School configurations come in hundreds of different ways this year, and Chelsea Public Schools (CPS) will be no different – proposing a preferred re-opening plan to the School Committee on July 30 that includes a five-day hybrid model with the option of also going fully online.
Supt. Almi Abeyta has said there will be choices for parents to make, and ahead of Monday’s submission to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), she laid out three required plans to the School Committee and explained a preferred option.
“This document serves as a preliminary plan for a safe return to in-person learning via a hybrid model or continued remote learning for all students in the Chelsea Public Schools,” she wrote. “As we created this plan, please know that safety is of the utmost importance for us in the Chelsea Public Schools; we are committed to ensuring our students and staff return safely to school in the fall of 2020. We are excited to welcome our students back to school and recognize that significant adjustments to our existing practices and protocols will need to be made to keep students and families safe and to ensure a positive learning experience for all.”
The preferred option will give parents a tough choice to make, whether to keep kids at home learning remotely when school starts in September, or to engage in the hybrid in-person model that alternates on a five-day schedule between home and school.
Abeyta said the results of a parent and student survey showed a majority preferring some type of in-person learning, while nearly 30 percent favored fully remote learning. Likewise, nearly 80 percent of the district’s teachers were surveyed and they had a different preference, with 50 percent preferring to be fully remote in September.
That has led to a compromise suggested by the administration, one that has been shopped around the City to parent groups over the past week. It will be required to be voted on Aug. 11 at the School Committee meeting.
The hybrid plan is different for elementary and middle/high school.
Students in elementary will have classes of 15 with one teacher and will be assigned to Group A or B. Group A will go to school in person Monday through Friday on the first week from morning to early afternoon. At the same time Group B will do remote learning from the morning to early afternoon for Live Zoom classes and asynchronous lessons monitored by a teacher.
The following week, the two would switch and Group A would go remote, while Group B would go into school. Students in school would spend 75 percent or more of their time in separate class settings.
It would be a similar structure for middle and high school, but students would receive live instruction every day in a class with no more than 15 students. Students would be assigned to pods so they stay with the same students as much as possible.
The Group A and Group B situation would work the same, as they alternate weeks in school and remotely.
The fully remote option would also be available and is being termed the Online Learning Academy (OLA) – which would be a much-improved version of the online learning that took place during emergency remote learning last spring.
“The Chelsea Online Learning Academy is designed specifically to respond to the needs of those students and families who do not feel comfortable returning to school and would rather engage in 100 percent remote teaching and learning experiences,” read the description. “The OLA Program will follow the same schedule, core curriculum and accountability measures as the remote portions of the Hybrid Learning Model. It will have a structured schedule for time on learning. and will be composed of synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities along with independent work time.”
That will be one of the keys is getting the remote option, and the remote hybrid weeks in sync with the in-person instruction going on.
Abeyta posed the question at the meeting as to why the schools in the hardest hit spot in Massachusetts thought it could successfully bring students back in person. She gave six points as to why it is possible.
•All of our buildings are relatively new with good ventilation
•Incredibly proactive facilities and operations team
•Tailored instruction plans for each campus
•Strong internal coherence amongst the leadership
•Our plan is differentiated so that it meets the needs of preschool and high school students because of the input we have had from multiple stakeholders during the process
•We are Chelsea Strong!