Haverhill School Committee to Hear Fall School Reopening Plans Tonight; Must Submit to State

Electrostatic “germ blaster” displayed during a Haverhill School Committee meeting. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Tonight is the night Haverhill unveils and debates its school reopening plans.

The Haverhill School Committee, during a special meeting to be broadcast live over WHAV beginning at 7 p.m., hears what the administration has come up with for three options that must be submitted to the state tomorrow. Superintendent Margaret Marotta recently gave WHAV listeners a preview of those efforts.

“We don’t have any official decisions yet for the fall, but we do have to make three plans. And one of them is to see if we can fit all of the students back in the building at three feet social distance, and we can, in fact, do that. It doesn’t mean that we will do that. It means we are physically able to do that. Another is a hybrid plan where kids might go every other week, or maybe two days a week. And a third is to return to a full remote learning,” Marotta explained.

One of the preliminary options—in-person student attendance—still calls for remote learning on Wednesdays to allow time for the schools to be cleaned. Three or four feet of distance between students is considered mathematically possible. More school buses and custodians are required to make this plan possible. Parents retain the option of opting out of in-person attendance for their children.

A hybrid in-person/remote learning situation would allow a full six-feet of social distance between students, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, according to plans given to School Committee members, it will be “highly disruptive to family routines, working parents and childcare.”

Keeping school buildings closed and relying on remote learning offers the benefit of being the “safest model possible from a medical and scientific perspective,” but it has been shown to be “less successful for many than in-person learning.”

Families are almost evenly split in which options they favor, according to 3,040 responses to a survey sent to all 8,200 student families. A separate group of 25 participating in a return to school workshop overwhelmingly preferred a hybrid in-person/remote learning arrangement.

The administration told School Committee in a draft plan that in-person school attendance creates “particular concerns,” including transportation to and from school, school arrival and departure, lunch, recess, passing times and specials such as art, music and physical education.

Students, parents and staff have an opportunity to express their views by registering at least six hours in advance at the school department’s website.

The exercise will be repeated before “comprehensive” plans are turned over to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Aug. 10.

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