Hadley students headed back to classrooms Oct. 26

  • Hadley Elementary School on River Drive (Rt. 47). GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 10/16/2020 3:54:12 PM

HADLEY — All students will be able to return for in-classroom instruction at both the Hadley Elementary School and Hopkins Academy 0n Oct. 26 as the town’s public schools move to the next phase of reopening.

With the health metrics related to COVID-19 continuing to be favorable, the School Committee voted unanimously Thursday to allow students throughout the district to resume in-person learning.

“I feel fairly confident in the safety measures we have in place,” said committee member Tara Brugger, adding that the committee and school officials have taken a conservative approach so far.

Committee member Humera Fasihuddin said she has confidence that the schools are ready to welcome students back and that any possible spread of infection can be controlled.

Superintendent Anne Mckenzie said that even though daily COVID-19 incidents rate per 100,000 residents in Hampshire County have gone from 2.8 in late August to 5.5 in the past two weeks, this is well below Harvard Global Health Initiative’s key metrics for COVID-19 suppression. That metric advises school reopening is safe so long as cases remain below 9 per 100,000 residents.

In addition, the data shows the total COVID-19 case count in Hadley was 48 on Aug. 26, and only rose to 52 cases by Oct. 14.

Emma Dragon, chairwoman of the Board of Health, told the committee that her panel supported moving to the next phase.

Under the plan, adopted over the summer, all students will be in school daily but will be dismissed two hours earlier than during normal times.

About 196 elementary students, in what is known as a cohort model to limit children’s interactions with others, will have classroom instruction from 8:25 a.m. to 1 p.m., and get a grab-and-go lunch. Specials, such as art, music and physical education, are being taught remotely when the students return home.

At Hopkins, roughly 120 students will be following a similar schedule, from 7:35 a.m. to noon. They will also be in cohorts in school, where they will participate in classes online, but have access to adults in the building. 

“It’s essentially remote learning, but in person,” McKenzie said.

Some students have been in school building since the beginning of the school year, McKenzie said, identified by standards set by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, including preschoolers, English language learners, students with special education plans and/or disabilities, students qualifying for free and reduced cost lunches, children of teachers in the district and students in congregate or foster care.

Chairwoman Heather Klesch said the committee and administration will constantly review data over the coming weeks and be ready to adjust should the landscape change.

McKenzie said assuming progress in the right direction, another phase will commence six weeks later. That timeline is based on the average time for infection to spread over two virus cycles.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com. 

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