Schools' Superintendent Dr. Matthew Crowley

Schools' Superintendent Dr. Matthew Crowley

WOBURN - Schools' Superintendent Dr. Matthew Crowley recently posted as promised a full version of the district's reopening plan for next September, when pupils will return to the school classrooms on a part-time basis.

The "living" Internet-based document, which is still continually being updated by administrators as they approach the proposed Sept. 1 start of work for teachers and staff members, would be at least 30-pages long if converted to a paper format.

Those looking to access the document can do so by visiting the district's website at www.woburnpublicschools.com and clicking on the link to the "district coronavirus information page" under the news and announcements section of the homepage. After the coronavirus information page loads, a link entitled "WPS Fall Re-Opening Plan" should be included under the "updates" section.

"This [b]lueprint, as it was planned with the whole community and adopted by the Woburn School Committee, served as our compass in the process to safely return our students to school. I consider our school community fortunate to be forward-thinking, and have the direction and support vital to our success in the era of COVID-19," said Crowley in an opening message to parents that is attached to the reopening plan.

"I am confident in our process, and know that together we will forge ahead in our commitment to providing safe and meaningful learning experiences for our students," he added.

Presently not included in the latest version of Woburn's reopening plan are school-specific operational plans and COVID-19 protocols. For example, though the full reopening plan explains that students will all eat lunches and take "mask breaks" in areas where they can safely stay spaced at least six-feet apart, the exact locations of those meal and break areas will be detailed in individual school plans.

Each school, depending upon the layout of the facility, will likely also include site-specific details about drop-off and pick-up routines, HVAC system capabilities, and details about new medical isolation rooms — where those who experience COVID-19 symptoms would be brought to await an early dismissal.

According to the superintendent, building specific COVID-19 reopening plans will be released by this Friday.

Though individual school plans and other aspects of the reopening are still being formulated, citizens can obtain the following information by viewing the latest version of Woburn's reopening plan:

• Copies of sample schedules for both in-person and hybrid models by grade level;

• Explainers of how the typical school day will differ for students engaged in hybrid and virtual sessions;

• Information on software programs being used by the district to facilitate remote learning and explanations of how curriculum maps are being adjusted to emphasize priority learning standards;

• A detailed breakdown of the 10-days of professional development that will be offered to teachers and staff members between Sept. 1 and Sept. 15;

• Full summaries of how special education and English Language Learners (ELL) programs will function for the 2020-2021 school year;

• Details about school transportation changes;

• And links to the district's mandatory COVID-19 prevention protocols, including descriptions of mask and PPE requirements, staff and student screening and testing requirements, sanitation and building \ system assessments, and outlines of circumstances that could trigger shifts between hybrid and full-remote models.

With Woburn's various school facilities set to reopen on Sept. 16, the School Committee last week adopted Crowley's recommendation that the district implement a hybrid model in which students return to the classroom two days per week. On the remaining three days, pupils will be partaking in remote or virtual learning programs.

Local officials have promised the district's at-home learning model with be far more rigorous than the remote sessions featured after the COVID-19 crisis emerged and resulted in school closures in March.

"The plan that follows this letter is reflective of our commitment to maximize opportunities for in-person learning for all students, while focusing on the health and well-being of all. At the cornerstone of this plan, you will find the flexibility and adaptability that are necessary in a situation that continues to evolve and change," explains Crowley in his introductory message attached to the reopening plan. "This plan is reflective of the current situation as it relates to COVID-19, and while we have tried to cover every possible aspect, we recognize that changes in our world are likely to bring even more adjustments to this work," he adds.

Under the hybrid plan, the entire student body will be divided into two cohorts. Cohort A will attend classes on Monday and Tuesday, while Cohort B takes advantage of remote learning offerings.

On Wednesdays, all pupils will partake in remote learning as custodial staff disinfect each facility. Then on Thursday and Friday, Cohort B will head to their school classrooms while Cohort A shifts to at-home sessions.

Parents should have been notified about their child's cohort assignments yesterday.

There are two major exceptions to that general reopening outline. Specifically, school officials are creating a third cohort group consisting of high needs pupils — special education (SPED), ELL, and other at-risk populations — who will return to in-person classroom settings four days a week. Cohort C will be in their respective school buildings every day except for Wednesdays, when remote learning will take place.

The second exception involves those parents who chose to "opt-out" of the hybrid plan and instead enroll their children into a full remote learning program.

The district, which has labeled that student population as members of the district's "virtual academy", is still trying to determine the size of the remote-by-choice subgroup and identify ways to configure their virtual learning experience to include regular contact with classroom teachers.

During the last School Committee meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Dr. Michael Baldassarre explained that under one remote by-choice scenario being explored, Woburn may partner with the state to enroll pupils into one of two out-of-district virtual academies.

Depending upon the numbers of local students involved and the availability of local teachers, the city might also establish its own in-house virtual program.

The larger reopening plan released by the district last week does not include any mention of deadlines parents face in having to "opt-out" of the hybrid plan.

"As a district, we are examining our data to determine the number of students who opt for full remote, as well as the number of staff members who will need to teach remotely to help determine cohorts and possible daily schedules," the reopening plan explains.

"Furthermore, the district is currently looking to Learning Platforms recommended from DESE as part of our planning process. Updates about the Virtual Academy will be provided in the coming weeks," school officials continue.

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