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Mascenic approves four-day in-person school week in split vote

  • Mascenic Regional High School Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/6/2020 9:43:18 AM

After hearing from multiple parents advocating for more face-to-face time between students and teachers, the Mascenic School Board agreed during its Monday meeting to have students return to school in-person four days a week by Nov. 9.

The vote was split 3-2, with Chair Steve Spratt and member Michael Pellerito against, and Vice-Chair Rachel Anderson and members Tom Falter and Julie Lampinen in favor.

Currently, the Mascenic Regional School District is operating on a hybrid model, with half of students attending in-person on Monday and Tuesday, and half attending Thursday and Friday, and online learning the remaining three days of the week. Students also have the option to attend school remotely full-time.

Several parents spoke during the comments section of the meeting, with the majority asking for more in-school days, though several parents also requested that if the board increased in-person learning, that the district maintain a full-remote option.

Melissa Mack of New Ipswich said her fourth-grader has been doing well with remote learning, with a dedicated teacher, but said her high-schooler hasn’t been coping with it as well.

Amanda McKinnon of New Ipswich said that she would prefer a full-time in-school model. With a potential vaccine months or more away, she said, the district has to look at moving forward.

John Cocozella of New Ipswich said he’d be willing to accept stricter standards for safety, such as mask-wearing, if it would allow more in-person teaching. 

“At this point it’s more important to get them back in school,” Cocozella said.

Others disagreed. Tiffany Norris of New Ipswich said she was “all for” keeping a hybrid model, saying “I don’t think it’s fair to risk teachers’ lives or other students’ lives because we don’t want to acknowledge the science behind transmission.”

The School Board was split on the issue from the beginning of the discussion.

Superintendent Chris Martin told the board she would administer whatever decision the board chose, but she did not recommend moving forward with a four-day in-person model for all students. She said COVID-19 cases have been increasing both state-wide and in Hillsborough County, and said she didn’t want to play “Russian roulette” with the health of students or staff. She pointed out that there is currently at least one child in the district, who is not attending school currently, who has had a positive COVID-19 test.

“It’s going to be unavoidable,” she said.

Falter said he had originally supported a hybrid model to “test modalities” with the idea that eventually, the district would be moving towards more in-person learning.

“There are choices to be made, there are risks, I understand,” Falter said. “We need to improve, and this would be an improvement.”

“It’s time to move forward,” Lampinen said. She said that the district has the option to reassess if there are issues.

Pellerito said he was strongly against a four-day model, calling the motion “very reckless.”

“Just because things are hard, jumping to four or five days a week is not the answer. This is not the time,” Pellerito said.

Spratt said he was also against the motion, and pointed out the district had yet to come to an agreed upon memorandum of understanding with either the district’s teacher or staff unions under its current hybrid model. He called approving a four-day model a “feel-good” motion if the district’s teachers weren’t on board.

“I’m very concerned about staffing,” Spratt said.

Martin told board members she would like to see additional flexibility in hiring staff, and a stricter mask policy put into place if the district approved a four-day week. However, the board did not vote on either issue Monday.

 

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


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