One day in December Waterville Junior-Senior High Principal Nick Rauch took 76 phone calls before school started.
Each of those calls from a parent, Rauch said, told him their child would not be attending school in-person for fear of exposure to Covid-19. Rauch then had to scramble to tell teachers their in-class lessons needed to be adapted to having more students attend virtual that day.
In December parents fought sending their students to school, Rauch said. So at last week’s Waterville Board of Education meeting, he admitted it was hard to hear how parents are now pushing for students to go full time.
At the Junior-Senior High, students attend half a day and then learn remotely the other half of the day, except for seniors who can attend for the whole day. About 100 students have also chosen to remain remote only.
Regulations with space restrictions do not allow Waterville to bring everyone back full time. Schools that kept groups of students together for all their classes can return with smaller distances required.
Rauch said hearing how teachers might again have to adjust to a new schedule in the remaining five weeks of school was frustrating. “When parents weren’t comfortable sending their children in December teachers rolled with it.
“Part of the difficulty is we have accommodated every instance we could. My teachers rolled with it. This is difficult to hear.
“Since Aug. 1 these teachers have accommodated this direction, that directive. This sounds like we’re inflexible.
“We want the kids here. I know the hours lost. But these teachers here have rolled with every single punch this year,’’ Rauch said.
The discussion at the end of the meeting started when Board President Steve Stanton asked the administration to walk through the what-if scenario had the recent coronavirus exposures at Memorial Park School happened at the Junior-Senior High. All students went remote for two days and the entire fifth grade had to be quarantined for eight days.
Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Spring said at the secondary school, a much larger group of students and staff would have had to be quarantined.
“We have 42 students in quarantine from one contact,’’ Stanton said. “We know it would be a lot harder at the Junior-Senior High. We are making the best decisions we can under guidelines we have to follow.’’
Stanton said contrary to what some parents seem to think the goal is to keep students in school. “There’s still a big disconnect in our community,’’ he said. “We have to follow the rules.’’
He said he knew MPS parents were not happy about the sudden notice that all students would go remote the first two days of last week. His family, he said, like others had to scramble because of two children at the elementary school.
Stanton mentioned the nine teachers exposed who were vaccinated, and the two who were not who had to quarantine. “If people chose not to be vaccinated there are consequences,’’ Stanton said.
He urged people to have their children age 12 and up vaccinated when allowed. “If we’re committed to what we say we are and value education, then think about what we’re doing.’’
Stanton said he has heard from parents who want the Junior-Senior High back full time. “We need to unite behind the things we say we want.’’
Board member Russell Stewart said he too received calls to return the older students to full days full time. “The plea is out there for them to go back, even if they can for three weeks,’’ Stewart said. “It would be extremely...