While State Plans for Students to Return to Classes, Educators and Haverhill Schools to Bargain Details

Haverhill Education Association President Anthony J. Parolisi at a 2019 Haverhill School Committee meeting. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Reaction from parents was mixed last week when Haverhill’s school superintendent said the state is leaning toward a full return of students to classrooms this fall, but the Haverhill Education Association says more talks are necessary.

Union President Anthony J. Parolisi tells WHAV educators submitted a demand to bargain over reopening plans and Superintendent Margaret Marotta agreed Friday. Parolisi explains what’s a stake.

“The conditions for reopening are going to have a significant impact on our members schedules, their daily responsibilities, the impact of being required to wear personal protective equipment—who’s going to provide that. There’s a lot of unanswered questions,” he says.

Parolisi notes similar discussions are taking place statewide between local unions and school districts and between the Massachusetts Teachers Association, American Federation of Teachers and Boston Teachers Union with state Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley. Because those “baseline parameters” have not been established, Parolisi explains school reopening plans are premature.

“We were not expecting any plan to be announced at all until we had had those conversations here in Haverhill,” he says.

In response to a resident’s comment on WHAV’s story, Mayor James J. Fiorentini said on social media he would place an item on the School Committee’s agenda. The resident suggested an “advisory committee with parents and teachers and members of the community to formulate and talk about plans for the opening of schools in the fall.”

Appearing last week on WHAV’s morning program, Marotta noted updated guidance from the Department of Education.

“Providing nothing changes, or gets worse, at this point we’re planning for a sort of a full socially distance return to the school in the fall. So, for us, that’s meant a lot of work. Moving around desks, taking out desks, checking all the windows in all the buildings to make sure all the windows work because they’re encouraging the flow of fresh air. Thinking about outdoor classrooms. Working on our HVAC systems. It hasn’t worked in some of our schools for many years and it always got pushed to the back burner. Now that’s right front and center so that’s all getting fixed,” she said.

The superintendent said she is pleased with the idea of having all the students attend school at the same time.

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