Dear BFCCPS Community,
We communicated with you last week that the Commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is requesting permission from the State Board of Education to eliminate hybrid learning as an option for schools in Massachusetts. While he has yet to release a timeline, we believe that he will begin with K-5 students as early as April 1, then continue with middle school students, followed by high school students.
If we were to be required to make this change, we would expand the opportunity to any student who wanted to attend full, in person, to all students in grades K-8. Full Remote Academy will still be available, for the remainder of this school year, for any student as a full remote option. The Hybrid option would no longer be available as a choice. Families would need to decide between full in person learning 5 days a week, or full remote learning. While we will not know until mid March what the Commissioner’s permissions, plan or timeline will be, there are a tremendous amount of ripple effects to this abrupt change. We need to start planning now for this possibility.
We know over the last year you have received what may feel like an endless stream of surveys. However, given the significance of this change we need to survey you once again. In order to adequately prepare we must know which option every BFCCPS student will select for the remainder of the school year.
There are a few key implications to this decision that I want to make sure you are aware of as you weigh your options.
Distancing in classrooms will be between 3 – 6 feet.
Over the course of this pandemic, we have prioritized safety for in person students and staff. In line with CDC guidance, BFCCPS has set a standard to maintain six feet of distance between students and teachers in classrooms and common areas where feasible. It is important to note that in order to accommodate Commissioner Reily’s possible requirement for a return to full, in person instruction, it may be necessary to reduce distance in the classroom to between three and six feet. This change will also require us to take a look at class size, placement, staffing and may necessitate a reassignment of students and homeroom teachers.
Quarantine related to COVID exposure is still possible.
A return to in person learning does not mean our school and community will not still need to navigate the challenges of COVID. As you weigh your decision, please be aware that if you choose full in person as your option, individuals, classrooms and or grade levels could still be required to quarantine as indicated by contact tracing.
Classroom Teachers may need to be reassigned.
Throughout this year, a transfer between hybrid and remote in grades K-5 has meant a change in classroom teacher, as different teachers have been assigned to different settings. This dynamic is still a factor for future changes. Currently, some hybrid classrooms have too many students to accommodate 3-6 feet of distance for all students 5 days a week. Being hybrid allowed for spreading out effectively. If there is movement between remote and in person in a grade level that causes class sizes to be greater than can safely be accommodated, we will need to create additional classrooms at those grade levels, re-assigning some students to finish the year with a different teacher. We try to avoid changes of homeroom teachers wherever possible; however this may be unavoidable in order to accommodate the requirement for five days of in person learning.
You will find a survey linked here; it is critical that we have a response for every student enrolled at BFCCPS. The purpose of this survey is to know if given a full in person return to school if you would elect to send your child to school, or if you would opt for a fully remote learning experience. Please note that the learning mode you select will be final for the 2020-2021 school year, so we ask you to carefully consider your selection of enrollment for the remainder of the school year.
Additionally, I needed to let you know that all Massachusetts Public Schools will be required to implement MCAS testing this year. This is a requirement of both the federal Government and the Massachusetts Legislature. Unlike last year, we have been informed that MCAS will not be waived this year; all students in Grades Three through Twelve in the Commonwealth will be expected to take the assessments. The state is not offering a mechanism for students to take these tests remotely, so at this time, our Remote Academy students in grades 3-8 will be expected to come into the building to complete their Assessments. DESE has reduced the number of sessions per content area as compared to years prior (to one section per content area instead of two sections per content area.) The test dates will be added to the school calendar in the next few weeks and will also be communicated by your classroom teacher.
Please understand that we are in the beginning stages of a planning to return to full, in person instruction at this time. We can not answer any questions regarding the structure of this model at this time. The data collected from this survey will be necessary in order for us to successfully plan for this on the Commissioner’s timeline, should it become a requirement. All surveys must be completed no later than noon on Friday, March 5th, 2021.
This year has been a year of change and upheaval. I know for some of you this opportunity may be exciting and a sign of normalcy. I know for others, having this choice at this point of the school year may bring anxiety and stress. I continue to be heartened by the resilience and flexibility this community has shown.
Please let me know if you have any difficulties completing this survey, or have any questions regarding the survey prior to completing it.
Stay flexible Ben Franklin,
BFCCPS Executive Director