Dear Braintree School Parents & Community,
I am writing this letter to provide a brief overview of the 2020-2021 School Reopening Process, and to share our new website (https://braintreeschools.org/reopening) where you will find more detailed information and future updates.
I want to start by thanking you for your patience as we continue to work through the complexities of bringing our students and staff back this fall. The last several months have forced us to adjust everything we do in our lives and have affected our ability to count on the normal routines we both need and enjoy, including summer programs, travel, and even returning to school.
The spring emergency closure of school, and the abrupt and challenging transition to remote learning, emphasized the fact that nothing can replace having our students in front of our teachers and staff. We share the goal expressed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) of bringing our students back to in-person learning this fall; however, I know that we all share the common goal of returning safely. The health, safety, and well-being of our students and staff is our top priority and serves as the lens for all of our planning.
Our reopening planning process began internally during the month of May, and accelerated once the school year ended with the release of DESE’s “Initial Fall Reopening Guidance” on June 25, 2020 (http://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/return-to-school/). With the support of the Braintree School Committee, we formed a School Opening Steering Committee with a broad representation including School Committee members, administrators, content area directors, teachers, and parents. In total, over 60 representative voices are helping to guide our plan to reopen schools this fall. You will find more information about our process at https://braintreeschools.org/reopening.
One of the major considerations for planning is physical distancing. The June 25th DESE guidance document, which outlined broad expectations and offered information for the beginning stages of planning for school systems across the Commonwealth, advised that schools plan for students to be physically separated from each other at a distance of at least six (6) feet. Subsequent planning information sent by DESE this past Monday, July 13, adjusted that guidance from a minimum of six (6) feet to a minimum of three (3) feet to six (6) feet. Earlier conference calls with DESE Commissioner Riley described these new planning parameters, and urged school systems to conduct assessments of how to fully return all students to school in September using three (3) feet of distancing between students in classrooms. Since that time, several school districts have announced plans to maintain the six (6) foot distancing parameter due to health and safety concerns. At present, and in consultation with the Town of Braintree Health Department, the BPS Opening Committee is utilizing physical distancing of six (6) feet as we develop the three plans required by DESE (see https://braintreeschools.org/reopening).
Earlier this week, DESE announced a new two step process for plan submission. By July 31, districts must complete and submit a preliminary reopening plan summary, and then provide finalized planning documents no later than August 10. As of now, DESE has not issued guidance on many key aspects of school reopening including transportation, which makes our planning more challenging.
Ongoing developments with the virus and impending guidance from state and local officials will continue to guide our plan over the next several weeks to best provide for the safety and health of our students and staff. We know that all families, faculty, and staff are anxiously awaiting planning information and options - please know that we are working as efficiently as possible. We are anticipating that more information will be publicly released to all of you late next week, or early the following week, for both your feedback and input. Our goal is to provide as much of our thinking as possible, and to develop multiple options for your feedback prior to refining our work and developing our FINAL DRAFT for School Committee review later this month. Families will have several opportunities to provide feedback on our proposed plans, as well as to attend some public informational sessions that we will hold over the next couple of weeks (more information to follow). Families will also find information and resources through our dedicated website at: https://braintreeschools.org/reopening
Dr. Frank Hackett
Superintendent of Schools
Braintree Public School District | 348 Pond Street, Braintree, MA | (781) 380-0130 | firstname.lastname@example.org