South Hadley schools will begin with all-remote learning

  • Kyle Belanger is chairman of the South Hadley School Committee.

Staff Writer
Published: 8/4/2020 6:23:53 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — The South Hadley School Committee voted past midnight Monday to begin the school year in an all-remote capacity, followed by gradual shifts towards fully in-person learning in the spring.

The plan, which passed unanimously, includes five reopening phases spread August through April.

School Committee chairman Kyle Belanger said that he is confident that the decision to begin the year remotely will save lives. 

“Our goal last night was to bring the chances of a teacher, a student, a school community member or a family member contracting and perishing because of this scourge as close to zero as we could,” Belanger said.

The first phase of the plan incudes professional development days for staff, beginning in late August. Students return in an all-remote capacity on Sept. 14, the beginning of phase two.

In the third phase, which is slated to begin Nov. 4, students who need extra support, such as those with individual education plans, students experiencing homelessness, English language learners, and children of essential workers without access to child care will return to school full time. All teachers will also return to the buildings in this phase.

Under phase four, planned to begin Jan. 4, a hybrid learning model will begin, with two groups of students rotating through one week of in-person learning followed by one week of remote learning.

The district plans for all students to return to school for full-time, in-person learning on April 5 for the fifth phase of the plan. All phases of the plan are subject to change based on state and local COVID-19 trends.

The School Committee approved the plan, detailed in an agreement between the the district and the South Hadley Education Association, in a meeting that ran over six hours and ended after midnight. 

The Ccommittee previously considered beginning the school year with a hybrid  model similar to the one detailed in phase 5.

But information from the town’s public health director and school nurses at the meeting convinced committee members that the phased approach from all remote to all in-person is the most responsible choice, Belanger said.

“We’re not just talking safety pitfalls,” he said, “we’re actually talking life and death.”

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at 
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