QUINCY — Quincy Public Schools will start the school year on Thursday, Aug. 20, with in-person classes and online remote learning.
"It's important we get kids back to school," Superintendent Roy Webb said. "It's important for their development as a human being and a citizen."
During online registration, families can opt for in-person instruction or remote learning — and will need to stay with that option until the end of the first quarter for students through eighth grade and the end of the first semester for grades 9 to 12.
Back-to-school plans specific to each building are being finalized and should be available by mid-July, Webb said.
Students and families can expect school day changes including the possibility of staggered start and end times, changes specific to buildings or grade levels and changes across the school district.
Students and staff will be required to wear face coverings.
QPS will provide two cloth masks and a face shield for all employees and all students. Face shields will remain at school, but masks will have to be taken home and laundered.
"They don't have to wear our masks. Families can figure out what's best for their child and go that route as far as a cloth mask, but that's going to be the preferred method," Webb said. "A face shield is an option if a cloth mask is not working well for that child, but the preferred method will be a face mask."
Students will get "mask breaks" during the school day to get outside, where they can socially distance, and take off their masks while eating.
"It's not like they'll come in and be seven hours straight in a mask in the same class," Webb said. "We'll do the best we can, and we can use help from parents getting children ready for that now."
Student temperatures will be taken prior to boarding a bus or entering the school. Students with a temperature above 100 degrees will be isolated and sent home.
Students in pre-K through eighth grade can expect to eat lunch in their classroom, with plans still being finalized at the high school.
Art, music and physical education classes will be offered, but with changes to allow for social distancing.
"It's a feasible plan, and it's a valid plan, but it's a plan that my have to change and pivot as we get more information," Webb said. "The main thing that would cause us to pivot our plan is a spike in (COVID-19) cases. We have to do everything we can do to prevent that."
Classrooms, school buildings or even the school district may need to shift to remote learning based on case numbers and state guidance. "Right now, guidance would be one case in a classroom," Webb said.
Current state guidance allows up to 50 students on a bus, but Webb wants to keep numbers as small as possible on district buses.
"If you can walk, if you can ride your bike, if you can get a ride from a parent, a relative or a neighbor, don't ride our bus so that kids that must absolutely ride our bus because of a disability or a family that doesn't have the means to get to school can still ride a bus and do it as safely as possible," Webb said. "For those kids that have to use our bus, and it's their only option to get to school, our buses will run their usual routes."
With six weeks until the start of classes, there's still plenty of work to be done by QPS — and by families.
"Start preparing your child. Get them excited about school. We're excited about getting kids back in school," Webb said. "Kids may be a little tentative coming back. It's been a while. Start building that excitement now."