Mount Greylock Regional School District
Back to School Questions & Answers
This is a living document that will be updated regularly.
Last update: September 27, 2020 12:25am
Why is there no progression for more in-person learning in grades 7-12? If there are enough remote learners to allow for expanded in-person for 7-12, will the decision to limit expansion of the AARBB model be re-considered?
This school year will be unlike any other in our educators’ careers and our lifetimes. The innumerous new protocols and restrictions going into effect within our schools require significant coordination, time and practice in order for us to ensure student and staff safety.
Re-entering schools with full class numbers in each room would be, in some cases, impossible given physical distancing and behavioral requirements. Further, smaller groups in a room at any one point in time, especially at the elementary school level, will allow educators and administrators to help staff and students develop and practice the new behaviors necessary for both safety and student happiness.
In addition to the above, which is primary, we know that remote education can and will look and feel completely different from this past spring. We have invested heavily in remote learning resources and we are giving our staff and students the opportunities that are necessary in order to make any transition to remote education successful this year. Entering this school year as though that foundation is not required would put our schools at odds with reality.
Yes, please see our internal criteria for moving to remote learning. These criteria were developed by the Wellness Working Group, reviewed by the Superintendent and School Committee, and sent to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) as a part of the district’s reopening plan.
We are planning a variety of training for our substitute teachers that will cover all topics applicable to the work they will do. Safety protocols, learning management systems (Seesaw, Google and Canvas) and Zoom. In addition, all paraprofessionals are receiving significant training in all of the remote education tools that the district will utilize and paraprofessionals will be in a unique and positive position to facilitate productive remote education.
The district is carefully designing approaches to the service grids and approaches necessary to fulfill students’ IEPs. We are developing these approaches taking into account the following guidelines:
The child study teams at each school will continue to do what they have always done, which is to receive referrals regarding student concerns from teachers. Child study teams will continue to meet regularly and through discussion, discuss concerns, design targeted interventions, and make collaborative decisions regarding needed next steps. Outcomes of the process could be additional support, academic testing, referral to a community support agency or the like. Teachers and school administrators will keep parents/guardians informed and part of the decision making process.
It is our hope that, though school will be operating under different circumstances, there will be the same level of high quality instruction and the same availability of academic support as always so that children do not fall behind. Please see our answer to the question above for details on how we will work to ensure that.
Yes, period attendance will be taken by teachers.
Throughout the first two weeks of professional development, teachers and staff are attending training for Zoom, Google Classroom, Canvas, Seesaw, Google Forms, Google Sites, Everyday Math, and Discovery Education.
Families are able to switch to homeschooling at any time. Policies and procedures for homeschooling can be found on the district website.
The district is committed to 6-foot distancing within all classrooms. In most classrooms, that limits the number of students to 16. Some classrooms are significantly larger and can support more students with the same physical distancing. Please note that mask wearing is required at all ages in all shared spaces.
The district cannot financially support a large-scale, regular testing effort across the staff or student population.
We are working to facilitate rapid referrals for testing with local medical professionals and facilitating contact tracing, in the event that it is necessary, with our approaches to limiting the sizes of cohorts and movement of staff and students throughout the school day.
Yes. The district is committed to facilitating Internet access for all students. During the spring transition to remote learning, we identified students that required support and supplied “hotspots” to those students that worked in conjunction with their Chromebooks. We will continue that service. If you require assistance, please contact your Principal for additional information and support.
All of our schools, given their varying ages, are in very good condition relative to schools within the state and across the nation. There are three primary concepts of interest with respect to “HVAC issues:”
Our elementary schools were constructed a little more than 15 years ago, while our middle-high school was constructed within the last 5 years. Standard approaches to building design and construction have changed significantly over that time.
The elementary schools were designed at a time when air changes per hour were not of significant concern to design teams, and air filtration was significantly simpler in terms of desires. That said, we believe that we can quickly achieve 2+ air changes per hour across our classrooms and utilize air filters with MERV ratings of 11-13 across all of our filters. We are in a better position to achieve this target with our elementary schools than many buildings across the state and country. We are additionally investing in UV-C air disinfection technology that will provide an added level of safety; lead times for this equipment are significant at the moment and we are working to purchase and install as quickly as possible.
Our middle-high school is one of the newest in the state. It is designed with higher air changes per hour feasible and higher filtration as standard (primarily MERV 13 / HEPA). We are in excellent shape in terms of air quality metrics in comparison with other schools across the state and country.
