By Vicki Greene, Contributing Writer
Marlborough —The School Committee voted Nov. 10 to keep students grades 3-12 learning remotely with a projected return date on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Students in Pre-K through Grade 2, English Language Learners and Special Education students will continue in-person learning.
Superintendent Michael Bergeron can call a special school committee meeting prior to Jan. 11 if he feels it’s necessary.
Mayor Arthur Vigeant, who serves as School Committee Chair, along with several committee members and Bergeron said they’ve all received emails from parents “that were 50-50” on how to proceed through the holidays.
“For consistency of learning and working parents I believe staying remote right now through the holidays will then give an extra week to see if symptoms or cases come up,” Vigeant said. “I am fully intending to bring students back to school on the 11th and if something changes we’ll schedule an emergency meeting.”
Teacher Eileen Barry spoke on behalf of the Marlborough Educators Association and said Gov. Charlie Baker’s news conference announcing new metrics and a new COVID-19 map last week asking all non “red” or “high risk” communities go back to in-person learning “caused confusion (because) we as educators think students learn best in the classroom but we’re in our fourth week working remotely and we’ve built up a rhythm and routines.”
Barry advocated for consistency and keeping remote learning with a reassessment in January.
Allison Lucas, Marlborough High School senior and Student School Committee Representative agreed.
“From a student standpoint we should stay remote,” she said. “I feel so much better knowing every day is the same (schedule) and going back and forth is mentally draining. “
There was much concern among the Committee about wanting to avoid a “ping pong” effect. The district started the year off in a hybrid model but due to positive case counts and quarantining staff and students, the School Committee voted at the end of October to move Grades 3-12 to remote.
Bergeron told the Committee that the state’s change in metrics and color coding communities by positive cases brought the number of “red” communities down from 121 to 19. He said under the new threshold of a five percent positivity rate, Marlborough would have never been high risk as it has been between one and three percent under the new model.
Marlborough is a “solid yellow” according to Bergeron and he doesn’t see that changing so the city is no longer considered high risk. These new state guidelines have prompted every community to reassess their school and business policies.
“I listened to what the governor said and unfortunately I don’t think the state has been very helpful,” Committee Member Heidi Matthews said. “They’re telling us one thing and at the same time saying it’s your (local) decision.”
When asked about remote learning attendance Bergeron said it has been over 90 percent for elementary and middle school students and over 80 percent for high school.
There are 59 cases in the City as of Nov. 10 according to Vigeant who said he believes that number is “stagnant up or down 10 or 15 either way” for the foreseeable future.