Newton will give parents a choice between sending children to school two mornings a week or having them learn entirely online this fall, after the School Committee voted 7-2 Friday in favor of the flexible model, the city’s mayor said.
To allow for spacing, no more than half the students in a class will be allowed in the classroom at once, while the rest learn from home, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, who is a member of the School Committee, said in an e-mail to Newton residents.
“The educators at the Newton Public Schools and the Newton School Committee adopted this model after consulting with leading public health experts, implementing health and safety practices across our school system, and paying close attention to the input of our families, teachers and students,” Fuller said.
She said teachers will see some of their students in person on Monday and Tuesday mornings and the rest on Thursday and Friday mornings, spending afternoons focused on students who are learning from home that day. On Wednesdays, all students will study at home, she said.
School district officials will continually track public health metrics on the pandemic and will shift to entirely online classes if necessary, Fuller said.
“Public health data and the advice of experts will inform our decision making,” she said.
Students with disabilities will receive priority for in-person instruction, and those determined to be “high need” will be able to go to class in person four or five days a week. Teachers who are at high risk for the coronavirus will be able to teach remotely, Fuller said.
Students returning to classrooms will be spaced 6 feet apart and required to wear face coverings and practice frequent handwashing, she said. Newton Public Schools will also use air filtration and enhanced cleaning to make indoor spaces safer, and schools will shift the use of their facilities so that interior spaces will not be used for teaching, she said.
All students will have daily access to “grab and go” lunches around 12:30 p.m., when students who are in classes will go home, and they will be provided with a computer and with wireless internet access if necessary, Fuller said.
The school district will also help provide access to testing, contact tracing, and daily health self-assessments, she said.
“We know how challenging this is for everyone,” Fuller said. “As soon as we can pivot to all in-person education with the appropriate health and safety protocols, we will.”