SAUGUS— Saugus public schools will move to a hybrid learning model Jan. 19 after a unanimous vote by the School Committee Tuesday evening. This comes after the board’s October decision to postpone the in-person return of students until Jan. 4 at the earliest.
“It can’t happen on Jan. 4,” said Chairman Thomas Whittredge during Tuesday’s meeting. “We have to give parents time.”
Vice Chair Ryan Fisher agreed the first week back from the holiday break was too soon.
“Based on what happened with the spike after Thanksgiving, I was worried about the Jan. 4 date with it being after Christmas and New Year’s,” he said.
Fisher also said that, while the Committee had previously hoped COVID-19 conditions would improve and make their decision to bring students back into the buildings an easier one, that is clearly no longer the case.
“COVID is not going to get better,” he said. “It’s going to ride itself out. So, now we have to pick a hard date and push ahead.”
The scheduled hybrid start date of Jan. 19 coincides with the date Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi must have the revised schedules into the state. He says he and attorney Howard Greenspan have already begun the work to readjust the schedules.
DeRuosi is also busy planning an orientation to help the school community adjust to the hybrid learning shift. Under the new model, students will be divided into cohorts, much like other districts across the state, and each cohort will attend school in-person two days per week.
Parents can still choose to keep their children home under the remote learning model, which has been in place since the pandemic began. Following the summer recess, Saugus educators began teaching classes remotely from inside school buildings on Sept. 16.
As of Friday, Saugus has reported a total of 2,138 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 48 deaths according to their Health Department. According to an update posted to the town’s website, Saugus has partnered with the state, Fallon Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and the Square One Mall in order to downgrade their “High Risk” red COVID-19 status by expanding testing sites.
“We’re a strange situation,” Fisher said of Saugus. “We’re a small town next to big cities and we have that Route 1 corridor, so we’ve been in the red zone for a while.”
Still, Whittredge remains optimistic about the Committee’s decision.
“I’m pretty excited about this,” he said. “I think it’s time.”