SWANZEY CENTER — The Monadnock Regional School District intends to return to school with a blend of in-person and remote learning, according to the draft reopening plan the district released Monday.
The 55-page document outlines this hybrid model, in which about half of the students in the district — which covers Fitzwilliam, Gilsum, Richmond, Roxbury, Swanzey and Troy — would attend in-person classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the other half would be in school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. No students would be in school on Fridays, but teachers would be available for virtual office hours, and students could work on assignments and utilize other online learning tools.
Likewise, on the other two days of the week when they’re not in their classrooms, students could make progress on previously assigned material and use district-provided online learning platforms.
Public schools statewide transitioned to remote learning in mid-March due to concern over the COVID-19 pandemic and remained that way through the end of the school year. After Gov. Chris Sununu released the state’s reopening guidance two weeks ago, largely leaving final decisions up to individual school districts, public schools throughout the Monadnock Region have been working toward finalizing their reopening plans.
The Monadnock School Board is scheduled to discuss and decide on the reopening plan — which also calls for students and staff to wear masks in schools and maintain at least three feet of social distancing in classrooms — at its meeting next Tuesday, Aug. 4. In the meantime, the plan is still subject to change based on new public health information, according to Superintendent Lisa Witte.
“We still have a long way to go, and this document will serve to help us successfully navigate the next leg of our journey,” Witte wrote in a letter to school families and staff. “It is important to note that, while memorialized on paper, this is very much a living, fluid document, created with the best knowledge and information that we had available to us today.
“It is possible — and probably likely — that we will need to make revisions as we learn more about COVID-19, its transmission, and the impact that any reopening model will have on our community,” Witte continued.
Monadnock’s reopening plan also anticipates the possibility of returning to remote learning for all students and lays out the level of community spread of COVID-19 that would lead the district to make that decision.
For the beginning of the school year, though, the district recommends a “soft opening” from Sep. 8-11, according to the document. During that week, school officials encourage all students and their families to make an appointment to visit their school and learn about the new policies and procedures. Zoom meetings also will be available for families to learn about expectations for the fall semester.
Classes are scheduled to begin following the hybrid model on Sep. 14. The district plans to continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in Cheshire County, and if the region is on track for containing the virus (defined in the document as having one or fewer active cases per 100,000 people) for at least two weeks straight, Monadnock will move forward with plans to reopen schools fully for in-person classes starting Nov. 2. The district will make a decision on that by Oct. 20.
Families and students who are uncomfortable returning to in-person classes at all can choose to take remote classes. Middle and high school students would take classes through the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School, an Exeter-based nonprofit online school, but still remain enrolled in the Monadnock district. Elementary school students also could take classes through VLACS or opt for instruction through another district-provided online platform and would have access to Monadnock teachers on Fridays for support with remote learning.
Monadnock’s reopening plan is the work of the district’s School Reopening Planning Team, comprising 27 teachers, staff members and administrators from throughout the district. The group began meeting June 25 and developed the draft plan based on the state’s school reopening guidance, meetings with public health officials and the results of surveys from district employees, students, parents and guardians, which garnered a total of 1,169 responses.
The full Monadnock reopening concept can be found on the district’s website at www.mrsd.org. The first two numbered pages of the document include a summary of the plan, and the district’s recommendations to the school board.