Thursday, February 18, 2021

Safety concerns delay back-to-school plans

The new guidelines for the return to face-to-face learning in classrooms issued by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) last week won't move the anticipated return date in Plymouth-Canton schools.

Administrators said last week that more planning time is necessary to ensure the safety of students and teachers. Superintendent of Schools Monica Merritt told parents and members of the board of education during a meeting last week that stringent social-distancing protocols along with other safety measures will be implemented when students return to classrooms.

The necessary planning for those safety measures and procedures will take more time than originally scheduled and slow the Safe Start learning timeline the district had initially proposed. 

Hal Heard, director of high school education for the district, said the return to classroom learning is especially difficult at the three high school campus as educators attempt to maintain the maintaining of social distancing for 5,000 10th, 11th and 12th grade students scheduled to return to full in-person or hybrid learning on March 1. Most of these students, he explained, attend classes in all three buildings, Plymouth Canton and Salem high schools, which exacerbates the problems in keeping them safe and distances while transitioning between classes. Ninth grade students returned to the campus for a hybrid version of in-person learning earlier this month.

“The Plymouth Canton Educational Park is like a community college,” he explained and noted that the problems in having students return to the three-building complex are unique. 

The new plan proposed last week will delay the start of five-day, in-person classes for kindergarten through fifth grade students to March 1, rather than the Feb. 17 date administrators had previously slated. The students are now attending in-person classed for four half-days weekly. Middle school students will also return to full, four-day in person classes on March 1 rather than today, as originally planned. 

April 5 has been proposed as the date for returning ninth through 12th grade students to half-day in-person classes.  

Merritt cautioned parents and students that these are target dates and that safety protocols would be the determining factor in the return to school buildings. 

“When we use the term target dates, we're making sure we're first looking at safety and achieving all of the parameters we set out to achieve as a district to make sure we can bring students back safely,” Merritt said. “Our goal is to achieve 3- feet distancing as a minimum for instruction and 6-feet in the lunchrooms.”