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Medford Public Schools releases draft of COVID-19 reopening plan

A sample of a traditional elementary school classroom before COVID (left) and after COVID (right), allowing  for 6 ft of social distancing, are included in the reopening plan.
A sample of a traditional elementary school classroom before COVID (left) and after COVID (right), allowing for 6 ft of social distancing, are included in the reopening plan.Courtesy of Medford Public Schools

Medford Public Schools released a draft of its COVID-19 reopening plan for the fall, emphasizing safety, consistency and equity in the 4,200-student school district.

As required by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the plan includes three options to reopen schools: in-person instruction, remote learning, and a combination of each.

The draft, posted Friday on the school department’s Facebook page, said its too soon to say if students can return to school buildings next month.

“Due to multiple variables and concerns involving COVID-19, we cannot say whether the children will be able to return to the school buildings during the 2020-2021 school year,” the draft states.

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But the first day of school for students will not come before Sept. 14, but teachers will use 10 additional days of planning time recently made available by state education officials, according to the plan.

A reopening task force developed the plan, and over 250 volunteers helped “to support our work on the charge of how we would reopen schools,” Superintendent Marice Edouard-Vincent wrote in a letter included with the plan.

The school department is seeking public comment, and final approval, of the plan this week.

The public can weigh during forums scheduled for Monday at 6:30 p.m. and Tuesday at 10 a.m. to be streamed on Facebook and Youtube, according to the school department.

Written comments will by e-mail through Tuesday. On Thursday, the school committee will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. to finalize the plan, which will be sent to the state on Aug. 10, according to the district.

Safety, consistency, and equity were the three guiding pillars for the plans, Edouard-Vincent wrote.

“This lens allowed us to consider our most vulnerable and susceptible learners and determine how our plans will impact them,” Edouard-Vincent wrote.

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Medford schools have a large percentage of students who are academically or economically challenged. In the last school year, 31 percent of the students did not speak English as their first language or were English language learners, according state data.

About 49 percent were “high needs,” which the state defines as students who are either low income, economically challenged, are a current or former English Language Learner or has disabilities.

The draft acknowledges that the abrupt switch to remote learning in the spring “disproportionately impacted some of our highest needs students.” Going forward the district will offer “full-time in-person learning to our high needs students first.”

All families will have the opportunity to select the fully-remote option, which establishes the MPS Remote Learning Academy, a fully virtual learning experience which mirrors a regular school day and has both recorded and live teaching, the draft said.

The in-person plan would have students at school for four days a week and the hybrid plan currently has students slated to go in-person for two days and remote for three.

With the possibility of hybrid or full in-person learning, students would be required to maintain a physical distance of 6 feet apart, frequent hand washing, and, for students in grades 2 or above, a mask or face covering.

The superintendent thanked the “Mustang community,” a reference to the high school’s nickname, for their help preparing the plan.

“I thank you for your time, your talent, your voice, your perspective, and your intellectual capital,” Vincent-Edouard wrote. “I sincerely appreciate all the parents and caregivers of our Mustang community for placing your trust in us to do what is best for your children.”

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Breanne Kovatch can be reached at breanne.kovatch@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @breannekovatch.