March 2, 2021
Dear RPS Community:
The RPS Reopening Steering Committee met again yesterday, Monday, March 1st to continue to design our plan to further reopen our schools to all students, K-12 to full-time, in-person learning as soon as safely possible. Similar to opening in the fall, changing models mid-year and increasing student capacity during a pandemic is complex. We have been planning for this since October, so I am confident we can increase our capacity significantly in April as outlined by the Governor during his press conference last week.
Context: The Rockland Public Schools opened for all students on September 21, 2020 for a fully remote training week to test our technical ability. Using money from the federal CARES Act grant, we purchased Chromebooks for 2,400 RPS students, PPE for staff, overhauled our disinfecting procedures and implemented significant safety protocols. School schedules at all levels, transportation, and food service were completely revamped. On September 28th we welcomed 50% of our students back into our building in a full five-day, two cohorts, biweekly model. For those families uncomfortable returning, we established the third cohort (separate school essentially) of completely remote learning for each grade. We have successfully maintained this model with minimal switches to fully remote and extremely low in school transmission. In December we implemented a rigorous testing program and we have successfully held seasons for all sports allowed by the MIAA.
Moving Forward: Based on yesterday’s meeting of the steering committee, it is the initial consensus that we stagger the return to full, in-person learning. We will likely return all Kindergarten through grade 4 in early April followed by the middle and high school later in the month. We are working through the specific timeline and logistical challenges methodically and deliberately. For those families who continue to be uncomfortable sending their students, there will be a totally remote option through the end of this academic year. Transportation restrictions have been lifted and we have determined that we have the capacity to handle both cohorts simultaneously.
I understand this is a lot of information and I again want to reassure you that safety remains our number one priority. Strict adherence to masking, distancing, and sanitizing protocols will continue and we are advocating daily at the state level for the vaccination of school teachers and staff. The Governor said last Friday if supply is available he hopes to vaccinate educators by mid-March.
Despite the best efforts of all teachers, students, and families, in-person learning is far more effective than remote learning and the social-emotional benefits of children being in school are significant. The reopening steering committee is meeting at least weekly and smaller groups are working daily to resolve specific issues. I will communicate with you following each meeting until we have fully returned.
If you have any questions, concerns, or ideas, please feel free to reach out to me or your building principal. I am very excited for a full return and am confident that together we will continue to be safe and successful.
Alan Cron, Ed.D.