HANOVER — South Shore Tech will be returning to the 2020-21 school year under a hybrid instruction model on Monday, Sept 14, according to Superintendent-Director Dr. Thomas J. Hickey, who reviewed the plan during a Thursday Aug. 13 meeting of the SST School Committee.
The committee approved the proposed plan.
All students will be supplied with either a ChromeBook or a laptop to start the year, with the laptops switched out for ChromeBooks when a new shipment arrives later in the school year. A tech help desk will also be established.
Instruction will begin on Sept. 16 after two days of student orientation. The calendar reflecting the new start date was also approved.
Frequent hand-washing requirements and building cleaning, mandatory mask regulations and bathroom monitors to keep students from hanging out in lavatories are being set up. A separate COVID nurse’s room is being designated and LPN hired to assist the school nurse. Ventillation systems are also being monitored.
“The key element of a hybrid model is that it’s going to allow us [the] flexibility to respond to circumstances, should they change,” Hickey said. “This is something to start with and, as things evolve in one way or another, we will adapt.”
Right now, students will be in academic settings for two days out of five in all grades and learning remotely the other three days, Hickey said. The two days will vary for freshmen and sophomores, depending on students’ assigned cohort. Remote learning days will be more accountable than it was in the spring. It will be in real time with a set schedule and attendance will be taken.
Remote strategies are also being designed in case the need arises to quarantine a group of students if one is exposed to COVID-19 or if the state requires another shutdown.
“All of the protocols and structures that we would employ in a face-to-face regular school year, we’ll employ here in the hopes of providing some structure for students,” he said.
For most students, the shop weeks will be a full week of in-person instruction, recognizing that while student safety in important, there must be a hands-on component, which is not easily replicated remotely.
Freshmen and sophomores will be in the school building all week for shop instruction, while juniors and seniors — except for allied health, computer tech, graphics and MET II — will go to school on an alternating day method, half being in the building and half being on remote learning at anyone time.
“We looked at our pressure points,” Hickey said about how the plan was developed. “We all know the building is too small and you layer in a public heath crisis like this and it really exacerbates some of the issues with size.”
Transportation was also examined on the state guidelines of 25 students on a bus.
The school day will be slightly shorter with morning and afternoon bus runs. Freshmen and sophomores will be on the same schedule each week with a 9:05 a.m. start time and 2:25 p.m. dismissal.
“If you’re a junior or a senior, your world is going to be split a little bit,” Hickey said, with instruction beginning at 7:40 a.m. and dismissed on shop weeks and at 1 p.m. The school day, shortened by 75 minutes to allow for the second run of buses, with buses cleaned between runs.
Hickey said it also provides better control of the flow of students into the building and on shop day.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has permitted the timing modification to allow the safe transportation of students.
With a three-foot spacing between students, PPE will be depended on to ensure safety, while for lunches 70 desks have been placed six feet apart in the gym and another 35 in the cafeteria during five lunch periods.
Hickey said if a minimum of six feet distancing were used for classroom instruction, SST would have been going to a completely remote learning model, Hickey said.
Each cohort of about 60 students will be located in classrooms grouped together with students staying in assigned rooms and teachers will switch rooms.
Shop teachers are being asked to separate students as well.
Seniors will be able to continue with coop jobs with the expectation that employers will continue to comply with OSHA guidelines.