Dr. Bradford Jackson, superintendent-director of Shawsheen Valley Technical High School in Billerica, last week announced that planning is underway “for a full reopening before the end of the school year. We have not set a specific date yet—our goal is early May.”
In a March 23 message to the community, Jackson and Principal Jessica Cook confirmed the school’s plan to return students to a 100% in-person learning model on Monday, May 3, 2021.
Jackson is optimistic because of recent steps making it easier for teachers to be vaccinated, the increased use of outdoor space in warmer weather, and “the track record we’ve had here.”
There will be some requirements, such as continued wearing masks and distancing, he acknowledged.
“In spite of Herculean efforts on the part of our teachers, remote learning does not yield the same results as in-person learning,” Jackson said. “I think it is going to be helpful to have the students in school before the end of the year so we can do a face-to-face assessment and really hit the ground running when we return in the fall.”
He added that there will be remedial programs in the summer to make up for academic losses.
This school year Shawsheen Tech has followed a hybrid model, but specially tailored to the curriculum. Most of the 1,300 students alternate weeks – one week literally in the “shop” and the following week virtually for classroom subjects.
A few dozen kids with high academic needs are learning in person every week, he said. So every week there are more than 700 students physically present in the building, Jackson said.
There have been about 40 Covid-19 cases among staff and students, resulting in some 300 close contacts. “We have had only one suspected case transmitted in school – two adults who shared an office,” he said.
“We feel Shawsheen has been very safe,” Jackson declared. “Our students are very serious about wanting to be here and have been extremely cooperative with distancing and mask-wearing. And we have gone through gallons of hand sanitizer.”
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763