The combination of temperatures in the 90s, school buildings without air conditioning, and COVID-19 safety protocols has caused some districts in Massachusetts to start the week with plans to send students home earlier.
Heat-related half-days are allowed as long as schools still meet the required learning time for the year, but switching to a remote day due to extreme weather conditions is not an option, the state department of elementary and secondary education. commissioners Friday.
Before the expected heat wave, Associate Commissioner Hélène Bettencourt wrote to principals on Friday afternoon, informing them that they “could consider holding half-days due to the heat” as long as they were still filling their minimum student learning time (SLT) requirements of 850 hours in elementary school and 935 in secondary school.
These requirements are generally higher, but last summer, as schools prepared to open under new pandemic business models, state education officials and teacher unions have reached an agreement to reduce the number of school days required this year from 180 to 170 to allow more time for planning.
Today: foggy, hot, humid, sunny. Maximums around 95, heat index 95-100 °. Tonight: Hot, humid. Low around 70. Tuesday: Another hot day, scattered showers / thunderstorms. Highs in the 90s.
For schools where a half day would mean the annual hour requirement would not be met, Bettencourt wrote that “Districts should cancel school in the event of a hot day and plan to extend their school year by an additional one. day to catch up with the day and the hours. “
“Please note that districts and schools may not transfer all students to distance learning on these days and these days and hours count towards district SLT requirements of 170 days and 850/935 hours,” states the email.
Schools abruptly switched to distance learning last spring when the coronavirus first took hold in Massachusetts, and most have now reverted to fully in-person instruction. In March, the Council for Elementary and Secondary Education voted 8 to 3 to give Commissioner Jeff Riley the power to determine when distance education would no longer count towards student learning time requirements.
Monday is the deadline for high school students to return to class full-time in Massachusetts.
Riley set those dates as April 5 for elementary schools, April 28 for middle schools and May 17 for high schools, although a small number of districts have been granted waivers allowing for later deadlines. Families also had the option of keeping their child away until the end of the school year.
Officials from various districts across the state, including Lowell, Winchester, Holyoke and Braintree, have announced plans to send students home early Monday – and in some cases Tuesday – amid the heat wave.
“The heat in June is always a problem, but this year it is made worse by the requirement to wear a mask”, read a review from Grafton Public Schools announcing the two days of early release. “Monday and Tuesday are expected to be the hottest days, with temperatures reaching 95. Monday and Tuesday the majority of our classrooms will be in the mid-90s by midday.”
Cohasset schools said they were drop out earlier “in an abundance of caution for our students and staff who will wear masks in our non-air conditioned middle and high school” and that during lessons they will “create cool areas in every building” and “provide an additional mask” breaks and water breaks as needed. “
In today’s Daily Debrief, a list of schools closed or sending children home earlier due to the heatwave. Three Ways to Keep Your Home Cool Without Turning Up the Air Conditioning. And after a series of fatal drownings, security officials are warning everyone to be careful in the water.
Worcester school officials, in a tweet About their early termination plans, noted that school water fountains are “still not permitted for use due to COVID guidelines.” The district planned to provide water to all students and recommended that students also pack their own water bottles.
The state’s Department of Education has recommended that when school is in session in hot weather, “districts increase outdoor learning time and provide students with more frequent mask breaks, if possible.” .
A follow-up email from Bettencourt on Sunday offered advice on how schools should approach MCAS testing if they have exams scheduled and need to cancel school at all this week.
The last scheduled day for MCAS testing this year was Friday, June 11.
“In light of Friday’s guidelines, the ministry is proposing two additional MCAS test days through Tuesday, June 15, 2021, for schools that are unable to hold their scheduled test days due to heat closures or early exits, “Bettencourt wrote.