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Opening Day of School Goes According to Plan

• General Satisfaction Among School Administrators, Teachers, Students; Some Issues Remain Challenging as Administrators, Teachers Address Safety Issues Alongside Educational Learning
by Robert Stewart
Opening day of school in the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District went relatively well according to the Superintendent of Schools and the Chair of the Groton- Dunstable School Committee. While some issues stood out as needing attention, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Laura Chesson described the opening day as going well with teachers and students excited about being back in school. While Dr. Chesson expressed overall satisfaction with how the schools opened this year, she acknowledged that administrators and teachers have areas that will need close monitoring to maintain the momentum of a safe learning environment.
     Dr. Chesson stated, “Kids and teachers seemed very excited to be back. I had a number of very positive emails from parents. I think the planning days ahead of school helped, but clearly we couldn’t anticipate everything so we do have work ahead of us.” For families who chose the hybrid model that represented approximately 80 percent of students enrolled in school, COVID-19 protocols will be as important as the curriculum itself.
     In the 10 days of professional development leading to opening day on Sep. 16, teachers had to prepare for the dual task of teaching children and being vigilant about maintaining safety protocols to keep the spread of COVID-19 at a minimum. Dr. Chesson alluded to these dual tasks but added the community at large as a party to support the educational effort during a pandemic. She stated, “I think despite all our efforts, nothing could have prepared teachers and students for the new normal. We will need to continue to work on things over the next week.
     “The commitment needs to be not only from our immediate school community but also the community at large. We will need continued support from the community in emphasizing those steps that have kept transmission low in Groton and Dunstable – social distancing, wearing masks and good hand hygiene.”
     School Committee Chair Marlena Gilbert concurred with those comments and said she had received many positive comments from parents and teachers. Families who chose the remote model of learning for the school year had some concerns about what remote learning would look like for the year. Both Gilbert and Dr. Chesson noted that some parents who chose the remote model thought it would include having a live teacher conduct the lessons all the time.
     Dr. Chesson stated, “Remote learning, particularly at the elementary level, is a work in progress. I think there was some misperception about what school would be like in the remote environment.” Gilbert added, “Although with proper expectations, I expect adjustments to be made as full robust remote learning is new for everyone.”
     Dr. Chesson said administrators have been surveying students about the new school year and that feedback will be presented at the next two School Committee meetings. She also said that school administrators and teachers will be assessing students’ learning levels - both remote and hybrid students - to determine their school readiness at different grade levels. With that information the school district will then discuss what additional supports might be necessary for all students to be successful.
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