Posted Dec. 27, 2020
By Natasha Don
A special meeting of the School Committee was held Dec. 21 to discuss one agenda item- the district learning model after Winter Break. This topic was discussed briefly at the Dec. 16 Committee meeting but was relegated to the 21st for a final decision.
Committee Chair Kathy Codianne explained that the possibility moving to a temporary remote model in the period immediately after Winter Break was on the table “mostly because of the post-Thanksgiving surge of COVID cases, and the predicted surge of COVID infections after December Vacation. We’re also aware that many school districts are making the decision to move to a remote model after vacation preemptively.”
Codianne went on to share that close to 100 emails had been received by the School Committee from parents on both sides of the issue. “We have three options that we can consider,” Codianne said. “The first option is to stay the course and maintain the status quo, with the understanding that, as we said back in November, that the decision to go remote would be made on a school-by-school basis on the school’s ability to adequately staff its buildings.”
The second option, Codianne said, “Would be to go full remote on January 4 in K-8 and return to our hybrid model on January 11. The third option would be to go full remote on January 4 and return to hybrid on January 19.” Codianne stressed that no matter what decision is ultimately agreed upon, there will still be the possibility for change “on a dime.” She ensured that such decision would “definitely be as a reactive measure” to any of the myriad of variables that may change to necessitate fully remote learning.
For example, in the event that staff absenteeism is too widespread to sufficiently staff a particular school building, Codianne said, “The decision for that school to go remote would be made by the Principal and the Superintendent.”
After presenting the circumstance particulars, Codianne asked for a poll of Committee members to get a sense of how they were feeling as a whole. This initial poll resulted in a unanimous preference for the first option, which is to stay the course and remain hybrid. During the poll, several Committee Members stated they deferred to the majority due to lack of strong personal leanings toward any particular option.
Superintendent Brooke Clenchy and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Todd Maguire addressed the Committee with an overview of the remote learning plan they have put in place for circumstances that necessitate a school closure.
From the broader standpoint, cohorts A and B in each K-8 school would be combined, with Wednesdays remaining reserved for asynchronous learning to preserve planning time for teaching staff. More details of each day’s schedule can be found in the meeting materials section of the School Committee’s website.
Director of Pupil Personnel Services Joan DeAngelis also explained that principals and care providers have agreed that a level of flexibility will be maintained when considering the individual needs of Special Education Students. In the event of a fully remote model, students whose needs are best met with some in-person instruction will be accommodated. Dr. Maguire also confirmed that in the event of a change to remote learning in a school building, no changes in staff, schedule, or learning peers would occur for those students who currently participate in the Remote Learning Academy.
Stow Representative Elaine Sanfilippo urged families to prepare as much as possible for any potential change, because if a change occurs, it will occur very quickly. “The virus is going to dictate things, especially in January. The forecasts are looking at a peak late January, so I just encourage everyone to have contingency plans in place” she said. “There’s a risk/reward to this right? The reward is that potentially we may never need it, but the risk is that if it happens– if a shutdown happens–it’s going to happen really quickly.”
It was agreed that no learning model changes will be enacted during the post-Winter Break period, and that K-8 schools will remain in the hybrid model until such time that it becomes impossible.