Millis Update on Fall Reopening
Published on Aug 17, 2020
The Millis Public Schools have been planning carefully and tirelessly for a Fall reopening of school with the safety and well-being of students and staff as the primary consideration. We have had several advisory groups that have been meeting and appreciate the feedback parents gave on a survey at the end of June. Since that time, we have received more guidance from the Department of Secondary and Elementary Education and incorporated it into our planning. On Aug. 6th the Millis School Committee voted to return to school in a remote model through at least mid-October, at which point we will reassess Massachusetts and Millis data regarding COVID-19 cases and other considerations. We have developed plans that would enable us to move to a Hybrid Model at such a time as it is deemed safe and advisable to do so.
The Department of Public Health has guidance for 6ft. distancing and Massachusetts DESE issued guidance of 3-6 ft. based on the research that shows that children are less likely to become infected, less likely to become ill, and less likely to pass the virus along. Our hybrid plan meets or exceeds all recommendations, with a minimum of 6ft. distancing. It is imperative that we consider the mental health of students as well. School, particularly being in school in person, is an important part of social-emotional well-being, feeds students who are food-insecure, provides behavioral and mental-health support for students and important educational supports that are hard to replicate remotely. It is clear that the students and families most negatively impacted by remote learning are low-income, students with disabilities, and students who are learning English.
Based upon guidance from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Public Health Officials, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), as well as significant input from our community stakeholders, Millis Public Schools proposes to reopen schools this fall using a Phased-In Remote Model.
A brief summary of our current plan:
Phase One, the first 10 days of the school year, is for staff training on all aspects of health and safety protocols as well as time for teachers to develop curricula and lessons.
Phase Two, We will include a two day Orientation portion at the beginning of this phase so that families and students are able to feel comfortable with all of the newly required protocols and procedures and so that we can emphasize student social-emotional wellness. We will also provide training for parents and guardians so that they can more easily assist their children with the technology required for remote learning. This training will be available on our website at all times as well.
Phase Three, Students begin attending school the third week of September in a Remote Model. During this period there will be time for teachers for professional development and lesson development provided every Wed. afternoon in order to assure more robust and effective remote instruction.
Phase Four, After a period that is as of yet undefined, using the metrics that were developed at the state level and in consultation with the School Committee, if it is deemed safe to do so, we will move to a hybrid model with all students maintaining 6 feet of distance in classrooms, as well as all other safety recommendations. Approximately 50% of students would attend two days per week on Monday and Tuesday, and 50% on Thursday and Friday, with Wednesdays as a remote day for both groups. Additional time for teachers for professional development and lesson development continues every Wed. afternoon.
At our recent graduation ceremony for our seniors, several of the student speakers spoke of the importance of the friendships they have developed with practically every other member of the class throughout their years here. They also spoke of the welcoming, inclusive culture that embraces and honors every student. This is the hallmark of the Millis “Small School, Big Family” motto and I believe it’s what makes the Millis Public Schools unique. We are committed to ensuring that culture continues even during remote or hybrid learning. The partnerships between you as parents and guardians at home and our teachers and staff will be even more essential during the upcoming school year. Our students will benefit from the diligent focus on their well-being from us all so please stay in touch. Thank you for your patience, support and communication as we further refine our plans that are in the best interest of our students.
With respect and gratitude,
Nancy Gustafson, Superintendent, Millis Public Schools