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07.22.20 EWSD Schools to Reopen with Hybrid Model

July 22, 2020

Dear Families,


I am writing to provide you with an update on our plans to reopen our school buildings. To start the school year, the Essex Westford School District, along with many other local school districts, will implement a hybrid instruction model that will include both in-person and remote learning. 


This plan to return to school is student-centered, focused on social-emotional needs, and designed to keep our students learning at a high level. Most importantly, a hybrid model affords the ability to offer in-person learning in the safest environment possible while adhering to the best practices of the guidance issued by the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE). Here’s how the hybrid model will work:


  • Students will be divided in half, creating two groups
  • Groups of students will attend school in-person two days a week and learn remotely three days a week 
    • For example, half will attend on Monday and Tuesday in person, and then learn remotely Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, while the other half will learn remotely Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and then take part in in-person learning on Thursday and Friday
    • Students and staff attending in person will wear masks and practice physical distancing
    • Groups will be thoughtfully created so they best support families, including grouping family members together whenever possible
    • We are working on scheduling and will have that information to families as soon as possible
  • Students will be learning remotely on Wednesdays. We will use this day to provide individualized support to students, engage in professional learning and planning for our staff, and deep clean our buildings.
  • I understand that many of you wanted five days of in-person instruction, at this point, we are unable to provide this and stay within the health guidelines. However, we are working with partner childcare providers to see how we can offer opportunities for those that need help during your child’s remote days. Our hope is to do this at a limited cost for you. Please know, we are making this a priority and hoping we can make it work.


While we all agree that nothing compares to the benefits that students receive from in-person instruction, after extensively reviewing the AOE’s guidance and evaluating how to operationally implement those requirements and recommendations in our schools, reviewing survey submissions from our families and staff, and consulting with our reopening leadership committee, we feel the hybrid model will best address the health and safety of our students and staff given the current health data available. 


Having fewer students in the building at a time will help reduce contact with others and allow for improved distancing. The smaller groups will also allow teachers and staff more time to assess the academic progress and needs of our students. 


With fewer students in the building, we can better assist them adjust to new expectations while fostering healthy routines throughout the day, such as regular hand washing. In these pandemic conditions, it is also imperative that we continue to improve our remote systems so that we can be ready to adapt if health data requires a shift to full remote learning again.


We are also preparing to offer a remote-only/virtual learning option for families. More information regarding this option will be available soon. Within the next few days, you will receive additional information that will allow you to choose which model (hybrid or remote) you would prefer for your child(ren) to start the school year. 


We acknowledge the hardships that hybrid and full remote models may place on families, including our own faculty and staff. Although it will be a challenge, we have heard from many of our families that the hybrid (blended) learning environment is preferred. 


By working together, openly communicating, and being creative and flexible, we can overcome these challenges together. That said, please understand there are many moving pieces to these plans, and we will need to adapt as the situation surrounding COVID-19 evolves and we receive further guidance from the AOE and the Vermont Department of Health. 


Finally, in addition to academic work, I want to assure you that our teams will work tirelessly to support your child’s social and emotional needs through this transition. School is going to look and feel different this year, and we know all of our students will need support. We are here for your children and for your family.  


With gratitude,


Beth Cobb
EWSD Superintendent