Dear parents, guardians and members of the Newmarket community,
We hope you all are well and enjoying the summer recess! The schools are in various stages of the summer cleaning cycle, the building project punch list continues to get shorter, summer school is underway, and the school reopening committee and work groups have been meeting weekly to discuss and plan how we can safely reopen our schools at the end of August. The Steering Committee thought it might be helpful to send you an update, gather some information, invite you to a Google meeting on Tuesday, July 21st at 5:00 PM to review this update, and provide you an opportunity to share what is on your mind.
In recent days and weeks, school reopening and safety protocols have become a politicized topic in our state and nationally. Our work and decisions will not be based on politics rather they will be based on the advice of public health authorities, state guidelines, and the experience of schools that have safely reopened this spring and during the prior SARs outbreak. Please know that the foremost thought in planning for our school reopening has always been and will continue to be safety. If it is not possible to open safely, or stay open, then we won’t.
Our student, parent, and staff surveys indicate the vast majority of stakeholders are comfortable returning to school if social distancing and other health and safety measures are in place. With this in mind, the steering committee and workgroups have been planning for three possible reopening scenarios; on-site, remote, and a combination or hybrid approach. The graphic below outlines our decision tree for reopening.
All three approaches require modifications to our routines and practices in order to keep all staff and students safe and engaged in learning. Here are some highlights from the work that has taken place so far.
The Teaching and Learning and Student Services workgroups have identified ways to improve remote learning and services to students. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Maintain a consistent daily and weekly schedule;
- Develop more project-based learning experiences; and,
- Provide more teacher-student learning experiences.
Attending school on campus will require cooperation and the commitment of parents, staff, and students to health and safety procedures and guidelines. Some of these changes are likely to include the following in some form:
- Transportation, entry, and dismissal may be staggered;
- Multiple entrances may be utilized when entering and exiting the buildings;
- Health screening upon entry to the buildings and contact monitoring for all staff and students may be required;
- Students and staff members may be required to quarantine for two weeks following illness or exposure;
- Enhanced sanitizing and cleaning processes and hand washing procedures will be in place;
- Social distancing (class size - ideally under 15) and the use of masks consistent with guidelines;
- Sharing furniture, equipment, and instructional materials will be minimized;
- Building use may continue to be limited to students and staff for educational purposes only;
- Parents and visitors may be permitted in buildings by appointment only, meeting remotely remains the lowest risk method of communication;
- Lunch will likely continue to be provided in a decentralized manner.
The word hybrid does not have a consistent meaning among educational entities. Hybrid in one district can mean a rotating schedule (some students reporting on some days and others on another day) and in other districts it can mean offering two different delivery models simultaneously. The hybrid model in all schools is designed based on local circumstances, resources, and limitations. For example, school districts with multi-towns, large class sizes and limited space, are likely considering a rotating schedule to implement social distancing practices. Based on the input from our staff, parents and students, we are looking at the possibility of opening schools in some fashion that includes both on campus learning and remote learning/services to those who cannot attend in person because they are high risk or require some other accommodations.
One of many challenges that must be overcome in order to safely open schools on campus, centers on how to transport students to and from school. Public schools are required by law to offer transportation to all student’s grades K-8 who live more than 2 miles from the school building and any student who cannot safely walk to school, regardless of distance from the school. Though public schools are NOT required by law to transport High School students, Newmarket has historically offered this service to all students regardless of grade level or distance from school. Implementation of social distancing guidelines on buses limit bus capacity to 13 students and 1 driver. Analysis of our busing needs to transport 826 student one-way trips per day (½ in AM and ½ in PM) based on implementation of these guidelines reveals that we would need to triple the number of buses we are currently using. Unfortunately, the bus company does not have the capacity to provide these additional busses and drivers. To provide transportation to and from schools, it will not be possible to adhere to social distancing guidelines if the same number of students use the bus. Regardless of the number of students transported, other safety protocols will need to be followed including all riders wearing a mask. Given the need to plan for transportation and related traffic impacts in the morning and at dismissal, please indicate whether your student (s) will ride the bus (masks required) or if you will be transporting them yourself. Thank you in advance for completing this survey so we can move forward with our planning efforts. TRANSPORTATION SURVEY (link has been corrected)
The workgroups are continuing to plan and discuss strategies to safely provide on campus learning. We have created another opportunity for you to engage in the process. Please attend our virtual “Town Hall” style meeting, Tuesday July 21st at 5:00 PM via Google Meet. We encourage you to submit questions to Principal Pine (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Principal Dalton (email@example.com) by Tuesday July 21st at 3:00 pm so that we can best respond to your queries.
Have a great day!
School Opening Steering Committee
Nicole Benson, Kristina Cochran, David Dalton, Sarah Denham, Jen DeStefano, Susan Givens, Dave Jack, Mike Kenison, Joanne Lazarus, Erica MacNeil, Janna Mellon, Sean Pine, Debbie Roffo, Delaney Rosenberg, Sheana Thorell