Teaching and Learning
Way back on March 10, 2020, the Superintendent of Schools called school off for Wednesday, March 11. This single day closure led to an additional two days, which were followed by a two-week school closure by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and then a permanent closure for the remainder of the school year. It is important to note that the learning plans for the 20-21 school year are set in the context of three months of online learning, delivered at no more than approximately three hours per day. Thus, the Reentry Advisory Group carefully considered that students had not been physically in school or had a full day’s learning for the final three months of the 19-20 school year.
Further, the Reentry Advisory Group was concerned for our most vulnerable learners, students with special needs, English language learners, and economically disadvantaged students. Accordingly, we determined that students in these categories would attend school full time (if they choose to do so), regardless of what plan was chosen for Hopkinton.
In July 2020, given that the District had to develop three plans, a survey was sent to parents asking which they would prefer, and if they preferred a hybrid model, what kind of hybrid model did they favor: partial day with remote instruction during the remainder of the day, alternating days in school with remote instruction on the “off” days, or alternating weeks in school with remote instruction outside of school. Follow-up surveys explored other models, which offered less face-to-face time but greater scheduling consistency for families.
Ultimately, the District chose an A/B Hybrid model where students attend school on an every-other-day basis. We are calling these days “green days” and “orange days,” and students will be assigned to either of these cohort groups—green or orange. On days when students are not in physically in school, they will engage in asynchronous at-home work that could come in the forms of new learning (both electronic and print), practice work, and collaboration with peers. Teachers can be contacted electronically.
The graphic below illustrates the hybrid learning model schedule. This model was chosen not only because it ensures six (6) feet of social distancing and maximizes face-to-face learning, but also because it most closely emulates the rhythm of day-to-day attendance of the regular school year. Learning data indicated that if students see their teachers every other day, the learning continuity remains intact; further, students will feel more accountable for their at-home learning when they know they will see their teachers the very next day.
It is important to note that classes will be carried out as “normally” as possible; that said, in accordance with DESE safety guidance limitations may be place on learning in courses that demand close physical proximity (science laboratories) and aerosolization (choral, band, and performing arts courses; physical education courses).
Further, due to budget constraints or teacher availability, there may be restrictions on courses or some limited access to Hopkinton Public Schools teachers, especially at the high school level.
A calendar for hybrid learning will be disseminated as soon as possible. When the Commissioner of Education reduced the number of required days for students from 180 to 170, that essentially dismantled the local public school calendar. A revised calendar was adopted by the School Committee at its meeting on August 13, 2020.
For those who are choosing remote instruction, students will have contact with their teachers, synchronously and in-electronic-person each day, in accordance with the schedule on any given school day. Whether remote or in person, the school day should look similar, and the curriculum in most cases will be the curriculum of the Hopkinton Public Schools. Exceptions will come when students are enrolled in online courses such as VHS, TEC, or Edmentum courses, which may be a necessity depending upon the availability of staff and what the budget affords.
Parents have asked if there will be flexibility or chances to move between the two learning models—hybrid and fully remote. There will be a “grace period” during the first two weeks of school during which students may make changes. After that, changes will be limited to perhaps three specified dates, and students enrolled in online courses such as VHS, TEC, or Edmentum will not be able to make changes.
Making these scheduling decisions was certainly challenging. The Hopkinton Public Schools considered medical and virus trend data from several sources including DESE; best practices from the Hopkinton DPH, the Massachusetts DPH, the CDC, the WHO, and the nursing staff in the Hopkinton Public Schools; assessment of our facilities; budgetary constraints; learning requirements of high needs students; transportation; and staffing ability.
The Hopkinton Public Schools reserve the right to make changes to our learning plans, as we monitor the trajectory of the virus in Hopkinton as well as across the State of Massachusetts and the nation. In the event that the number of people testing positive for the Coronavirus in Massachusetts remains low after several months of in-person learning, the District may choose to open our schools full-time for all students. Likewise, should there be a spike in cases in Hopkinton, the District may need to revert to only remote learning.
If the trajectory of the virus changed and/or a vaccine became widely available, the Hopkinton Public Schools would be prepared for full-time re-entry, with classes and schedules completely ready and routine COVID-19 safety precautions in place.