‘We’ll be ready to go’ for April 5 return, superintendent says
Wareham Public Schools will be ready to bring back its youngest learners for full-time in-person learning on April 5, according to Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood.
During a March 25 meeting, Shaver-Hood told members of the School Committee that the district is making the necessary preparations to bring its pre-k through fourth grade students back full-time, five days a week.
“We are now moving furniture back in, making sure that we’ve social distanced,” she said. “We’re working out the lunchroom, so when we hit April 5, we’ll be ready to go — and we’re quite excited.”
Under the current plan, which started on March 8, students of all ages who attend Wareham Public Schools through the in-person hybrid model remain broken into two groups called cohorts.
Each cohort attends in-person classes each week for two full days that are only slightly shorter than standard pre-covid school days. One cohort attends classes Monday and Tuesday, and the other attends classes Thursday and Friday. Wednesday is a remote day for all students.
During off-days — meaning the days a student’s cohort isn’t learning in-person — the student is responsible for completing worksheets, readings and online activities on their own.
The upcoming switch to full-time in-person instruction for elementary students means cohorts must be combined, which drastically increases the number of students at school on any given day.
Despite the increased number of students, strict social distancing will be maintained, Shaver-Hood said. In classrooms, 3 feet of distance will be required and in hallways and at lunch 6 feet of social distance will be maintained.
To manage this, Shaver-Hood said the district will have to find places outside of cafeterias for students to eat lunch — and that’s only one of the hurdles. At a previous meeting, she also acknowledged the possibility that there might not be enough space in classrooms for proper social distancing, noting that “other spots” to educate students could be needed.
The district has allowed students who previously opted for full-time remote learning to switch to in-person instruction if they would like, which will create additional challenges.
“That really has created a situation where we had some teachers that were overloaded with students and some teachers that were remote ended up with just a few students,” Shaver-Hood explained.
Teachers who were previously remote and no longer have enough students will transition back to in-person teaching.
“There will be some shifting of students with teachers,” Shaver-Hood said. “But there is absolutely nothing that we can do about that, just because of the necessity of keeping the 3 feet rule and keeping everything in balance.”
She said principals will be in contact with parents about classroom adjustments.
Wareham fifth graders won’t be back in schools full-time on April 5, but they’re not far behind. Because fifth graders are part of the Middle School, the district was granted a waiver from the state to bring them back full-time along with the other older students on April 26.