Tuesday, February 23, 2021

FHS: Letter from Sara Ahern and Joshua Hanna

February 22, 2021

Dear Franklin High School Families,

We are writing to keep you informed about instruction at FHS. We are aware that many families have been expressing concerns regarding our current hybrid model. We want to share some information with you about instruction currently and our plans ahead.

We are responding to concerns that more students are opting to stay remote. We started the year with an operating theory that we would build a strong remote learning platform from which we could easily pivot to hybrid or back to remote (anticipating at that time that we would experience rolling closures). Some other districts' hybrid models involve a significantly higher proportion of asynchronous learning or other workaround including grab and go lunches after a partial school day. When asked to submit structured learning time hours for HS, we easily met (and still meet} the new regulations when they were issued. As far as student achievement goes, our students are meeting with success, given the less than ideal circumstances. Many school districts across the country are reporting higher failure rates during the pandemic. For both quarter 1 and quarter 2, our failures are near the, same rates as pre-pandemic circumstances (although we would love to see them even better).

This strong remote platform is being leveraged now by students who are either fully committing to remote or who chose to stay remote for a period of time. We started with around 325 remote only students at the beginning of hybrid. We saw an increase in the number of students staying out and learning remotely during the weeks following winter break due to escalating community-wide COVIO numbers.

We recently resurveyed families, asking for a commitment for Semester 2 and about 500 students have fully committed to Remote Only at this point in time. At this point, our cohort sizes are around 400 students per week. We have seen an increase in the number of students attending in person in recent weeks (particularly the week prior to break) and the number of 200-250 students being present is not an accurate representation of HS attendance.

It is true that classes vary in terms of the numbers of in person students present and some are quite small. In walking through on the same day. an observer might see classes of 2-3 students and also classes of 8-9 students. We will never be able to have an sections be identical in size given the complexity of the HS schedule. Our classrooms fit about 12 seats at 6 feet of distancing but to rely on a cohorting average of 12 would mean that some sections would be too big and students wouldn't fit (126 sections at FHS have more than 26 students in them for semester 2).

With smaller cohorts than we previously started with, the HS administrative team has been systematically inviting in high needs students to school every week. These students emerge from the IST (Instructional Support Team) process where a team of educators discuss student progress and apply appropriate interventions. About 160 students have been invited in in the past four weeks as a result of IST.

We have done some preliminary analysis to examine collapsing cohorts from 3 to 2. In order to accomplish this, several staff members would need to spend about 3 weeks hand selecting new cohorts. Additionally, we would need to involve our transportation office to do the same with busing. This is not insignificant and realistically, it would likely take about 3 weeks.

We are constrained by a few additional spaces/factors as well which create additional considerations for our planning - our cafeteria holds 170 for lunch and we run multiple lunches (4). Our auditorium holds 75 which sometimes holds study hall students or combined classes, if needed.

Please know that we are both eager to expand in person school as soon as possible and as safely as possible. The CDC guidance that was issued before February break is a helpful guide. The CDC guidance draws some distinctions on decisions related to instructional models with and without pool testing. As you know, the district is exploring poof testing as a way to screen for the presence of COVID in our school community. This tool. combined with information about community spread, can be useful in making instructional model decisions including when to have in person learning, when to be hybrid, and when to be remote. Schools also have received new transportation guidance from DESE that came out last week. DESE has eased some  of the  space restrictions for  busing which will facilitate more students  in person in our schools.

Given the investment adjusting the cohorts would take, our approach will be instead to review the new guidance and learnings from the pool test pilot and work with the Reopening Monitoring Team to further develop a plan for a fuller return to school. as communicated in a recent message (February 10. 2021).

In the meantime, the administration will continue to identify students through the IST process who will benefit from more in person instruction inviting them to attend more frequently.

Kind regards,
Sara Ahern and Josh Hanna

Shared from the FHS PCC (@FHS_PCC) tweet on Mon, Feb 22, 2021:
"Letter from Sara Ahern and Joshua Hanna https://t.co/VCIz4BdTTn"
FHS: Letter from Sara Ahern and Joshua Hanna
FHS: Letter from Sara Ahern and Joshua Hanna

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