Podcast: Haverhill Superintendent Answers Commonly Asked Questions About School Opening

Haverhill School Superintendent Margaret Marotta displays disinfecting wipes at a meeting of the School Committee. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill school faculty are expected to return to school buildings in large numbers next Tuesday to continue preparing for the beginning of online classes Wednesday, Sept. 16.

School Superintendent Marotta answered many commonly asked questions—from social distancing to school bus rides—during an appearance Tuesday on WHAV’s morning program. While state guidance, for example, allows for only three feet of space between students, she confirmed Haverhill is taking a more cautious approach.

“It’s such a controversial topic that we decided we wanted to assure that there was six feet of social distance between kids. So, all our desks in all our classrooms and all activities across the day are set up to have six feet of social distance. Better to be more cautious on that we decided,” she said.

Marotta said some changes in school buildings will be obvious, such as hand sanitizing stations everywhere, but unseen changes including everyone—including staff—having to sign in and out and self-attesting to their health.

Although Haverhill plans a hybrid in-person and remote learning program, that will be phased in over two weeks. During the ramp up, there will be only small group meetings, orientation and kindergarten readiness and screening.

“It’s really getting the kids accustomed to the buildings in small groups and understanding the new rules in a way that we can really concentrate on a small number of kids to get them up and running,.” Marotta explained

As of Monday, Oct. 5, all students whose parents have agreed will begin the hybrid program.

Although some might think younger students have the most trouble adapting to masks and rules, Marotta said, that has not been the experience in Europe and elsewhere where schools have reopened. She said high school students typically struggle with masks and following new methods.

Regarding nurse staffing, the superintendent said the schools have already contracted with an outside service for temporary nursing help if it becomes needed. She explained the precaution is being taken in the event nurses become ill or their offices overwhelmed.

Although there has been some friction between the city and NRT Bus over payments that stopped when schools abruptly closed in the spring, the superintendent said there are no worries about bus service going forward.

“There were some concerns about whether they would or wouldn’t be available to service us based on some things that happened last year, but they’ve assured us that they will be up and ready, and they will pick up our students and work with us,” she acknowledged.

That being said, Marotta said, all bus students will have assigned seats and be required to present passes for contact tracing reasons. Now that the deadline has passed for parents and guardians to decide how students will take classes, she said, passes will be prepared and sent in the next couple of weeks.

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