City of Somerville to start school year remotely before transitioning to hybrid model

The district hopes for an eventual return to in-person classes

City of Somerville to start school year remotely before transitioning to hybrid model
City of Somerville to start school year remotely before transitioning to hybrid model and, eventually, in-person classes

SOMERVILLE, Mass. — Somerville officials have announced all schools in the district will start the 2020 Fall semester with fully remote learning.

In a statement posted to their Facebook page, the city has announced students will start off the school year by learning remotely and will work toward a hybrid model with an eventual return to in-person classes as the pandemic allows.

Given the rising number of cases and the concerning positive test rate trend, Somerville has decided to join other districts in opting for online learning and keeping students, parents and staff safe.

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In a statement, city officials acknowledged that in-person learning is the best option for children in school however, given the impending safety concerns and the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, remote learning is, right now, the most feasible option.

In the meantime, the city says they have brought in a team of engineers to assess the ventilation and filtration systems in the school buildings. They are also working to come up with a virus surveillance testing plan for students and staff.

“We do not believe that opening school for in-person instruction without these two important safety components of the school reopening plan in place and resolved is safe or in the best interest of our school community,” the statement said, in part.

The district is also actively exploring other options, such as outdoor solutions as a way for students, staff and families to meet in person.

We are also actively working with our partners who provide youth services in the hope that we can develop a menu of activities outdoors to help support the social emotional needs of students for the remote learning time,” the statement goes on to say.

Parents and students will receive updates, including the new academic calendar and opportunities for outdoor activities for students during remote learning.

Somerville will start this school year with fully remote learning. The school system will seek to move toward a hybrid model with an eventual return to full-time in-person education as that becomes practical during this pandemic. The following is the letter sent to all SPS families explaining this decision.
Mayor Joe Curtatone, Superintendent Mary Skipper, School Committee Chair Carrie Normand
Dear Somerville Public Schools Families,
Mayor Joe Curtatone, Superintendent Mary Skipper, School Committee Chair Carrie Normand
After much discussion and review of preliminary data from our building assessment, we made the decision this morning to begin the 2020-2021 school year with full remote learning in the initial phase of reopening model. Over the last several months, we have been working diligently to put all the pieces in place to support a safe return to in-person instruction in a phased hybrid model. That planning has included bringing in an engineering firm to assess the ventilation and filtration systems in our school buildings, and working to set up a virus surveillance testing plan for students and staff. As we have said from the beginning, the safety and health of our students, staff, and families is and will remain our top priority. We do not believe that opening school for in-person instruction without these two important safety components of the school reopening plan in place and resolved is safe or in the best interest of our school community.
Mayor Joe Curtatone, Superintendent Mary Skipper, School Committee Chair Carrie Normand
We appreciate all of the thoughts, feelings, and feedback our staff and families have provided over the past several weeks. One thing is clear: Everyone is in agreement that in-person instruction is the best thing for students and educators miss their students and students miss their teachers, paras and counselors. We are doing everything we can to be ready for an eventual return to phased in-person instruction under the new safety guidelines. At day’s end, we need to ensure that we have done everything possible to mitigate the risks of a return to our schools – so that our staff, students, and families feel safe and are safe. As a community, our approach in Somerville has been guided by a firm commitment to health and safety first, recognizing that we are dealing with a very complex and continuously evolving health crisis.
Mayor Joe Curtatone, Superintendent Mary Skipper, School Committee Chair Carrie Normand
We are actively exploring options including outdoor solutions as a way that staff, students, and families can meet in person. We are also actively working with our partners who provide youth services in the hope that we can develop a menu of activities outdoors to help support the social emotional needs of students for the remote learning time. In the coming weeks, we will continue to address the ventilation and filtration issues to allow for a safe return to our school buildings, and work with our health partners to create a testing system that will further ensure the safety of our students and staff. We will also continue to work with our unions collaboratively around how to have a successful reopening with a more robust remote learning experience for all and identify the timeline and conditions for an in-person return, especially for our ELL, Special Education, and Prek-2 students who struggle the most in a remote model.
Mayor Joe Curtatone, Superintendent Mary Skipper, School Committee Chair Carrie Normand
Over the next few weeks, as we continue to develop, negotiate, and finalize our remote learning and hybrid plans, we will send regular updates including the new academic calendar and opportunities for outdoor activities for our students during remote learning. We appreciate your partnership and continued patience and understanding as we do our best to work through this unprecedented challenge.
Mayor Joe Curtatone, Superintendent Mary Skipper, School Committee Chair Carrie Normand



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