When Abington students return to the classrooms fulltime for the first time in more than a year Monday, Erin O’Brien expects to have mixed feelings.
“Having the kids home while we have been home has been a fun and almost sacred time,” said O’Brien, the mom of a 7th grader, 4th grader, and kindergartener. “I’ll miss the noise they bring, the laughs they bring, and having them show up in my background while I’m on work meetings. I’ll miss peeking in on them as they’re dialed in to class – catching a rare glimpse into the details of their days.”
But she also knows there are tangible and intangible benefits to having her kids in class five days a week, engaging with teachers directly.
“I’m very excited for that reason alone,” said O’Brien.
It’s been a full calendar year since Abington students attended class in-person five days a week. The COVID-19 pandemic closed every public school in Massachusetts last March, forcing a sudden switch to remote learning. This September, Abington opened in a hybrid model, with students split into two cohorts, and attending classes in person two days a week, and sitting through online learning three days a week.
That changes on Monday for Abington’s K-8 students. Abington High School students will return next Monday.
School administrators are expecting Monday to feel more like the first day of school, rather than a typical Monday in April. It will be the first time students in the Green cohort will see their Wave cohort classmates in person. Dozens of students who had been learning remotely full-time will be stepping into the classroom for the first time in more than a year. Bus routes have been redrawn to reflect the additional number of students. And parents are being warned about long drop-off and pick-up lines.
“Because not as many people signed up [to take the bus], we’re going to have a significant increase in traffic compared to normal,” Superintendent Peter Schafer said.
“Leave yourself plenty of time. But if you’re rushing between two buildings don’t rush, its OK. Being late to school, or late to collect, because of traffic should not be on your list of problems to worry about.”
Schafer said students will not be considered tardy if there are cars still dropping students off.
Schafer also said parents should be prepared for buses to be late Monday as drivers adjust to new routes and new passenger tags.
Monday will mark the third shift in approach for Abington educators this school year. After creating the district’s first-ever hybrid learning curriculum over the summer, the state mandated that all districts add a synchronous learning component in January. Now teachers are readying to welcome full classes of students – again at the state’s insistence – while still trying to adhere to social distancing requirements.
For example, students still need to wear masks and sit three feet away from each other. Many lower grade classrooms have been cleared of all reading nooks and other learning areas in order to squeeze in the extra desks.
Beaver Brook and Woodsdale elementary schools will take turns eating lunch under large white tents that have been set up outside each school.
Each elementary school will also have a multi-grade classroom to safely accommodate students opting out of full-time remote learning and returning to in-person learning.
“We’re going to be doing any and everything we can to make this an engaging and meaningful experience for our kids,” said Schafer.
Parents still have the option of having their children learn remotely full time.
Each school principal has sent a letter to parents and guardians outlining what they can expect starting Monday.
O’Brien said she’s been impressed with how school administrators have continually adjusted the past 12 months.
“Regardless of how this story unfolds as we go into yet more unchartered territory, I am very thankful for the teachers and their ability to pivot to change throughout the year while keeping the kids engaged and as safe as we can control for,” she said.