Press release from the desk of the Interim Superintendent of Brookline Public Schools:
Aug. 5, 2020
Dear PSB Parents, Guardians, and Staff,
Over the past few weeks, the planning team and I have presented the results from our reopening survey and outlined our preliminary recommendations for September. I want to take this opportunity to update you on what we have discussed, and share important dates and next steps that PSB will take leading up to our first day of school.
In-Person Feasibility Study
The health and safety of our students, staff, and families has always been our priority as we plan for reopening. As a community, we must continue working toward minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission in whatever ways we can. After consultations with our expert panels, the Brookline Department of Public Health, and site visits to classrooms, I have determined to require 6 feet of physical distance between students and staff in all school buildings.
Requiring 6 feet of physical distance and bringing all students back in-person is not feasible for PSB without additional expenses in staffing and rental spaces. Even with the use of outdoor space, maintenance to windows, and updates to HVAC systems, the uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic brings to our budget and schedules makes it impossible for PSB to support a full return to in-person learning in September. Therefore, I am proposing a hybrid learning model to begin the 2020-21 school year.
Hybrid Learning Model
The hybrid learning model will prioritize in-person learning every day for students in BEEP, kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, and high needs students. The hybrid model will split students in 3rd through 12th grade into cohorts, where half the population comes to school in person and half the population receives instruction remotely:
As the model indicates, students in grades K-8 will end school at around 1:00pm without a lunch period. Additionally, parents/guardians with students in grades K-12 may opt to place their child in full remote learning (regardless of what grade level they are entering) if they have concerns about coming back into the physical building.
The decision to recommend a hybrid model was not easily made, and the changes we have implemented are specific to the challenges of COVID-19. However, we remain committed to prioritizing our youngest learners and students with the highest needs for in-person services while still offering in-person experiences for all of our other learners. Over the next few days, our team will continue to work with school leadership to refine our reopening procedures, with explicit details on the two cohort system, including health and safety protocols for recess, mask breaks, and handwashing.
More information on how PSB will implement the hybrid model, including sample schedules for each grade level, can be found here (School Committee Presentation, 8/4/20).
The Office of Teaching and Learning and Office of Student Services are collaborating with our Curriculum Coordinators to create an equitable and dynamic curriculum. This year, we intend to focus on students’ social-emotional needs and support executive functioning skills while providing a robust curriculum that addresses the academic standards of each grade level. Specific information about course content and grade level standards will be available in the coming weeks.
School Calendar Adjustments
On July 27, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) reduced the 2020-21 school year to 170 student learning days, with ten days allocated for staff professional development to prepare for the new school year.
We anticipate that the first day of school for students in the 2020-21 school year will be Wednesday, September 16, 2020. Once a final revised calendar is approved we will share it with families and staff.
PSB recognizes that parents and guardians are their children’s first teachers. When children reach school age, parents and guardians continue to play a vital role in their children’s formal education. PSB also recognizes that parents and guardians have the right, under certain conditions, to educate their children at home.
Any parents/guardians who wish to homeschool their student(s) for the 2020-2021 school year must notify the Office of Teaching and Learning of their intention to establish a home-based program. The Office of Teaching and Learning must also approve of the parent/guardian(s) homeschooling educational plan before students can be formally withdrawn from school. The development of the home education plan is the sole responsibility of the parents or guardians. Click hereto learn more about PSB’s home education program.
Next Steps and Timeline
- The Brookline School Committee will meet at 12pm for a discussion and vote on PSB’s fall reopening plan.
- August 10: PSB will formally submit the reopening plan to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
- Mid-August: Families and staff will be asked to indicate their learning model preference and opt-in to one of the models (in-person vs. remote for students in Kindergarten-2nd Grade, hybrid vs. remote for students in 3rd-12th Grade) for approximately the first semester of the 2020-21 school year.
- September 1: PSB staff will report back to school buildings and begin professional development sessions on hybrid model instruction and health/safety training.
- September 16: First Day of School for Students* *pending approval
We are putting together a FAQ document to answer some of the most commonly asked reopening questions. We will post that on our website (https://www.brookline.k12.ma.us/reopen) as soon as it’s available.
We recognize that every family and staff member’s circumstances are different and that no plan will ultimately satisfy everyone in our community. Rest assured that we are working diligently to explore every option available to us. We remain committed to addressing all safety and education issues in order to provide our students and our staff with the best environment and programs in which to learn and work.
This press release was produced by the Interim Superintendent of Brookline Public Schools. The views expressed here are the author’s own.