ANDOVER — Superintendent John Lavoie is pleased to announce Greater Lawrence Technical School freshmen and high needs students attended school in-person for the first time this year on Monday.
“We have been tirelessly planning and preparing to welcome our freshmen and high needs students into the building for in-person learning. It is so exciting to have reached this point to allow our freshmen to take their exploratory classes in person and allow in-person academic support for our high needs students. It’s an integral part of the GLTS experience and invaluable for them to explore programs in a hands-on environment, with their instructors and the support needed,” Superintendent Lavoie said. “Many people have helped us get to this point, and I want to thank everyone who has played a role, including my staff, the School Committee, parents, guardians, students, and the greater GLTS community.”
On Monday, Feb. 22, 263 freshmen, 63% of the class of 2024, began in-person learning. Students are split up so that only half of the freshman are learning in-person throughout the week. One group will learn in person on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other group will learn in person on Thursday and Fridays. Each group is split into cohorts that have no more than 12 students. The district also welcomed back eight high needs students into the building this week and 14 more will be returning next week. High needs freshmen students will attend school in-person four days a week for their academic and exploratory classes. The high needs upperclassman students will learn in-person for their academic classes only.
“Welcoming students in our building for the first time in 344 days was truly an exhilarating feeling,” Director of Special Education Kate Burnham said. “One student described the day very simply as, ‘it just felt good to walk around MY school again’. I want to thank all the parents and students for the collaboration and patience that was necessary to make this possible, the special education staff for their continued efforts in supporting our students, and the administration for the tireless efforts for a safe building and return plan.”
The rest of the freshman class and high needs students have opted to continue learning for the time being in a fully remote capacity. Families of freshmen and high needs students will have another opportunity to opt into in-person learning in March. All others grades will continue to follow a remote learning schedule until further notice.
Greater Lawrence Tech serves the communities of Andover, Lawrence, Methuen and North Andover. The district has offered full remote learning, until now, since schools statewide closed due to the pandemic in March 2020.
Students are required to self-assess for symptoms of COVID-19 before coming to school, wear a mask at all times except for periodic and supervised breaks in their schedule, and maintain six feet of distance from others. Students are also asked to wash their hands regularly, and only one student may eat per table in the cafeteria. The district has additionally added signage on hallway floors and walls to ensure traffic promotes social distancing. School officials collaborated with state and local health experts to help determine school-wide safety precautions.
The district has strict protocols should any student or staff member fall ill during the school day. Should a student fall ill, their teacher will contact the school nurse, who will travel to their shop or classroom to assess the student. The student will be escorted to the isolation waiting room for further assessment, testing and treatment if their symptoms are COVID-19 related.
Greater Lawrence Tech was one of 134 districts selected by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the U.S. Department of Defense in November 2020 to receive Rapid Antigen COVID-19 Diagnostic tests to help identify cases of coronavirus in the district. The test is approved by the FDA and delivers results in 15 minutes. School nursing staff have been thoroughly trained on how to administer the test using a nasal swab. The decision to administer the test will be made by the school nurse, and parents and guardians will be contacted by phone call for consent before their child is tested. All students who are tested, regardless of their result, will be sent home. To learn more click here.
Each shop at GLTS has also developed its own protocols tailored to the needs of students and staff in that program. For example, in the metal fabrication/welding shop, students are asked to follow guidelines such as cleaning each machine before moving on to the next assigned area, washing their hands often and after using the machines, and not moving from one machine to another until it is safe to do so.
“We are so excited about the return to in-person learning at GLTS!,” Jorge Polanco, an exploratory instructor for the metal fabrication/welding program, said. “Our shop is an extremely hands on trade. It is a physical skill that cannot be effectively taught through remote learning. Most students that come here are kinesthetic learners, and need to be able to touch and handle things to learn effectively. While in-person learning is critical for all grade levels, the return of grade 9 students is even more so. Imagine trying to choose a career path without ever actually stepping foot into the shop you select! We all recognize the challenges involved in returning during a pandemic, but we also understand the potential missed learning opportunities for vocational students by not returning. I chose this profession for the students, and I will do everything in my power to protect them and keep them safe, while guiding them to a successful long term career path.”
To facilitate the return to school, shop teachers hired GLTS senior co-op students as assistance to help with monitoring safety procedures and also to assist with remote learning students. Each shop has one assistant.