This is William Cameron, Superintendent of the Lenox Public Schools. In addition to this voice message, you will receive a written copy by e-mail. The text of this message will also appear on the Lenox Public Schools’ website, as well as on the Morris and LMMHS websites.
Earlier today I submitted a preliminary school reopening plan for the Lenox Public Schools to the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education. This plan, which is required by Commissioner Jeffrey Riley, will be reviewed by the Department. DESE’s reactions will be provided to us by August 7. What is being called a final plan for reopening school will be submitted, again at the direction of the Commissioner, by August 10.
Our preliminary reopening plan is posted on the district’s website [under the COVID menu]. It calls for dividing Lenox students into three groups. One would consist of students with special needs, including those with IEPs that require special instruction or supplemental services and those acquiring English language proficiency. Under the plan these students would be in school all day every day. The two other groups of students would spend half the day, morning or afternoon, in school. In the interest of keeping this message relatively short, I urge you to read the plan. Doing so may answer some, but I’m sure not all, of your questions.
What’s more, in order to facilitate a strong program of professional development in remote learning, as well as to address other matters with the faculty, instruction in any format will likely not begin on August 27, as originally planned. With the School Committee’s approval, instruction will begin in mid-September.
All that said, the plan I just sketched out, which I submitted on behalf of the School Committee today, and even the one that will be submitted on August 10, must be viewed as tentative. A significant resurgence of COVID-19 in this region would make reopening school for all students impossible. And any model we adopt for resuming instruction even under current circumstances will not look the way school looked in the past.
Moreover, changes in the way schools are organized and instruction and other services are provided must be bargained with our unions. As you may know, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, with which the Lenox Education Association affiliated, has publicly rejected a return to school-based instruction in any form that is not deemed “safe.” The meaning of “safe” must be determined not only by public health officials, but by collective bargaining, as well. Despite the School Committee’s expressed desire to start bargaining sooner, the first session the parties were able to hold took place only yesterday.
If you read the preliminary plan you may be able to get a sense of the complexity of the issues we all confront. The School Committee, the district administration, and the LEA are working to reach agreement as soon as possible on how educational programming can start, and what it will look like.
I will keep you informed as things progress.