Haverhill Student Population Growing Back to Pre-Pandemic Levels; No. of Bus Drivers Still Lacking

Haverhill school bus. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill students are back in class again and, despite a few hiccups along the way, school life is returning to normal.

School Superintendent Margaret Marotta told the School Committee last week that enrollment is now close to what it was pre-pandemic and growing.

“We’ve had a great start to the school year. I think we weren’t quite sure where enrollment was going to be. We are back. We continue to gain students every day. Our registration center is busy, busy, busy every moment, kids registering every day,” she said.

Marotta said there are currently 7,913 students enrolled and latecomers are still registering. The growth begs the question, whether Haverhill received its fair share of state education aid. Back in March, School Committee member Richard J. Rosa said the city was shortchanged more than $2 million because the state counted the school population during a pandemic low last October.

The city will have a better idea of where it stands next month when the numbers are calculated again.

While a majority of children appear happy to be back, the superintendent said, some are having trouble adjusting to in-person learning once again. Marotta noted interventionists and school adjustment councilors, approved by the School Committee earlier this year, are a great help in that area.

The superintendent said, unfortunately, the pandemic remains an issue.

“COVID is certainly with us once again and it is hitting our kids, I think, more so than it did last year. So, we’re about a week into the school year. At this moment we have six positive staff and 34 positive students. We do have quarantining going on for our students as well as test-and-stay across our school district for many students who are close contact,” she said.

Marotta said all schools are social distancing, wearing masks and will reinstate pool testing again.

She said the biggest challenge the administration has faced so far this year is transportation. It is an issue facing school districts across the nation due to a lack of qualified drivers. Yesterday afternoon, for example, a bus contractor was short four bus drivers, slowing down the ride home for some high, middle and elementary schoolers.

Assistant School Superintendent Michael J. Pfifferling also told the Committee that due to wrong addresses and program changes, the administration has had to change routing for 760 students already this year.

“As Dr. Marotta said, and as we anticipated, student transportation has been a struggle to start the year. I’d love to be able to tell you that every student has been placed on the correct bus and dropped at the correct stop and made it home on time this year. It’s not something we can say,” he explained.

Pfifferling said buses for the high school are running at capacity and in some cases beyond, necessitating running double loops. As a result, those buses arrive late to pick up students attending middle school and elementary school.

He did say the school department is continuing to work closely with NRT, Haverhill’s school bus service provider, to fill in the gaps and train more drivers.

Comments are closed.