The district has invested in 1-to-1 Chromebooks across all of our schools and students. We have done this to ensure equity in access, but also to ensure that our students and staff have the easiest possible time when learning and utilizing all of our technology tools.
We highly encourage all students to utilize their district-issued Chromebooks for school. Different operating systems, physical pieces of computer hardware and even different versions of the same browser can create unnecessary hurdles for students’ access and staff’s ability to facilitate learning using technology. Please consider both your student and the staff trying to support them before using anything other than the district-issued Chromebooks that we are able to administer.
Yes, with a few possible exceptions for specific circumstances in grades 7-12. In-person students will primarily be with in-person teachers.
At the elementary school level, AM/PM cohort assignments were distributed over the last couple of weeks.
The A/B cohort assignments for grades 7-12 will be determined alphabetically at first, then with consideration of family grouping, then class size, then students’ with considerable and significant needs, then quarantine family pods, then other family requests. Assignments will be visible in PowerSchool this week.
Our curriculum development is paying careful attention to the value of and balance between “screen time” and “asynchronous learning time.” Where the benefit outweighs the cost, teachers will develop lesson plans that utilize Zoom, computer interaction and screens. Wherever possible, teachers will direct students to move off screens and then return thoughts and results back to the teacher in ways that demonstrate learning and accountability.
That being said, parents/guardians should know in advance that in order to account for the developmental and independence level of elementary students, the elementary remote experience will be highly synchronous. We anticipate that students will have their Zoom rooms open much of the day to allow for seamless transitions between direct teacher instruction, collaborative work, and independent practice.
We will be mindful of screen time while in-person, as it is our plan to use that time for direct interaction with teachers and peers as much as possible. However, with social distancing and the inability to share physical materials, the nature of how students are able to collaborate has changed. Students will be on devices during in-person instruction when working together on projects or shared assignments.
Principals are balancing the following when developing the AM/PM cohorts:
At the elementary school level, high quality hybrid education and remote education approaches to education are very distinct.
High quality remote education is not as simple as pointing a camera at a teacher in the student’s otherwise in-person classroom. The district is taking significant strides to provide the best education possible for students who choose or require a pure remote education model. Although overall student progress over the course of the year will be parallel between hybrid and remote learners, the rhythm and approaches used by teachers will vary significantly. Students cannot fluidly transition from one environment into another; the two environments are fundamentally different for good reasons.
Equally importantly, carefully planning for the number and group characteristics of students in a classroom has never been more important. Allowing for physical distancing and the behavioral needs of elementary schools students are critical. If we allowed fluid movement between the hybrid and remote environments, we would not be able to ensure the safety and smooth operation of either environment.
It is important to note that the AM/PM hybrid education model is not the same as a half-day school model. Even though students will be in-person for “only half of a day,” their education will continue with synchronous and asynchronous learning during the other half of the day.
Also, please note that asynchronous education is not equivalent to “homework,” as the tools that the district is using for accountability and student/teacher interaction provide for a significantly different experience and body of results.
The academic support placeholder you see in schedules could range from services provided by special education teachers or related service providers based on a student’s IEP, targeted support in reading or math with our intervention instructors, or supervised study with a member of our paraprofessional staff.
Each new school year brings with it the opportunity for students to broaden social networks and make new friendships.
Remote academy grade levels will be their own cohorts, albeit remote for their education. Students will interact with each other via the remote tools (e.g. Zoom) throughout the school day. While there may possibly be opportunities for remote students to remotely “get together” with their hybrid peers, at this point it is not a regularly planned occurrence.
It is worth noting that student interaction this year will be very different from all other years. Within the hybrid model, individual sections/classrooms of a grade will be kept separate, to minimize risks associated with mixing and expanding the size of cohorts. Students will not experience the same “interactions with friends” within the school setting that were normal in the past.
Hybrid students who need to be out for a period of time for quarantine will remain with their hybrid class and their teachers will offer work and support accordingly. Students who become ill (we hope none do!) will follow the same process as we normally would with illness and also remain with their already assigned teacher. Please see our answer above to why purely remote and hybrid environments are being developed as distinct tracks within the elementary schools.
