While State Plans for Students to Return to Classes, Educators and Haverhill Schools to Bargain Details

Reaction from parents was mixed last week when Haverhill’s school superintendent said the state is leaning toward a full return of students to classrooms this fall, but the Haverhill Education Association says more talks are necessary. Union President Anthony J. Parolisi tells WHAV educators submitted a demand to bargain over reopening plans and Superintendent Margaret Marotta agreed Friday. Parolisi explains what’s a stake. “The conditions for reopening are going to have a significant impact on our members schedules, their daily responsibilities, the impact of being required to wear personal protective equipment—who’s going to provide that. There’s a lot of unanswered questions,” he says.

Haverhill Superintendent Marotta Says All Students Return This Fall Under Current Guidance

School classrooms in Haverhill will look different this fall, but not as unusual as officials first feared. Haverhill Superintendent Margaret Marotta, a guest Wednesday on WHAV’s morning program, says it appears all students can return at once, according to updated guidance from the Department of Education. “Providing nothing changes, or gets worse, at this point we’re planning for a sort of a full socially distance return to the school in the fall. So, for us, that’s meant a lot of work. Moving around desks, taking out desks, checking all the windows in all the buildings to make sure all the windows work because they’re encouraging the flow of fresh air.

UMass Lowell Omicron Delta Kappa Chapter Inducts Haverhill, Methuen, North Andover Students

A number of local students were among 70 recently inducted into the UMass Lowell chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership society that honors college students. Area students inducted include Emily Murrin and Miranda Vieira, exercise science, both of Haverhill; Nazeli Acosta, physics, Catrina Crowe, psychology, and Corrina Quaglietta, nursing, all of Methuen; and Hayley Cooper and Jeremy Young, psychology, both of North Andover. As students, Omicron Delta Kappa members participate in educational, service and leadership programs that benefit campus life, according to Deb Finch, a faculty member in UMass Lowell’s Manning School of Business, who advises the university’s chapter along with Shaima Ragab, director of student affairs. “Inductees go on to enjoy a lifetime membership into a corps of leaders dedicated to serving both UMass Lowell and the greater community for the benefit of all,” Finch said. UMass Lowell juniors and seniors academically ranked in the top 35 percent of their respective school or college are invited to apply for membership and are selected based on their outstanding contributions in one or more of the following five areas: scholarship, athletics and recreational sports, student organizations and community service, media and performing arts.

State Plans Roadway, Parking, Sidewalk Upgrades at Northern Essex Community College

The public has opportunities to shape policy this week as various Haverhill boards meet. In the interest of transparency in government, WHAV provides this list of upcoming meetings every week. The Commonwealth is planning roadway, sidewalk and handicapped accessibility improvements on the Haverhill campus of Northern Essex Community College. Members of the Haverhill Conservation Commission will hear, among other matters, plans for utility and drainage improvements and paving and accessibility at the campus, 100 Elliott St. Commissioners meet Thursday, July 9, at 7:15 p.m., via Zoom video.

UMass Lowell Plans Mix of In-Person, Hybrid and Virtual Instruction This Fall

UMass Lowell plans to use a mix of in-person, hybrid and virtual instruction this fall when it plans to welcome students back to campus. Following local, state and federal guidance, highlights of the reopening plan include keeping in-person classes and labs at 25 to 50 percent of previous capacity, while making larger lectures virtual; opening residence halls at reduced capacity; using enhanced protocols for physical-distancing and disease prevention; and resuming campus operations in phases over the summer and fall. Chancellor Jacquie Moloney said, “These are challenging times for our community and our society as we grapple with the uncertainties of this international pandemic and the physical, personal and economic toll it has taken on our world and our lives.”

In workspaces and classrooms, UMass Lowell will impose at least six-feet distancing and face coverings will be required when unable to physically distance. Large campus events will be replaced by smaller programs or virtual activities to encourage safe interactions. The university, however, said it plans to employ creative uses of technology and programming to “enhance and enrich the living and learning experiences of students.” It is also prepared to modify its plans should there be a need to return to all-remote learning and operations.

Northern Essex Community College’s Varsity eSports Expands to 7 Offerings This Fall

Northern Essex Community College’s varsity esports program is expanding to seven game offerings beginning this fall. Five game titles will be featured for PC play, while Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will continue on Switch and Madden will be added for PS4 play. FIFA is also expected to join the mix during the spring 2021 semester. “We’re excited to be expanding our offerings in esports and increase participation and championship opportunities for students while at the same time returning to competition in other programs as well following the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Northern Essex Athletic Director Dan Blair.

Haverhill’s School Bus Provider Demands the City Pay $613,000 or Face Legal Action

Haverhill’s principal school bus provider is threatening to take the city to court, saying officials have no right to withhold payment regardless of school closures. NRT Bus, through its lawyer Howard M. Cooper of Todd and Weld, said in a letter Monday the city owes the company $613,405. The law firm said a School Committee vote in early April to “no longer pay for services not received” isn’t legal. In the letter to Mayor James J. Fiorentini, school Superintendent Margaret Marotta and assistant Superintendent Michael Pfifferling, NRT says the city must continuing paying for transportation services “whether or not they have actually been rendered during the pandemic.”

Further, the NRT says state law “explicitly permits payment for the full range of services” during pandemic-related school closures. Fiorentini told city councilors Monday night that while he doesn’t believe the city owes NRT money, the schools still must try to reach agreement.

Whittier Tech’s Lynch Says Student Video ‘Offensive and Hurtful;’ Calls for Talks on Racism, Diversity

The superintendent of Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School is calling for more discussion about racism, diversity and tolerance after learning of an “offensive and hurtful” video created and shared by students. Superintendent Maureen A. Lynch said she became aware of the video on the Tik Tok platform Monday morning and that it “trivializes instances of racism and discrimination people of color face every day.” She said she hopes “this moment can act as a learning opportunity from which we can grow.”

“We are disappointed that students felt such a video was appropriate, particularly at this time in our nation’s history, when so many people are working tirelessly to examine and address the historic racism and injustice in our shared past,” Lynch said. She said the school reached out to the parents and guardians of the students. Lynch said the school is “even more saddened by the deep hurt this video has caused by isolating members of our community and attempting to minimize the discrimination and racism that is unfortunately alive and well today.” She added Whittier Tech “denounces all forms of racism, discrimination and hate” and values diversity. The superintendent said Whittier had a professional development program on diversity and inclusion two weeks ago with more than 65 staff members.