New Bedford, Fall River begin phased approach to school year

School Updates

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) ─ School is officially back in session in Southeastern Massachusetts, and two of the region’s largest school districts, Fall River and New Bedford, are taking a more gradual approach when it comes to bringing students back in person.

Students in New Bedford went back to school Wednesday, though not all began the year physically in the classroom.

New Bedford Superintendent Thomas Anderson said the school district is taking a three-phase, hybrid approach, which combines distance and in-person learning.

He said students have been split into cohorts and will be in class two days a week. The other three days, he said, the students will learn remotely.

On Wednesday, Cohort A, which includes students with special needs, returned first.

“Having the opportunity to have the students and staff come in after not being able to see each other so long, it reminds you why we do this,” Anderson said.

While there was an “excellent opening with Cohort A students” which is about 5% of New Bedford public school students, an employee of the Gomes Elementary School community tested positive for COVID-19, according to Arthur Motta, the district’s community and public affairs manager.

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Fall River opted to use a hybrid learning model as well, and has split students into four cohorts that will support 10-day learning cycles.

At Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School, only 25% of students returned to school in person on Wednesday, according to Principal Andrew Rebello.

“You can’t replicate the in person, hands on, so we really wanted to prioritize that,” Rebello said.

Rebello said Diman plans to reassess where they stand on Oct. 31.

In New Bedford, Cohort B ─ which consists of Pre-K, kindergarten, 6th and 9th grade ─ is expected to return in person on Oct. 5.

Web Extra: In the video below, 12 News Reporter Kim Kalunian speaks with New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell about the start of the school year.

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