June 25, 2020
Dear School Committee, Staff Members, and Students and Families,
Today, June 25th, 2020, Governor Baker announced the Department of Elementary and Secondary’ Initial Fall School Reopening Guidance at his daily COVID-19 pandemic press conference.
The guidance is representative of input from the medical community and professional educators. While the guidance is intended to provide some details for a safe reopening of school, there are also still many areas that will require further guidance as the data and research evolve throughout the summer.
This initial guidance is predicated on the following:
- The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is committed to the safe return to school for all students with critical health and safety requirements;
- The use of multiple mitigation techniques in schools to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 including protocols for face masks, rigorous hygiene and handwashing, physical distancing, comprehensive symptom monitoring, and staying home when sick;
- The preparation of responsive plans for public health changes that may occur throughout the next school year for remote learning, a hybrid model, and the safe reopening of schools.
In anticipation of this guidance document, the district leadership team, consisting of district and school administration and operations coordinators, and the executive board of the North Adams Teacher Association have been meeting weekly since the decision to close schools for the remainder of this year. Initially the goal of this working group was to implement the remote learning plan, and then to elicit family feedback through surveys and focus groups. For the last month, we have been actively engaged in planning for reopening with this group and with additional expertise from specialist educators and teacher leaders. The district has four working subgroups:
- Teaching and Learning
- Special Education
- Facilities and Operations
- Health Services
We will continue the work of creating the required plans for the North Adams Public Schools to safely return all of our students to school at the start of the 2020-2021 school year. As we complete plans, it will be necessary for the district to seek input from our families. We will be surveying families about their plans and needs, and we will hold focus groups to review the requirements for the safe return to school.
All of this planning will not be useful if the health data for transmission of COVID-19 does not remain low for our city and our region. The mitigation of the number of cases by effective personal health practices gives us hope for the next school year, but we jeopardize the ability to implement these plans if members of the community do not remain diligent in implementing the guidance from the Center for Disease Control recommendations, which includes: physical distancing of 6 feet, wearing a mask in public spaces where physical distancing can be compromised, and washing your hands frequently.
The Initial Fall School Reopening Guidance can be found on the Department of Elementary and Secondary website at http://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/.
Thank you and take care.
Barbara Malkas, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools