This is my summary as of 7/21.
NPS is awaiting guidelines from the Massachusetts State Commissioner about reopening schools to in person learning. Initially NPS expected 85% of the guidance to come from the State with NPS deciding the other 15% - this may have “loosened up” a bit, with schools potentially having more say in what their model will look like. In terms of timeline Dr. Nolin hopes this information from the State will be coming in the next two weeks, with decisions being made early August and decisions to be made by parents by August 10th.
School Committee Meeting (Thursday, July 23)
School reopening options and related costs for the town will be discussed.
Agenda and Zoom info is here.
The three options that are currently on the table, but still subject to approval by the Commissioner, are:
1) Hybrid model, combining in person learning with remote learning
2) Fully remote learning through the Edgenuity program with NPS teachers as facilitators
3) Unenroll from NPS and homeschool
Summary of Hybrid Model:
Students will be grouped into cohorts of 10-12 students, size is grade specific. That cohort will attend in person one week and then attend remotely the next week. The school day length will be 8am-1pm (ish). Students will eat lunch at home, but have the option to pick up their lunch at school to bring home with them. While at school elementary students will be with their classroom teacher, either in their classroom or outside for a mask break or recess. There will not be specials when they are at school. In the week that students are home they will have a combination of specials and independent work to complete. Middle and High School students will not switch classes, teachers will rotate to classrooms. Once the models are approved by the Commissioner schedules will be viewable to parents to have a clearer idea of what a day will look like under this model. Teachers will not be simultaneously teaching in person and remote.
Summary of Edgenuity Model:
There are several models developed by NPS for school in the fall. One option is to remove your child from the “live” option of school and use a self paced program called Edgenuity. This has not yet been approved by the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education, but if approved a student choosing this option would have a Natick teacher who acts as a “facilitator”. There are no live chats, only pre-recorded sessions and practice opportunities.
Questions answered in Forums by Dr. Nolin on 7/16:
Is there a fully online option like what we had in the Spring with Natick teachers teaching classes?
No, not in this current model. If we do need to go fully remote because of an increase in Covid cases, then the hybrid model would go fully remote following the same schedule. There is no current guidance on what that cutoff would be to make the call to go fully remote as a district.
Why is Edgenuity an option when Virtual Learning would be more fruitful for students with no physical attendance?
Answer: It is being offered because families have asked for something in place of full homeschooling. These are what are used by the virtual charter schools in MA. Some students are medically compromised and cannot go back in person. She is confident the Edgenuity program kids will stay up to date on material.
The reviews online about Edgenuity are not encouraging. Can you talk about how the decision was made to use them? Is there a way to preview it?
Answer: Vetted credit recovery programs for two years for kids who can’t come to school for medical reasons. This is the best of the bunch. The innovation team vetted this (teachers/admin from all areas). Dr. Nolin will be sending out a video to preview it.
If using Edgenuity, will the grades received result in the same report card as you receive with in-person learning? Or will the students record state 'Edgenuity based learning'.
Answer: Unclear. Dr. Nolin is looking into this. This would only potentially concern high school students.
If families choose Edgenuity would they still have access to the workbooks etc that the kids in live school would have?
Answer: It is one or the other. Edgenuity or remote/live school. Updated 7/21 - there may be some overlap of materials in the remote week of hybrid.
If families choose Edgenuity but then the district has to go to "remote" school - will they be able to switch to remote school?
Answer: No. The idea is that families commit for a semester. But the idea is that you can’t switch back and forth.
Will anyone be able to opt-in Edgenuity for any grade?
Answer: Yes, anyone K-12. Not preschool. Special Ed students will receive live services regardless of which program they enroll in. So a student could do Edgenuity and then also receive special ed services on top of it.
In terms of live school what would the mask breaks be like?
Answer: Protocol coming from DESE about what this looks like. Would be outside and distant from each other. Could be a concern at Brown and Kennedy but she thinks she can do it. Lunch demands 6 ft of spacing. Students stay in classes and eat prepackaged lunches. Some models show a 12:30/1:00 leave time. Bring lunch home with them to eat at home.
In order to return to “normal” I believe there needs to be a vaccine. Even when a vaccine may become available it could be months before it is widely available and some may elect not to get vaccinated. How will that play into the decision to return to “normal”? Essentially, is there a chance in 2021, we can be back to “normal” school :)
Answer: Commissioner said that protocols will be in place for when schools can move back to live school. Now that we have had tracking of infection rates in state we should know when or if a spike is happening.
How will cohorts be managed? It seems that keeping students mostly in similar classes to last year will help them with social emotional stability. At the very least, it would be very beneficial to consider cohorts be created by prior grade/school and perhaps residence location so that parents can assist each other for small pods of students to interact or educate.
Answer: Service delivery for special ed. is going to cohort students. Levels will also dictate cohorts. Is it ideal, no. But this is an emergency health situation. Schools will help to connect families for childcare needs to help coordinate all of this stuff. Friends will not be a consideration when making the cohorts. There may be some grouping based on bus schedules, but also a concern around grouping as neighborhoods.
Are there detailed guidelines / tests that can be shared with parents for them to ensure their children have learned all that is “required” for each grade level?
Answer: Commissioner going to mandate some assessment in order to determine student skill levels. Natick has always had and used own benchmarks. Natick’s tools are better. But don’t want kids to get back to school and immediately start testing - better to get them back, build community and then start figuring out where kids are at and what they may need to learn.
Knowing that there is a high likelihood of full remote at some point next year, will there be an opportunity for NPS to collaborate with parents on classes cohorts for families who are supporting each other in providing childcare?
Answer: If we aren’t doing it by busing routes, it would be by last name. Still messing around about how to do this. Within teams could be a conduit. Services dictate a cohort more than a street name or neighborhood. It is a hope to take this into consideration.
What is recess going to be like?
Answer: We have playground monitors. But will kids really stay 6 ft away from each other. People make grids on the playground. Show kids how to orient each other within the grid? Maybe just have small groups on the playground.
Is there a plan that if started off in-person to make a relatively easy switch to a hybrid model if cases increase?
Answer: The idea is to build a schedule that can remain the same no matter what model we are in. Same model in person as remote in terms of timing.
Are there discussions around better solutions for managing assignments. The ipass, google doc, google classroom combo made it hard to support kids at home. A clearer central snapshot would make life so much easier
Answer: That is our desire - one stop shopping. That is the goal.
Has there been any discussion around prioritizing young elementary grades to return to school in person given the difficulty in remote learning for this age group, and utilizing other school buildings (middle and high school) for elementary students to provide more social distancing space
Answer: What is always going to be prioritized is special ed, preschool and other needs. Other buildings may be used for that.
Why the hybrid model of one week on, one week off versus morning and afternoons?
Answer: What solves most problems TODAY would be alternating week hybrid model. Keeps cohorts in tact, less cleaning. If there is a outbreak in cohort, it allows 9 days for kids to not miss school. For teachers, if they become ill, they can be subbed out 50%. Doing a morning/afternoon options would be very expensive with all of the cleaning and sanitizing that would need to be done.