Union and Schools Remain Apart on Haverhill’s Reopening; Disagree on Role Played by State Grant

Haverhill School Committee member Richard J. Rosa. (WHAV News file photograph.)

It is not yet a stalemate, but the Haverhill School Committee and educators remain far apart on how city schools should reopen in September.

After meeting for, what is called “impact bargaining,” for the fourth time yesterday, the school negotiating committee headed by Chairman Richard J. Rosa and the Haverhill Education Association have been unable to make a pact. They might agree, however, that whatever is decided, school is going to look different, as union President Anthony J. Parolisi related to WHAV.

“We don’t look at it as ‘impact bargaining’ because we’re talking about, basically, redesigning public schools as we know it for the COVID-19 era,” he said.

As WHAV first reported Aug 5., the union’s platform calls for schools to open with all students learning remotely from home, gradually moving to a hybrid and then 100% in-person “based on science and public health benchmarks.” The School Committee, however, voted 4-1 with one abstention last week for the hybrid remote and in-person model championed by School Superintendent Margaret Marotta.

Parolisi and Rosa disagree over the role of $2 million in state money in the planning. The state money would pay for protective equipment and other material for going back into school buildings. The union said School Committee members were influenced by the money.

“The School Committee seemed to be leaning more towards our position until it was confirmed by the superintendent that there’s grant money available only if schools are working towards in-person learning,” Parolisi said.

Rosa said the state money played no role in the decision. Rather, he said, the School Department had an obligation to at least temporarily put the amount in the budget.

“We would have to budget for it if we were planning on doing a hybrid model. If we’re not doing a hybrid model and we’re doing a fully remote model, then you would just remove it from the budget because those costs wouldn’t exist,” he explained.

Under the union’s proposal, Parolisi, said, the city would still receive the state money—about $250 per student—since the union’s plan is also premised on moving towards in-person learning.

Rosa said he believes everyone’s intentions are good.

“I think we’re working through a lot of issues, but I think the district has been willing to try to solve all the issues that we’re facing. These are unprecedented times and there’s a lot of difficult questions and no easy answers,” he said.

Time is tight since teachers are expected to return to work Tuesday, Sept. 1. The Haverhill School Committee meets tonight at 7, in the Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. City Council Chambers, on the second floor of City Hall. As a public service, the meeting will be broadcast live by 97.9 WHAV.

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