April vacation canceled; summer break to start earlier for schools

Abington’s school kids will work through April vacation and instead end their school year four days earlier in June, under a new schedule approved by the School Committee.  

Students will still have have Monday, April 20 off for Patriots Day, but take part in online learning the rest of the week. As a result, the final day of school will be moved up to June 15 from June 19. 

The message sent by Abington Schools Superintendent Peter Schafer on the School Committee’s decision to cancel April vacation.

“Kids are finally starting to get into a rhythm again,” he said.

The school committee voted 4-1 in favor of the calendar change during a remote meeting held Wednesday afternoon. Danielle Grafton, the committee’s lone no vote, said she’d rather try to save the days for June, should classes resume.   

“If there is any chance we go back to school this year, I put more academic and social value into what the kids get out of being in school versus online,” she said in an interview after the meeting. 

Gov. Charlie Baker has ordered all schools in Massachusetts closed until May 4 as part of the state’s social distancing efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It is not yet known whether schools will reopen after that date, or if it will be extended further. Abington Schools Superintendent Peter Schafer restated during Wednesday’s meeting that there is no rush to make a decision about canceling the remainder of the school year, and that he’d be OK reopening the schools even for just a day or two to allow students to reset and see their teachers and friends again.  

Abington students are completing their first week of required online learning. The goal, according to Schafer, is to provide Abington students with three hours of learning opportunities every school day that are aligned with state education standards. Abington teachers are working collaboratively across grade levels and subject areas to put together the curriculum. 

For younger age groups, the lessons reinforce what students have already learned. For high school students, there will be some new learning to help students prepare for college and Advanced Placement tests, Schafer said.  

Teachers are making themselves available via office horus to help students and answer questions. They are also reviewing assignments the students send in electronically and providing feedback, but not grades. Schafer said this term for high school students will be credit/no credit, instead of letter grades, which aligns with how most high schools in the region are handling this unprecedented situation. 

“We don’t want any of our students to have a disadvantage when applying to colleges,” he said. 

School officials are still working out what lower grade report cards will look like for the current term.

With learning now taking place in the home, much of the educational burden has been shifted onto parents — many of whom are either first-line responders involved with battling the pandemic, impacted by the economic downturn, or attempting to work from home themselves. 

Schafer said he hopes parents and guardians are able to take an active role in helping their children with the online learning. But he said that ultimately parents need to prioritize the needs of their families, particularly during this state of emergency, and just “do whatever it is you can do.” 

Schafer said he wants Abington’s school children to know their teachers miss them, look forward to seeing them back in the classroom as soon as possible, and hope they’ll work hard on the online learning assignments.

“Your teachers, because they can’t see you, are asking you to use and do the lessons as you would assignments for school,” he said. “Your teachers are there to help you if you get frustrated.”  

%d bloggers like this: