Haverhill Schools, Union Agree to Develop System to Dictate What Triggers Learning Methods

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

Haverhill school administrators and the union representing educators plan to develop a new system to dictate when students and teachers move between remote, in-person or a combination of learning models.

The Haverhill Education Association, in an email obtained by WHAV, said Friday a clear understanding of what coronavirus level triggers a certain model of learning is required by an agreement reached last fall between the union and school department. The union filed a grievance against the School Committee just before Christmas in an attempt to force a resolution.

“Such a metric would provide clarity to all and enable both those who think the district is moving too slowly and those who think we are moving to quickly to understand how the data is informing the School Committee’s decision-making,” read the email to union members. School Committee members met several times in December to determine when in-person classes should resume as COVID-19 cases surged.

The union’s Executive Committee said it met with some School Committee members last week for, what is called, a “Mutual Concerns” meeting, required by the contract. During the weekly Joint Stakeholder Coronavirus Response Team meeting Thursday, it was also agreed to develop such a metric and recommend it to the full School Committee.

According to the email, 18 school staff must quarantine as a close contact, eight are currently positive for COVID-19 and two are symptomatic and presumed positive as of Jan. 7. Moreover, 60 Haverhill public school students are close contacts, 47 are currently positive and four are presumed positive with symptoms and awaiting test results.

The two-week average daily incidence rate for Haverhill held steady at 82.4 and 81.2 cases per 100,000 residents as reported on Dec. 31 and Jan. 7 respectively. The reported percent positivity rate has also declined slightly from its high of 11.22% on Dec. 24, to 10.95% on Dec. 31st and 10.73% on Jan. 7.

“Unfortunately, public health officials also reported yesterday that ‘the aftermath of New Year’s Eve was way worse than the aftermath after Christmas.’ Over 100 new cases have been reported each of the last two days, and we expect our numbers to be on the rise again when next week’s report is released,” the union said. It added, plans are being made to arrange for special needs students to be tested in this week to establish a baseline before returning to the classroom Jan. 19, and the administration has secured resources to be able to implement widespread surveillance testing in the coming weeks and months. Testing will also be available to educators.

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