WALES — Students will learn both in person and remotely this new school year.

Regional School Union 4’s School Board voted unanimously Wednesday night to adopt a hybrid model for this new school year.

Initially, the hybrid plan had called for students in certain grades to go to school entirely in person and for students in other grades to go entirely online. But RSU 4 leaders said Wednesday that was not logistically doable. Instead, Superintendent Andrew Carlton proposed separating all students into cohorts, with some attending in-person Mondays and Tuesdays, while others attend classes on Thursdays and Fridays.

The school system will also identify students who did not do well with distance learning last spring and will allow them to attend in person all four days. Parents may also elect to have their children learn remotely all four days, staying out of the school building completely.

School leaders had considered all in-person learning for everyone, but they found there was no way to keep students distanced from each other in full classrooms.

“It’s just not possible,” Carlton told the board.

School leaders had also considered an all-remote plan, but it was the hybrid model Carlton decided to put forth.

Still, the superintendent was not particularly enthusiastic about it.

“In my 17-plus years of education experience, I have never been in the place I am right now where I don’t know what the right answer is. I just don’t,” he told the board.

The nearly three-hour school board meeting garnered a lot of community attention. At one point, 190 people watched it live on YouTube while about 75 listened via Zoom.

The plan calls for a shorter school day — 30 to 45 minutes shorter for elementary students and 45 to 60 minutes shorter for middle and high school students — so kids won’t have to spend so many hours in masks and so teachers can connect with students who are working remotely that day.

The plan also calls for classes to start on Sept. 14 rather than at the end of August. The late start will give teachers time to plan and will also give the school system more time to prepare buildings and get needed personal protective equipment and other safety items delivered.

“The reality is, we need all the time we can get,” Carlton said.

Schools will install an electronic system that screens students and staff for a fever when they enter the building. Schools will also implement a variety of safety protocols, including immediately isolating students who show symptoms, creating one-way hallways and prohibiting the use of lockers at the middle and high school to keep students from gathering in the halls.

Students and staff will be required to wear masks. Those who can’t wear a mask may be allowed to wear a face shield. Students will get “mask breaks” throughout the day, either outside and distanced from each other, or for short periods in classrooms.

Busing was one of the most contentious issues of the evening. Even with only half of students attending school at any one time, some buses may need to have two students per seat.


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