This planning process has been “in the works”, unintentionally, since last March when schools closed and changed to remote learning. Through the many
“virtual” interactions we have had with our students, conversations with their families, and countless staff meetings we have learned what works and what doesn’t. We have made extraordinary efforts to capture remote learners’ attention and motivate them to attend school from their homes every day. We have learned that many families and caregivers are, understandably, weary of facilitating school lessons and therapies along with all their other responsibilities. We have learned that isolation, anxiety, and the cumulative toll of systemic racial injustice and inequity have touched so many in our Shore community. This acquired knowledge and experience has fueled our strong desire to get back — in-person — to school.
Public health and State Agencies have recommended many actions that can be taken to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission. We have heeded this advice and developed protocols, trainings, modified our buildings, and purchased lots of personal protective equipment, consistent with CDC guidelines. Late last November, just a few months before schools closed, Shore moved its administrative offices and an Adult Services program out of the Revere Beach Parkway building which houses the Owen School. There has never been a better time to have more than 20,000 square feet vacant to “spread out” our school operations. Additional classrooms, lunch/break room spaces, and offices that allow for adequate social distancing, are now available to the students and staff of Shore’s Owen School.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has identified high need students as those who should be prioritized for in-person school. The Department’s high need criteria are these:
● Students with disabilities and English learners, particularly those with more intensive needs;
● Students whose parents/caregivers report that they do not have access to reliable internet or a suitable learning space at home (particularly students experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity and students in foster care or congregate care);
● Students who are significantly behind academically;
● Students who were disengaged and/or who struggled significantly during previous remote learning periods; and
● Early learners (grades PK-5)
❖ Clearly, Shore students are high priority for returning to school.
➢ All Shore students are supported by IEP’s.
➢ Half of our students are early learners (under age 12, in grades PreK to 5).
➢ Over half of our students qualify for free/reduced school lunch.
➢ A quarter of our students are English language learners.
The majority of Shore families (71%) want their children to return to school in the fall, either in person full time or in person at least for some days of each week. week.
Given the high needs of our students, more than adequate space for social distancing, and the desire of our families for their children to return to school, we had every intention of opening for in-person school on September 15. However, on August 12th, new metrics for considering school re-opening based on community public health data requires Shore to open school remotely for all students. Chelsea and three of its neighboring, member school districts, are identified as “red”, meaning average daily incidence rates per 100,000 are higher than 8 cases per 100,000. The map presented on August 12, 2020, by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health along with DESE’s expectations for learning model appear below.
While Shore will begin school remotely, we will work with local boards of health to implement a careful, tiered plan to provide a cautious, tiered approach to getting groups of students back gradually. This phased approach is as follows:
Moving from one phase to another will be done in conjunction with public health considerations as well as our own experience and data with infection control protocols. We will work with districts to arrange for identified groups of students to be transported, again beginning with fewer students on vans. This approach to scaling up to school will provide students, families and staff the opportunity to become confident with the new environment. If there is a positive case/close contact, smaller circles of people will be impacted by a quarantine or some other action. Staff will report in-person for the first two weeks for extensive training and planning. Remote instruction and therapy services will be provided from Shore, with time for professional learning, as well as collaborative teaching and planning.
We realize and respect that for some high-risk people, returning to Shore or any community sites full-time is not advisable. Therefore, we have created a framework of integrated instruction and services that will stand solidly and meaningfully as the foundation for all the service options Shore will offer in the coming year. These options will be available for times that all or some of us may need to step away from in-person services, as public health officials predict may happen. Services will transfer seamlessly to remote instruction should one or more classrooms or buildings need to close for health reasons. This holistic team-approach to students’ school experiences is a Shore hallmark. Early in the move to remote learning, the need for a system of tracking contacts with students/families, and sharing (appropriate) information among Shore team members organically evolved. Staff are invested in their students and know they can rely on the “team” to join in providing extra support and connections to students and families when they most need it.