The Chelsea Public Schools (CPS) has made a quick change of plans in the last week, going from a conservative plan to stay all-remote, to now moving towards a full, in-person school schedule five days a week – and hopefully getting this done by April 5.
Supt. Almi Abeyta said considering the lower case numbers and metrics for COVID-19 in Chelsea, and the state’s guidance to return elementary school students by early April, and middle school by late April, they have reversed course and are pursuing a full return to school. That said, any family that wants to opt-out and remain remote the rest of the year still can do so without penalty. That said, there seems to be a growing number of families surveyed that want their kids to get back into school full time, said Abeyta.
“We have decided we’re going to skip hybrid altogether and go to full in-person,” she said. “We are at 60 percent of K-4 families that want their kids back and 40 percent that want to stay home. We can bring them back in at a 3-foot distance. The question that’s still out there is can we do it by April 5?”
There were 1,200 responses from families in grades K-4, which would be the first group to return to school under the plan, and of those, 58 percent wanted to have their kids go back to school five days a week. That was a dramatic shift from a survey taken in January, which showed most parents being more comfortable with remote schooling and happy with the remote curriculum. It seems that momentum alongside lower COVID rates have reversed attitudes about school.
“Some chose remote and they say now they want in-person,” she said. “We need to identify who want to change and then make the shift. We can do it but it’s a matter of making sure all the pieces fall into place and quickly. It’s been expedited.”
She said they are currently in negotiations with the Chelsea Teachers Association on the specifics of coming back. However, she said, one of the sticking points has been teacher vaccinations. Already, one teacher vaccine clinic sponsored by the City and East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) has taken place last Saturday. Another is scheduled for March 20, and a third is in the works.
That is being combined with vigorous testing using the binx test system.
Last week, they had 25 volunteers submit to testing under the auspices of a new health team that is coordinating the effort. The tests were taken, analyzed, and all 25 came out negative.
The overall effort is being coordinated by Adam Deleidi and Denise Ferrari DiResta. However, they have hired this week three band level testing coordinators – one for the ELC/Elementary, one for Middle School and one for high school.
“There is a lot of coordination and it takes time to distribute tests and schedule everything,” she said. “You have to have people to focus on the work. We’re learning from schools that went ahead of us in these uncharted territories.”