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Parents respond to Mascenic’s hybrid back-to-school plan

  • Mascenic Regional High School Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/21/2020 12:51:14 PM

The Mascenic School District is forging ahead with a proposed half in-person, half virtual model for its fall reopening, a plan which received mixed reviews from members of the School Board.

During a teleconference meeting of the School Board on Monday, which was virtually attended by dozens of parents, district Superintendent Christine Martin outlined a plan to have half the student population attend school in person on Monday and Tuesday, and half on Thursday and Friday. On days students aren’t physically in the building, they will attend classes online.

The district’s current class sizes don’t allow for social distancing when they’re full, Martin explained, and having half of the students to transport will make it more likely students will be able to maintain three to six feet of distance on busses.

While the district intends to have more school-specific guidelines next week, Martin said there would be “similar consistent expectations” district-wide.

Board members seek clearer path to full-time in-person instruction

While board members didn’t outright object to starting the school year under a hybrid model, some said they wanted a plan that set out a timeline or certain benchmarks for students returning to school full time.

“Really, honestly, I don’t like it at all,” School Board member Tom Falter said. “It’s kind of hard to sell.”

Falter said the hybrid model was likely to be inconvenient for working parents, and there was no clear indication of when the hybrid model might become five days of in-person instruction. His preference, he said, would be to see a phased plan with that as the goal.

School Board member Julie Lampinen agreed, saying she would like to see a plan “moving toward” in-person instruction, with protections.

Some residents agreed, with Carolyn Cormier of New Ipswich commenting the district was “prematurely committing” to a hybrid model. “We know face-to-face is the most effective modality,” Cormier pointed out. With low numbers of infection in New Ipswich and Greenville, Cormier said the district was in a good position for in-person instruction.

Other parents said a cautious approach was only prudent.

“I feel a hybrid model is the responsible thing to do right now,” said Meryl Higgins of New Ipswich. While the district is “lucky” to have the low amounts of cases reported in their towns, Higgins said she’d like to maintain that. “I don’t believe our kids and teachers should be the guinea pigs for this.”

Martin said she was not comfortable recommending full-time in-person instruction at this point, but that the goal has always been returning students to the school.

“That is all of our intentions. The reality is, how do we get there, and how do we get there safely,” Martin said.

Masks, social distancing and sanitation

Martin said students in the school building would be “strongly encouraged” to wear cloth face coverings.

“My concern with a model where everyone wears a mask, and send them home when they don’t, is creating an untenable situation for our teachers and students,” Martin said.

The district plans to provide disposable face masks for students who do not have their own cloth masks.

Lampinen said allowing choice in the matter of whether to wear masks is the right way to go, saying it was teacher’s jobs to teach, not to be the “mask police.”

“Honestly, I feel like in this community, churches are opening, youth groups are opening, baseball is happening, things are opening up. The kids are already mixing,” Lampinen said.

Amy Robbins of New Ipswich was one of the residents who refuted that claim, saying that her family has been practicing strict social distancing. “We are a family that’s not in that same boat,” she said, in response to Lampinen’s comment. She said the requirements around mask wearing should be “more strict” than a strong recommendation.

John Schaumloffel of New Ipswich agreed, saying the district should lean toward over-cautious rather and under, commenting that masks aren’t invasive. 

Students and staff experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 will be screened before entering school, but not all students every day. Students will be allowed to sit together in the cafeteria and social areas, with social distancing. Recess will be allowed for younger students.

The district has access to ultraviolet sanitizers and electrostatic cleaners for sanitizing classrooms and buses. Hand sanitizer has been installed in all classrooms and other high-traffic areas.

The district plans to take more parent feedback during a virtual town hall meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, July 22, at 6 p.m. Sign in instructions with video conference and call-in options are available on the district’s website.

The final version of the reopening plan is expected to be reviewed by the School Board during its next scheduled meeting Monday at 6 p.m. Call-in instructions for the meeting can be found on the district’s website.

 

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


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