The Initial Return to School Guidance was published yesterday by the state DESE. This is as professional and thoughtful a document as I could imagine. Here’s the link to the DESE Covid-19 home page. There is so much in this document, including physical distancing requirements, that I won’t even try to summarize it here. It’s well worth reading. And more guidance documents will follow on other topics, e.g., transportation and athletics. Here’s one key point, though:

All guidance in this document is based on the best information we have as of mid-June. We will carefully monitor the data in the coming weeks and months. Districts and schools must be prepared to be flexible and ready to pivot if circumstances change significantly. For this reason, districts and schools must plan not only for in-person learning, but also hybrid learning models (in which students learn in-person for some of the time and remotely for some of the time), and also full remote learning. Remote learning may be a necessary option in the fall for some students who are unable to return to school due to underlying medical conditions and potentially for all students if COVID-19 forces widespread school closures in the future.

Lots is left for each school district to decide. One could arguably make the case that the manner in which the NPS administration and School Committee and teachers union implement this and subsequent guidance will have a bigger impact on children and families and teachers than even their usual multi-year contracts. Accordingly the memorandum of agreement that these parties will ultimately sign deserves the most in transparency and community consultation.

Such a process was not used for the April 1 MOA that governed matters during the spring school closings. Indeed, there wasn’t even a public vote by the School Committee members on that very significant document.

It is clear, however, that for the coming agreements between the School Committee and the union that will have such a big influence on curriculum, pedagogy, and logistics, it would be wise to reach out for community ideas, to discuss the proposed agreement in open session, and for the Committee to memorialize their assent in a vote. I think it is not an overstatement to say that the manner in which all parties handle this situation could have a significant impact on the degree to which community support for the schools rises or falls. That support will be critical in the near future as budget limitations take hold.


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