Reopening Letter

To PVRSD Students, Families, Staff and Community Members,

I am writing to inform you where we are in the planning process for reopening schools in the Pioneer Valley Regional School District for the 2020-2021 school year.

The Pioneer Valley Regional School District administrative team will be presenting our reopening information to the full School Committee on Tuesday, August 4th, 2020. The district has worked diligently to gather as much information and feedback as possible in order to develop plans and protocols that will keep students and staff safe, while creating a nurturing and productive learning environment.

On June 25th, 2020 Governor Baker’s office and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released their initial guidance about reopening schools this fall. After weeks of discussion with the State’s Return to School Working Group that I am a member of, which includes: infectious disease physicians, pediatricians and other public health experts from the Massachusetts General Brigham Health System, the Massachusetts COVID-19 Command Center’s Medical Advisory Board, and the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and given low transmission rates of COVID-19 in the state, there is a clear consensus that in-person learning is the preferred model. While remote learning has improved over the course of the school closures, there is no substitute for in-person instruction when it comes to the quality of students’ academic learning. In-person school plays an equally important role in supporting students’ social-emotional needs, including their mental and physical health, and mitigating the impacts of trauma.

The safety and well-being of students, families, educators, and staff has been and will continue to be our top priority. DESE has asked each district to prepare three learning models for the 2020-2021 school year. The administrative team has been meeting regularly, and has established two reopening planning committees (PVRS and Elementary Schools) to review the guidance and develop three different reopening plans; one for return to full in-person instruction with safety requirements, one for hybrid learning that combines in-person and remote learning, and one for full remote learning.

Each committee’s make up of 15-18 individuals includes teachers, administrators, medical professionals, support staff and PVREA and PVASP presidents. The committees’ goal is to develop the three possible plans for the return to PVRSD school facilities for students and staff members. Over 400 families took our reopening survey, sharing their preferences and comments on learning models, personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing, bus transportation and more.

The first scenario, in-person learning, assumes that current positive public health metrics hold and that as a community, we commit to following critical health requirements. The second scenario, hybrid learning, assumes the district cannot meet health and safety requirements with all students in school simultaneously. In the hybrid model, cohorts of students alternate between in-person and remote learning. The third scenario, remote learning, assumes COVID-19 requires widespread school closures and all instruction must be offered remotely. DESE has stated that parents/caregivers can choose to send their children to in-person school or keep them at home learning remotely. Remote learning is also an option for students whose parents are concerned about their child returning to in-person school full time, such as for students who may have underlying medical vulnerabilities. We are preparing three models and will implement the plan that aligns with the most current public health data for our region/community. We are prepared to be flexible and act in accordance with the data.

After taking all the medical data and the State’s Return to School Working Group input into account, our district is putting a plan in place that provides learning options to fit all students’ and families’ needs, while keeping the health and safety of all individuals at the forefront of our decision making. The Pioneer Valley Regional School District is planning to return to in-person learning this fall, however families can choose the remote learning option for their child(ren), which will be, in effect, a type of hybrid model.

Our goal is to provide parents a choice for the best option to meet their child’s educational needs. We will be offering two distinct options for learning this year:

Option A – In-Person Learning in the school building, 5-days a week with modifications (ex: such as a half day on Fridays for planning)

Option B – Remote Learning at home, a combination of streamed online classes and assignments

*Students may transition between options A and B during the school year. Returning to in-person learning would require a 5 school day transition period so that schools can plan and make the necessary adjustments.

We know our families are anxious to make the best decision possible for their student(s), and our staff is equally eager to prepare for the upcoming school year. We will be sending our detailed Reopening Plan along with the Returning to School Selection Form to all families on Wednesday, August 5th. We ask you to carefully review the information and make your selection no later than midnight on Friday, August 14th, 2020. Your prompt attention will give the district time to schedule students and staff accordingly. Please email your building Principals with any questions you may have.

We know school will look different in the fall, but the District is confident that we can meet health and safety requirements with all students in school simultaneously. We appreciate your partnership and cooperation as we work to make the 2020-2021 school year successful for all!

Sincerely,

Jonathan Scagel

Superintendent Pioneer Valley Regional School District