There are many unknowns about the school year. I may be able to answer some of your questions and may not be able to answer others. It may be helpful to you to know that other community members have the same questions you have.
To give you a chance to ask your questions in a way that will be helpful to everyone, I've created a survey for you to ask questions. On a regular basis I will review the questions, consolidate them, and include the responses on this page. As information changes I will change the responses.
Julia Hendrix, Principal
Click on the plus sign to expand each section and read more information.
If you have a question about school opening, you can follow this link to a survey. On a regular basis questions will be reviewed and answers will be posted here.
As information changes, questions will be updated.
Currently, based on 6 feet of social distancing in classrooms Birch Meadow School classrooms have the following student capacity:
- Classrooms on the Grade 2/3 Corridor and the Grade 4/5 Corridor can accommodate 12 students and two adults.
- Classrooms on the Grade K/1 corridor can accommodate 9 students and two to three adults.
These are the numbers that we will use to determine classroom and satellite classroom occupancy for the 20-21 school year.
Understanding the pressure families are under with the hybrid model, we've made every effort to accommodate learning cohort requests, as families are using these for child care and learning on the distance learning weeks. These requests, have, however, impacted classroom assignments. During the week of August 31, we will be reviewing cohort lists and current classroom assignments to make changes. Class lists will be sent out after Labor Day.
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Welcome back! The Covid-19 pandemic has created many new concerns and
challenges. As your school nurses, we are committed to providing students and
staff with a safe and healthy learning environment. Please take a few minutes to
read the important information in this letter as we prepare for this academic year.
? Staff and students must wear masks/face coverings. Specific time will be
allotted by teachers for mask breaks during the day; these times will be
physically distanced and follow safety protocols:
? Masks must be 2-ply cloth. Research has shown that the following
options do not provide adequate protection so cannot be used: neck fleece, neck gaiters, bandanas, knitted masks, masks with vents.
? Please test the fit of your student’s mask. It should cover the nose and
mouth and fit snugly over the mouth and chin. It should not gape on the
sides. Make sure your child can breathe comfortably wearing their mask.
? To prevent illness outbreaks, staff and students with any illness must stay
home. We will err on the side of caution in our mission to keep everyone
healthy and to keep schools open.
? Every day before your student leaves home please note any of the
- A cough or shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- A fever of 100.4°F or higher or chills
- A sore throat or headache
- Muscle or body aches
- Congestion/running nose – not related to seasonal allergies
- Unusual fatigue
- New loss of taste or smell
• Has your student been in close contact with anyone with
suspected or confirmed Covid-19?
• Has your student had any medication to reduce a fever before
coming to school?
The student must stay home from school if the answer to any of the above
questions is “yes.” If you are not sure whether your child should stay
home, please contact the school nurse to discuss your child’s condition
before sending your student to school.
If a child is suspected to be ill with Covid-19 symptoms while at school, the
following steps will be taken:
? The student will be evaluated by the school nurse
? If the nurse’s assessment confirms likely illness with symptoms consistent
with Covid-19, the student will be cared for in an isolation area in the
? Parent or guardian will be contacted and given details of the student’s
? Parent or guardian will be asked to pick up their student within 30 minutes.
? Parent will be directed to have their student evaluated by a physician and
provide follow up information
? If warranted, contacts of the student will be notified
In order to protect students and staff, it is imperative that there be a timely
dismissal plan for all students. Parents must provide a plan that ensures
pickup within 30 minutes. Be sure to update all contact information in the
parent portal and make updates when it changes.
Start of school information:
? We will require all immunizations per the CDC schedule. Additionally, it is
strongly advised that all students receive an annual flu vaccine. That is
especially important this year since it is possible that the Covid virus will
affect the flu season.
? A physical exam with vision and preferably a hearing screening is required
for kindergarten entry. Kindergarten entry also requires a documented
lead test. Also, please provide documentation for all annual physical
exams.Documentation of a telehealth visit may be accepted until an in-
person appointment can be scheduled. Telehealth appointments are not
accepted as sports physicals.
Back to school preparation:
? Please practice hand hygiene at home and talk to your student about the
reasons for keeping hands clean. Hand washing will be a routine part of
their school day. Hand sanitizer will be used when it is not possible to
? Label all materials, including your student’s masks, with permanent
? Practice putting the face mask on and taking it off while avoiding touching
the cloth. Help your student recognize the importance of avoiding
touching their mask while they are wearing it.
