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Schools Offer Parents Choice Between All Remote & Hybrid Learning Models

School Committee Approves School Opening Plan for Start of New School Year
Cost to Implement Approved Plan Could Exceed $1.4 Million
by Robert Stewart
After days and weeks of planning for the opening of school in the fall and listening to what seemed like thousands of ideas and opinions about what schools should look like during a virus pandemic, the School Committee approved a school opening plan that they hope will address most of the issues raised by parents and teachers.
     The approved plan will give parents a choice between two learning programs: an all-remote learning program, and a hybrid learning program which will divide learning time between in-person learning in the classroom and remote learning. Parents will have to make their choice this week and once that choice is made they will have to make a commitment to that learning plan for the entire school year.
     Superintendent of Schools Dr. Laura Chesson and her team worked the entire summer to hammer out a plan that took into consideration many concerns raised by parents and teachers about the best way to conduct learning for the upcoming school year and trying to strike a balance between the preferred method of instruction of in-person learning and the risks associated with that method as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which has proven difficult to contain.
     Groton-Dunstable Regional School District initially took their lead from the state that preferred all students return to school in the classroom. However, after surveying parents and teachers at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels, it became apparent that one plan would be inadequate to meet the diverse needs and opinions of parents and teachers.
     Superintendent Chesson indicated that when administrators were preparing the three different models for learning (Remote, Hybrid, In-person) mandated by the state, they were considered in isolation from one another. Chesson implied that given the feedback from parents and teachers it would be difficult to develop a cohesive plan using just one model for learning. “We have a commitment to all families,” Chesson said in deciding to offer parents two options for learning.
     Indicative of the diverse opinions expressed by parents and teachers was the clear difference revealed through surveys about which preferred learning models parents and teachers thought would be best for students amid the pandemic. A significant majority of parents preferred in-person learning for their children or some form of hybrid learning that involves in-person learning. There was noticeably less support for all-remote learning. For teachers, a significant majority preferred all- remote learning and there was little support for in-person learning due to the risks associated with COVID-19.
     With that background, Chesson said her staff focused on offering parents a choice of learning models for their children. One option is to allow parents to choose an all-remote model for learning and the other option would allow parents to choose a hybrid model of learning which would involve in-person learning and remote learning.
     In offering an all-remote option, Chesson said parents strongly felt that the remote learning be conducted by teachers in the Groton-Dunstable School District and the curriculum of learning be that of the School District and not be a state, commercially-created, learning platform.
     Chesson said it was possible for the District to meet that request but would require dedicating a certain number of teachers to accomplish it. For that reason Chesson said that parents who choose the all-remote option would be required to commit to that choice for the entire 2020- 2021 school year.
     Under the hybrid option, students would spend time in the classroom and combine that time with a remote segment of learning. The hybrid model would be similar for the elementary and middle school students and a little different for high school students.
At the elementary level, students will attend school in person Monday through Thursday on a shortened day. The in-person school day will run from 8:55 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. On Friday, all students will work remotely with the teachers they have during their time in school.
At the middle school level, students will attend school in person Monday through Thursday on a shortened day. The in-person school day will run from 8:08 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. On Fridays students will work remotely with the teachers assigned to them during their time in school. If parents choose the hybrid model, they have to commit to that choice for the entire school year.
     If parents want to switch from hybrid to all-remote, the school district cannot guarantee they could place the student in a slot with Groton-Dunstable teachers and that student may have to use the commercial remote learning platform.
• At the high school under the hybrid model, half the students would attend school in person on Mondays and Wednesdays and the other half would attend school in person on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The school day for all high school students will run from 7:27 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. The Monday and Wednesday group will work remotely on Tuesday and Thursday while the Tuesday and Thursday group will work remotely on Mondays and Wednesdays. All high school students will work remotely on Fridays.
     Superintendent Chesson said that she anticipates 30 percent of parents will choose the all-remote learning model and 70 percent will choose the hybrid model. The in-person learning aspect of the hybrid model will involve all the safety protocols outlined by the state including wearing masks, social distancing and numerous hand sanitizing locations. The number of students in the elementary and middle schools will go from an average of 22 students to 15 students. High School classes are expected to be even smaller.
     The 2020-2021 school year was shortened by the state from 180 days to 170 days for students. Teachers will spend 170 days in the classroom and the other 10 days will be used for training in preparation for the unusual circumstances to the upcoming school year. For all students whether they choose the all-remote or hybrid model, school will begin on Sep. 16.
     School Committee Chair Marlena Gilbert said this about the educational plan approved for the upcoming school year, “I am pleased our district offers a plan that allows parents a choice in having their students taught both in-person or remotely by our GD staff. This is a difficult decision that ultimately should be made by a student’s parent.”
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