Tri-Town elementary parents favor in-person learning return

Dec 8, 2020

The parents of elementary students in the Old Rochester Regional School District have spoken, and a majority of them want to send their children back to school in-person full time.

In a survey sent out by the district, 83% of Rochester parents, 82.5% of Center School parents, 78.2% of Old Hammondtown parents and 71.9% of Marion parents who responded would feel comfortable sending their children to school in-person, even if non-traditional classrooms were to be used.

This setup will be used in Mattapoisett, where a gym will be converted into a kindergarten classroom.

In Mattapoisett, 88 parents from Old Hammondtown and 168 Center Schools responded to the survey sent out. In Rochester, 292 parents responded, and 198 Marion parents answered questions. 

The data, revealed at each town’s school committee meeting last week, favored a shift toward more in-person learning days per week, as well as a push to have all students in the building going forward.

The district is currently teaching students in a hybrid model, meaning that their learning experience is a mix of in-school and at-home teaching. Students are split up into cohorts by last name. Each cohort has two days a week in the building, two days at home, and everyone learns remotely on Mondays.

But the model has drawn criticism from across the Old Rochester Regional School District. In Mattapoisett, parents have banded together to form Mattapoisett Concerned, a coalition advocating for the return to in-person schooling for younger elementary students.

Superintendent Michael Nelson said at the Rochester and Marion School Committee meetings that the district has no immediate plans to change its current learning model.

“We want to create as many opportunities for students as we possibly can, but our main goal always will be to maintain the safety of our students, families and our staff members,” Nelson said at a Dec. 2 Marion School Committee meeting.

Transportation to and from school is also a concern for the district. Due to state covid restrictions, school bus capacity is stifled to 32%. But the survey showed that caretakers can largely meet the need.

78% of Rochester parents, 83.3% of Old Hammondtown parents, 87.7% of Center School parents and 81.8% of Marion parents said they would be able to transport their children to school if some of the current remote learning days were shifted to in-person days.

Nelson said the state may soon revise its coronavirus transportation guidance.