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Jaffrey-Rindge approves framework for in-person learning amid passionate community discussion

  • Jaffrey Grade School Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/5/2020 4:06:34 PM

The Jaffrey-Rindge School Board unanimously passed a reopening framework at a Monday night meeting peppered with passionate community input.

The school intends to open on Sept. 10 after disinfecting the buildings after election day, and conduct in-person K-12 classes Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday with a remote day Wednesday, according to the framework. Masks will be required for staff and students on buses and hallways, cafeterias and lounges, and whenever six foot distancing is impossible. The framework outlined other priorities with health, safety, and well-being at the top of the list for the eventual reopening plan. The framework factored in 1,300 survey responses the District has received so far, as well as the input of the 50 plus members of the reopening committee, Superintendent Reuben Duncan wrote in its introduction.

School Board Chair Marcea Gustafson-Belletete likened the framework to the bones of the reopening plan on Tuesday morning. “There’s a lot of flesh that has to come now,” she said, and that the Board hopes to answer the public’s questions and comments by the next School Board meeting, on Aug. 17. “We want to accommodate and make as many people as we can happy,” she said, but that Monday’s discussion demonstrated that some residents are uncomfortable sending their kids to school: some due to the potential for exposure to the virus, and others because they don’t want their kids to wear masks all day.

“We’re genuinely listening to what people have to say,” Gustafson-Belletete said, and that she followed the heated and wide-ranging community discussion happening concurrently to the meeting on Google Chat. She believed it was important for everyone to hear one another’s perspective, but ultimately, the School Board believes they need to have masks as a part of their reopening plan, and the District’s remote option is aimed at providing an option for residents who are uncomfortable with its in-person procedures for one reason or another. “We as individuals may feel comfortable, but we’ve got to do the good neighbor thing,” she said. “People spoke last night who have family members who are at risk,” she said. “We have to take that into consideration.”

Rindge Select Board Chair Roberta Oeser said she was glad the District was moving forward with reopening but awaited more specific language in the plan, and said she was concerned about how much input staff members had versus parents.

“We need to protect the teachers, but it’s an essential business,” she said, that town employees are back in the offices and they’re open to the public. “Teachers need to take into consideration what the rate is right here,” she said, noting that infection rates are low, especially considering Rindge shares a border with Massachusetts and has lots of residents and visitors who travel between states.

So far, the school has measured every classroom to determine its capacity for socially distant seating and are installing a filtration system in the air ducts that’s supposed to purify the air, Gustafson-Belletete said.

An important next step of the process is to know parents’ specific plans by filling out the Fall 2020 Commitment Form, she said, which asks parents whether they prefer their student to attend in person or exclusively remotely, as well as about technology, transportation, and food service questions. One form should be filled out per child, and the survey will be open until Monday, Aug. 10 at 5 p.m.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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