Somerville Public Schools Instructional Models
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has requested that all school districts consider three models of learning for the upcoming 2020-21 school year – Full Remote, Hybrid (a combination of remote and in-person learning), and Full In-Person.
To inform our ability to plan, each SPS school building was assessed for the number of students that could fit into classrooms at 3 and 6-foot measurements - as determined by the number of desks while allowing for students and teachers to have safe passage, while also assuming removal of non-essential items. On average classrooms in SPS hold 25-30 students. With 6-foot distancing, classrooms can hold approximately 12-15 students. With 3-foot distancing, approximately 17-20. Somerville Public Schools has chosen to adopt a minimum 6-foot social distancing requirement at all times in our school buildings and campuses. This distance exceeds the 3-foot distance allowed by the State.
There is a wide variance in ages of SPS buildings, the oldest, Somerville High School was built in 1895. To assess the safety of our buildings, SPS partnered with the Somerville Department of Infrastructure and Asset Management and Fitzemeyer & Tocci Associates, an engineering firm specializing in ventilation in the healthcare industry. We are considering the percent of particles the current filtering system allows, level of humidity control, access to windows/outside air, and the number of touch points in an area. We have completed initial walkthroughs of each building and will make decisions on next steps based on the assessment report and risk analysis framework. Initial walkthroughs showed areas of concern, particularly in some of the older buildings and in additional spaces in some of our newer buildings. We expect to receive the final results along with a set of recommendations and timeline mid to late August.
We have also reviewed other municipal buildings to assess usage and found many in worse condition than the older school buildings we must retrofit for ventilation and air filtration. After consultation with our Mayor, School Committee, and Health Commissioner, in conjunction with the initial analysis, lack of general space, and the inability of our classrooms to safely fit our student population at full capacity with 3-foot social distancing requirements, we have determined that returning with a Full In-Person Learning Model for the fall semester is not a viable or safe option at this time. It remains to be seen once we receive the full report whether returning in Full In-Person while there is any social distancing requirement (3ft or 6ft) is a realistic option in SPS.
Due to this assessment, we will focus the majority of our energy on developing a strong Phased Hybrid Learning Model which contains remote and in-person components, and a distinct Full Remote Learning Model (LMS).
In a Hybrid Model, we have little doubt that there will be a need to move between all remote learning and a combination of remote and phased in-person learning during the school year as conditions change in our community. Developing both modes allows for as seamless a transition as possible between the two, as conditions shift. The ability to be adaptive will be key and our intent is to create systems that encourage flexibility while maintaining effectiveness. This will be a team effort, so we ask that all members of our learning community adopt a malleable and supportive stance.
The CDC released guidance to help families make decisions on choosing a best fit model of learning. Details of the Phased Hybrid Learning Model and the Full Remote Learning Model (LMS) are included in the following sections and serve to provide a means of comparison as families decide which model of learning best fits their needs.
While both learning models have remote components, it is important to understand the differences between the two models. Additionally, while students in the Phased Hybrid Learning Model begin the 2020-21 school year in an all remote learning mode, as health and safety conditions allow, students will be transitioned into a combination of remote and in-person learning. More information on the phases of the Phased Hybrid Learning Model can be found in the Phased Reopening section of this document.