While closing Hull Public Schools for two weeks was the right decision at the time, Acting School Superintendent Judith Kuehn believes, it was not an easy one to make, she told the Times.
“Hull children and their families rely on our public schools as a key component of their larger community. In addition to academics, students receive important special education, health, nutrition, and social service support from our schools,” Kuehn said. “As always, my top priority is the health and safety of Hull students and staff.”
Since Kuehn made her decision to close the town’s schools as of Monday, March 16, due to concerns about the coronavirus, Gov. Charlie Baker has ordered that all schools in the state be closed for three weeks – until Monday, April 6 (returning on Tuesday, April 7).
“We are aware of the impact of interrupting these services and are actively planning for the provision of alternatives,” Kuehn said. “We are also aware of the difficulty that many families will have trying to balance day care with their professional and personal responsibilities. In short, we know that closing schools is a major disruption in the community.”
In a March 17 letter to the Hull community, Kuehn provided an update on her plans. March 16, March 17, March 27, and April 3 have been designated as “snow days”, and the last day of school will be Tuesday, June 23, regardless of how many school days are missed. While all school buildings will remain closed, the schools’ Central Office will be open for business. At this time, there are no plans to cancel April vacation, but that could change if it is determined that events warrant a cancellation.
“One thing that remains constant is that, even though we will not be able to entirely replicate classroom instruction, it is critically important to find ways to stay connected to our students, not only by trying to offer meaningful learning experiences but also by offering a social and emotional anchor through this uncertain environment,” said Kuehn.
To facilitate that connection, principals will provide weekly updates related to their specific buildings and write letters to their students and families, while teachers, reading specialists, counselors, school psychologists, nurses, and special educators will be in regular communication as well.
Kuehn emphasized the importance of students and their families, as well as school staff members, staying home as much as possible and cancelling social gatherings. They should follow “social distancing” guidelines “by avoiding crowds and maintaining a safe separation of at least six feet from others,” she states in her letter. “Restricting access to school buildings will have little impact on public health if these best practices are not followed in good faith.”
Custodians continue to thoroughly disinfect and sanitize all areas of the school buildings and to perform additional maintenance work in support of ongoing efforts to increase fresh air in the buildings, Keuhn reported.
Kuehn said she will continue to communicate new information to faculty, staff, administrators, and parents when it becomes available “as we navigate these very trying times.”