Groveland, Merrimac and West Newbury to Develop Plan for In-Person School Return

Rendering of new Pentucket Regional Middle and High Schools.

Pentucket regional School District Superintendent Justin Bartholomew. (Courtesy photograph.)

Groveland, Merrimac and West Newbury’s working group to determine how Pentucket Regional School District will return to five-day, in-person instruction this spring, met for the first time yesterday.

Members of what’s being called the “100% Pentucket” initiative noted social distancing is the “single greatest barrier that must be addressed in order for Pentucket schools to return to fully in-person learning.” A statement explained there is not enough room in existing buildings to accommodate all students at six-foot increments. The working group will review all options and guidelines, including the possibility of three-foot social distancing.

“The state has notified school districts that it is time to return to the classroom as near to full-time as can be safely achieved. We have gathered a group of professionals and elected leaders who will seek to accomplish this goal and bring our district forward as we begin to see the light at the end of the long COVID-19 tunnel,” Superintendent Justin Bartholomew said in an earlier statement.

The working group named West Newbury Fire Chief and School Resource Officer Michael Dwyer as team leader. Others serving are Bartholomew, Groveland Health Agent Rose Decie, West Newbury Health Agent Paul Sevigny, West Newbury Public Health Nurse Diane Dardeno, Merrimac Health Agent Deb Ketchen, District Physician Stephen Beaudoin, Pentucket Association of Teachers Representative Elizabeth Wisniewski, Groveland regional School Committee Member Dick Hodges, West Newbury regional School Committee Member Dena Trotta, Merrimac regional  School Committee Member Chris Markuns, Lead Nurse Ann Brady-Lozier, Business Manager Greg Labreqcue and Communications Specialist John Guilfoil of Groveland.

Goals include identifying health and safety criteria that must be met and enforced to ensure a safe return to the classroom, including appropriate social distancing guidelines; reviewing and communicating federal and state guidance on the safe return of all faculty and staff; and ensuring uniform, regular communication to the public and news media.

“We recognize that there are still many questions about how we are going to move forward, now that Gov. Baker and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education are moving toward a return to in-person learning in April,” said Hodges. “We are committed, through a work-oriented process, to communicating in a single voice so that there is absolutely no confusion about our processes or intentions,” he added.

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