A Lot of No-Information Information
With Memorial Day Weekend behind us, we're heading into the home stretch of the school year. Typically we'd be celebrating Flag Day, attending the districtwide art show, following our sports teams into postseason play. But today there's hardly a spring celebration afoot; instead, we've sort of turned our focus to the fall. Maybe it's a coping mechanism founded in hope.
Isn’t it strange. You can’t turn on your TV, access online news media, or open up your home delivered Boston Globe, without encountering some Coronavirus or COVID-19 story. Yet, despite the volume of pandemic data, science, and literature, there’s an ironic lack of “knowns” guiding reentry to our public schools in the fall.
For you parents who have been working as homeschoolers, perhaps you are eager to turn your children back over to their Hopkinton Public Schools teachers. And on the flip side, teachers who are delivering remote instruction are equally eager to return to the days of learners in a brick and mortar classroom with anchor charts and whiteboards, sticky notes and highlighters, books with actual pages, and wafting scents of Taco Tuesday rising from the lunchroom.
I know there’s a lot of talk right now about whether we’ll be physically back in school in August. Certainly, a return to school is a sure way to bolster the economy: kids return to school, and parents return to work. The Hopkinton Public Schools are committed to opening our doors, but only when and if it’s safe to do so. Science will drive that decision. With a green light, school leaders, public health officials, and HPS facilities personnel, knowing how the virus behaves, will need to make some wholesale changes to our physical plants, attendance and scheduling routines, and priorities for learning.
For example, it’s not likely that we’re going to put 90 kids into the band room, sucking on reeds and emptying spit valves on trumpets. Physical education may mean walking the track—six feet apart. Tables will be removed and socially distanced desks will replace them. No two students will face each other. Hallways may flow only one-way. iPads could get either UV lights or disinfectant bags. Plexiglass shields get installed in guidance offices—maybe all offices. Food service gets entirely reworked--maybe we all eat in classrooms. New schedules will be designed. Full days? Half days? Every other day? Only the elementary learners? Only the secondary learners? Then there are masks, gloves, hand sanitizer (60% alcohol), thermometers, and cleaning supplies for six buildings.
How do we find the man-and-womanpower to make this happen? How do we find the money—especially when state aid remains sharply unclear? And, when will Governor Baker and Commissioner Riley hand down the guidance that school districts need to open school in the fall—whatever that might look like?
Despite the fact that it might appear to you that the School Department doesn’t have any answers, what we do have are five Building Administrators and their teams working assiduously to come up with scheduling and curricular contingencies; a Director of Facilities pricing out PPE and other equipment and planning to marshal his troops; a Director of Finance considering what several budgetary scenarios might demand; a Director of Special Education considering how to deliver special education services—even if we’re physically in school for only a percentage of the day; School Nurses considering how to monitor students’ health; and so, so much more.
In the coming weeks, I will continue to apprise the community of how this Polaroid picture of the pandemic recovery work is coming into focus. We are set to receive guidance from the Commissioner of Education in late June, which feels late. As soon as I know more, I will reach out to all of you, as families will have an important role to play in the reentry plan.
For now, mask up. Stay safe. Enjoy the onset of summer.
- Back to School