On Monday evening, the school committee made a unanimous decision to implement a hybrid model for learning in the fall. The hybrid model, which consists of both in-person and remote learning meets and exceeds the guidance for mask-wearing, proper social distancing, hand washing, and cleaning and sanitization schedules.
While districts throughout the Commonwealth are considering different approaches to the hybrid model, Winthrop’s return to school task force has chosen option two, which will allow for two in-person days of learning, and three remote days for students in grades Pre-K through 12. Students will be broken up into cohorts, either blue or gold, and they will attend in-person lessons on either Monday and Tuesdays of every week or Thursdays and Fridays of every week. Wednesdays will be reserved for cleaning the school buildings while all students work remotely. Siblings will be prioritized and placed in the same cohorts when possible, to ease the burden on parents, and students with high needs will have the opportunity to attend in-classroom learning four days a week.
“There are pros and cons to each of the options and option two best fits the needs of our students and allows us to follow safety and cleaning protocols,” said Superintendent Lisa Howard. “I do want to acknowledge the countless efforts and time that has gone into this decision-making process. Multiple members of staff and community have generously offered to participate in complex and a more than challenging process. The willingness to be open to all possibilities during this time of uncertainty has been nothing short of amazing.”
Option one of the hybrid model follows a one week on one week off schedule and option three breaks up groups of students into morning or afternoon schedules, alternating days and weeks.
Howard said the return to school task force considered all factors when determining the best fit for the district. As part of the research, the Board of Health, school custodians, principals and teachers worked together and did several building assessments to determine how health and safety procedures could be enacted.
“The decision was driven by recommendations by state officials and well-respected health and disease specialists. This option will allow us to have in-person learning in smaller groups while maintaining six-feet of social distancing, as opposed to the three-feet of social distancing that would be mandatory in a full in-person setting. It allows us to begin the process of a phased-in return to school.”
There is also the option for families to opt out of the hybrid model and adopt a full remote model, which will be offered by the state. The school district will not lose Chapter 70 for students who opt for fully remote because they will still be enrolled in public school and funded by public school. Students that are not enrolled in the school hybrid plan will not be eligible for any school related extra-curricular activities including sports per the Department of Education.
The district has until August 10th to hand in their final decision. When the full plan is in place the public will be updated and notified of all safety protocols and the setup of heating systems, air quality, and filter systems in the school buildings. As of now, 90% of districts across the Commonwealth have adopted the hybrid model, and 10% have adopted fully remote or have not yet decided.
On November 13th, the school committee will review guidance provided by the Department of Education and the Board of Health to re-evaluate the model and decide on the next steps.