Haverhill Expects School Opening Guidance Soon; Panel Ponders Teaching with Masks and Shields

(File photograph.)

Haverhill Public Schools are expecting state guidance in a few weeks about how to open classrooms, but also working through various scenarios where masks are worn and shields erected.

The possibilities were discussed Wednesday night during a Haverhill Education Coalition-sponsored virtual forum, “Reopening Haverhill Schools: Challenges and Possibilities.” Superintendent Margaret Marotta led off the panel discussion, saying she believes there will be some kinds of reopening guidelines made available probably by mid-June.

“Generally, the way the state does things is they lay out three or four options that they think are going to work and then they say pick one of these and option five is, if you’ve got a great plan, submit it to us and we’ll let you know if that’s okay,” Marotta said.

As part of the panel, Haverhill Public Schools Director of Health and Nursing Katie Vozeolas said she is working to envision what classrooms changes might be needed if children return in September.

“What kind of barriers do we need? You might need a barrier on your desk, a plexiglass barrier—partially to prevent somebody from sneezing all over you but also you need it because you don’t want somebody to come and pick up your pencil or your stapler or your phone,” she said.

Vozeolas also spoke to some of the other difficulties being faced in this new teaching environment.

“A lot of what we’re going to be asking them to do is going to be extremely difficult. Wear a mask all day, respond to me when you can’t see my facial expression, don’t touch your friend, don’t share. You know, all those things. These are going to be very real challenges,” she remarked.

The idea of young students having to wear masks all day was particularly difficult for some parents in the audience. One of them, Carey Greene, said, “The nurse presentation was heartbreaking. I would rather keep schools closed versus be so restrictive to young children in what should feel like a safe and happy place to be.”

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