School districts face first of two big deadlines

School districts face first of two big deadlines

BILLERICA, Mass. — For weeks, school districts have been pouring through a handful of state guidance packets designed to provide an outline for the fall semester; now comes the first significant deadline.

On Friday, districts will have to submit their preliminary plans for three scenarios for in-person, remote, and hybrid learning for the start of the school year.

“The first deadline on July 31 is a broad brush, August 10 is the deadline that I’m a little more worried about,” said Tim Piwowar, the superintendent at Billerica Public Schools, which has an enrollment of just under 5,000 students.

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The district has used state guidelines to prepare its proposals, re-formed classrooms for physical distancing of six feet, four feet, and three feet, which is the minimum allowed according to the state.

Thursday night, at a school committee meeting, Piwowar will present plans for the fall. The committee’s input and any last-minute announcements or public health data updates will factor into what’s submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education [DESE].

“We really want to make sure we flesh out some details before we announce things publicly because if we’re putting out information people will internalize that as this is a complete and firm direction, but we want to make sure we are not putting out information that people solidify, make plans upon and, ultimately, we have to change because of external conditions,” Piwowar said.

Friday is a chance for districts to show the state which model of a return to school they prefer and send them to DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley.

The district sent a survey to parents in June to gauge how comfortable they would be sending children back in-person.

According to the district, nearly 40% said they were ready to send children back, 30% were nervous but would wanted them to go back by September, 20% were hesitant and 4% were not comfortable.

Piwowar said a new survey will go out next week.

August 10 is the deadline when districts have to finalize Comprehensive Plan Documents and send them to DESE, as well as share them with the public, according to DESE.

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