By Edith Morgan
We’re a year into the Covid 19 Pandemic, and we think we see the light at the end of the tunnell. Though it is still far off, we are making progress toward asome semblance of normalcy. Three versions of the vaccine are being produced in the hundreds of millions, and Johnson and Johnson just received approval to market their one-shot vaccine.
But despite these hopeful signs, it is too soon to let down our guard entirely, and so the Worcester Public Schools are proceeding with utmost caution. Administrators have detailed their back to the classroom plans and meticulous precautions in a 30-page report, available from WPS Superintendent Maureen Binienda’s office on Irving Street.
The report includes data on all our 59 WPS buildings, their normal enrollment, and detailed figures about precautions that have been taken and will continue to be enforced.
Many efforts are being made to reach all parents of Worcester Public Schools students. Since applications for the half-day pre-school program are now being accepted, parents with eligible children are being called by the staff at the “Parent Information Center” – which is a great place to call if you have questions. I spoke to Sue Obiero, at 508-799-34350, who answered all my questions. (After fighting with the robotic answerers all week trying to line up vaccine appointments, etc., it was a pleasure to speak to a real human being!!)
If you are comfortable with your computer, there are mountains of data and information available at WPS.org and, of course, the regular listing of City of Worcester Contact numbers are published monthly right here in CECELIA.
Our students fall into three basic groups, for purposes of prioritizing who goes first in re-opening plans:
Students in general educational classrooms with no specially designed instruction needed.
Students in general education classrooms who receiove specially designed instruction and/or support, and
Students who require the most in-person instructional support to learn – these students will be prioritized and need to come back first.
On February 4 the Worcester School Committee voted to reopen the WPSchools for hybrid learning for students in group C and B on March 15th, with group A who have chosen hybrid learning to come back on March 29th.
At any one time there will be no more than one-fourth of the students in the building so that social distancing can be maintained in all areas.
Parents were polled as to their preferences, and at that time 44% (10,609) parents still preferred remote learning, and 53% (12,667) preferred the hybrid model. There are 24,043 students enrolled in our city’s public schools. A small percentage did not respond.
The superintendent’s report goes into great detail about the precautions taken before students re-enter, as well as presenting pages of instructions for proper hand washing, wearing of masks and distancing everywhere – in class, in the bathroom, on the playground and getting to and onto the buses.
And although many of our school buildings are old, careful attention has been paid to be sure that the airflow into the classrooms is also clean and germ free. Training programs for staff are in place so that anyone coming into contact with our children knows what is expected.
There are also provisions in case an outbreak occurs in one of our buildings – there are plans for shutting down one area, one building, or whatever is needed to isolate the outbreak.
Students are expected to bring two masks of their own, although a good supply of all the PPE supplies will be on hand for all schools.
Since bubblers are shut down,there will be water bottles available.
All the above, of course, is contingent on things continuing to improve and on decisions at the State level. Everything depends on all the public practicing the cautions and making sure that their children also do so. The system is making every effort to keep all parents fully informed – and many of its contacts are being communicated in various languages.
Because we can not accommodate all students at once, they will be divided into 2 “cohorts” and will attend school at first for two days a week: the first cohort will attend Mondays and Tuesdays, the second on Wednesday and Thursday.
A detailed schedule is included in the Superintendent’s report … Meanwhile, let us all do our part so we can beat this vicious virus and gradually establish a “New (and better) Normal”!