 1 through 5 will return to school Monday, April 5, for full five-day in-person learning. Grades 6 through 12 will return on April 28.
Prekindergarten will remain 4 1/2 days a week and kindergarten will remain five half-days.
"Some of this is to try to keep numbers down in the buildings while meeting the requirements for the hours of both of those programs," Dean said. "So we are going to remain with those programs in place to keep that consistency. With the little ones when you change what has been consistent for them you are going to spend a lot of time trying to get those new routines."
Dean said all families were given the opportunity to finish the year remotely.
The state Board of Education on March 5 gave the education commissioner authority to begin forcing in-classroom learning starting first at the elementary level.
Masking, social distancing, and sanitization practices will continue. The buildings will be sanitized daily.
"All of the key practices are still going to be in place, and masks are going to be required for all," Dean said. "Everybody has been wearing them and doing a really solid job. That has not been a real concern."
He said most desks will have to be moved from 6 feet to 3 feet apart to accommodate more students in the building.
"There will be some classes that can manage more, but the elementary school is going to be pretty packed in terms of that 3 feet," Dean said. "It is the max we can do to get everybody in."
Dining and mask breaks will still be 6 feet apart. Dean said the middle school gym will be converted into a second cafeteria and the school will set up tents outside.
"We will have some outside space," he said. "That will help tremendously."
The district will use the Polanka Grounds picnic tables.
Meal delivery ends April 3 and remote families will have to pick up meals at Hoosac Valley.
Dean said bussing should not be an issue and students should still, for the most part, get their own seat.
He said there will be expanded testing in athletics and sub-separate programs. Depending on resources and how testing goes, they hope to extend more testing throughout the district.
Dean said increased vaccination rates have helped the district, and he estimated that 89 percent of staff have received, at least, their first dose.
Despite this, the district is still seeing COVID-19 cases as students and families "let their guard down." He said just recently they had to move two classrooms to remote.
"People aren't keeping their social circles close ... when people come back people have to make sure they do their due diligence," Dean, said. "They have to maintain social distancing and remember that this is not over because it is going to disrupt the education of others."