October 08, 2020WOLFEBORO — The Governor Wentworth Regional School District Board approved continuing the hybrid school model, which includes a remote learning option, until the end of December at its Oct. 5 meeting in the Kingswood Arts Center. Superintendent Kathy Cuddy-Egbert presented an analysis of the present system along with the level of impact on the school system if the district moved into a five day in- school option.
So far, three weeks into the new school year, there have been no interruptions in classroom instruction, though
"We are beginning to see an impact," said Cuddy-Egbert, reporting that ten staff members throughout the district have been quarantined.
"If we come back fully – and we would like to have all students here fulltime- to do that, we would have to be able to implement the six foot social distancing guidelines" advised by the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services guidelines," she stated.
That would not likely be possible with the number of students and the available space.
Also in consideration is that the overall school enrollment number, with 2,268 students enrolled and around 150 more students opting to home school this year than usual, would increase to 2,418 if everyone were to return – an increase of 167 students over last year's enrollement of 2,241. That is assuming that those who have been home schooling all along continue to do so.
A consultation with Dr. Bournazian, she said, concluded that with the flu season coming, it would not be wise to go to full school. In fact, some schools, she has learned, are closing in November and December after the holidays because they are fearful of families travelling and not adhering to the guidelines. The Covid-19 numbers are rising along the Massachusetts border and Nashua and Manchestser have been declared hot spots. A solid system of rapid testing would be helpful, she added.
The vote to approve a motion in support of the superintendent's proposal was 5-3, with school board members Julianne Cardinal of New Durham, Tim Eldridge of Effingham, and Dana Streeter of Ossipee in dissent.
In discussion, Cardinal wondered, "What has to happen to make full time happen after December?" "We will have a much better idea of trajectory of the virus by then. Right now, we are transitioning to more inside time," Cuddy-Egbert responded.
School board member Jim Pittman, of Effingham, speaking in support of remaining with the hybrid structure until the end of December, commented, "We are fortunate it has gone quite well so far, but the numbers are moving up. We don't want to let our guard down."
School board member Charlene Seibel noted that the board had just approved letting athletes compete in tournaments with other schools, some of which are from a wider geographic reach, and had agreed to letting after school activities commence, all of which "come with some risk."
Eldridge disagreed with the proposal saying, "there is nothing better than having them in school. I'm in favor of moving forward. I hate to waste time not having the students back, when they might do okay." He said he has been hearing from parents who are having struggles with child care and he urged the board "to face reality and move forward."
Krista Abear, school board member and a retired school administrator, asked members to think about "the furniture piled high" (a reference to a photo shown earlier of all the furniture that custodians had to move and put in storage to accomplish six foot distancing in classrooms) and consider that a block of time would be needed to reconfigure the classrooms.
Cardinal pressed to have a plan for reopening to consider in December.