Caregivers in the Silver Lake Regional School District were given a choice of learning model at the outset of school this year. They could either choose to send their child to school in the hybrid model or keep them remote full-time. For most students, the hybrid model means two in-person learning days and three at home. Students with the highest needs are in person more often. Agreeing to a learning model came with the understanding that at certain intervals throughout the year caregivers and students could elect to change models.
Superintendent Jill Proulx told the Express that parents were asked to respond by November 16 to request a learning model change for the second trimester at the elementary level and the second semester at the secondary level. The trimester begins on December 10 for those at the elementary level and the semester begins February 1 for those at the secondary level. “We ask for this commitment so that principals may plan for any changes. Schools may need to shift staff/resources to remote or to hybrid based on families’ requests,” Proulx explained. There will be another opportunity for change later in the year as well.
Despite the designated dates for switching models, parents may elect to switch to full remote learning at any time. “Parents and guardians may contact their student’s assistant principal or guidance counselor at any time to discuss a learning model change,” Silver Lake Regional High School Principal Michaela Gill explained. Requests to switch to in-person learning outside of the designated timeframe is allowed per DESE guidelines but can take up to a few weeks to accommodate. “Staffing and spacing for social distancing may present us with challenges,” Proulx said.
Gill said that at the secondary level, only about 2 percent of students have requested a learning model change for the second semester. Proulx said that across the Silver Lake schools, there were only a small number of requests made.
Dennett Elementary School Principal Peter Veneto said, “I did not receive many requests to change cohort models. We are all working hard to accommodate the needs of all of our students and families.” He continued, “Given the circumstances, I would say that our first trimester was a huge success.”
Despite the numbers being small, there were a handful of families that elected to switch from full-remote to hybrid at the Dennett. The Express spoke with Plympton mother of three Kaitlyn Brosnan who recently chose to move her two school aged children from full remote to the hybrid model. Brosnan is the mother to third grader Wes, first grader Benjamin, and 3-year-old Maria.
“We chose full remote to start this fall because I originally wasn’t thrilled with the hybrid plan,” Brosnan said. She cited concern with additional exposure should students have to go somewhere other than home during the three remote days. Even at the outset, Brosnan said her family always intended to switch learning models in November assuming they felt safe doing so.
Brosnan said that her third grader was very independent working remotely. “I was very happy with his remote lessons but he expressed his sadness as the weeks went on that he wasn’t seeing any friends. He’s a very social kid and the remote life was hard on him in that way,” she said.
As expected with the youngest remote learners, Brosnan said that her first grader required significantly more assistance. She credited the teachers for their efforts but noted the inherent difficulties in teaching such young children in this manner. “I have talked to many moms in this grade level and remote learning is a struggle for these younger kids. It’s hard to keep them focused and learning via a computer,” she explained. Her children were able to enjoy some safe social distancing fun outside, however, thanks to neighbors who also chose the remote option. “I am very grateful my kids had that.”
Brosnan said her youngest was slated to attend the Silver Lake Regional preschool this fall. She said that since there are high school aides that help at the school, a decision was made to completely cancel this year. “It just wasn’t going to be safe to have all those extra high schoolers coming in and out of the preschool… I was really sad about that because my boys went there and they loved that program but I totally understand why they had to make that decision,” Brosnan said. In lieu of preschool, Brosnan said that her daughter was able to take advantage of a one day per week outdoor farm program at Soule Homestead in Middleborough. “She absolutely loved that! The kids stayed outside and helped with the farm animals and played many fun games and activities.” Brosnan said they are exploring the possibility of sending her daughter to a local preschool in Plympton for the remainder of the year.
Brosnan credited the low number of cases in Plympton as well as the safety protocols in place at the Dennett with helping her family decide to switch to the hybrid model. Despite 22 cases of COVID across the six schools in the Silver Lake district, as of press time there have been no cases at the Dennett. “The school has done a great job keeping everyone safe. It’s a nice small school and I feel they are able to distance the kids safely.”
Brosnan switched learning models just ahead of the designated timeframe and said that her family has already reaped the benefits of that decision. “The kids are so happy to see some friends, even for a couple days. Both are benefiting much more from in person learning. I am able to give some much-needed attention to my 3-year-old those days,” she explained.
Brosnan also shared a sentiment that many parents are likely to share during these unprecedented times. She expressed gratefulness for being able to stay home with her children to help them but also acknowledged the difficulties in trying to assist multiple children with their learning while also caring for a younger sibling. “It’s a lot of work and I’m exhausted every day. It’s a lot of juggling and it’s hard to be everything to them at this time with little breaks,” she said.
The Express also spoke to a parent of a Halifax Elementary School kindergartener who has decided to stick with the hybrid model. Ethan’s mother explained that being home more has had a negative impact on his mental health particularly as an only child. “The hybrid has been going well for us. He doesn’t do well on the computer and has a very hard time focusing, so any time we can safely get him into school is welcome,” she explained.
As of press time there have been 4 cases of COVID at Silver Lake Regional High School, 6 at Silver Lake Regional Middle School, 6 at Kingston Intermediate School, 3 at Kingston Elementary School, 3 at Halifax Elementary School, and none at either Dennett Elementary School or the integrated preschool.