Dear Parents, Families, Students and Staff,
I am writing with an update on our planning process for the start of a new school year in the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District. We are tentatively scheduled to resume student learning at the earliest on September 10th, 2020 and no later than September 16th, 2020.
Our planning process continues to be guided by a vigilant monitoring of public health data in Massachusetts, and we are encouraged that indicators about the virus continue to move in the right direction. The Commonwealth’s careful and disciplined approach has enabled our state gradually to begin reopening, in part because of strong compliance with health and safety precautions. The question now on all of our minds is how and when we apply those lessons learned to begin safely reopening our public schools.
As you have heard, the Massachusetts Department of Education has directed districts to submit by July 31, 2020, a preliminary plan that addresses the feasibility of three options for serving students at the start of the school year. Those options include a full return to daily, in-person attendance, a hybrid plan combining in-school learning with some remote learning, and finally, a 100% remote learning program. Each district’s final plan, approved by the School Committee, is due to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) by August 10. Given the significant changes these plans will require in the way schools operate, we need to work together to this work in the most collaborative manner possible for the safety, health and wellness of our students and staff - requiring many hours of dialogue with our stakeholders since May. We are on a very tight timeline--a mere two weeks until the August 10 deadline set by the DESE for submitting final fall plans.
The key aspect of all of our feasibility study work and reopening options was grounded with safety first and foremost. In order to adhere to the school re-opening guidance provided by DESE, consistent with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Pediatric Association, we also do not believe we can safely meet physical distancing requirements with all students and staff in the buildings at the same time. However, we do believe we can make significant changes in our school schedules and operating procedures to make a partial return to in-person learning both safe and successful. This approach will require strategies to ensure physical distancing, as well as a series of other critical health and safety measures, including wearing face coverings, washing hands frequently, cleaning and sanitizing facilities, screening regularly for symptoms of illness, and staying home from school when sick, among others. Our planning process includes a comprehensive set of strategies and investments to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus.
We recognize that the circumstances of every family and staff member are different, and that no plan ultimately will satisfy everyone in our learning community. But rest assured that we are working diligently - together as a regional school - to explore every option available to us, that we remain guided by the science to keep our students and staff safe and healthy, and that we will be prepared to make adjustments along the way if the public health conditions or other variables change over time.
Attached is our Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District Back-to-School Feasibility Study & Preliminary Re-opening Planning Guide 2020. Please review it and consider the option that works best for you and your family in the school year ahead. Additionally, please know that we have been working diligently since May to obtain as much feedback and input on the reopening of our Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District! I would like to thank everyone who contributed to our “Back to School” Team - so we may obtain as much feedback and input on the reopening plans and feasibility work undertaken.
We will keep you informed about our progress in developing a final plan and work with our key stakeholders. We will continue to post updates on our website and social media. I am confident that we can prioritize both safety and learning as we prepare for the start of a successful school year. Thank you for your patience and cooperation in these difficult times. And as always, thank you for your continued partnership and support of the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District!
Paul S. Haughey, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools