Hampshire Regional adopts a combined remote and hybrid plan

  • Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/8/2020 12:03:55 PM

WESTHAMPTON — The Hampshire Regional School Committee has voted to move forward with a combined remote learning and hybrid model for students returning to school in the fall.

The unanimous vote on the motion was taken Tuesday, although details of the hybrid portion of the model and the approval of it as a whole are set to be voted on at the committee’s Monday meeting, which will start at 6:30 p.m. and will be conducted via Zoom.

Under the current plan, school will start on Sept. 16, and grades 8 through 12 at Hampshire Regional High School will be all-remote until Oct. 2. In this same period of time, seventh graders will return to school under a hybrid model, in which part of their time will be spent learning in the school building and part of their time will be spent learning remotely. Seventh graders will also be able to opt into learning entirely remotely.

Students will be spaced 6 feet apart in the building, and in-person learning will be half-days for the seventh graders.

The School Committee will meet during the week of Sept. 28. to review learning models for all grades.

“I think it was the right plan,” said Hampshire Regional High School Principal Kristen Smidy, who noted that the school will prioritize building a connection between the seventh graders and the Hampshire Regional community.

“All of the other students in the school have relationships with our staff and with one  another,” Smidy said.

Smidy acknowledged that the school board’s decision process wasn’t ideal for families and staff, as the motion wasn’t in the return-to-school draft they reviewed.

Carl Schlerman, chairman of the Hampshire Regional School Committee, argued that what the School Committee voted on was a “tweak to the remote plan,” but also acknowledged that many people are still upset.

Schlerman and Peter Cleary, the School Committee member who brought forward the successful motion, both said that the survey the district sent out to parents came back with equal support for remote, hybrid and in-person learning.

“There was no indication as to what families were most comfortable with,” said Cleary, who noted that remote learning in the fall will not be like what it was in the spring. “What we did in the spring did not work.”

Cleary said that the school is purchasing MacBooks for every student, and that the school’s IT department has been working with families to help them get internet access, providing hotspots when needed.

Students who cannot get internet at home will do their remote work at the school, and students with high needs will also be able to do their work at the school.

Schlerman said that if the plan were to change at Monday’s meeting, he thinks it would go to full remote, as a full hybrid plan was defeated at Tuesday’s meeting.

“There will be plenty of time for people to comment Monday,” he said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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