Northampton Public Schools open remotely on September 16

Hampshire County

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – The Northampton Public Schools announced students will be reopening with an all remote learning plan.

In a letter from Superintendent John Provost, the school committee determined schools will open in a fully remote mode, with our most vulnerable students having the opportunity for in-person instruction. The in-person group of students includes: English learners, students in foster care, students with disabilities, homeless students, and students without internet connectivity.

All faculty and staff return to school on Thursday, August 31. The first day of the remote learning school year will start on September 16 until at least November 4 where the hybrid model will be implemented at the next natural break in the school calendar.

A, B, C student groupings in the full remote model will be at the individual teacher’s discretion. Groupings will be announced during the first part of each class period. They may be organized to address similar skill levels of students; to support project-based learning; to offer support or enrichment; etc. Equity and student access to teachers will be guiding factors in the creation/modification of groupings. 

District Reopening Plan

The reopening plan for Northampton Public Schools documents include 115 pages submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education describing the reopening workgroups, remote learning schedules, hybrid model procedures for each school, response protocols for COVID-19 exposure, and frequently asked questions.

Remote Learning Plan Approved by School Committee on 8/6/2020

Requirements For Remote Learning

On June 30, 2020, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted, on an emergency basis, amendments to the student learning time regulations, 603 CMR 27.00. In particular, the amendments include 603 CMR 27.08(3)(b), which requires all remote learning models to meet the following standards: 

  • Procedures for all students to participate in remote learning, including a system for tracking attendance and participation; 
  • Remote academic work is aligned to state standards; and 
  • A policy for issuing grades for students’ remote academic work. 
  • Teachers and administrators shall regularly communicate with students’ parents and guardians, including providing interpretation and translation services to limited English proficient parents and guardians. 

Structured Learning Time Remote learning this spring took place during school closures ordered by the Governor, and districts were not required to fully meet the student learning time requirements. This will change for the fall. Districts will be required to meet the structured learning time requirements, whether they are providing instruction in-person, remotely, or in a hybrid model. 

Remote learning constitutes structured learning time so long as a district’s remote learning model is consistent with the requirements of 603 CMR 27.08(3)(b) outlined above. Structured learning time is defined in the regulations as “time during which students are engaged in regularly scheduled instruction, learning activities, or learning assessments within the curriculum for study of the ‘core subjects’ and ‘other subjects.’ In addition to classroom time where both teachers and students are present, structured learning time may include directed study, independent study, technology-assisted learning, presentations by persons other than teachers, school-to-work programs, and statewide student performance assessments.” All the activities listed in this definition may be incorporated in or adapted to hybrid and remote learning programs. Our remote learning plan includes activities that are both computer-based and non-computer-based. 

As with in-person programming, some activities that may occur during the school day, while organized by a teacher or school staff member, do not constitute structured learning time. Unless directly incorporated into standards-based instructional time, the following activities do not meet the criteria described above and do not count toward meeting the minimum structured learning time requirement: recess, social or informal check-ins, non-instructional games, unstructured study periods, and participating in optional school programming (such as social clubs). 

Schools and districts must take daily attendance whether a student is in person or remote. Consistent with 603 CMR 27.08(3)(b), districts must have a daily attendance policy and system for remote learning that can be reported. Schools may employ multiple ways to track attendance (e.g., monitor whether students are present in synchronous sessions, submitting assignments online, logging onto online learning platforms, attending virtual check-ins, etc.) depending on the structure of the remote learning program. It is critical that districts clearly communicate this policy to students, families, and staff to ensure attendance reporting accuracy. 

Caregivers are responsible for ensuring their child attends school every day, whether for in-person or remote learning. Schools and districts must continue to investigate extended absences and make and document reasonable efforts to locate the student and determine the reason for nonattendance. We will work directly with families to identify barriers to student attendance and to support families in alleviating these challenges. 

Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning Districts may determine the amount of synchronous and asynchronous teaching and learning during remote learning programming. However, consistent with 603 CMR 27.08(3)(b), DESE requires that remote learning programs include regular, two-way communication between students, educators, and families to ensure students and families have meaningful opportunities to connect regularly with staff. Students must have regular, consistent opportunities to access live, synchronous instruction, student-to-student interaction, collaborative assignments/projects, teacher feedback, and other needed supports (e.g., semi-weekly office hours, individual check-ins with students bi-weekly, etc.), as they are critical for student academic growth and meaningful student and family engagement. 

Consistent with 603 CMR 27.08(3)(b), districts must assess all students based on the district’s and educator’s performance criteria for students during the 2020-21 academic year. This performance criteria must be consistent across in-person, hybrid, and remote learning environments. For example, if students typically receive a letter grade (A-F) for a particular course, students who are participating remotely must also receive a letter grade. Although the district’s grading policy will be implemented across all scenarios, we will consider exemptions for students under extreme circumstances (e.g., students in households with family members experiencing significant health issues related to COVID-19) and ensure they receive the appropriate support and wraparound services to accelerate learning.

Learning Standards Consistent with 603 CMR 27.08(3)(b), all students – whether learning in-person or remotely – must have access to grade-level instruction in all content areas included in the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks. While the scope and sequence of the instruction teachers provide will vary depending on student needs and district requirements, all students will be required to take the MCAS tests in spring 2021. Students learning remotely should also have opportunities to engage in enrichment opportunities and receive intervention supports as needed. 

In every model, districts and schools are ultimately responsible for the overall student learning experience so that all students are appropriately engaged, making academic progress, and have the resources and support they need throughout the year. 

Elementary School Remote Learning Plan

Details of the Plan:

  • During the course of your student’s school day they can expect to receive 5.5 hours of instruction. This may include the following types of sessions: A number of synchronous sessions, some small group sessions, some independent, & directed study, technology assisted learning.
  • Each grade level team in a building will have the same sequence of subjects being taught in the course of a day. The time allotted to each subject will vary based on student needs and teacher discretion. Each student will receive a special, lunch and recess block daily as well. 
  • Each teacher will have one zoom link for their classroom that will be used throughout the whole week. Specials instructors will provide a link for their session. 
  • Teachers will take morning and afternoon attendance by one or more of the following means:
    • Student presence in synchronous sessions
    • Submitting assignments online
    • Logging into online learning platforms
    • Attending virtual check-ins
  • Times for different content areas will be based off of the lunch, recess and Specials schedules.

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