Northampton high school students to start hybrid learning

  • Northampton High School GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/19/2021 11:46:49 AM

NORTHAMPTON — High school students will have their first in-person school days of the year next week.

The Northampton Public School district has been phasing students into a hybrid model since late November, and high school students are the last to be brought in, starting Monday. The district has hired a full-time contact tracer to track cases.

“Contact tracing has shown no evidence of disease spread within the school. I believe our schools are very safe for students and for staff,” Superintendent John Provost said in an interview Wednesday. “There have been positive cases of students and staff,” he said, but “contact tracing has shown those infections have occurred out of the school … Where we have had cases, it’s been from family gatherings or gatherings of people outside the household.”

Depending on the size of the room, typical classes are between 10 and 15 students, Provost said, and six feet of social distance is required. The district also upgraded its ventilation system — more than half a million dollars in COVID relief funding was spent on HEPA filters, Provost said.

Two-thirds of elementary school students have opted to come back in person for the hybrid model and about half of middle school students and about two-thirds of high school students decided to return for in-person classes, according to the school district.

While more students can come to school, some parents think the shift to hybrid is not enough. Catherine Potak, a parent of an elementary school student and a preschooler in the district, wants to see students back to school for in-person learning full time.

“Our main concern is that for nearly a year now, we’ve been assured this is OK and all kids will be behind and they’re all in the same boat, but we’re compelled to push back on that sentiment because it simply isn’t true,” Potak said at the most recent School Committee meeting on Feb. 11. “Not only are children in other parts of the state attending full time in-person, but we have districts in our own county that are full time in-person.”

Meanwhile, some school employees are working remotely, while others are in person.

“We have worked with our school employees to accommodate their needs and accommodate the need for coverage for in-person students,” Provost said, noting that in that vast majority of cases it has worked out. But, he said, “there have been a few cases where we weren’t able to find a solution that worked for both the staffing needs of the school and the needs of the individual staff member … We’ve had a small number of unpaid leaves that we’ve granted.”

A call to the president of the Northampton Association of School Employees was not returned.

Greta Jochem can be reached at 

This story has been updated  to reflect the accurate number of high school students who have opted to do hybrid learning. Incorrect information was earlier provided to the Gazette in its initial report. 

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