The School Committee takes note of the COVID-19 emergency; resulting disruption of the traditional school day and year; growing concerns of students, families and the community; and the growing number of issues that will affect public education.
Therefore, the school committee establishes an emergency, interim policy to:
- promote public safety and safety of students, faculty, and staff;
- maintain, to the extent possible, the high and efficient level of educational services;
- ensure support for students in general and in particular for those at highest risk educationally, as well as those at social and economic risk; and
- comply with the emergency orders of the governor and adhere, to the extent possible, to the guidance of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and other agencies of state and federal government, and expedite the safest strategy for returning students to school.
Pursuant to DESE’s requirement that each district submit a back-to-school plan, the school committee will approve the final plan submitted to DESE, which will outline its strategy for returning students to school and will, in collaboration with the superintendent, make such modifications to the “back to school plan,” and district policy, and will authorize the superintendent to suspend, revise or create protocols to facilitate the safe return to school.
The superintendent will designate the appropriate staff members to oversee the safe administration of COVID-related policies during the period of the pandemic emergency and shall make such recommendations to the school committee as needed.
The school committee will authorize the superintendent to act expeditiously in executing the “back to school” plan in accordance with current law and regulation and will, where noted, authorize the superintendent to suspend, revise, or recommend policies, rules and protocols as needed to serve the best interests and safety of students, their families, and the community.
The “back to school” plan shall constitute the policy of the school district during the pandemic emergency, and the superintendent shall exercise the authority provided in law to carry out the plan as needed.
General District Goals Affected by the Pandemic
The superintendent, with the advice and consent of the school committee, may suspend or modify individual district policies to address the COVID-19 emergency as declared by the governor. Such suspension of policy shall expire upon a vote by the school committee.
The goal of emergency pandemic policies shall be to:
- ensure the safety and health of students, faculty, staff, and all persons who may come in contact with them;
- provide the most effective educational services as possible to students under the circumstances;
- authorize changes to operating protocols as needed to open and operate schools effectively from various venues or platforms;
- conduct the district business and operational functions of the district as efficiently as possible;
- allow the superintendent and staff to act quickly to carry out a “back to school” plan; and,
- facilitate the re-establishment of a safe and productive school day and year.
Attendance (Policy JH)
Subject to operative law and regulations, the superintendent may suspend, modify, or adapt policies related to student attendance including the link between attendance and grades, chronic absence policies, and accommodations for students requiring special placements.
Discipline and Suspension/Expulsion with Homeschooling Rights (Policies JIC, JKD)
The “back to school” plan recommended by the superintendent and subject to the approval of the school committee shall contain protocols for serving students who are disciplined or suspended during the pandemic emergency.
Further, the superintendent shall provide in these “back to school” plans provisions for students who were disciplined or suspended or who may elect to remain at home under the provisions of the policies related to homeschooling, or who may elect remote learning in the interests of safety or health concerns.
Eligibility for Participation in Extracurricular Activities, including Sports (Policies JJ, JJJA)
Subject to law, regulation and standards established by the appropriate and legitimate regulatory body, the superintendent may propose changes to district protocols for participation in extracurricular activities, including sports, subject to the rules established by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.
Illness and Contact Tracing
In the case of a student or students testing positive for COVID-19, the local Department of Health will conduct contact tracing consistent with law and regulation and be consistent with standards to protect the privacy of students, their families, and other persons.
Privacy of Students (Policy JRA)
During the pandemic, the rights to privacy held by students and their families shall not be abridged by the public schools. Such rights extend to the confidentiality of student academic records, health data, economic status, and other such information as may be considered confidential by law.
Massachusetts law prohibits the recording of individuals without their permission. Similarly, students may not be recorded in classrooms by audio, visual, or remote means without the permission of parents or, if of age, by individual students. During periods of remote learning, the privacy of students participating in on-line classes shall not be violated by recording them without appropriate permissions.
School Calendar (Policies IC/ICA)
Subject to the guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the provisions of collective bargaining agreements, the superintendent may suspend or revise the school calendar with the approval of the school committee.
Time on Learning (Policies IC/ICA)
Subject to the guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the provisions of collective bargaining agreements, the superintendent may suspend or amend requirements for time on learning for the duration of the COVID pandemic.
Class Size (Policies IIB)
In order to maintain healthy, safe, and effective classrooms, the superintendent may suspend district policy on class size, subject to the provisions of the collective bargaining agreements where applicable.
Home Schooling (Policy IHBG – temporary) and Remote Instruction for Students in Quarantine
The “back to school” plan shall provide for students who are temporarily homebound due to illness, quarantine, disability, or other reason related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pivoting Back to Remote Learning, or Back to In-School Instruction
The superintendent shall incorporate into the “back to school” plan protocols for modifying these plans, including addressing the needs of students who may require reversion from in-school to remote learning modalities because of the pandemic emergency.
Visitors in Schools and Buildings (Policies KI, KB, KF)
Subject to current emergency declarations, the superintendent may propose suspension or modification to district policies regarding visitors to school buildings during the school day and after school hours.
Transportation and Busing (Policies EEA, EEAEC)
Subject to current laws and regulations, the superintendent may suspend or modify policies related to the transportation of students by the school district. Legal requirements relating to IEP’s that contain transportation for students shall not be altered without the appropriate family consent. These modifications shall be consistent with the district “back to school” plan.
Region voted to approve: August 25, 2020
Amherst voted to approve: August 25, 2020
Pelham voted to approve: August 25, 2020
Effective Date: August 25, 2020