School Reopening Update - September 5, 2020

We opened the year stressing two themes for our faculty and staff - flexibility and forgiveness.  Protocols are changing every few days.  Sometimes entire plans need to be scrapped and we need to start over.  We are all learning new skills and new ways to educate children while keeping everyone safe.  In addition, we are allowing options for families - remote or in-person.  This means we are essentially creating two new school systems simultaneously.   

All of this change requires flexibility.  All of our routines have been disrupted.  Work skills and strategies that have been honed over years and executed with confidence are no longer viable.  Many of us feel like first year employees again.

All of this change requires forgiveness.  Why forgiveness?  We pride ourselves on smooth starts to school years.  Quickly establishing routines allows students to get right to learning.  The expectations of Burlingtons’ faculty and staff are high as are your expectations as parents.  We all take pride in our constant efforts to meet these expectations.  We are asking that forgiveness allow our faculty and staff to focus on safe routines and establishing a shared community commitment to safe mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing.  We are asking that you forgive our initial focus on routines and relationships as we have not run schools this way before.

Please know that we are not making excuses.  We are simply stating that our high expectations will be focused on different things than usual this fall.

We appreciate your Flexibility and Forgiveness.

HVAC Update

We have conducted two external studies of our HVAC systems to answer different questions.  The first question was focused on whether the systems were designed properly.  This study was completed by the engineering firm BLW.  The second question was whether these designs were performing properly.  This study is being conducted by Burlington maintenance staff in partnership with our HVAC subcontractor, Trane. The work to answer the second question is ongoing.

The individual school reports from BLW have been posted on our website.  We are in the process of implementing the Tier 1 operational recommendations in these reports. Tier 1 actions for each school are linked below:

Burlington High School  (Please note that the BECC is located in the BHS facility)

Marshall Simonds Middle School

Fox Hill Elementary School

Francis Wyman Elementary School

Memorial Elementary School

Pine Glen Elementary School

The Trane report has been getting more attention because it looks at actual performance of the equipment on an individual classroom and workspace basis.  We also think the start up data and analysis ended up on Facebook.

Every fall we go through a start-up procedure for our heating systems. This year this start-up procedure happened in August and units that failed to turn on were fixed.  In addition to fixing units that did not turn on, measurements of air flow from the units were also taken.  The units are designed to take different amounts of fresh air from outside and heat it before sending the warm air into classrooms. The units at Pine Glen, Fox Hill, and Francis Wyman only provide heat. 

Increasing the fresh air flow into classrooms is important during a pandemic.  There are higher recommendations than in a typical year.  There is also evolving science on the virus.  Much of the feedback we have received has mentioned a particular study as definitive support for a position on an aspect of school opening plans.  Please know that we are seeking advice from multiple sources - like the Ariadne Group from the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, but ultimately, we are relying on the MA Department of Public Health and the Burlington Board of Health for guidance.

Since the initial performance measurements of units, crews have been going back to every under-performing classroom and workspace unit to repair anything broken or to make adjustments to increase performance.  New air flow measurements are being taken.  We plan on having this DATA available for the start of school.

While it is important that we finish quickly, please know that in warmer weather we can supplement the amount of airflow into classrooms by opening windows and by using other techniques that are not available during the colder, heating months.  We will make the updated DATA sheets available.

If there are classrooms that consistently do not meet an acceptable standard, then we will not use these classrooms.  Principals are creating alternative learning spaces, as needed.


With class lists being finalized this week, we are working with the bus company to finalize our bus lists as soon as possible. As you are probably aware, this process is more detailed due to the need for assigned seats in case there is ever the need for contact tracing.  Please remember that we are limited to about 23 students per bus.

Our early models will require high school students to walk if they are with a 1.5 mile radius of the high school.  The radius for elementary students is closer to 0.5 mile.  Of course it depends on the route that the 1.5 or 0.5 mile follows as to whether the walking route is feasible.

These new routines will take time to establish.  The transportation safety protocols and our history of providing transportation for all students are in direct conflict.  We are not bashful to say that transportation is proving difficult to solve.


We are working on initial lunch procedures at the middle and high schools.  In addition, we will be discussing options for grab and go lunches for elementary students heading home for lunch.  

More Coming Next Week on all of the above and iPad distribution plans for remote students. Students attending in-person classes will receive their iPads at school.