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July 31. That's the date local school districts and districts across the commonwealth must submit preliminary fall reopening plan summaries to the state's education department for review. The state is requiring districts and schools to create one plan covering three scenarios: in-person learning with new safety requirements; a hybrid of in-person and remote instruction; and fully remote learning.

These plans must incorporate how to serve all students, including those with individualized education plans (IEPs) for disabilities, as well as English language learners and students who are facing economic struggles. While in-person attendance is encouraged, schools must also prepare to serve students whose families elect to continue with remote learning.

By Aug. 10, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says districts must submit their finalized comprehensive plan documents to the state and release them publicly to the respective communities they serve.

That's a tall order and there's not a lot of time, or money, to fill it. So no, teachers and school staff aren't enjoying that fabled summer off.

New teachers at Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School — typically the earliest school in the county when it comes to starting fall classes — are slated to begin in two weeks, on Aug. 4, with classes set to commence Aug. 24, according to the school calendar. Other area schools and colleges are looking at late August and early September start dates, as per usual. But how bus routes, cafeterias and classrooms will operate are all still left to be determined in the coming weeks.

While some school personnel are working on various aspects of their school's fall reopening plans, others are looking for work amid staff reductions and layoffs. Others, like many of us, are simply scared of the implications of getting the virus and contracting COVID-19. Let's face it, schools are germ factories, even on a good day. Back when I worked as a local substitute teacher, my lovely little kindergartners gave me the flu and a cold twice in three months, despite my being immunized.

But getting sick or potentially infecting their own family isn't all that worries school personnel. Most teachers and staff sign up to teach in schools because they genuinely want to make a difference in a young person's life. But this pandemic is putting them up against something no teacher program could have every prepared them for.

Growing up in general is filled with drama and turmoil, no thanks to issues like puberty, bullying and poverty. Now, with a public health crisis, extreme racial and political tensions and an economic downturn, schools are going to have to work harder than ever to keep kids and families engaged in education, and hopeful for a brighter future.

What's on your mind when it comes to schools reopening? Let me know at, 413-629-4517, at or @JennSmith_Ink on Twitter.


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