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Mascenic returns to in-person learning Jan. 19

  • The Mascenic School District will present its budget on Jan. 6 at 6 p.m. at the Mascenic Regional High School. Ledger-Transcript file photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/12/2021 11:49:50 AM

Mascenic students will head back for four or five days of in-person learning on Jan. 19, after a split vote by the School Board during its Monday meeting.

On Jan. 19, kindergarten and Mascenic Regional High School students are scheduled to return for four days of in-person learning, with Wednesday off for cleaning and for teachers to dedicate to fully remote instruction, and Boynton Middle School and the grade-schoolers at Highbridge Hill Elementary School are to return full-time.

In a separate vote on Monday, the School Board also unanimously voted to make masking at all of the district schools mandatory at all times, except when eating or drinking, during set mask breaks, or when a teacher or staff member is alone in a classroom. Previously, masks were to be worn when students could not socially distance.

Those board members voting for the measure said the full-remote model didn’t work for all families.

“I think remote is unmanageable for a lot of people,” said School Board member Tom Falter.

“Everybody knows how I feel about having these kids face-to-face, back in school,” agreed School Board member Julie Lampinen. “It’s imperative.”

Those in favor of the decision pointed to low transmission numbers within schools.

Chair Steve Spratt and member Michael Pellerito voted against the in-school option. Pellerito said that he has seen community members continually disregard safety measures, and said he was convinced that if the school opened up, it would likely have to shut down again, and the continuity of a full-remote education was better than the uncertainty.

In response to Pellerito’s assertion that community members weren’t taking precautions seriously, board Vice-Chair Rachel Anderson pointed out that as of Monday, New Ipswich has 23 active cases according to the state, which was only a small fraction of its population and comparable to some of it’s neighbors in terms of per capita infection rates. She said the number “needs some perspective.”

The board discussed the issue of social distancing in the schools. Currently, Superintendent Chris Martin said, the majority of classes at the middle and high schools would not be able to maintain six feet of distance between students, and two to three busses would not be able to either.

The decision was split among not only the board members, but parents who virtually attended Monday’s emergency meeting.

The board heard presentations from parents on both sides of the argument, including a petition from parents who wanted in-person learning reinstituted signed by 144 people.

Parents from all sides of the issue chimed in.

Some suggested a compromise could be reached. Jennifer Buttrick of Greenville said she would be in favor of returning to a hybrid model, where half of the district’s students attended school at a time.

“I think that would be the best solution,” she said.

Gretchen Smith of New Ipswich said she would be more comfortable with in-person learning with a stricter masking policy, which the board approved later in the evening.

During the meeting, the district clerk read into the record a letter sent to the board from a representative of the Mascenic Educational Support Staff Association, which said that the support staff was in favor of remaining fully remote as a first option, or a hybrid model as a second option.

The letter pointed to several specific cases reported by support staff members where a child or siblings who experienced COVID-19 symptoms were not tested, or had family members test positive without properly notifying the district. This “information gap” made staff feel “unsafe” going back to school, the letter said.

During Monday’s meeting, the board also discussed the possibility of allowing school facilities to be used as a practice space for youth sports not sponsored by the district, but tabled the discussion for a later date, pending additional information.


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

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