WILMINGTON — Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand’s school reopening update at the School Committee meeting last week covered everything from remote learning to the hybrid transition timeline. Wilmington parents and guardians were informed earlier that day that the date for the transition to hybrid learning has been postponed by nine days.
Brand started by giving accolades to all of the staff, students, and families who have been involved in remote learning efforts. He reported that the Family Resource Guide is available as support for students and families. His next item was an invitation for parents and guardians to a virtual open house in October. He also mentioned a plan to hold parent-teacher conferences virtually.
In technology, he said that 780 chrome books have been distributed to Wilmington students. He welcomed anyone still in need of one to send an email to the technology department. He added that the technology webpage has information for technical support and tips on things like how to use Google classroom and how to submit assignments.
Brand next explained that transportation plans are technically on hold but still have to be ready for the transition to hybrid. He said bus passes would be ready this week according to a pick-up schedule to be released. The date he gave for bus routes to be posted was Oct. 8.
With CARES launching on the same day as the first day of school, Brand said they have more room for kindergarten and grades 2-5. He shared that CARES will continue to follow the district’s learning model.
Another part of the report covered the start of “fall 1” sports: field hockey, soccer, cross country, and golf. Brand specified that game spectator limitations allow only one spectator per student athlete.
The update also included that Food Services has free meals for students on Tuesdays and Thursdays from the high school for in-person learning and CARES, having provided over 220,000 meals so far. The health update highlighted upcoming flu clinics in town and current numbers of six students and three staff quarantined because of exposure outside of school.
In the three things keeping learning remote, Brand maintained that the merv-13 air filters the district ordered are expected to arrive by mid- to late-October. He also said he expects the results of the air quality and airflow assessments soon. This is different from an earlier third-party assessment that cleared all buildings for occupancy.
He reported negotiations with the Wilmington Teachers’ Association are still in progress and private until the contract is completed. Finally, he mentioned a remaining 15 staff vacancies and the possibility of more.
The schedule for the transition to hybrid learning that he detailed is as follows:
• Friday, Oct. 16 is a regular remote learning day for all cohorts (except high needs students). There won’t be school on Oct. 19 or 20 but these will count as work days for all teachers and staff. On the 21st, high needs students will return to their regular schools in person; kindergarten AM class will be in-person; and everyone else will have a remote learning day. This will also be the start of the cohort C remote program.
• Oct. 22 will be the first in-person day for all kindergarten students and cohort A grades 1, 4, 6, and 9-12. Then on Oct. 23, kindergarten will be in person along with cohort B grades 1, 4, 6, and 9-12. The first day that all grades will be hybrid for both cohorts is technically Oct. 26. The reason that grades 1, 4, and 6 are being prioritized within their cohorts, Brand said, is to help the students who’ll be going to new schools for the first time.
While the district had previously said that family changes to their preferred learning model would be offered in October, Brand announced that instead changes will be held off until December. He shared how the organizing of classrooms and cohorts and protocols has been challenging, and this new timeline would allow all students to try their official choice for at least a month before they decide to switch.
Brand’s final update was about a virtual community forum coming up on Oct. 7 at 6 p.m. This will be a session where parents can have their questions and concerns answered live. He also said the FAQs are constantly monitored with questions sent to the people who can best answer them.
At the end of the update, School Committee member Jo Newhouse asked about extracurricular offerings. Brand said that there will be limitations on gatherings, but these activities can certainly resume with whatever staff are willing to offer them.
Glancing at the written public comments, Chair Jenn Bryson asked about what considerations are being made with regards to concerns about student screen time. Assistant Superintendent Christine Elliott said the recommendation is for each structural block to start and end together, but students could disconnect in any downtime.
“Teachers are afraid that if students log off, they won’t get them back on,” she continued.
She recommended that parents reach out to their classroom teachers with any these concerns.
David Ragsdale clarified for everyone that the transition to hybrid is being delayed by nine more days.
“Families are trying to plan their lives around difficult circumstances,” he said. “Our absolute priority is to get kids into buildings as soon as we possibly can. I acknowledge that this is very disappointing.”
Finally, Bryson asked what parents should do if they feel their students’ support services needs aren’t being met and the answer given was to reach out to the service provider, the principal, or the officer of student support services.