Herculean task to ready schools by September planned by EPS

Everett High School. (Photo by Jim Mahoney)


The Everett School Department is right now creating a set of plans to comply with state requirements about the possible reopening of the public schools in September.

Whether or not the public schools will reopen in September remains as uncertain from day to day as the New England weather.

All public school districts in the Commonwealth must present their reopening plans in August, according to guidelines issued by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“Submitting a completed plan is not a guarantee that schools will be reopened,” said a longtime school department employee with knowledge of the process.

“A lot will depend on how the nation is doing with the virus as the time for reopening approaches,” he added.

That being said, July is a planning month for most school districts, and this includes Everett.

Reopening the public schools here is considered a Herculean task.

With more than 7,000 students, the social distancing and personal hygiene requirements imposed by the state are a near to impossible task to effectuate, and yet, Everett’s school administrators are attempting to do just that.

“Districts must be nimble,” said a source familiar with the ongoing effort to plan for reopening here.

“If you’re going back inside school buildings, there will be multiple responsibilities.”

The preference is to get the kids back into classrooms. Starting up instruction again is considered the keystone to the reopening, according to local and state officials.

Parents are clamoring for their children to get back to school so they can again achieve a semblance of normalcy to their work lives.

However, maintenance, structural changes inside the buildings, scheduling, altering school days, and class sizes while providing protections for teachers and students makes the process of achieving a smooth opening that much more difficult.

Teacher fears are paramount and will be a decisive factor in school reopening.

The state teacher’s union said Monday that 3 foot social distancing was insufficient for safety purposes inside the public schools. Numbers allowed in each classroom were deemed “too high.”

The teacher’s union said he 3 foot distancing between students as the state is suggesting is not a wide enough distance between students to protect the health and welfare of the students, let alone the teachers.

Teachers worry about students bringing the virus into the schools.

Parents worry about kids catching the virus from one another and possibly from teachers and bringing it home.

In the end, it has all the elements of a conundrum.

“Everyone wants a safe return to in person schooling – but that doesn’t mean we can go full speed ahead without providing a framework for the other required possibilities,” said an EPS source.

Reopening schools, the source insisted, will rely upon the virus numbers.

Right now, the numbers in Massachusetts are all where they should be.

However, the epidemic is spreading in our most populace states so rapidly that it seems unlikely Massachusetts, in the end, can sidestep the fallout from such a pervasive amount of sickness throughout the land.

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