Mask Mandates, Updated Schedules, and Remote Learning Information

A Look into the Updated Plan for School Reopenings in Reading 

Reading, MA – On August 14, Superintendent Doherty released an updated plan for Reading Public School reopenings in the fall. The newest version of the reopening plan features updates related to the following topics: elementary and middle school schedules, which model of learning should be used for English Learners, the rollout of kindergarten, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education metrics for determining when changes in learning models should occur, updated information for families interested in choosing the remote learning option, as well as updated information on the types of masks students and staff will be required to wear.

In this updated plan, elementary school students will now be dismissed from school between 2:40 pm and 3:10 pm. In addition to this new dismissal schedule, scheduled mask breaks have now been included within students’ in-person learning schedules.

Photo of sample schedule for elementary school students in Cohort A. Photo courtesy of Fall School Reopening Plans: Version 2.0.

For middle school students, this version of the school reopening plan features a more in-depth breakdown of what remote learning on Fridays may look like, as well as the addition of another class period during students’ week of in-person learning.

Sample middle school schedule for remote learning on Fridays. Photo courtesy of Fall School Reopening Plans: Version 2.0.

For students identified as English Learners (students who are learning English as a second language), this version of the reopening plan goes into greater detail regarding which students will participate in the hybrid model of learning and which will be attending school in-person full time. 

The newest change for all incoming kindergarten students is that they will now be participating in in-person schooling full-time, as opposed to being part of the hybrid program.

In order to determine if any changes need to be made regarding the town’s current learning model, Doherty states that the Reading Public Schools will be using the color-coded metric recently released by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). This metric, seen below, tracks active COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts towns and assigns them a color grading. Based on this color grading, DESE offers suggestions on which model of learning may best serve the community. For example, communities that have been given a Red grading (and therefore have a high level of community spread) should be pursuing a remote model of learning. As of August 20, Reading has been given a White grading.

Photo of the color-coded metrics of how COVID-19 cases should relate to school learning models. Photo courtesy of Fall School Reopening Plans: Version 2.0.

In addition to checking the weekly metrics released in the Department of Public Health Weekly COVID-10 Public Health Report, Doherty states that RPS will be working with the Reading Board of Health to review individual school data, the positive testing rate in the town, as well as if cases in Reading appear to be increasing or decreasing in order to see if the town should pursue a different model of learning.

For students and families interested in pursuing the fully remote option of learning this fall, this new version of RPS’ fall reopening plan states the following:

  • Remote classes will be a single grade only unless it is a class that usually has more than one grade in it (i.e. high school classes)
  • Depending on staffing availability, the remote option will be delivered one of three ways:
    • Districtwide: If there are enough students in a grade district-wide that have chosen remote, there will be a district-wide class taught by a Reading Public School teacher
    • School-based: If there are not enough students districtwide for a remote class, the students will be part of a cohort A and cohort B remote class in their home school. This means they will have two teachers for a class, instead of one.
    •  Learning Platform (High School Only): If we are unable to secure staff to teach a specific class at the high school, we will use the Edgenuity Learning Platform that the state is offering at a cost to districts.
  •  Remote classes will follow the same curriculum and instructional methods as the remote hybrid weeks.
  • At the elementary and middle school level, remote students will have art, music, and PE, but it may be asynchronous lessons.
  •  If students choose remote, it will be for one marking period and then they can decide to shift back to hybrid or stay remote. If they shift back to hybrid, they will return to their home school.
  • Students who choose hybrid and are out sick will not be able to access the lesson remotely that day. The teacher will post a recording of the lesson the next day for students to view.
  • If a family chooses remote, but then the district or state decides that RPS must go full remote, the students would switch back to their virtual classes from their regular school.

The final change made by the newest version of RPS’ school reopening plan is in the type of masks that students and faculty will be allowed to wear in school facilities. Or, rather, in the type of masks, they will not be allowed to wear. Citing a research study from Duke University about the effectiveness of certain masks in preventing respiratory droplets from being transmitted from one person to another, Doherty has moved to ask students and staff not wear neck fleeces, neck gaiters, bandanas, knitted masks, and masks with vents due to the fact that they are less effective than other cloth face coverings and medical masks.

School begins for all students within the Reading Public Schools system on September 15th. In an August 20th blog post, Superintendent Doherty announced that the start date for in-person learning will be pushed back for the majority of grades due to unforeseen logistical and staffing issues. 

“Unfortunately, due to the impact of COVID-19 on all areas we have experienced several logistical and staffing challenges that have delayed the implementation of the plan.  Our challenges include filling staffing vacancies due to an increased volume of leaves of absences and accommodations for our staff who are unable to work in person, delayed delivery of technology devices, the challenge of scheduling and retrofitting classrooms with the appropriate amount of furniture and technology infrastructure and effectively implementing our learning platforms” said Doherty.

The only students who will be commencing in-person learning on September 15th will be those in kindergarten, RISE preschool, and students who have high needs. Doherty said that a revised phase-in plan for in-person learning will be discussed at the August 27th School Committee meeting. 

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