DESE Mandated Preliminary3 Model Reopening Plan 2020
Dear Haverhill Community,
I am writing with an update on our planning process for the start of a new school year in the Haverhill Public Schools. We are tentatively scheduled to resume student learning on September 16, 2020. Our planning process continues to be guided by a vigilant monitoring of public health data in Massachusetts, and we are encouraged that indicators about the virus continue to move in the right direction. The Commonwealth’s careful and disciplined approach has enabled our state gradually to begin reopening, in part because of strong compliance with health and safety precautions. The question now on all of our minds is how and when we apply those lessons learned to begin safely reopening our public schools.
As you may have heard, the Massachusetts Department of Education has directed districts to submit by July 31, 2020, a preliminary plan that addresses the feasibility of three options for serving students at the start of the school year. Those options include a full return to daily, in-person attendance, a hybrid plan combining in-school learning with some remote learning, and finally, a 100% remote learning program. Each district’s final plan, approved by the School Committee, is due to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) by August 10. Given the significant changes these plans will require in the way schools operate, we also must negotiate our proposal with employee unions impacted including: teachers, administrators, and paraprofessionals. We are on a very tight timeline–a mere two weeks until the August 10 deadline set by the DESE for submitting final fall plans.
Of course, we know that under normal circumstances, students would be best served in schools every day, interacting with their peers and engaged in live classroom learning. While our educators and families worked incredibly hard last spring to implement remote learning, we know that approach presented enormous challenges, did not reach all students (particularly those with the greatest needs), and is not an adequate substitute for in-person interaction with teachers. When out of school, our students also lack access to all of the academic, mental, and physical supports that help ensure their social-emotional well-being, particularly in navigating the effects of trauma during these tremendously challenging times. Therefore, we believe our families and students deserve more than a fully remote learning plan.
In order to adhere to the school re-opening guidance provided by DESE, consistent with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Pediatric Association, we also do not believe we can safely meet physical distancing requirements with all students and staff in the buildings at the same time. However, we do believe we can make significant changes in our school schedules and operating procedures to make a partial return to in-person learning both safe and successful, with the goal of increasing in-person learning across the year as it is safe to do so. This approach will require strategies to ensure physical distancing, as well as a series of other critical health and safety measures, including wearing face coverings, washing hands frequently, cleaning and sanitizing facilities, screening regularly for symptoms of illness, and staying home from school when sick, among others. Our planning process includes a comprehensive set of strategies and investments to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus.
As a result, we will pursue negotiations with all impacted unions to open school with a hybrid learning plan, which would initially bring the students back into school buildings for in-person instruction in smaller, socially distanced groups on a rotating basis, combined with a robust remote learning program on the days students are not scheduled to be physically in school. This plan also enables us to bring a subset of students in greatest need of in-person instruction and support, particularly students with disabilities, back to school every day – but also in smaller, distanced settings with all other precautions in place. Our goal will be to safely return all students to school as soon as health considerations allow.
We recognize that the circumstances of every family and staff member are different, and that no plan ultimately will satisfy everyone in our community. But rest assured that we are working diligently to explore every option available to us, that we remain guided by the science to keep our students and staff safe and healthy, and that we will be prepared to make adjustments along the way if the public health conditions or other variables change over time.
As we move closer to a final plan, we welcome input and feedback from all of our stakeholders, a copy of the draft plan is attached to this email and will be posted on our website ( (https://www.haverhill-ps.org/). We invite you to share your questions, comments, and ideas to help inform and strengthen our plans. To learn more about the reopening plans, join us:
- School Committee tonight (Thursday July , 30) 7:00 – an overview of the HPS Draft 3 Model Return to School Plan will be shared and can be viewed at http://haverhillcommunitytv.org/category/government/school-committee the meeting will be recorded for future viewing as well.
- A special School Committee meeting for Public Comment on return Draft 3 Model Return to School Plan will be held on Thursday August 6, 2020 at 7:00 – the meeting can be viewed live at the above HC Media link and the HPS website (https://www.haverhill-ps.org/) will provide details to sign up for public comment.
- Another special School Committee meeting will be held on August 10 to vote on the draft plan – again stay tuned to our web-site for details.
- Additionally, a HPS Educational Update on the HPS 3 Draft Plan Model is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kk3thYE8biU&feature=youtu.be.
We will keep you informed about our progress in developing a final plan and in our negotiations with the unions. We will continue to post updates on our website and social media. I am confident that we can prioritize both safety and learning as we prepare for the start of a successful school year. Thank you for your patience and cooperation in these difficult times.
Margaret Marotta EdD Superintendent of Schools