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Most Parents Choose Hybrid Plan With In-Person Classroom Learning

Schools Ready to Open, Teachers Approve Opening Plan; Students to Begin Sep. 16
 
by Robert Stewart
 
With a lot of hard work and an incredible amount of time, Groton-Dunstable administrators, the School Committee, and teachers are ready to begin the new school year amid a virus pandemic that closed schools early and moved students to finish the year through a remote or internet-based learning platform.
     Through the entire summer, administrators and School Committee members have met weekly to forge a plan for opening school that would be educationally sound for students and safe for both teachers and students.
     The result is an opening day plan that meets most of the needs and concerns of parents, students, teachers, and administrators. This week, teachers approved a Memorandum of Understanding that details the plan giving parents a choice between a hybrid model of learning or a fully remote learning platform. The hybrid learning model will have students attend class in person and led by a teacher.
     The fully remote learning model will have students undertake their learning through a computer on an Internet-based platform. The fully remote learning model will be conducted by teachers in the Groton-Dunstable School District and will follow District curriculum.
     School opening is currently underway as teachers reported to their schools Monday, Aug. 31, for professional development that will cover any modifications to their learning plans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year professional development will also cover safety protocols recommended by the state for the safe return of students to the classroom.
     The professional development days are planned for 10 days and will run from Aug. 31 to Sep. 15. On Sep. 16 students will arrive at their respective schools to begin the new school year. Elementary and middle school students will attend classes in person Monday through Thursday and work remotely on Fridays. At the high school, half the students will attend classes in person on Monday and Wednesdays and the other half will attend classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. All high school students will learn remotely on Fridays.
     Groton-Dunstable administrators and School Committee members praised teachers for their careful consideration of the opening day plan that will allow students to resume in-person learning led by teachers, an experience that the state preferred and was highly recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
School Superintendent Dr. Laura Chesson was pleased by the approval of the Memorandum of Understanding.  “It was a very collaborative effort...Very professional...a team effort,” She stated.
     School Committee Chair Marlena Gilbert said of the teacher approval of the Memorandum of Understanding,  “...I believe it is because of the proactive attitude taken by our Administration and the School Committee accompanied by the funding authorized for CARES Act funds from both our member towns. This was a collaborative effort from taxpayers, staff, parents, the School Committee, and Administration and when
I listen to some stories from friends in other districts, it further substantiates how proud Iamto be a part of our district.”
     Gilbert believes the vote of the Groton Dunstable Educators Association (GDEA) is the first vote by a teacher’s union to approve an opening day plan.
     Dr. Chesson noted that the overwhelming majority of parents in the district chose the hybrid learning model for their children. District-wide, she said that approximately 80 percent of parents chose the hybrid learning model and that 20 percent chose a fully remote option. Dr. Chesson noted that different safety measures have taken place like repairs and improvements to HVAC systems at Florence Roche and Swallow Unions schools and this week tents are being erected outside the school buildings to allow mask breaks during instruction.
     In the classroom desks are being arranged at six-foot distances and tables are being removed to accommodate distancing protocols. Class sizes will be reduced because of distancing requirements and additional staff has been hired to handle the extra classroom space. Because many parents indicated they would transport their children to school, it is expected that only 40 to 45 percent of students will ride buses to school. Ridership capacity on school buses will be reduced and only 26 students will be allowed on a bus at one time.
     Dr. Chesson also noted that there is a “wait list” for parents who want to choose the hybrid learning model. She said that currently the district does not have the space to accommodate those requests but the Administration and School Committee will review the situation at the close of the first marking period.
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