First and second graders, as well as vulnerable students like English language learners and special needs students, will return for half days in March. All others will tentatively be invited back in April. In person students will also be required to attend remote instruction in the afternoon.
Superintendent Joseph Del Rossi presented the plan at a board of education meeting on March 15, where he also touted the district’s new Be SQUARE (Speedy Questions and Answers Regarding Education) With Me platform.
“We heard loud and clear from our parents that they really wanted three things,” Del Rossi explained. “Parents asked for dates of plan implementation, a more comprehensive plan altogether and more transparency from the administration.”
The SQUARE platform allows community members to submit their questions and receive answers quickly and publicly. More than 40 questions were submitted to SQUARE on its first day, Del Rossi said.
When students return, classrooms will not have 6 foot social distancing, but students will still be required to wear masks and the buildings’ HVAC system use will increase to better filter the air.
Because there will be no distancing, if one student in a class is required to quarantine, the district expects the entire class will also have to quarantine due to health department guidelines. The quarantine period will be reduced from 14 days to 10.
Del Rossi also announced that the district was able to acquire 415 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from Rite Aid, currently being distributed free to staff members.
“That is going to be very helpful to us,” Del Rossi noted. “You can’t force anyone to take the vaccine, but we can make it available. This is going to move us ahead that much quicker to move toward our goal of getting students back in full time.”
There are currently no plans to have students return for full day instruction during the 2020 -‘21 school year.
Also at the meeting, Business Administrator Marie Goodwin gave a presentation on the district’s 2021-‘22 tentative budget. Because of savings during school closures, she noted, the district is able to fund its expenses without cutting any programs. The district must use a tax levy of 1.2 percent to achieve that, but taxpayers with homes valued at the average cost in Medford (around $320,000), will not see their property taxes raised to offset district costs.
“As long as I’ve been here, we’ve never had zero,” Goodwin remarked. “It was just really important we made it work.”
The proposed budget also includes funding for maintenance upgrades at several of the district’s schools. Carpets at Kirby’s Mill and Chairville elementary schools will be replaced and the PA system at Taunton Forge Elementary will receive an upgrade.
“These are things that have been on the list every year,” Goodwin said.
The board of education will meet again on April 12.