Concord schools to move to hybrid model in October

  • The Concord School Board meets Tuesday in the auditorium at Concord High School. Six board members attended the meeting in-person while three participated remotely via Microsoft Teams and were on the screen. Eileen O’Grady / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 9/9/2020 12:23:06 AM

The Concord School Board has voted to transition to a hybrid learning model in October, following a month of remote learning for all grades.

In the first school board meeting held in person at Concord High School since March, the board decided that on-site classes for Concord will begin on Oct. 6 for grades K, 1, 6 and 9, all grades that were deemed “vulnerable” for being the youngest and newest students in each school. All other grades will begin on-site classes on Oct. 13.

The decision to switch is mainly based on low numbers of COVID-19 cases in the Concord region, and presumes that the number will continue to be low. Interim superintendent Kathleen Murphy presented the idea to the instructional committee, and the committee recommended that the board vote. 

“I made that recommendation to the instructional committee based on all the hard data we received,” Murphy said. “We will keep an eye on our students and if there’s any outbreaks in students and families we are going to be able to know that because we will be notified by Health and Human Services.”

The hybrid model is the same one the board was considering back in August. Students will be divided into A and B groups that alternate days of in-person and remote learning. Group A would attend in-person on Mondays and Thursdays, while Group B would attend on Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays would be remote for everyone and serve as a time for teacher planning meetings and building cleaning. Siblings would be grouped together, and attend on the same days.

A fully remote option for students will still be available.

The switch from remote to hybrid is dependent on COVID-19 rates in the region at the time, and whether that data aligns with the Concord School District’s decision-making matrix for switching to hybrid, a condition that was added to the motion at the request of board member Danielle Smith.

Board member Gina Cannon expressed concern that if the school has to pivot back to remote-only after switching to hybrid, it will be too much chaos.

Board member Chuck Crush, who accessed the meeting remotely via Microsoft Teams, expressed concern about a lack of information around things like staffing.

“How can we vote on a hybrid model when we are not exactly sure how many teachers are going to be on leave and how many are not,” Crush said. “We don’t know if we have the staff.”

Murphy said she believes there are enough teachers that are willing to come back, those who have been approved to work remotely can continue to do so since some students will be choosing the remote-only option.

“I feel that setting a deadline, knowing full well a million things could change it, is better than putting it off until we get more information,” board member Barb Higgins said.

At the beginning of the meeting, the board voted 8-0 to appoint Maureen Redmond-Scura to the school board as a temporary replacement for at-large member Jennifer Patterson, who resigned at the end of August. Redmond-Scura was a Concord School Board member from 2016 to 2018. She will hold the seat, which is up for election in November, until Dec. 31 when a newly-elected official will take over.

Board members Cannon, Crush, Higgins, Smith, Tom Croteau, David Parker, Liza Poinier and Jim Richards all voted in favor of transitioning to a hybrid model in October. Redmond-Scura abstained from voting, because she hasn’t been involved in past discussions on the matter. 

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