Highbridge Hill Elementary shut down until Nov. 30 due to staff quarantine

  • Mascenic Superintendent Dr. Christine Martin at graduation in 2020. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/10/2020 1:23:51 PM

With a total of 10 faculty and staff currently under a 14-day quarantine at Highbridge Hill Elementary School, the Mascenic School Board unanimously agreed during an emergency meeting Monday that the elementary school will enter a fully-remote model through Nov. 30.

Superintendent Chris Martin said in an interview Tuesday that among the 10 quarantining faculty and staff, there is one positive COVID-19 case, and eight other staff are quarantining because of primary contact with that initial case, with one additional quarantine due to primary contact from an unrelated case.

As of Tuesday, there was also currently one staff member at Boynton Middle School and another at Mascenic High School who are quarantining, unrelated to the Highbridge Hill group, according to Martin. Classes at Boynton and Mascenic were originally expected to continue with the four-day a week in-person learning model, but the district was notified on Wednesday that both schools would be remote learning on Thursday, Nov. 12, due to an additional COVID-19 case reported in the district. The intent of the remote day is to allow the district to do further contact tracing and identify all potentially impacted people. It’s not yet known if Mascenic and Boynton will be able to return to classes as usual on Friday.

Highbridge Hill was open Monday after an unanticipated remote learning day on Friday, and Martin said the administration was in the process of “piecing together” staffing for the rest of the week in hopes of staying open, but as additional staff were notified of the required quarantine, Martin said the district came “to a tipping point” and weren’t able to staff appropriately.

“This is an evolving situation. We are waiting on test results in some cases. This still could mushroom into a bigger situation,” Martin said.

In addition to those staff that are quarantining, Martin said there are also additional teachers who are currently ill, and though they may not be COVID-19 positive, the district’s current policy precludes them from teaching in person while symptomatic.

Martin said the district was already utilizing its substitute teacher pool to assist with monitoring classrooms while some teachers were teaching remotely, and the substitute teaching pool is not large enough to replace all the staff that would be quarantining for the next two weeks.

Monday was the first day of an increase in in-person learning for the district, from two days to four. Martin said the timing was unfortunate for those students and families anticipating the change.

“It breaks my heart to hear the stories of kids excited to be back together, who now can’t,” Martin said. “This is not what I wanted to have happened. My first choice would always be for everyone to go to school every day and enjoy what we call ‘The Mascenic Way.’ We just have to be cautious, and this is what we have to do right now.”

Martin said regardless of test results, the faculty and staff who have come into primary contact with a person with a positive test will still be required to go through a 14-day quarantine. The district decided to extend remote learning through Nov. 30, as Nov. 23 and Nov. 24 are scheduled for teacher workshops and parent-teacher conferences, and are non-teaching days, followed by the Thanksgiving break.

Martin said the situation would be untenable whether the students were still in the hybrid scenario or the four-day model, and said the timing coinciding was an “unfortunate coincidence.” The  district’s focus is now on ensuring Boynton and Mascenic are able to maintain in-person learning if possible, Martin said.

The district anticipates Highbridge Hill Elementary students returning on Nov. 30 with its four-day a week model.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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