Northampton School Committee to vote on hybrid learning plan next week

  • Bridge Street School parents wait outside the Northampton elementary school for the dismissal of students shortly after noon on Friday, March 13, 2020, at the end of a previously scheduled half-day. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/14/2020 12:48:41 PM

NORTHAMPTON — For most students, school this fall has been remote. That may soon change. 

The School Committee will vote whether or not to transition to a hybrid learning plan at its Zoom meeting on Oct. 22, according to Superintendent John Provost.

Originally, the vote was scheduled for Thursday night’s School Committee meeting. The Joint Labor Management Committee (JLMC) — which includes school nurses, teachers, and a School Committee member — was set to meet Wednesday to finalize recommendations for the School Committee, according to Provost.

The group has been meeting at least weekly since a labor agreement was put into place in September, he said. Someone brought concerns to the district that the JLMC should be publicly posting its meeting agendas and holding the meetings publicly under the state’s Open Meeting Law, Provost said.

“After evaluating the concern with our city solicitor and legal counsel for the School Committee, we determined the concern is valid,” he said. Because it is a group formed to advise a public body, “there’s a strong legal argument” that it’s held to the same Open Meeting Law requirements the public body is, he said. The JLMC will meet Monday and post information about how to join the meeting on the city website. 

In a robocall announcement Wednesday, Provost acknowledged the delayed vote was disappointing. “The only reason for the delay is to honor a legitimate concern for transparent and open government,” he said.

In August, the committee voted to start the school remotely for most students until at least Nov. 4. Prioritized students — those with individualized education plans, preschool students, English language learners and homeless students and some others — were able to come to school in person. But when COVID-19 cases rose recently in Holyoke, in-person services were canceled for two days under a labor agreement and have since restarted again

At last week’s School Committee meeting posted on YouTube by Northampton Open Media, many spoke in the public comment period about the possibility of moving to a hybrid plan. 

Melissa Mattison, a parent of two students, is one of a number of parents who spoke in favor of bringing more students into school. 

“The World Health Organization has said that we are not returning to normal anytime soon. If we wait for there to be zero cases, we are waiting beyond our lifetime … The time to bring them back has passed by months, by months,” she said. 

Seth Cable, a parent of several students, said that if the options are hybrid and remote school, “there really just doesn't seem to be any advantage to bringing kids back into the school and a lot of potential disadvantage in the risk it poses to raising our local rates of COVID.”

Information on how to join Thursday night’s School Committee meeting can be found on the meeting agenda on the city’s website. 

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.

This story has been updated.




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