HPS Survey Seeks Input on Re-opening Schools

By: Greg Lane, Hingham Current Staff, July 20, 2020 
Question from Hingham Public School's Survey Sent to Parents on Friday, July 17th.

With parents, students and staff uncertain about how public schools will re-open this fall, the Hingham Public Schools (HPS) has sent out a survey soliciting input on three instructional frameworks the district is considering. 


On Friday, July 10th the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and School Education (DESE) sent school districts additional guidance and a FAQ sheet about fall reopening plans, which are due to DESE by Friday, July 31st. Districts are required to submit a reopening plan that will address both health and safety requirements and different student learning models — in-person only, remote only and a hybrid model of learning.  The plan must also describe how special populations will be effectively served within each of the models.


"The HPS survey, emailed to parents on Friday night, is meant to help guide the work of the Recovery Response Advisory Committee in developing the district’s reopening plan," said Superintendent Dr. Paul Austin. The HPS requests that families complete the survey by tomorrow, Tuesday, July 21st. 


“While maximizing capacity for in-person instruction with appropriate health and safety modifications is our guiding principle,' said Austin, "we recognize that our district must prepare to seamlessly transition between in-person, hybrid and remote learning scenarios as health data and local conditions warrant."


The survey primarily focuses on the distances between desks in the classroom and the school schedule if the district moves to a hybrid model. As part of the survey, parents can indicate whether they would prefer to have students' desks placed three feet or six feet apart. The survey also asks parents to choose between sending their children alternating half weeks (e.g. Monday-Tuesday or Wednesday-Thursday) or alternating weeks.


A number of parents who are part of the group “Hingham Parents for Full-Time School” said they found the school schedule question confusing. “Agree, the language is confusing,” said a member responding to another parent’s question on the group’s Facebook page as to why Friday is not an option for school in the HPS survey. The group is organizing a letter-writing campaign in support of policies that would bring all students back into the schools in person full-time. On a number of other Facebook pages in town, parents are pointing out the lack of specificity from the schools and expressing concerns about the safety of everything from busing to school ventilation systems. 


DESE has yet to issue comprehensive protocols, but the Department has promised to provide additional guidance in the coming weeks on topics such as transportation and athletics, which would allow for increased specificity in the preliminary plan for HPS. "DESE has yet to issue comprehensive protocols with regard to transportation," Austin shared in the email to parents, "but we do anticipate that all students will be required to wear masks and maintain a minimum of 3-6 feet of physical distance while riding on school buses." According to the Superintendent, the HPS will be administering a second family survey after the final reopening plan has been published. That survey will include more detail about learning models, schedules and transportation.


The district’s preliminary reopening plan summary will be completed and submitted to DESE on or before July 31st, with the comprehensive final plan due to DESE on August 10th. In the meantime, DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley has requested that school systems postpone any announcements about what reopening will look like in their districts until early August. The Department and districts are still waiting for key information that will provide for the best reopening model for each community. According to the DESE website, that information includes updates about financial resources that may be available, such as the possibility of a second federal stimulus package, and any change in local COVID-19 transmission rates.

The HPS survey link can be found in the Superintendent’s email to parents and guardians as well on the District’s Facebook page. At the time this article was published, it was not available on the District or Town’s websites.