Haverhill Educators Protest In-Person School Opening; Say They’ll Return ‘Only When it’s Safe’

Educators protesting in August 2020 in front of Haverhill City Hall were Barbara Freeman, Elizabeth Briggs and Barry Davis. (WHAV News file photograph.)

With a caravan of cars driving around City Hall and a few socially distanced educators in front of the building, Haverhill Education Association members Thursday protested the in-person reopening of Haverhill schools.

The union’s short message is teachers and other staff want to return to school, but “only when it’s safe.” Barry Davis, Action Team co-chair, told WHAV the school department isn’t ready.

“We don’t believe—and we know it to be true—that the Haverhill Public Schools are not prepared to safely open during the COVID pandemic crisis. The buildings are not up to par.” he said.

Davis, a teacher at Golden Hill School, said faculty also have unanswered questions.

“We’re not getting answers from the School Committee, the mayor and the superintendent on what’s being done, how it’s being done and a timeline to safely return students to school using health guidelines rather than arbitrary dates they are setting,” Davis said.

Haverhill School Committee Vice Chairman Richard J. Rosa previously told WHAV the School Committee is trying to address all concerns in good faith.

“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,” Rosa told WHAV.

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 for the hybrid remote and in-person model championed by School Superintendent Margaret Marotta.

The union said the School Committee took its vote before getting input from teachers.

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