Tempers flare over in-person learning plan at second Mattapoisett School Committee Meeting

Oct 26, 2020

MATTAPOISETT — Tensions from an Oct. 22 special Mattapoisett School Committee meeting spilled over into a regularly-scheduled meeting on Oct. 26, where parents called once again for a plan to return the town’s youngest students to full in-person learning. 

“If you think I was a pain before, then you have no idea how much of a pain I can be,” said Stephanie Clark, a parent and co-creator of a petition to get Mattapoisett kindergarten through third grade students back to learning in-person full time. 

“I’m not advocating that we go back tomorrow,” Clark said. But she did call for the release of a fleshed out in-person plan to make that happen. 

And a more complete plan, as well as data on the feasibility of a full in-person model, will be released by Oct. 30 from the Old Rochester Regional School District. 

Superintendent Michael Nelson said he understands the frustrations of parents and their want for a more complete in-person learning plan. 

He said that metrics and alternatives will be released on Oct. 30 to more fully explain the path to full in-person learning. 

In a transportation update, Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Howie Barber explained that busing complicates a potential return to in-person schooling. 

He said district buses can only operate at 32% capacity per state guidelines. Of the seven buses used by elementary students, four would exceed that capacity. 

He added that it could take five to seven months for the district to buy a new bus, and said a minimum of two additional buses would be needed to transport students at the current capacity. 

Nelson added that the district doesn’t turn down students who show up to bus stops, even if the stop isn’t on their normal route, further complicating the issue. 

But parents called for more than an in-person return at the meeting. 

Petition co-creator Michael Kwoka called into question Mattapoisett School Committee Chair Jim Muse’s ability to lead the school board. 

“I have to wonder if you have, or should, consider if you’re the right person to head this committee,” Kwoka said. 

Muse defended his position as Chair, saying his number one priority has always been, and will continue to be, the safety of students. 

“Please exhaust your legal remedies because I’m here solidly for the children,” he said in response to heated comments about his removal from Clark, and a Massachusetts Public Records Law request made by Kwoka for all of Nelson’s emails regarding an in-person learning model.

“I’m totally offended by the comments and I won’t sit here and take it,” Muse said.