After extra week to plan and train, Hopkinton schools open doors

  • Principal Chris Kelley greets students outside on the first day of school at Hopkinton Middle High School, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. Students in Team B attended in person on Monday, while Team A students learned remotely. Eileen O'Grady—Monitor Staff

  • Principal Chris Kelley greets students outside on the first day of school at Hopkinton Middle High School, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. Students in Team B attended in person on Monday, while Team A students learned remotely. Eileen O'Grady—Monitor Staff

Monitor staff
Published: 9/14/2020 3:31:54 PM

Hopkinton Middle High School Principal Chris Kelley stood in front of the school building Monday morning, waving to students as they exited their parents’ cars, heading for the school building.

As each student passed, Kelley told them to check their mailboxes for the schedule of the day, and then go straight to “advisory,” the first period where students meet in small groups with their advisers.

Monday was the first day of school for Hopkinton School District, about a week after other area school districts, which started Sept. 8 and 9.

In a normal year, middle and high school students would start arriving at 7:30 a.m., but the district pushed the arrival time to 7:45 this year to avoid any free time students might spend congregating in common spaces.

“It’s just about re-training the students to our new normal and our new behavior, how to stay socially distant and keep the mask on,” Kelley said.

Hopkinton officials decided to move the school’s start date to Sept. 14 to allow extra time to plan bus routes and do professional development training for staff, and to avoid starting on last Tuesday’s primary voting day.

The district is using a hybrid learning model that divides K-12 students into two “teams,” A and B, that attend in person on alternating days. Team A attends on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while Team B attends on Wednesdays and Fridays, with each group learning remotely on the days they are not in school. Mondays are rotating days when Teams A and B alternate attending every other week.

Some students are doing a remote-only option. Pre-school is in-person, operating on the same schedule as usual.

“Because it’s every other day the classes are smaller and the building, it’s quieter,” said Hopkinton Superintendent Steve Chamberlin. “But I could sense the smiles through the masks.”

Lunch time was socially distant for the in-person students Monday, each spaced six feet apart. Masks are required at all times during the school day, except during specified mask breaks, where students can go outside and temporarily remove their face coverings.

“We are going to have to build up mask tolerance,” said Kelley.

Chamberlin says the district’s biggest challenge right now is staffing. As employees opted into in-person or remote teaching and some staff members remain out of school due to quarantine, the district has been scrambling to make sure all classes are covered.

On Monday morning, Chamberlin stepped in to substitute teach a remote class for a teacher who is quarantining.

“The kids were very patient. I’m not a Chromebook guy so it took some time to log on, but we did it,” Chamberlin said. “It’s been good for me to see up close and personal what a school looks like in this new normal.”

In a phone call at the end of the school day, Kelley said there were some technology issues at the middle and high school with students having trouble logging on to Google Classroom, but the whole technology staff was in the building and solved the issues quickly.

“Everything so far indicates it’s been a pretty good day, all things considered,” Kelley said. “With only half the students in the building it’s been pretty quiet. It feels and looks different, but as we get into next week, I think it will begin to be a bit more normal.”


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