? Send in a labeled container that your student will use to hold their mask
during mask breaks and snack/lunch.
? Students must bring a filled water bottle to school every day.
A family may choose to home school their child or children at any time up to or after the first day of school. Home schooling plans are submitted to and approved by the principal, Julia Hendrix.
The district will offer distance, online learning for all students during the year. A family can opt for distance learning if they choose not to send their child to the school building. Information about this option is forthcoming. If you choose this option you will indicate it in the family survey.
If you are considering home schooling you may find this article helpful. It gives you some things to consider if you are weighing the pros and cons of home schooling for the 20-21 school year.
This link will take you to the Reading School Committee policy on home schooling.
Regular physicals and current immunizations are part of complete health for all children (and adults). Kindergarten children, regardless of whether they are attending remotely or in the hybrid model, should have updated physicals and current immunizations submitted to the school.
Telehealth appoints for physicals will be accepted.
The Reading Public Schools will follow protocols for positive testing based on state guidance. These protocols will align with the following principles from the state:
- All close contacts of anyone who tests positive must be tested and quarantine for 14 days.
- Quarantine is for individuals who may have been exposed to someone who is COVID-19 positive but are not exhibiting any symptoms and have not tested positive. Individuals who are in quarantine should stay in place for 14 days.
- Isolation is for individuals who have tested positive (with or without symptoms), and is for at least 10 days, and at least 3 days without symptoms.
Explicit district guidelines will be established and communicated prior to the start of school. Below are links to the Department of Health documents we are using for development of these guidelines.
At Birch Meadow School, we will be opening windows in classrooms during the day as much as is possible (based on weather). Classroom ceiling fans can and will be run during the day to maintain air movement. All unit ventilators in classrooms are having their filters changed regularly to ensure they are effective.
Finally, we are working on an outdoor learning plan, during with classes can be scheduled to work in outdoor areas and maintain social distancing. This will allow for mask breaks and the chance to move around during the day.
Currently, the rooms are set up with enough desks for students in one cohort. This allows for plenty of space around each desk for teachers and other students to move as they enter and exit the room. Desks will be deep cleaned at the end of each week, on Fridays, to prepare for the next cohort of students. Also, during a one week period students will stay at the same desk.
Monday to Thursday (for students learning remotely and in person)
- 8:15 - In person students may enter the building. Remote students may begin logging in.
- 8:25 - Start of day. Attendance taken.
- 2:45 - End of Day. For students in the building, a dismissal plan with social distancing will be in place.
Friday (for students learning remotely)
- 8:15 - Remote students may begin logging in.
- 8:25 - Start of day. Attendance taken.
- 11:00 - Classes End.
All students in Individualized Education Plans will continue to receive services listed on those plans. These services may be delivered: in person during the in person school weeks, remotely during hybrid weeks, or in a combination of the two.
During the weeks of August 24 and August 31, all families with children in special education are being contacted by the principal or team chairperson to discuss service delivery.
In the Superintendent's Fall Reopening Plan, Dr. Doherty stated that students in the following programs will to the greatest extent possible will return to full time programming:
Currently the Office of Student Services, Team Chairpersons, and principals are reviewing DESE guidance and considering students on a case by case basis to determine the amount of time students on IEPs will be in school and in remote learning. You will hear from the Team Chairperson or Principal prior to the start of school about your child's specific situation.
Much of our lives are arranged around the understanding that our children, after a certain age, will be in school on a set schedule. Understanding the pressure families are under with the hybrid model, we've made every effort to accommodate learning cohort requests, as famlies are using these for child care and learning on the distance learning weeks. These requests, have, however, impacted classroom assignments. Next week we will be reviewing cohort lists and current classroom assignments to make changes. Class lists will be sent out after Labor Day.
There has been some concern about Chromebooks for use in online/distance learning. Any laptop (Chromebook, Mac, PC) that has a web browser will work for online/distance learning. Our platform is web based. Tablets (including Kindle Fires) and phones with internet browsers can be used, however, the interface is difficult on these devices. A laptop is recommended.
The district will offer virtual/distance learning to all children whose families feel uncomfortable or cannot send them to school. Information about distance learning is in the Superintendent's Draft Plan for Re-opening which was sent out to families during the weekend of July 25th. This link will take you to that plan.
When the family survey is sent home, you can indicate that you will want virtual or distance learning for your child(ren).