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Hopedale - Local Town Pages

A School Start Like No Other — How is it Going?

Oct 27, 2020 10:06AM ● By Susan Manning

In her 30 years as an educator, Hopedale Superintendent of Schools Karen Crebase has never seen a school year kick off like this one. 

With 200 students learning remotely, and the rest in a hybrid plan, Crebase said “I would never have imagined that we would ever face a situation like we have today. Truthfully, I learn something new every day right now.”

So how are things going in this unprecedented 2020-21 school year?

Well, there are no incidence of COVID-19 in the schools, “however, we are prepared if an incident does occur,” she said.

Crebase said the transition to the new protocols in the schools went better than she thought it would.

“Our in-person return went better than expected. Transportation went smoothly, daily cleaning and sanitizing schedules are on target, and staff and students are following all of the new routines and guidelines. I have been impressed with our students and their ability to continuously wear masks and their dedication to following protocols. It is evident that families are working on these things at home in order to support the schools.  

“Teaching and learning are going as expected. I always expect our teachers to put 100% effort into planning, teaching, and assessing. Walking aroundthe buildings and observing staff members teaching students in the classrooms, using many new technology platforms, and streaming lessons to students at home, it is nothing short of incredible,” she said.

Some of the changes implemented this year include a remote learning academy for those students whose situation makes it safer for them to learn out of school. The other option open to students is a hybrid in-person model. This model consists of two days of learning in school and three days of remote learning. 

“This was an exciting time for us since our doors had been closed since March. Both our hybrid model and our Remote Learning Academy have met with success. 

“…Our students and families report that our children are happy to be back in school, visiting with friends, and have acclimated to the new procedures.  

“Feedback from parents and students participating in the RLA has been positive,” said the superintendent.

In line with most schools in the area, safety has been upped in all the schools as well. Staff and students must wear masks; student desks in each classroom are at least 6 feet apart; high-touch areas are sanitized throughout the day; and outdoor learning spaces are used to allow mask breaks.

“We have implemented significant safety and cleaning protocols to ensure our doors stay open,” said Crebase.

With all the positives, there are bound to be some negatives, though not too many.

“There have been hitches throughout the entire summer and first month of school. However, our staff attempts to identify the hitches and problem-solve in order to move forward,” said Crebase.

One of those hitches has been with technology access. Through funding from the CARES Act, computers were ordered for all students in the district. But halfway through the summer, they got word the shipment would be significantly delayed. Instead of letting this stop them, the technology department found a way to order through the governor’s office and the devices arrived earlier than expected.

“We have regularly asked for patience as we work through each unanticipated issue,” she said.

And that patience has clearly been granted, based on the support from families and the community. 

“The community has been incredibly supportive. We receive many positive emails and calls from appreciative families. It’s wonderful to receive these and hear the personal stories of how our students are adjusting. There have certainly been issues to address, however, our families have been positive in their approach when addressing them. … I think our community knows and understands the current challenges and are appreciative of our efforts.

“I would like families to know that we appreciate all of their support, during the closure last year, and in working together to get our schools reopened. … I hope families know that we are working hard every day to provide an education for our students,” said the superintendent.

Crebase is proud of the teachers, staff and students.

“In a matter of a very short time, our administration and staff have reinvented education. I am proud to lead the schools through these challenging times,” she said.