Traditionally in the pre-COVID world, elementary school students would mix with students from other classrooms at recess. Middle and high school students would have different classrooms for each subject and different students in each class. To address the issue of student groups, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) issued the following guidance for reopening schools:
To minimize the number of students who would potentially be exposed in the event of a COVID-19 event, to the extent feasible, elementary schools should aim to keep students in the same group throughout the day and middle and high schools are encouraged to minimize mixing student groups to the extent feasible. Our initial requirements and related guidance are as follows:
•Cohorts: Schools should divide students into small groups that remain with each other throughout the day, with smaller cohort sizes preferred. Schools should look for ways to isolate cohorts of students and prevent inter-group contact to the extent feasible.
•Capacity: There are no required maximums on cohort or group sizes, so long as schools adhere to the physical distancing requirements.
Reducing the mixing of student groups: When in classrooms, all students should have assigned seating. At the elementary school level, students should be restricted to their grade level class to the greatest extent possible. At the middle school level, students should remain with their cohort throughout the day to the extent feasible. High schools could also consider ways to cohort or cluster students, though we recognize this is more challenging at the high school level:
•Placing students in cohorts. When grouping students into cohorts, a school should consider ways to keep families/siblings together (e.g., grouping students alphabetically, while recognizing that some siblings may have different last names).
•Limiting travel within a school. High schools may try to group students into clusters in the school (a “school within a school”) to try to reduce interactions with other groups when students move to their next class.
Check back here soon for the 3 possible scenarios they are considering for schools this coming September.