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A very different school year in store

Multiple options being drawn up for fall reopening guidelines

Everett High School is bathed in late evening sun on June 5, 2020. (Photo By Jim Mahoney)


On Thursday, the State of Massachusetts will be setting out a handful of possible solutions and options to aid and guide school systems in effecting a successful reopening of public schools in September.

It is expected the Baker Administration will be suggesting at least several reopening programs that will allow for virtual teaching for students done at home as well as in class teaching with strict social distancing and hygiene policies to stop the spread of the Coronavirus among students, teachers, and parents.

Everett Superintendent Priya Tahiliani will be carefully scrutinizing the state’s new guidelines.

She is likely to act affirmatively within the suggested framework to get education going in Everett again.

This we know right now.

Schools can and will likely reopen with safeguards in place, according to the state’s COVID-19 Command Center’s Advisory Board.

The state’s figures of infection have been falling as well as hospitalizations and deaths. They are within the CDC’s guidelines.

As many students as possible will be safely brought back to in-person school settings.

This will include measuring the risks associated with COVID-19 for in-person programs, but also the known challenges and consequences of keeping students out of school. The state is mindful that there is no substitute for in-person instruction.

The state is designing a social compact for reopening.

This provides for students and staff to stay at home if they are feeling sick or have any symptoms connected with COVID-19. School systems need enhanced protocols to monitor this.

All students and staff must wear face coverings or masks. In cases where face coverings are impossible for some students, social distancing of 6 feet is required. Parents must supply the facemasks or coverings. Schools must have back-ups.

Frequent hand washing and hand sanitizing will require students and staff to wash their hands upon arrival, before and after meals, after bathroom use, after coughing or sneezing, and before dismissal.

All students must maintain 6 feet of separation at all times. Desks must be spaced at 6 feet apart. This distancing is a requirement when the students are going from class to class as well as entering and exiting their schools.

Smaller, isolated groups of students will be assigned to one teacher. Smaller classes will be required. Size will be restricted to a maximum of 10 students with 2 staff members allowed.

How exactly the EPS will put into working order such a directive is considered a monumental task, given the large school population and shortage of classroom space.

Cleaning and maintenance of the schools will take on a new and larger importance for the janitorial team to ensure that facilities and services are regularly cleaned, sanitized, and disinfected in accordance with health and safety guidelines.

There has been some talk of privatizing the cleaning and sanitations effort as the janitors by themselves cannot possibly do all that is expected in the new normal.

Massachusetts residents are torn about whether it is safe for their children to go back to school.

In the meantime, Massachusetts is moving ahead to re-open the schools, a move largely dependent on the virus remaining under control.

With the virus raging throughout the nation, it is likely the spread of it will continue everywhere. In addition, a second wave or peak of the virus in the fall could upend the school year, again.

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