Mohawk Trail School Committee, parents review hybrid plan 

  • Mohawk Trail Regional School in Buckland. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/22/2020 3:04:31 PM

BUCKLAND — As the Mohawk Trail Regional School District moves toward Phase II of its “Return to Learn” plan, which involves a plan for hybrid learning, not all School Committee members and parents are in complete support of the district’s proposed plan.

In the proposed hybrid model — which has all elementary students remote in the morning on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday — students would be divided into A and B cohorts. Cohort A would receive two hours of in-person instruction in the afternoon on Monday and Tuesday, and Cohort B would receive two hours of in-person instruction in the afternoon on Thursday and Friday.

Mohawk Trail Regional School students, who would also be split into cohorts, would be all-remote in the afternoon and in-person from 7:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

Wednesdays would be remote for all students to allow for cleaning between cohorts.

School Committee members had a chance to review and offer feedback on the plan at a meeting Nov. 12. Parents met with administrators during a Town Hall last Monday for their chance to ask questions.

“The DLT (District Leadership Team) has done a fabulous job rolling out the remote program,” School Committee member Toby Bassett said last week, acknowledging the challenge of mediating internet connectivity issues. “When it comes to this plan, though, it doesn’t have my support and it doesn’t have the support of many Colrain families, specifically K through 6.”

Bassett had concerns about the schedule, which only allows for two hours in the afternoon of learning time.

“By the time they get in there and settled down, and then pack up to leave, what are we gaining?” he said.

Other members of the School Committee questioned why elementary students were remote in the morning and older students — who would likely need to be back at school in the afternoon for sports — were scheduled for remote in the afternoon.

“One of the things we did focus on at the DLT for the elementary students was keeping the instructional time for remote in the morning, to keep the direct instruction part of the day consistent,” explained Superintendent Sheryl Stanton, “with the idea that if we are in and out of educational models, at the very least that was a consistent part of the students’ day.”

Transportation was also a factor in not scheduling both groups for in-person at the same time, she added.

Another concern was the challenge the proposed schedule might pose on working parents.

“I know 1 to 3 and 7:45 to 10:45 would not have worked with my work day,” said School Committee member Barbara Rode. “I know choosing all remote for four kids in my house would not work, either.”

During the Town Hall Meeting last Monday, parents also asked about the two hours of in-person class time, as well as whether families with inadequate internet access would be prioritized for in-person learning, and if there would be any budget impacts.

“For this model — with the exception of if we have staff that have to take any type of leave of absence — … this is relatively cost-neutral,” Stanton said. “There’s no additional transportation costs, there are no additional staffing costs.”

She noted, however, the district has had to invest in technology. Grants, meanwhile, have helped to offset costs of necessary Personal Protective Equipment.

Another attendee asked if the School Committee will wait to vote on a plan until the union ratifies one.

“We’re moving through the process really simultaneously,” said Stanton. “Like we did with remote, we were negotiating and working with the community and the School Committee simultaneously. Our work with the union is really supportive.”

Andrea Griswold, a teacher at the Town Hall Meeting, said teachers miss working in-person with their students and know that remote learning isn’t a replacement for in-person education.

“We also know that parents rely on schools not just for education but for child care, and we feel that pressure and responsibility,” Griswold said. “We also want returning to some in-person learning to be safe for students and their families, and staff and their families.”

She said with the pandemic, “none of the plans are good.”

“I think all of us feel that, and many teachers feel strongly, that we should stay fully remote,” she said. “However, the Teachers’ Associations leadership feels this hybrid plan that the administration has presented is the best of all the ‘not good’ plans. It does allow for some in-person time, which is crucial for students who are struggling with all-remote learning, and it also removes some of the most dangerous aspects of fully in-person learning.”

It also keeps the morning schedule stable for students, particularly if there is a need to pivot back to remote learning, she said.

“We do fear it will increase our workload … and this will be challenging,” Griswold said.

Stanton said the DLT plans to meet again to review the feedback, and the next part of the process would be to have families “register” for which model they would be choosing — hybrid or remote.

A meeting of the School Committee to vote on the plan has not yet been scheduled. If approved, the proposed timeline includes a “phased entry” beginning on Jan. 4.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne




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