Jason McCandless, the Pittsfield Superintendent of Schools, yesterday gave the School Committee an update on tentative plans to reopen Pittsfield schools.  Keeping the state’s reopening guidelines in mind, these tentative plans are fluid and are expected to be revised or changed.

That was emphasized in a quote by Superintendent McCandless posted in an article at Pittsfield.com…"Nothing that you see here is written in stone, it is all subject to change. We share this with you as information but certainly with the caveat that this is very very likely subject to change."

As the plan calls for the schools to fully reopen, the Department Elementary and Secondary Education is requiring school districts to also develop plans for remote learning and a partial reopening plan.

The school district is preparing to launch 800 mobile hotspots and deploy 2,500 Chromebooks to ensure families have proper internet access and computers for all learning scenarios according to Pittsfield.com.

Here are the bullet points in the tentative plan deciphered from the article on Pittsfield.com.

  • Parents would sign off that the student has not shown signs of illness or have been around a symptomatic person.
  • Most likely student temperatures would not be taken before boarding a school bus or entering the school.
  • Three empty seats behind the school bus driver would separate the driver from students. Students would sit alone with one empty seat between them (state recommendation).
  • 70-person bus would be limited to between 12 to 24-person capacity.
  • Families would be encouraged to avoid bus transportation if possible.
  • Masks must be worn on the bus…windows would be left open.
  • Staggered entry times for students entering the school.
  • Students would enter the school and go directly to their first class or homeroom.
  • Masks must be worn by everyone in the school.
  • Schools are not required to supply masks but 250,000 have been ordered.
  • “Mask breaks” outside the school would be scheduled when possible.
  • Hand sanitizers will be available throughout the school.
  • Hand washing opportunities set up throughout the day.
  • Breakfast would be eaten in the classroom. Students would not be allowed to gather.
  • Individual exposure should be limited to around 20 students at any given time.
  • Teachers may move from classroom to classroom instead of students.
  • Staggered shifts for eating lunch would be set up allowing for social distancing.
  • Nonessential furniture would be removed to allow for greater distancing of students.
  • Larger areas of the school such as libraries, music rooms and cafeterias would be used as classrooms to allow for greater distancing.
  • Students would not be allowed to gather before or after school.
  • Lockers would not be used in the fall but that may change during winter months.
  • Visitors or presenters would most likely not be allowed into the school.

Many questions are looming.  How can a family opt-out of sending their child into the physical school building?  What happens if there is an outbreak in the school?  What happens if there is not enough staff to safely operate the school?  Will sports, psychical education, band, chorus, etc be allowed?

Data from family and staff surveys will be included in the next stage of planning for the reopening of schools in Pittsfield.  The administration and staff are conducting 'stress testing" on classroom spaces to determine if social distancing, cleaning, and sanitizing plans can be implemented and are understood.

Superintendent McCandless quoted again in the article at Pittsfield.com "Clearly this work is complex," he said. "It is made even more complex given that we have about a month to work on it."

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