Principal recommends remote learning plan

  • New Hingham Regional Elementary School Principal Jesse McMillan talks about new chairs and tables that needed to be purchased to comply with pandemic guidelines at the school, July 17, 2020. The new furniture is being stored in the gym until it is arranged in classrooms. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 8/4/2020 2:34:37 PM

CHESTERFIELD — Last month, officials at New Hingham Regional Elementary School were hopeful that they could safely welcome students back to school for in-person learning this fall.

But as COVID-19 cases appear in recently repopulated U.S. schools, and after three New Hingham staff members, one of whom was placed on a ventilator, became ill with the virus, Principal Jesse McMillan is recommending a fully remote learning plan through at least Oct. 1.

All staff members who contracted the virus have since recovered, McMillan said, but the staff member who required a ventilator, a woman who wished to remain anonymous, was hospitalized for over a month and nearly died, he said.

The woman is a “very physically fit and active, healthy individual,” McMillan said, and believes she caught the illness from a friend who came inside her house for just a few minutes.

“She wants to reiterate that you can catch this from anybody,” McMillan said of the staff member. “Some people often forget you can contract this from your friends, family members,” he said, even if those interactions are limited to small groups.

“Those small groups often come in contact with other people, as much as people try to stay in their pods and limit contact,” McMillan said.

The three staff members who contracted COVID-19 are not the primary reason that McMillan is recommending a remote learning plan, he said — necessary equipment such as certain disinfectants are out of stock until October, and news of schools elsewhere in the country reporting virus cases shortly after reopening for in-person classes contributed significantly to the decision.

But the staff members who contracted COVID-19 have “certainly impacted my own comfort level in bringing the students and staff back,” McMillan said.

“We’re a small school, and I have three staff members in my building who have been impacted by this,” he said. The elementary school employs 34 staff members.

Elsewhere in the country, some districts have already reported COVID-19 cases shortly after reopening. In Georgia, 260 employees in the state’s largest school district were ordered to quarantine last week due to infection or possible exposure, the Washington Post reported.

Additionally, a middle school student in Indiana tested positive for the virus on the first day of classes; and at least three students at a Mississippi High School tested positive for the virus since returning to school last week, with around 40 other students in quarantine, according to The New York Times.

The district School Committee was set to vote on McMillan’s recommendation for remote learning on Tuesday night. If the school does go fully remote through Oct. 1, officials will reevaluate whether students can safely return later in the fall.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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