Update on Return to In-Person Learning, Expanded In-Person Learning for 2nd Semester

Update on Return to In-Person Learning, Expanded In-Person Learning for 2nd Semester
Posted on 01/04/2021
Dear CPS Community,

We hope you had a chance to rest and reset during winter break. It was wonderful to start the new year with our students today, albeit remotely. Below I am providing an update on 1) our return to in-person learning this month, and 2) second semester plans for expanding in-person learning.

1) Resuming Current In-Person Learning

As you know, we made the decision in consultation with the Cambridge Public Health Department (CPHD) to continue all-remote learning at least until January 11 given the projected post-holiday surge. CPS staff will be undergoing testing this week and we will continue monitoring our COVID-19 metrics and working with CPHD to determine when we are able to safely resume in-person learning. Once we have identified the date on which students can return, we will provide you with advance notice so you have time to plan.

2) Expanding In-Person Learning 

We are looking ahead to February, when we hope to expand in-person learning. Tomorrow, we will be presenting updated details of our second semester plan at the School Committee meeting at 6PM. The overarching objective of the plan – which we will post on our Planning for Second Semester page tomorrow – is to move toward providing more CPS students safe in-person learning opportunities.

Here, are some highlights of the plan:

1. We are seeking to update our safety and health approach to align with the recommendations of the Schools and the Path to Zero: Strategies for Pandemic Resilience in the Face of High Community Spread, report. Key changes would include:
  • Using COVID-19 metrics to INFORM not DECIDE remote/in-person learning status. While the metrics served us well earlier in the pandemic when less was known, this approach will allow us to make more nuanced decisions in consultation with the Cambridge Public Health Department.
  • Implementing 3 foot distancing in classrooms at the elementary level, a decision supported by scientific evidence and approved by the School Committee on 12/15.
  • Expanded testing program to include testing for students in grades 6 - 12.
  • Strengthened communication and training of students, staff, and families on infection control procedures, including the development of “infection control teams.”
2. We will expand opportunities for in-person learning, and continue to prioritize in-person learning for our most vulnerable learners.
  • Preschool - Grades 3: We will continue the current model, using criteria to prioritize students for in-person learning seats, four days per week. The shift to 3 foot distancing will allow us to combine currently split in-person classrooms and distribute support staff to support additional learners across the school.
  • Grades 4 - 5: CPS will use the criteria to prioritize students for in-person learning seats, four days per week. Each school will implement this approach differently, depending on the staffing and enrollment scenario at each school. This may mean students may participate in mixed classrooms, where educators are supporting both in-person and remote learners, or will be assigned to a new teacher and classroom.
  • Grades 6 - 8: Students will be assigned to two cohorts, which will attend school in-person either Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday. In the case of capacity issues due to staffing, students will be prioritized using district wide criteria. Students will be dismissed at lunch, with grab-and-go meals, and remote learning continuing in the afternoon.
  • Grades 9 - 12, CRLS: CRLS will maintain its current block schedule. In-person slots will be prioritized for Academic Tier 2 & 3 students (based on course grades), and if there is additional space, 9th grade students. Classrooms will be mixed (a combination of remote and in-person learners). Lunch will be an open campus.
  • Grades 9 - 12, HSEP: HSEP will maintain its current operational model due to its success and student/family preferences.
  • Wednesdays will remain a remote learning day for all students, to enable staff planning and collaboration.
Many of the details to be worked out about staffing, classroom assignments, and schedules must be determined at the school level based on that school’s staffing capacity, families’ enrollment preferences, and instructional approach.

3. We are working toward February 8 as the earliest start of in-person learning.
  • We are planning for February 8 to start to expand in-person learning. If public health conditions require a delay, we will delay, in consultation with the Cambridge Public Health Department.
  • Families will submit their enrollment choices/preferences in a form that will be distributed on Friday, January 8 and due on January 15. This information is important for schools to plan.
  • We plan to notify families January 25 about their enrollment status. Schools will be planning schedules to the best of their ability.
  • We are exploring a ramp up approach that would allow each grade band to learn and practice new protocols and provide orientation to 6th and 9th graders that have never attended school in these buildings.
We will also continue to look for opportunities to better support remote learners, educators and families.

4. Every plan is imperfect and has tradeoffs. It is incredibly challenging for all of us - families, staff, leadership - to continue to simultaneously navigate the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is also impossible to develop a plan that will meet all of the preferences and priorities of our diverse community of families and staff. There is no perfect plan, and every plan has tradeoffs, particularly in a hybrid model with many complex elements. Some families may have seen a document circulated by some elementary educators describing their understanding of the plan. Please note that this is not an official CPS document and that our planning has continued to evolve with the conversations we’ve had with families, educators, and administrators. These discussions have been important to inform our decision-making. We are striving to create a model that provides for more in-person learning opportunities for our students, while recognizing the new challenges these changes will bring to our staff, students and families.

We know that transitions can be difficult, especially as things continue to evolve in this pandemic with new knowledge.

Finally, please see below for important updates about the state’s revised deadline for flu shots and upcoming dates/meetings.

Sincerely,

Kenneth N. Salim, Ed.D.
Superintendent



1. Flu Shot Requirement - New Deadline: The state has extended the deadline for students to get their required flu vaccine, unless a religious or medical exemption is provided, to February 28, 2021. CPS students who are between 12-22 years-old can receive a flu shot at the Teen Health Center located at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. You can call 617.665.1548 for more information. Please email or call your child's school nurse with the date and location of your child's flu vaccine administration.

2. Key Dates & Upcoming Meetings/Events
January 5, 6PM: School Committee Regular Meeting, Presentation of second semester plans
January 8-15: Families submit enrollment requests (in-person or remote)
January 12, 5:30PM: Curriculum and Achievement Sub-Committee Meeting
January 19, 6PM: School Committee Regular Meeting, review of refined implementation plan
January 25: Family notification of in-person enrollment status
February 8: Earliest targeted date for expanded in-person learning
February 28: NEW state deadline for all students to receive a Flu Vaccine
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