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Dear NBSU students and families,

Today (July 13) marks four months since most school buildings in Massachusetts shut down on Friday, March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, everyone worked together in an effort to support the students and families as we implemented a remote learning system that certainly was not planned by anyone at the beginning of the school year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the students, families, teachers, staff, and administration for doing their best every day to put this plan in place for the children to help finish the school year.

I want to assure the students and families that the North Berkshire School Union Leadership Team has been developing reopening plans since early June in preparation of getting the students back in the school buildings safely for the end of August to start the new school year. Each of our schools also has a group working together with the principal to develop specific plans for their buildings that will prioritize the health and safety of the students and staff members. The state of Massachusetts issued Initial Fall School Reopening Guidance on June 25 and we have been using those guidelines, along with updated information each week, to develop our reopening plans for each school district. Commissioner Riley informed us last week that these plans must be submitted to the state by July 31, and schools will then be allowed to communicate the approved plan to families by early August. Each district must include the following models as part of their reopening plans:

1) Full in person learning with updated safety guidelines in the schools

2) Remote Learning

3) Hybrid model involving both in person and remote learning

The Commissioner has made it clear that each district should prioritize what it will take in order to provide full in person learning for students at our schools starting in late August. However, we are still awaiting some crucial information from the state in regard to areas such as bus transportation that will determine our ability to safely return all students to the school buildings at the start of the new school year.

I want to emphasize that the health and safety of the students and staff members will always be the top priority of this NBSU Leadership Team as we work together to develop and finalize the return to school plans in each district. There are a few key adjustments that will be made when we return to school:

1) Masks must be worn by all staff members and students in grades 2 and up. In some schools, masks will be mandated for all students in the building (the Florida School Committee has already voted on this policy in early July).

2) Students will be socially distanced requiring schools to split up some larger classes into smaller groups throughout the building. Areas such as the gymnasium, cafeteria, and library will be repurposed into learning areas and will not be available for large gatherings of students under the new plans.

3) All students must wear a mask when riding a school bus.

4) In an effort to reduce the number of students on our school buses, school choice students will no longer be allowed to ride an NBSU bus to and from a designated bus stop. This policy has been a courtesy that has been extended to our families over the years to fill open seats, but we cannot allow that any longer, and must adhere to the state guidelines that require school choice families to transport their children to and from the school building.

5) Schools are developing strict protocols for cleaning and disinfecting the buildings each day in a dedicated effort to keep everyone healthy and safe.

I have included an attachment to the state guidance for reopening schools or you can also go to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website at http://www.doe.mass.edu/ to access this document.

If you have any questions, please communicate with me or your building principal, and we will be glad to answer any of your questions about the plans to reopen school buildings. Please remember that we won't be able release the final plans for each school district until they are completed and approved by the state in early August. Everyone at each of our NBSU schools is looking forward to seeing the students again starting the week August 24 with a healthy and safe plan to reopen school buildings for the 2020-21 school year.

Best wishes for a healthy and safe summer.

John Franzoni



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