In-person plan criticized by Mattapoisett Concerned parents

Nov 9, 2020

The Old Rochester Regional School District released its in-person reopening plan on Oct. 30, but for some parents in Mattapoisett, it’s still not enough. 

“We ask that you review this plan with a critical eye to figure out how we can make it work, rather than continue to share reasons why it cannot,” read a Nov. 5 statement from Mattapoisett Concerned, a collective of parents who drafted a petition last month to return Mattapoisett elementary students to full in-person learning. 

The plan is divided into five different options. Option one is full in-person learning with no caveats. Option two is full in-person learning with between three and six feet of social distancing per person. Option three is full in-person learning with six feet of social distancing. Option four is full in-person learning for preschool through second grade only. Option five is “additional opportunities,” which could include measures like increased after school programming.

Included in the plan are feasibility studies for each school, determining which of the five options are plausible. 

The studies include staffing cost and ability for the schools to bus students. 

The district has already been dealing with busing feasibility issues, due to a decreased capacity on all school buses as mandated by the state. 

For example, feasibility data for Old Hammondtown School includes models for how to implement options three and four, alongside busing feasibility and staffing costs. 

Old Hammondtown does not currently have the busing capacity to transport its students to school on a daily basis. To make the options work, the school would have to purchase at least one additional bus, costing $80,000. 

A shift to in-person learning for Old Hammondtown would also require $59,082 per hire for a new classroom teacher, specialist, special education teacher, and related service provider.

An additional $20,716 would be required to hire a new paraprofessional. 

This feasibility data is repeated for each school in the district within the plan, which can be found here

In its response to the plan, Mattapoisett Concerned cited nearby districts like Fairhaven and Westport’s abilities to return their youngest students to in-person learning. 

“We know there are other solutions that can be reached,” read the statement. “And the parents, guardians and caregivers ask for you to follow the DESE [Department of Elementary and Secondary Education] guidelines, which are demonstrating a proven and safe environment for full-time learning.”

Superintendent Michael Nelson has repeatedly stated that he understands the plight of families whose young children have not been able to attend in-person school full time. 

“We continue to examine all data points and key indicators available to our schools to make informed decisions about what direction is best for our school community each and every day,” read a letter from Nelson that began the in-person addendum to the fall reopening plan. “These decisions are made in conjunction with key stakeholders. We value student and family input, the support and guidance of health officials, and our school committee members’ leadership.”