Jenn Smith | Recess: Same storm, different boat for schools making reopening plans

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Same storm, different boat.

That analogy rings true to form as my colleagues and I continue to report on fall school reopening plans.

On Monday, the original due date, state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley gave school districts and school committees a deadline extension to vote and submit their final plans by Friday. Those plans will require districts to prioritize whether they'll reopen in-person, in a hybrid or fully remote fashion. No local public pre-K-12 school is planning to start classes before Labor Day. But some teachers and staff will be called in this month to begin practicing health and safety protocols and go through other kinds of training, including on how to meet the social-emotional and technology needs of students, staff and families.

Last month, area Catholic schools announced their plans to go back to school in person, five days a week, after the Springfield Diocese determined that at least 6 feet of distancing could be maintained in classrooms. On July 30, St. Mary's School in Lee wrapped up a successful practice run in the form of a small summer program, which included classroom instruction and outdoor play.

The county's independent schools have varied approaches to reopening. Berkshire Country Day School and Montessori School of the Berkshires, for example, will reopen in person with distancing and other COVID-19 health and safety protocols in full effect. Boarding schools like Miss Hall's School, Berkshire School, Buxton School and neighboring Darrow School, in New Lebanon, N.Y., will have staggered move-in and quarantine periods before classes begin.

Berkshire colleges are also on track to reopen, offering a range of in-person, hybrid and fully remote options to staff and students. Bard College at Simon's Rock will start classes on Aug. 31, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts students start Sept. 2, with Berkshire Community College and Williams College starting fall classes on Sept. 8 and Sept. 10, respectively.

Area home day care programs and child care centers have been reopening over the course of July, as have some summer camp and youth sports programs — another experiment in keeping kids both safe and engaged. Hevreh of Southern Berkshire is on track to open a new Early Childhood Center this fall, and is using its small group kids' summer program as a trial run for safety protocols. While hugging and high-fiving aren't condoned, there's still room for blowing bubbles, making arts and crafts and hitting home runs, as evidenced by photos and videos posted to social media feeds.

As plans continue to fall into place there's still a healthy dose of worry as a joint report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association detailed a 40 percent increase in childhood cases of COVID-19 across states between July 16 and 30, from 241,904 to 338,982 cases. While there have been no reported childhood deaths in Massachusetts due to this coronavirus, there have been 6,903 cases reported as of July 30, or about 6 percent of youth age 19 and younger.

What are your family's back to school plans? Let me know at jsmith@berkshireeagle.com, 413-629-4517, at facebook.com/413Jenn or @JennSmith_Ink on Twitter.

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