Supt. Priya Tahiliani said the new goal for having the Everett Public Schools in a full hybrid education model would be by the end of February in what would potentially be a slow rollout by grade level through the month.
At Monday’s School Committee meeting, Tahiliani addressed the issue of hybrid education once again, saying students needed to be in the buildings “sooner than later.”
“We are meeting on this with our Health Task Force and it would be our goal to by the end of February transition,” she said. “We would start transitioning some grades in by February and then transition everyone in by the end of February. We are hoping we don’t see a huge surge after the holidays…We know we need to make sure to get back sooner rather than later. I don’t know that we can continue to wait.”
She said the plan would be to start with grades K through 2 in early February, and then move to the substantially separate classroom students, and then to the higher grades. With each step they would stop to assess the cases and be on the lookout for spikes – noting that the numbers of cases within the 0-19 age category spiked in December to 250 total cases.
She added that they would use lessons learned with in-person learning at the Devens School, the Lafayette School and the e-Learning Centers. They would also work closely with their Task Force before moving ahead to new grade levels.
The hybrid model in Everett would have a portion of students attending school part of the week, with everyone taking one day off, and another portion remaining remote. The groups would switch off during the week, and any student that wanted to remain all-remote can still opt for that choice.
The EPS was originally supposed to transition to hybrid education in November, but that hit a snag when cases and positivity rates continued to climb in the fall. At this point, cases are rising very fast in Everett, and the positivity rate in Everett is above 10 percent.
The budget to go to the hybrid model is quite expensive, Tahiliani said, and would require $5.1 million in “must haves” to make the program work.
One of the largest expenditures for any potential hybrid education program is the hiring of long-term substitute teachers at a price of $1.3 million to cover for teachers that have opted not to return to the classroom this year.
Another $1.6 million would be required for transportation costs as there would be far more buses needed this year to accommodate social distancing on the buses.
Committeewoman Dana Murray, who is a teacher in Boston, said she has returned to a hybrid classroom, and she applauds the move because kids need to be in the classroom – though there are risks and many things to consider.
“I’m glad we’re not talking about bringing back students and staff immediately after the holiday,” she said. “It’s getting to the point where enough is enough.”