HUDSON -- As the Hudson School District approaches its return to in-person instruction this September, the School Board is continuing to look at details of attending school during a pandemic.
The board approved its back-to-school blueprint last month, which brings students back to buildings with everyone wearing masks, provides alternative distance learning for those who do not wish to return, and sets up a plan for if buildings need to close due to outbreaks.
The district has established a metric for when the school year begins on how classes will be conducted based on student and staff daily positive rate average and the 14-day positive count per 10,000 county residents.
The metric has four levels — green, yellow, orange and red. The metric will begin when classes start.
If the student and staff rate and county positive county are low, the green level has all students in face-to-face instruction.
The slightly higher yellow level has preschool through sixth grade and 9th grade attending full in-person, with seventh and eighth grades, and 10th-12th grades hybrid.
An orange level would make seventh and eighth grade and 10th-12th grade virtual, with the remaining grades going to hybrid attendance.
The final red level would have all grades virtual.
Decisions will be made by building. Superintendent Nick Ouellette said it's possible the situation will increase more than one level at a time.
The district will review numbers each Wednesday afternoon to determine if a change in instruction is needed, and if so that will go into effect the following Monday. Ouellette said there may be a need to accelerate a closure, but this metric is a guideline.
Distance Learning details
For students and families who don’t want to or can’t return to in-person instruction, the district is offering individual distance learning.
In a survey to parents, 81.% opted for on-site instruction. About 13% chose individual distance learning. A little over 5% selected the other category.
The district has received 3,754 responses so far. It’s critical they hear from all families, Chief Academic Officer Dave Grambow said.
The district will work individually with each student who selects the online option.
“We don’t believe it can be one size fits all,” Grambow said.
The district has produced "day in the life" videos to show what this setup could look like.
With the distance learning format, students will participate in synchronous learning from their device, but Grambow said they will not be expected to be on the screen during the entire class time. Most classes are not straight lecture and provide time for group or individual work.
Screen time for elementary students would be a total of about 3 hours and 45 minutes. At the middle and high school levels, screen time will be 3-4 hours.
Support and flexibility with teachers are important at this time, Grabow said.
A full mask protocol for the district was approved by the board.
Students will be required to wear face masks inside, even when physically distanced, Chief of Schools Officer Erin Schiltgen said. They will also be required while exercising indoors, and recommended when outdoors and physical distancing is not possible.
Masks are not needed for teachers providing instruction within the taped classroom area, which is viewable to distance learners and 6 feet from on-site students. Other exceptions include when communicating with someone deaf or hard of hearing, while swimming or on duty as a lifeguard or when you are the only person in a room or indoor space.
Students who have medical conditions, disabilities or mental health issues may be unable to wear masks can explore options such as a face shield or taking mask breaks. Schiltgen said the district has fewer students than it originally thought who are not able to wear a mask.
If a student is not wearing a mask, they will first be reminded to put one on. Following that, first offense is sent to the office to call home, second offense is picked up and suspended from the day and third is mandatory distance learning for one week. Distance learning can become longer if failure to comply continues.
The district approved a rate increase for substitutes to ensure it remains fully staffed during the pandemic.
The rate increased from $125 a day to $200 a day. Support staff rates were also increased to $1 an hour less than the regular position hourly rate.
The sub rate is temporary, but the support staff increase was overdue, Chief Human Resources Officer Andrea Voelker said.
The increased rate is above what other local districts offer, Voelker said, and will help the district attract more subs.
“Our goal is to staff our buildings, and we’re hopeful that this is going to attract people to Hudson and keep them in Hudson when they'll be making substantially more than other districtss," Voelker said.
Ouellette said the estimated financial impact is $3,000 to $4,000.
Still left for the board to discuss is potential child care options for staff if a hybrid or virtual model is implemented and leave protocol. Those topics are on the agenda for a special meeting Wednesday, Aug. 12.