Hoosac Valley to start school year Sept. 15 under hybrid model

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CHESHIRE — Hoosac Valley Regional School District students will start the school year in a "phased-in" hybrid fashion beginning Sept. 15.

The plan focuses on bringing in early childhood and high-needs students back into school buildings first for in-person instruction and specialized services. As it is deemed safe, the district's leadership will phase in other cohorts of students for in-person instruction by the end of October.

The Hoosac Valley School Committee voted to approve the plan and an amended school calendar during its Monday night virtual meeting.

"In my opinion, this phased in approach, provides us with the flexibility that will be required to safely navigate some of the uncertainties that will present themselves this Fall," School Committee Chairman Michael Mucci wrote in an email to The Eagle on Tuesday.

He commended Superintendent Aaron Dean and the district's leadership team "for working so diligently over the summer to provide sound guidance for our school reopening."

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Between now and then, Hoosac Valley teachers and staff will prepare to welcome students into remote and in-person classrooms as negotiated between the district's leadership team and personnel bargaining units.

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According to a reopening document, a top priority is to "identify each Hoosac Valley student's unique academic, social, and emotional learning needs, given the impact of the pandemic on top of the usual summer learning loss."

The superintendent said the district will welcome back approximately 1,100 students in prekindergarten through Grade 12. A "Remote Academy" will be offered for students seeking a full year of remote instruction. The district will pilot Schoology, a learning management system designed to integrate existing PowerSchool and Google Classroom information.

The district also piloted new safety protocols through its six-week, in-person summer program serving 17 students with high needs. Specialists provided needed close-contact occupational therapy, speech therapy, tutoring and testing services while using full personal protective equipment, including face masks, shields, gloves and gowns.

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Dean said pre-K and kindergarten pupils also require more hands-on care and instruction. That's why it's a priority to continue to serve these smaller, specific student cohorts in-person this fall. These special populations will attend school four days a week through September, allowing for a deep cleaning day on Wednesdays.

According to a district survey, about 30 percent of families prefer a fully remote option for their students, while 70 percent favored some form of in-person instruction. Fifty-three percent of Hoosac Valley families surveyed said they would use district transportation.

Dean is asking families to fill out an online fall learning registration form by the end of this week to help determine class groups and schedules, bus assignments and each student's technology needs. The last question on the form asks families if would they be interested in using a remote learning support site. Dean said the district is looking into possible partnerships to form collaborative, supervised remote learning sites or learning pods to support working families and students who struggle to access remote classes.

The district will reach out to families in coming weeks about virtual orientation sessions to help everyone prepare for a very different school year.


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