Haverhill School Committee Hears Reopening Challenges, Nationwide Bus Shortage

Haverhill High School. (WHAV News file photograph.)

The Department of Education has begun providing guidance on how to reopen schools in September, but School Superintendent Margaret Marotta says there are still many questions to be answered.

Marotta told the School Committee last night that she has received guidelines on topics ranging from health and safety measures, facilities and HVAC systems to cleaning protocols and transportation issues.

“There’s a whole bunch of information that is coming to us very quickly and each of these documents are many, many, many pages long and sometimes contradict each other. So, we’re kind of sorting through all that to try to determine what our next steps are,” she said.

Marotta admits, despite these guidelines, it is still unclear what the new school year will actually look like—in-school education, remote learning or a combination of both. She says there are multiple teams working on reopening plans to present to the Department of Education by the end of the month.

Marotta also reports she sent surveys to parents and teachers regarding the effectiveness of remote learning and their concerns regarding reopening. On the remote learning issue, she said about two-thirds of the respondents felt it worked reasonably well. As to the reopening topic, however, she said people were pretty evenly divided. She did say one a hot-button issue with many respondents was student transportation. Assistant Superintendent Michael Pfifferling told the committee this isn’t just a problem for Haverhill but for schools everywhere.

“It is a nationwide bus shortage right now, and then to ask us to transport the same or slightly less students with the same vehicles but with social distancing guidelines, every school district is going to face this issue and I think that’s one of the pushbacks that has been on DESE’s full re-entry plan or their thoughts about getting every student back to school on Sept. 1,” he said.

The Department of Education is calling for school buses not to exceed one-third of their full capacity.

On a related matter, Mayor James J. Fiorentini said he is in the process of forming a committee of medical specialists to advise him and the superintendent on the best ways to reopen the schools as well as the city itself.

Comments are closed.