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What to Know About Massachusetts’ School Reopening

October 15, 2020 • Our Blog • General Health
As the start of the school year approaches, many parents are weighing concerns over their child’s health and education. With the start of the 2020-2021 school year rapidly approaching, school districts across Massachusetts are quickly finalizing their reopening plans. Amid a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases across the state, many districts are erring on the side of caution and creating plans that prioritize safety and social distancing. Meanwhile, parents are facing their own difficult decisions. On the one hand, as many parents are starting to trickle back into the office — or, in the case of many essential workers, never left the office at all — homeschooling and remote learning options are becoming less feasible. On the other hand, in-person learning undoubtedly presents greater health risks for children, which many families are reluctant to take on. Fortunately, Massachusetts families will have some flexibility to choose the learning option that aligns with their needs and comfort level. Massachusetts school districts were required to submit three plans for the start of the school year: one for virtual learning, one for a hybrid model, and one for in-person learning. However, not all of those plans will go into effect — schools may opt for just one, such as an all-remote model, or may allow parents to choose between remote learning or a hybrid option. Here are the requirements districts must meet, and what parents should be aware of as they send their children back to school online or in person.

School Plan Requirements

Districts’ finalized reopening plans have to meet several requirements to maximize safety. For one, they must include an analysis of facilities to ensure that six feet of distance between students is possible. Transportation strategies must also be addressed, and they must ensure that safety and social distance is achievable while students are being transported to and from school. What’s more, students above Grade 2 — along with teachers and other staff members — will be required to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth. Schools have also been advised to divide students into “cohorts,” or small groups that do not interact with other student groups throughout the day, in order to minimize spread if a COVID-19 event occurs. Finally, students will be required to wash or sanitize their hands upon arrival at school, before meals, before removing or putting on their mask, and prior to dismissal. For many school districts, these requirements mean that in-person and hybrid learning plans are one and the same; achieving a six-foot distance between students requires that a significant proportion of the student body stays home on any given day. In other districts, these distance requirements have proven to be too challenging, and district leadership is opting for an all-remote model as a result. All-remote models have fewer requirements, but school districts have been advised that they should arrange to assist families who don’t have access to a reliable computer or internet connection. For some districts, that may mean providing some students with a school-owned computer; for others, it may require opening some classrooms to be used exclusively by students who don’t have access to the internet at home.

Choosing the Right School Option for Your Child

Parents in school districts that are offering multiple options for the start of the school year may be feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to make the right choice. Conversely, parents in districts that have opted for a remote-only school year may be concerned about quality of instruction, socialization, and the continuation of the need to juggle full-time work with full-time parenting. If either of these sounds like your situation, consider reaching out to the pediatricians at Kids’ Health to discuss your options. A leading pediatric office in the Beverly, Massachusetts, area, we’re dedicated to helping your child achieve their potential — emotionally, physically, and academically. This year, school planning concerns all three, and we want to ensure you make the best possible decision for you and your child. Reach out today to schedule an in-person or virtual appointment....