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Jaffrey-Rindge schools addressing opening challenges

  • Conant High School Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/23/2020 3:48:23 PM

Jaffrey-Rindge schools were late to open this year as the district hammered out its final reopening procedures, but overall officials say the hybrid start has gone well.

Conversations around reopening procedures are ongoing regarding issues like how the district will decide if it needs to switch fully to remote learning.

“The learners have adapted exceptionally well to the COVID guidelines in place for health and safety,” said Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School and Conant High School Principal David Dustin. “We feel that taking the first four school days to focus on building community, establishing a baseline of social/emotional support for the year, and easing into being in the community with these guidelines has paid off, and our learners continue to comport themselves exceptionally well,” Dustin said.

The process hasn’t been without hiccups, Dustin said, and there are adjustments being made to shorten transition times between classes and lengthening instructional periods. There have been some families who have reported ongoing connectivity issues, Dustin said. The district’s technology department is currently working to identify those families with internet issues and supply those students with internet hotspots.

“Mostly, these are minor adjustments, and things are going extremely well,” Dustin said.

District, teacherscontinues negotiations

The district is also continuing negotiations with its teacher’s union, after some teachers resigned or took early retirement over issues of accommodations for teachers, particularly those in the higher grade levels.

The Jaffrey-Rindge Education Association, the teacher’s union for the district, is still in negotiations for a final memorandum of understanding with the district, according to JREA acting head Mark Haley.

Haley said there has been some progress made on the union’s concerns, and the district and union are “significantly closer to an agreement” than they were prior to the school’s opening. But not all their issues have been resolved, he said.

“There are still concerns in the JREA membership over the implementation of the Re-Opening Framework, and the schools’ individual plans,” Haley said in an email to the Ledger-Transcript.

Negotiations are expected to continue this week on those issues, Haley said.

When to move to a fully online model?

One of the issues the union requested clarification on was the circumstances for a switch to remote learning.

Superintendent Reuben Duncan said Monday that the district’s reopening framework has worked well in the first week of classes, and no major changes have been implemented since school started for the fall.

The district school buildings opened on Sept. 10, with a hybrid model where all students attend school in-person four days a week, and do remote learning on Wednesdays.

District officials have proposed a model that would switch to a fully remote model if there are “substantial” levels of community transmission of COVID-19. The New Hampshire Department of Public Health defines substantial transmission as more than 10 percent of the population testing positive in a seven-day period, more than 100 new infections per 100,000 population over a two-week period, or more than 20 people hospitalized per 100,000 people over a two-week period.

Cheshire County is reporting well below those numbers in all three categories, according to the district. There has been a 0.1 percent positive testing, 14.4 new infections reported, and zero hospitalizations.

If there is determined to be a moderate outbreak in the area, the district’s plan allows for the district to have a temporary closure of the school for a short period of time.

Under the proposal, if the district has to move to a remote model, Duncan would contact the administrative leadership of the schools, as well as the School Board and the New Hampshire Department of Public Health to determine the next steps for the district.

It is also possible that the district may move an isolated group in one of the schools to a remote learning model, rather than the entire school.

The School Board was scheduled to hear the proposal and discuss it during its meeting Monday.

Lunch and breakfast programs

The district has been granted additional food service waivers for students in both towns, allowing any student, including those who are homeschooling, to participate in the district’s lunch and breakfast program at no charge.

This waiver also allows for the program to be extended through Saturday and Sunday.

The programs for free meals during the school week and on the weekend are set to continue through December, dependent on funding.

As of Monday, a survey has been sent to district families to gauge interest in these options.

 

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


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