Lottery May Determine Which Children of Haverhill’s Frontline Workers May Return to School

Haverhill School Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti. (Courtesy photograph.)

A lottery will likely be used to determine which children of Haverhill’s frontline workers may return to the classroom in the not-too-distant future.

The lottery idea was suggested last Thursday by School Committee member Toni Sapienza-Donais as a survey showed far more interest than the number of available seats. As WHAV reported first two weeks ago, Committeeman Paul A. Magliocchetti proffered the concept after learning that some of those students were attending classes from their homes with no adult supervision.

“Dealing with COVID, one of the major concerns is making sure that our medical professionals, that live in our community, don’t have to worry about their children while they’re on the job saving people’s lives,” he explained.

Magliocchetti suggested the school administration send out surveys to see how many of those parents would be interested if in-school learning could be arranged. School Superintendent Margaret Marotta said the results have been coming in for the past couple of days and, not surprisingly, the number of students interested far exceeds the number of classroom seats available.

“Of those people, nurses, CNAs, home health assistants, medical assistants, people in public health, doctors, physician’s assistants, firefighters, police, EMTs and people who work in the emergency room—about 55% of the people under those conditions said that they would be interested in some kind of in-school learning pod,” she said.

Marotta said that translated to about 217 students for fewer than 130 empty seats.

Committee members expressed reluctance to rank which professions are the most critical and instead agreed to a Donais’ suggestion to try a lottery system.

The superintendent pointed out there would need to be a lottery for each separate school, and other significant issues need to be addressed for the program to work. Those include transportation for students and finding qualified individuals to oversee the classroom. Students would still participate in class via computer screen, but under the supervision of proctors in a classroom. Despite the challenges, Mayor James J. Fiorentini said the concept is worth a try.

“If the superintendent gets back to us and said ‘we tried to do it. We tried to get the number of staff and it just didn’t work,’ well, it didn’t work, but to me, this is absolutely worth trying.”

The majority agreed, voting 5-2 in favor of the proposal with members Donais and Maura Ryan-Ciardiello opposed.

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