Greenfield School Committee OKs Jan. 4 date for Phase 3 of reopening plan

  • HARPER

Staff Writer
Published: 11/25/2020 4:24:00 PM

GREENFIELD — The School Committee has voted to aim for Jan. 4 as the date to start Phase 3 of its remote-plus learning plan, which would allow lower-risk special education students and English language learners back into classrooms for in-person instruction.

Phase 2 begins Wednesday, Dec. 2, with the highest-needs students returning to in-person learning.

Superintendent Jordana Harper said conditions have been negotiated with all school unions, and that teachers and staff are ready to welcome students back.

“We’d like to thank the community for its patience,” Harper said. “We reached an agreement with the (teachers) union on Thursday (Nov. 19) and sent out communications to parents on Friday (Nov. 20).”

Harper said 50 students with the highest needs will return next week.

“We’ll be moving full steam ahead into Phase 2,” she said. “We’ve been working with teachers, administrators, everyone. There will be a limited number of students in every building.”

She said there will be many fewer occupants in each of the schools to provide the safest and healthiest environments. The Greenfield School Department’s physician, school nurses and the city’s Board of Health have also been involved in planning.

Harper said most of the school district’s vans are in use, taking students who live in Greenfield to schools outside of the district, so it will be working with F.M. Kuzmeskus Inc. to transport Phase 2 students to Greenfield schools.

“The students who will return are eligible for busing; they just might not see the bus they’re used to arriving at their stop, but there will be a bus there,” Harper said.

School Committee Vice Chair Susan Eckstrom said Phase 2 has been a long time coming — Harper originally envisioned Phase 1 starting the first day of school in September and Phase 2 starting two weeks later — but it has taken a lot of negotiating with all unions involved to get to this point.

“There have been all kinds of meetings,” Eckstrom said. “It has taken a lot of hard work, lots of time, energy and thoughtfulness.”

Member Jean Wall, who is one of the negotiators for the School Committee, agreed that many details had to be worked out to “make it all work.”

While the number of local COVID-19 cases was low throughout the late spring and summer, Harper said schools will have to keep a close eye on them because numbers across the state and country are rising. She and others said the Jan. 4 start of Phase 3 will be dependent on what the numbers look like in late December and early January.

Harper said Phase 3 will include everything in Phase 2 while incorporating a program for students in preschool through fourth grade, allowing small groups to learn in person for specific reasons on a limited number of days per week. There will also be supervised in-person learning for students who are homeless or don’t have supervised learning at home.

“It will also let students who need to socialize, for instance, get some socialization,” she said.

Even when the school district moves toward Phase 4 next year, it will still be mostly remote with certain in-person aspects — the remote-plus plan approved by the School Committee this summer did not include a fully in-person plan, so the committee would need to discuss the issue and approve a new plan.

School Committee members said as the district moves through the phases, it will take more pressure off working families and their students.

Member Susan Hollins, a former Greenfield schools superintendent, said she remains concerned about the youngest students in the district, including how they are learning to read, especially if they don’t have enough support at home. She hopes they will be a priority in the next round of negotiations.

The vote the School Committee took during its biweekly meeting Tuesday night was unanimous — Katie Caron, Glenn Johnson, Eckstrom, Hollins, Wall and Mayor Roxann Wedegartner — though Chair Amy Proietti was not there for it. She arrived after the vote was taken.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.



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