Burlington Public School leaders are preparing for the middle school to switch from a hybrid model to full in person later this month with the high school to do the same in early May.
Superintendent Eric Conti gave the School Committee an update on the district’s full reopening plans during the meeting on Tuesday, April 13.
He started by saying that the first week of the elementary schools going back to full days, five days a week, had been a success. The elementary schools started the full days on April 5.
“I’ve spoken with some parents who said that after the first week they hadn’t seen their children smile like that in a long time,” he said. “One parent said her children came home and put their iPads away and went outside and played and she felt it was more of a return to normal.”
Superintendent Conti said the plan is to have all Marshall Simonds Middle School students in the school for full days, five days a week starting on Monday, April 26. Originally they had hoped to have the high school do the same on that date but due to a spike in COVID-19 cases they have decided that school will be remote until May 3. He said there are currently about 130 people, mostly students, in quarantine from Burlington High.
Middle school homeroom assignments have been delivered, he added, and some rooms have been modified for social distancing.
The most complicated piece of the puzzle, Conti said, is transportation. Because both the middle and high schools will be moving from having half the students in the building two days a week each to having everyone in the building at the same time, they have to alter the bus routes to provide transportation.
The difficult decision they made was that due to concerns about spreading the virus they are not planning to change the bus routes for the elementary school. Conti said that although the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has lifted capacity restrictions on school buses, the CDC is still recommending at least three feet of distancing while wearing masks. Due to this, they are keeping the current policy of one child per seat unless family members are on the same bus and can sit together.
“As difficult as contact tracing will be for middle school and high school, with three to a seat in elementary school it will be impossible,” he said. “So my proposal is to keep the busing routes and levels as they are at the elementary schools.”