Support services in-person will continue as always, though any pull-out services will be done with an eye toward keeping existing cohorts intact as much as possible. In the remote classroom, teachers will work closely with the special education and intervention staff to ensure that services and support are worked into the day for identified students. The child study team process in each school will remain available for teachers to use as a sounding board and referral process for students who may be newly showing the need for additional support.
Recess will be outside as much as possible. Students will be able to use equipment if they are wearing masks. If they are outside for a mask break, students will be spaced out and engaged in mindfulness or a more structured activity.
Classrooms within and across grades will not mix. The district is making every effort to minimize the number of students that any given student shares physical and air spaces with over any significant (from a public health perspective) time period.
The district’s PreK program is directed by special education requirements and is therefore fully in-person for participating students. The district will not operate a remote PreK program this year.
Given the DESE guidelines and limitations for in-person classes, doing music remotely may offer greater opportunity than in-person music with masks and distancing limitations. Our music teachers have been working together to explore exciting online platforms and software to support their programming. You will hear more about this in the coming weeks.
For students who receive special education services and opt for remote learning, they will receive special education services via remote opportunities offered by the district.
The district is currently planning bus schedules that will serve the transportation needs of students for both the AM and PM. Once survey responses are received, we will move as quickly as possible to facilitate bus routes and pick-up / drop-off times as feasible.
Bus transportation will operate under a very different set of protocols than in the past. Bus capacity will be limited to roughly ⅓ of traditional seating capacity, seats will be assigned at the beginning of the year, bus monitors will be employed and windows on buses will remain open unless the temperature/climate health risk outweighs the COVID-19 health risk.
We have made every effort to provide the same diversity of course offerings as our school has traditionally offered to students. The resulting diversity of student schedules poses a very real challenge when public health guidance begs that we also limit the number of people that any given student “shares a room with” for a class period over the course of the school day. We are trying to minimize transmission over the course of the school day.
The physical capacities of our classrooms, with 6-foot physical distancing, make it difficult for our school (as well as most every school in the country) to offer full in-person learning.
We are maximizing learning balanced with student and staff safety, and have determined that the proposed hybrid schedule gives us the best opportunity to do so.
It is important to understand that in a combined synchronous/asynchronous environment work is not necessarily sequenced. What a class that meets on a Monday does is not necessarily what the class that meets on Friday does. Teachers and students are looking at the curriculum (and the units and weeks within it) as a whole and not as date-locked lessons.
An effective asynchronous learning model includes but is not limited to:
This means that the time students spend doing their asynchronous work is equivalent to the time that independent work might happen in a classroom. During this, students are encouraged to utilize the different learning platforms that MGRS has to enhance learning, like Canvas, to reach out and ask questions. Teachers will be using times like Office Hours to check in with students doing this work, to leave comments and feedback, to conference about progress, and to clarify ideas.
No. If your student is fully remote (and the entire school is fully remote) your student and other students will all be together (virtually) in their assigned classes (based on their schedule).
If your student is fully remote (and the school is hybrid) your student will essentially be assigned to a cohort and follow along with that cohort. Say your student is in cohort A. They will join virtually (and at the same time as) their classes with their classmates who are sitting in-person on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday the entire class (both cohorts A and B) will be remote and logged in all together virtually with their teacher. On Thursday and Friday your student will check in to their classes virtually along with their classmates in cohort A who are also remote these days for primarily asynchronous work.
We are currently exploring the best options for students to eat lunch during the school day under the state’s new health guidelines. Outdoor lunch is something we are considering, based on available space. Historically, we have had multiple lunches throughout our school day, which allowed smaller groups of students to eat in the cafe at a time. With the new schedule we are using this year, we have created one consistent lunch block for all students, which will best facilitate transitions between remote and hybrid learning models. Weather depending, outdoor spaces can be made available for lunches.
For physical education activities and dance:
The Student Support Center (SSC) will be staffed, daily Monday - Friday, with a special education teacher and a paraprofessional. These staff members will help to oversee and support the academic progress of our students who are in need of a learning environment that will offer them the best opportunities for success. Here, our staff will be able to provide necessary remediation, reteaching, coordination of executive function, and assist with student time management during asynchronous learning. Students will be identified for these supports through our usual Student Support Team (SST) referral and review process.
We are also working on continuing our partnership with Williams to access the tutoring services they have helped provide in the past. While it will take on a different format, the WIlliams Center will be able to assist students with their asynchronous work.