School committee discusses lengthening in-person school days

Feb 12, 2021

Wareham students will soon be spending more time in school buildings as officials plan to extend in-school time this spring. 

Over the past three to four weeks, Wareham has continued to see roughly 20 fewer cases each week. And school nurses will soon be qualified to administer covid tests.

Those developments, along with loosening state guidelines, have cued the school district to look toward increasing the amount of time students spend inside school buildings.

“I also know that everyone — and I do mean everyone — teachers and administrators all want our students back,” Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood said at the Feb. 11 School Committee meeting.

Officials and the Wareham Education Association teachers’ union are planning to bring students back for longer school days beginning on March 8.

“We are moving forward, we are returning our students back to school. It just depends on the time,” Shaver-Hood said. Whether the school day is extended to a full day or just a longer day on March 8, there will be a change. 

Her intent is to have all students back for more than two full days, and preferably full-time, in mid-April.

Since October, when students returned to schools for the first time since March, those attending in person have only spent two four-hour days in school buildings.

“Truly, given all factors, if they work in our favor, we’d like to have our students back full-time.I can’t say that we’re ready to do that at this point. I still need to have some conversations with the WEA, but that is our goal,” Shaver-Hood said. 

Shaver-Hood said that officials are keeping up with state recommendations, which are shifting rapidly. She said that she initially planned to share a plan at the meeting to gradually lengthen school days to full-length by April 22, but new state guidance meant she had to put off that presentation.

Elementary school students are now allowed to ride buses with no restrictions beyond requiring windows to be open two-inches. That is true for middle and high school students as well, as long as the town is not high-risk.

The state now says students can eat lunch together if they are seated three feet apart. Prior guidance mandated students be six feet apart while eating. Shaver-Hood said the district may stick with the prior guidance, and noted that new regulations will likely be released soon. 

Currently, there is a memorandum between school officials and the Wareham Education Association teachers’ union that mandates no in-person learning on Wednesdays.

“If at any point we start to have more covid cases, we will stop the expansion and go on hold,” Shaver-Hood said. “My goal is to keep everyone safe and healthy.”

School Committee member Mary Morgan praised Shaver-Hood’s cautious approach to a return.

“I just want to commend the district for being cautious,” Morgan said. Morgan noted that the district should take the covid numbers after the Feb. 15 - Feb. 19 vacation into account before making a decision.

Families who want their students to continue to learn remotely will be able to do so.

The School Committee also signed a letter to Governor Charlie Baker urging him to allow teachers and other school staff to receive covid vaccines as soon as possible.

Shaver-Hood will present a plan for longer school days at the Feb. 25 School Committee meeting.