SPENCER — The Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District (SEBRSD) is on track to begin full time in-person learning for students of all ages at the end of April, including high school students, superintendent Paul S. Haughey confirmed Monday.
Plans to bring the SEBRSD students back to the classroom with more regularity have been in the works since February when an order from Gov. Charlie Baker and education commissioner Jeffrey Riley directed all commonwealth districts to phase out remote learning for elementary and middle school students beginning this spring.
An updated version of the order released by the governor in mid-March requires elementary schools to reopen their classrooms full-time by April 5, while middle schools must begin fully in-person instruction on April 28. Concrete guidance for returning high school aged students to the classroom was not included in the order and will be released later in April, school officials said.
Dr. Haughey said the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District was on track to meet the Commonwealth’s orders, and bring high school students back to the classroom five days a week, beginning after the spring vacation which begins April 19.
“It’s best for our students to be in [the building],” said Superintendent Haughey. “In-person education is preferred by most everyone within our local and school communities and is considered important for our children.”
Already, preschool is operating in-person five days a week, while the Wire Village (Grades K- 4 ), East Brookfield Elementary (Grades PreK – 6) and Knox Trail Middle School (Grades 5 &6) plan to expand their schedules to five-day weeks next Monday, April 5th, Haughey said. Knox Trail Middle School and David Prouty High School, whose seventh through twelfth grade classes have been alternating in-person and remote learning each week, will begin full time in-person instruction for all Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District students after the spring vacation on Monday, April 26, 2021.
All schools are also planning to transition to longer school days (5 hours minimum for elementary grades and 5.5 hours minimum for secondary level) either this week or after the vacation following nearly a year of a shortened schedule, said Dr. Haughey. As well, school principals will be holding informational meetings with parents and families so that they have all the necessary information prior to a five day a week return to in-person learning.
The school re-entry progress has been bolstered by a recent change in CDC guidelines for school social distancing that allows students to be three rather than six feet apart, Superintendent Haughey said. The change has resolved several spacing issues, particularly at the middle school, where small classrooms have complicated previous moves to bring students back full-time.
The schools plan to still enforce six-foot distancing when possible and use three-foot spacing only when needed, he said. As well, masking, hand washing and disinfecting is still an integral part of the return to in-person learning and for the return to in-person learning to be effective, everyone has to do their part and take these safety measures seriously and do their part each and every.
A smooth-running virus testing program at the schools and more recently, vaccinations for faculty and staff members have also helped move the process along.
“We’re having staff feeling more comfortable being in the building because of the recently added pool testing and because of the vaccination,” Dr. Haughey said. “With these key elements in place, it is time to reopen our school house doors.”
According to Superintendent Haughey, of the 272 staff members to express interest in the vaccine, just over 225 SEBRSD faculty, staff and administration members have already received at least one dose of vaccine through the Rutland Vaccine Team and Spencer Fire and Emergency Services clinics. Many of the others have received their vaccinations individually, he said.