One district prepares to welcome 1,000+ students, two others back off hybrid plans

One district prepares to welcome 1,000+ students, two others back off hybrid plans

BROCKTON, Mass. — On the same day the state announced expanded testing to help get students back into classrooms who have been learning from home, Boston 25 News spoke with two school districts about the complicated effort to resume classroom instruction.

Brockton’s school committee chose earlier this week to hold off on bringing back high-needs students who were set to return mid-month, until February, and the rest of its massive student population, deeper into the month.

“I just think a two-week delay would best serve us at this time,” Superintendent Michael Thomas stated during a school committee meeting held Tuesday.

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Thomas described problems Brockton has had with school employees testing positive since November 27, a total of 220 people either positive or forced to quarantine between that date and the current week.

The district sought input from parents as well, according to Vice-Chair of the School Committee, Mark D’Agostino.

“We’re trying to balance the needs of our students and the safety of our students, staff, and all of our families at the same time,” D’Agostino explained.

But with hospitalizations rising, currently, 82 hospitalized and 16 in the intensive care unit at both local hospitals, the district is pausing its plans for hybrid learning.

Worcester’s School Committee also deciding this week that January 25 will not be the date of return for students, due to a spike in cases of COVID-19 in central Massachusetts.

“We’re not taking any of this lightly,” said Mayor Joseph Petty during a School Committee meeting session Thursday night.

“Our objective is to bring the students back and we’re going to bring them back safely, Petty added.

Since August, over 1,500 people 18 and under have contracted COVID-19 according to the district despite remote learning.

In Salem, several grades and high-needs students have been learning through the district’s hybrid model and about 1,500 more will join them on Monday, grades 3-8.

“It’s critically important,” said Kate Carbone, Assistant Superintendent of Salem Schools.

“Our students in grades three to eight have been out of school since March.”

Salem’s ramped up COVID-19 testing program is the driving force behind much of the optimism that its approach can work. There have, however, been positive cases in schools, here among students and staff.

“We’ve had instanced of staff and students and we have had to exercise quarantine...we haven’t had to close any schools or classrooms,” Carbone said.

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