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COVID spurs new hires in Mascenic district following another reported exposure

  • Mascenic Regional High School Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/21/2020 4:44:59 PM

In-person instruction at Boynton Middle School is intended to go on uninterrupted after the district identified a person who has a possible exposure to COVID-19.

The district learned of the possible exposure on Tuesday, and Superintendent Chris Martin said one individual is currently quarantining due to primary contact with a person with the virus. Martin declined to identify whether the quarantining person was a staff member or student.

Martin said there is only one individual from the school district who is quarantining in this case, and the in-person teaching model is expected to continue without interruption.

“Our students will be in the building doing what they otherwise would be doing,” Martin said. She said the district team worked for about four hours on Tuesday doing contact tracing and ensuring that no other people required to be quarantined.

“We had a number of people to check in with both at Mascenic and Boynton. At this point, we believe we have the right actions in place,” Martin said.

Last week, there was a separate case where a Mascenic student tested positive for COVID-19. The student and one other student who they had close contact with were quarantined in that case.

The district is set to increase its in-person learning by Nov. 9, after a recent vote of the School Board, which will increase each student’s in-person learning time from two days to four. Martin said that plan is still moving forward.

Martin cautioned the School Board during its meeting on Monday that the increase in student population may lead to more quarantining if a situation such as last week’s positive test result happens again. In last week’s situation, the student attended a single science class in person, which contained only four students and a teacher, allowing for sufficient social distancing. Not all classes, when full, will allow for that, Martin said.

“If those students had been less than six feet away from each other, even with masks, we would have to quarantine the whole class,” Martin told the board. “The general rule is six feet and ten minutes. If you are closer together than six feet for ten minutes or more, mask or no mask, there would be a quarantine.”

The board did not take up the discussion of continuing with its extension of in-person learning during Monday’s meeting, though School Board member Michael Pellerito, who was one of the dissenting votes on increasing in-person instruction, said he still had qualms about moving forward with the plan.

“The data hasn’t gotten any better, with cases on the rise in both Greenville and New Ipswich. I still have a lot of concerns about reopening,” Pellerito said.

School Board Chair Steve Spratt also noted that the district still has yet to reach a memorandum of agreement from the teaching or staff unions on additional protocols necessitated by COVID-19, which he said remains a serious concern to the district.

During the School Board meeting Monday, the board also approved several new hires to move forward with its four-day in-person plan, including an additional custodian, a floating nurse, and two paraprofessionals.

The floating nurse would be available to all three of the district’s schools as needed, and would be hired at a pro-rated salary of about $80,000. Martin said the intense period of contact tracing the district has just gone through demonstrates the need for such a position.

“Yesterday’s activity demonstrates why that is a necessity,” Martin said, of the new nursing position. “There are certain confidential conversations and questions that need to happen between a  medical professional and our  families.”

The district also requires an additional two paraprofessionals to handle the additional student load which will be in the classroom at one time.

The custodian would also be utilized at the various schools as needed, Martin said. Both the custodian and paraprofessional positions would be paid hourly commensurate with experience.

The board approved the district to hire all four positions and begin the recruitment process for them.


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


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