WEST NEWBURY — Superintendent Justin Bartholomew, on behalf of the district and the 100% Pentucket Working Group, wishes to provide the community with an update following the School Committee’s vote tonight to initiate a return to fully in-person learning starting next week.
Pentucket Regional School District students in kindergarten through second grade will return in phases over the course of four days, from Tuesday, March 23 through Friday, March 26. Then, all students in kindergarten through sixth grade will attend school in-person beginning Monday, March 29, unless they have opted to continue learning remotely.
“This phased approach will enable us to evaluate and potentially modify our re-opening protocols in real-time to ensure that we’re doing everything possible to keep everyone safe while finally welcoming students back to school full-time,” Superintendent Bartholomew said. “I want to thank everyone who has worked tirelessly over the course of the last year to make this day a reality by helping develop and execute plans for remote, hybrid and now fully in-person learning.”
Prior to welcoming back students, Pentucket will host a professional development day for teachers that will provide them with critical guidance on how to support the transition back to fully in-person learning. That guidance will place a heavy emphasis on strategies to provide students with a positive, supportive, engaging and celebratory classroom environment. Teachers will also be equipped with the tools they need in order to recognize when students may be struggling with social or emotional challenges.
Plans for a return to school for middle and high school students will be finalized and shared with the community in early April.
While 3 feet will be the minimum social distancing standard in schools, increased distances will be the norm for lunches and mask breaks.
DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley first shared his intent to transition elementary school students to fully in-person learning on Feb. 23. Superintendent Bartholomew has partnered with the public health and safety officials from Groveland, Merrimac and West Newbury to form the 100% Pentucket initiative, a working group of professionals and representatives of the district and its member communities to prepare and plan for a return to five-day in-person instruction this spring. The working group advises the superintendent on the latest guidance from the state and federal authorities as well as decisions made by municipal public health officials.
Pentucket has been planning for a return to in-person learning since the start of the pandemic and has gradually brought more students into the classrooms for more hours as it was determined safe to do so.
Pre-Kindergarten students are already operating on a normal schedule and have been since the start of the school year. A limited number of students identified as having the highest need were also brought in for in-person learning four days a week this February.