Residents Weigh In on Haverhill School Reopening Plans as School Committee Takes Feedback

Haverhill's Dr. Albert B. Consentino School. (Jay Saulnier file photograph for WHAV News.)

The majority of those who took part in last night’s School Committee meeting said schools should reopen remotely—at least to start—next month.

Speakers said there isn’t enough information available at this point to risk their childrens’ health. Lisa Onyon, a parent of school age children, asked many questions about plans for in-person classes.

“How are you going to keep six feet of distance in the hallways? Will the seats and the desks be sanitized between classes? How will they be eating lunch? Will they have access to hand washing? I’d like to understand if the ventilation system has been looked at. Will the windows be kept open? What about in the winter? Will the rooms be warm? I’d like to understand some of the details so I can make the right decision,” she said.

Onyon and a number of other parents said their children will be attending remotely regardless of what plan is adopted by the Committee.

School Superintendent Margaret Marotta said the issues have been considered and she would be posting answers to these and other questions on the Haverhill Public Schools’ website in the next few days.

Haverhill Education Association President Anthony J. Parolisi expressed the union’s reservations about returning to classrooms prematurely. “Until we can be assured that our buildings meet all the necessary standards in place to mitigate the risk of contracting or spreading the virus, no one should be required to work in any of our public buildings, with or without students,” he said.

Not everyone agreed with the conservative approach. Haverhill parent Duncan Burns said he spoke for the silent majority of parents when he expressed support for full reopening of schools.

“We know that in-person learning works and the focus should be getting those kids back in the classroom, especially in Massachusetts where adverse outcomes are zero for children,” said Burns.

Last week, the school administration presented three scenarios for the start of classes. They are a full return to classrooms. Remote-only plan and a hybrid of the two where students would attend class twice a week and work from home for the rest of the week.

Following the public comment portion of the meeting, School Committee members opted to hold their opinions until Monday’s meeting, which is now scheduled for 7 p.m. and takes place in-person as well as remotely.

The School Committee has until next Friday, Aug. 14, to come to a final decision and submit it to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

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