Dear Pelham Community,
One year ago today I announced that the Pelham Public Schools would close for one day as we further assessed the threat of the new coronavirus. At that time, we had no way of knowing that in fact our schools would be closed for the remainder of the year and the pandemic, then in its infancy, would continue to endure more than a year later.
We opened our schools in September under the hybrid plan, which offered a first step toward normalcy. It has by no means been a perfect experience, and we know that it is not a long-term solution, but the blend of in-person and remote instruction has allowed most of our students to access at least some time in their school as we navigated the unknown of the fall and spike of cases over the winter.
Now, with expanding access to vaccines, declining infection and hospitalization rates, new scientific research and the experience of operating our schools during the pandemic, it is time to take the next step and begin to return even more students to their classroom.
Yesterday evening at the Board of Education meeting, I outlined a plan for bringing elementary students back for instruction five days a week beginning April 12 and shared a process for phasing in as many middle and high school students as possible before the end of the year. These plans will also be shared at two info sessions for families today at 9:30am and 7pm.
On Friday, we will launch a Google Form asking families to make a commitment to either an in-person or a fully remote model. While we recognize this will be a difficult choice for many, it is essential that our principals and teachers know who to expect so that we can plan to use our space and resources as efficiently as possible. There are still many details to be resolved in the coming weeks, especially as we navigate significant capacity issues at the secondary campus, but the key points of our plans are below:
- Distance between students in the classroom will be 3-feet (measured from center of student to center of student)
- Students, teachers and staff continue to be required to wear masks at all times (except during designated eating/drinking times)
- Students are encouraged to wear quality masks that fit properly
- Portable barriers will continue to be used to provide additional protection between students and the teacher
- In addition to our regular ventilation systems and opening windows, all classrooms will be outfitted with an air purifier and window exhaust fan to improve ventilation
- Schools will make use of outdoor space when possible for eating, etc.
- Surveillance testing will be conducted across all schools to develop a baseline positivity rate and monitor for increases in COVID-19 prevalence
- Grades K-5 students will return to FTIP instruction on April 12
- Staggered arrival will be from 8:30-8:40am
- Lunch will be 11:15am-12:15pm
- Staggered dismissal will begin at 2:40pm
- Virtual office hours will be held from 2:50-3:05pm for full virtual students
Middle and High Schools
- MS/HS are tentatively scheduled to phase back in for additional in-person learning in April. More information is needed from families to determine exactly who and how many students plan to return in person. Once that information is obtained, we will assess whether we can return 100% of those who want in person instruction or if a modified hybrid model at a lower percentage may be needed to maintain 3 feet distance in classrooms. Grades will be phase in in the following order:
- Gr. 8 & 12
- Gr. 6 & 9
- Gr. 7, 11 & 10
- Period 1 at the MS/HS will begin at 8:15am and dismissal will be at 2:45pm
- Academy Period will be 2:50-3:11pm
Fully Virtual Program (all grades)
- The fully virtual program will continue to be an option for families across all grade levels with students accessing their classes via Google Meet, although the increased density in the classroom will necessitate a shift in focus for the instructor.
- Families will be asked to select the FTIP or Fully Virtual model for the remainder of the year.
- A Google Form will be sent out on Friday, March 12 for parents to indicate their model of choice.
- Students selecting FTIP are expected to attend in person every day
- When students are sick they should stay home and recuperate (excused absence)
- Virtual learning for FTIP students can be accessed only during mandated quarantine or when awaiting test results to pass the daily health screener
- Virtual learning cannot be accessed for situations such as vacation, travel, self imposed quarantine prior to travel, staying home on test days, etc.
I would like to thank my incredible team of administrators who have worked tirelessly since last March to create, tweak and improve our educational models as well as the many teachers, medical professionals and parents who serve on our Reopening Advisory Task Force and have provided valuable feedback on these plans. We are excited to see more students return to school and hope that our experience this spring will provide important insight as we prepare for next school year. As we take these steps to provide a more robust in-person educational experience while keeping our students and staff safe, we ask all families for your help limiting the spread of COVID-19. That means:
- Please continue to wear masks and maintain physical distance when in public
- Avoid large gatherings
- Answer the health screening questions honestly and keep your children home when they have symptoms
- Quarantine when instructed to do so
- Get vaccinated when your turn comes
Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to the next step of this challenging journey.
Cheryl H. Champ, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools