Masconomet families to rally ahead of school committee vote on hybrid return

Masconomet families to rally ahead of school committee vote on hybrid return

BOXFORD, Mass. — Students and parents in the Masconomet Regional School District are planning to rally ahead of a school committee vote Wednesday on a hybrid model of returning to school.

Masconomet Regional Middle and High School students returned to school after summer break in a remote learning model, as they did last spring when the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools across the state.

Wednesday, they will push for school leaders to adopt the hybrid plan at a time when the state has designated their communities of Boxford, Middleton and Topsfield low risk for the virus.

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“I’ve got a list of schools open all around this school,” said Middleton father Anthony Pacillo. “There’s no reason why this school should not be going hybrid right away – and then full time as soon as possible.”

Pacillo, a single father who has been trying to supervise his kids' online learning while running his company, is organizing the rally.

Mom Kathleena Scarpato plans to attend the rally to push for the hybrid plan.

“The harm to our students [not being at school] is far outweighing the harm that would be caused by bringing them back to school,” Scarpato said. “We think it’s necessary for their social, emotional and academic wellbeing.”

While school leaders have expressed a desire to bring students back, Superintendent Mike Harvey said in a letter to families that approval of the hybrid plan hinges on having enough staff.

“One emerging challenge to moving to a hybrid model is the large number of faculty and staff members who have requested accommodations to work from home during the pandemic under state and federal law and their collective bargaining agreements,” Harvey said. “Moving to a hybrid model will not be possible unless we’re able to hire enough proctors to supervise the classrooms of teachers working from home under these accommodations.”

Harvey said in that update late last month the district is actively trying to hire not only classroom proctors but also hall and cafeteria monitors to supervise lunch periods and mask breaks.

Parents told Boston 25 News Tuesday they are concerned about having a proctor in some of their children’s classrooms instead of an experienced teacher. But most parents feel any form of in-person learning is better than remote.

“Although I’d love the teachers in the classroom, I wouldn’t want that to stop the hybrid vote,” said mom Carroll Crispo. “At this point, I just think my children need to go outside of the house. Everything is open except for schools. And I think they need to get that alarm and get out the door and interact, even with a mask.”

Trevor Currier, a high school senior who mentors freshmen and is on the student council, said the social factor of not being in school is as difficult as the academic challenges.

“The social aspect of not being in school is hurting the kids so much, and the administration and school committee are forgetting about mental health,” Currier said. “Yes, physical health is important, and you can see it. But mental health you can’t see.”

“I think the school has done an excellent job with online learning compared to last year,” senior Trent Bunker added. “I’d say the quality of education has grown by leaps and bounds this year. However, I think there’s no match for actual in-person learning.”

The rally will begin at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, before the school committee vote.

Boston 25 News attempted to reach the superintendent, school committee and teacher’s union but was not able to make contact with them.