Greetings, Hopkinton Faculty, Staff, Families, and Students:
As you know, the Hopkinton Public Schools, like all school districts across the Commonwealth, were charged with designing a reentry plan, unique to the needs of the Hopkinton Community, and in keeping with the “Initial Fall School Reopening Guidance” issued by the Commissioner of Education, Jeffrey Riley on June 25, 2020.
The reentry plan needed to offer three scenarios: full-time, in person teaching and learning; a hybrid model, where students learn both in school and remotely; and finally, a full-time remote teaching and learning plan. With these three plans in place, the District would determine which plan(s) would be implemented in September, and report that information to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
Naturally, our first consideration was the safety of all students and faculty. That said, the only way to ensure true physical safety would have been to eliminate all person-to-person interaction, so the challenge became balancing physical safety with the highest quality education. The Commissioner of Education describes the task accordingly: “Our goal for the fall [was] to safely bring back as many students as possible to in-person school settings, to maximize learning and address our students’ holistic needs” (p. 3). When the Commissioner discusses holistic needs, it serves as a reminder that students also have social, emotional, nutritional, and mental health needs that prove well-met in Hopkinton’s Public Schools.
Prior to the establishment of a community wide Reentry Advisory Group, the district undertook a number of steps, including following the number of active COVID-19 cases in Hopkinton; holding many, many administrator meetings; reading various reentry materials and attending webinars; attending job alike meetings with other district administrators; conducting walkthrough assessments of all five school buildings with a consultant to assess physical plant and PPE needs; purchasing masks and face shields for every student, plastic (plexiglass) shields for offices, hand sanitizer, signage, electrostatic disinfectant sprayers, nitrile gloves and other equipment for our nursing staff, and more.
The District was heartened by the positive metrics in the State of Massachusetts and in Hopkinton in August 2020. Hopkinton is a “White” designated community with only two cases at present.
At the time of the decision-making—August 13, 2020—Hopkinton had 136 cases of COVID-19, 2 of which were active, 123 recovered, and 13 resulting in death, 11 of which came from an elder care facility in the community and the other two also persons deemed elderly and vulnerable. Only one of the cases of COVID-19 was a child between the ages of 3 and 11—essentially elementary school-aged, and two of the cases were children between the ages of 12 and 18. Additionally, the District believes that families are now aware of the critical health and safety practices; for example rigorous hygiene and handwashing, the wearing of masks or other face coverings, physical distancing, staying home when sick, and reducing unnecessary contact with others.
It was within this favorable context throughout July and August that the Reentry Advisory Group met four times as a whole group and in excess of 15 times as subcommittees to advise the Superintendent and Central Office Administrators in the preparation of this document.
Dr. Carol Cavanaugh, Superintendent