More Students Return To 4 Days at LHS As State Mandates An Overhaul For In School Instruction

This Monday, March 8th, students in 10th grade in Cohorts A and B began returning as part of a new Cohort E for four days a week in-person learning. There are now 84 seniors, 69 sophomores and 49 other students who came back for other reasons attending 4 days per week. Over the next two weeks 89 juniors, and 96 freshmen would return to 4 days in person learning on March 11th and March 15th respectively.  This now means that 382 students will be attending in person schooling four days a week and 171 will continue to attend using the hybrid model.

All was possible because Cohort C was closed on January 29th, and all planning and current status of the classes are up through April 9th, but not after then.

With these next steps, Principal Tom Landers is optimistic that things will improve, and he doesn’t “want to drive more families into Cohort C.” On Tuesday, March 9th, Mr. Landers sent out an email to parents of Cohort C students asking them to decide if they would like to remain part of Cohort C for the remainder of the year.

The administration’s goal is to get more students on campus for in-person learning, while still adhering to safety guidelines and respecting the wishes of families. The concern lies with students’ health and academic performance, as Longmeadow parent and Baystate Pediatrician Mary-Alice Abbott said in her public comments at the beginning of the last School Committee meeting February 23rd: “They are failing emotionally, socially, and many are failing academically.”

This overhaul comes as DESE guidance released Tuesday, March 9th calls for a return of Elementary School students to five days per week in person schooling, effective Monday, April 5th, and Middle School students Wednesday, April 28th. This guidance lowers the six foot social distancing standard to a three foot social distancing standard for all times except the lunch period. Students will still have the option to be fully remote. New guidelines for high schools is expected to be released soon.

A graph displayed by Superintendent Dr. Marty O’Shea at the School Committee meeting on Tuesday, March 9th.

However, such aspirations and results come with their drawbacks.  “The biggest challenge I’d say,” Mr. Landers explains, “is that we’re going to need to establish overflow rooms…. We can’t fit 64-65% [of a class] in a classroom that usually has twenty-six desks and we have a maximum of thirteen.”

An overflow room would be a space for students to sit down with their school-issued Chromebook and log into the Zoom meeting of their class. Landers claims it to be “irresponsible” to send them back home to take a class.

A similar issue is that of the nearly hour and a half lunch break.  Luckily for the school, nearly all the juniors and seniors overwhelmingly choose to leave and use the open-campus option for lunch. Otherwise, there would be longer lines, more risks, and many more students to seat inside.

Another decision will be made mid-March for the future of LHS and its student body.

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