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Over the Fence Post letters

Sept. 30, 2020

Letters to the Editor

School District needs to create plan for in-person learning

We are writing to highlight the lack of any plans for Nashoba Regional High School to enact a hybrid model or some form of in-person learning for the 2020-2021 school year. NRHS is currently fully Remote while almost all surrounding districts, including K-8 in the Nashoba district, are Hybrid. Time is critical, before everyone has to be inside more and the virus has a resurgence as is predicted this winter.

Per Gov. Baker and Commissioner Riley’s press conference last week, it is crucial and recommended that low positivity rate school districts have reopening plans for in person instruction, at least in a hybrid mode, as soon as possible. The questions below were read at the beginning of the meeting but no response was provided. The lack of transparency from the School Committee and Superintendent is deeply troubling to our community.

  • What is the schedule for evaluation of return to in person instruction, eg. when are the decision points?
  • What specific criteria and thresholds will the School Committee use to determine when in person instruction will resume?
  • Will there be a new survey of parents and teachers since previously most wanted in person instruction at least part of the time (before we had the full plan)?
  • In what manner will decisions be communicated to the HS community?
  • Is the SC prepared to address the potential that the Education Commissioner Jeff Riley may request a reopening plan within 10 days per recent news stories?
  • Why can’t teachers instruct 1/2 of the students remotely and the other 1/2 in person simultaneously which would allow for some in person instruction without the need to repeat lessons? Avoiding repeating of lessons was a reason given for going remote at NRHS. We’d like to keep the current class schedules in place while enabling a smooth transition to hybrid.

Some school committee members, Amy Cohen, Leah Vivirito and Mike Horesh, asked similar questions, several times, and they did not receive answers.

Note that 9/29 COVID figures from indicate Bolton at a 0.31% positivity rate (no change), Lancaster at 0.73% (lower) and Stow at 0% (Lower) over the past 14 days. Almost all surrounding high schools are hybrid, including Hudson, Acton-Boxborough, Westford, Lincoln-Sudbury, Clinton, Harvard (Bromfield) and Concord-Carlisle, with Wachusett and Leominster in the news pushing for a hybrid plan as well.

Meanwhile, every day since school opened on 9/16, our children are struggling in a Remote mode of learning unnecessarily. Every day, this causes irreparable harm to these students as they cannot repeat these critical high school years and this social-emotional point in their lives. Significant time for each class is being lost due to attendance taking, connectivity issues, and technology issues.

We demand a plan be put in place by 10/9, per Governer Baker and Commissioner Riley’s requests to other remote districts.

We need the School Committee and Superintendent to treat this In-Person/Hybrid Instruction Plan as an urgent matter. The administration needs to act and communicate their plan for how to enable students and teachers to learn together at a minimum in a hybrid mode (with a Remote option for those who need/want it) safely.

Tracy Lindsay, Joel Lindsay, Jim O’Shea, Janet O’Shea, Ninotchka Rogers, Pequita Loring, Dara Ambrose, Jen Worden, Sandra Naroian, Cheryl Ojerholm, Peter Ojerholm, Michelle Borsari

Schools should be open for full in-person learning

I am asking my fellow Nashoba Regional parents and ultimately the school committee to reexamine our decisions regarding our current COVID strategy. It is quite clear we need to follow the science and open up the schools, as there is little to no evidence that shows a hybrid or even a remote learning strategy significantly lowers community transmission of COVID vs 100% in-person learning. In fact, there is actually mounting evidence that these strategies have very little influence on overall COVID transmission and disproportionately harm low income families.

What we are doing to our children is systemically wrong. For example, are people aware that the kids have to eat in silence with each other in spite of social distancing? I cringed when I heard that. I appreciate that the processes were put into place to minimize COVID transmission, but it should not be an “at all costs” mandate and should take into consideration that our children are not robots.

It has been obvious for a while that COVID impacts children differently. Surprisingly, only about 100 children have died from COVID in the US since the start of the pandemic. Yes, those 100 children matter and every one of those deaths is tragic, but the numbers pale in comparison to the number of children that die from suicide in any given year. To help drive home this point, even assuming the number of children that have died due to COVID doubles by year end, a child is 15 times more likely to die by suicide if it was a normal year. However, we are doing our best to ensure this is no normal year and recent surveys by the CDC and others show soaring levels of depression and a sharp increase in suicidal thoughts amongst adults.

Inexplicably, and perhaps as another sign of how much our society routinely disregards children, there are no such studies out there regarding those under age 19. Nevertheless, you do not need a study or a PhD to envisage the damage we may be doing to our children’s mental health, particularly when their only meaningful contact with their classmates might be via social media.

Aside from the obvious mental health concerns, there are also immeasurable costs to our children’s overall development without full in-person learning. In numerous aspects, and in spite of best efforts, it is clear that hybrid and remote are poor substitutes for the real thing. Private schools are certainly aware of this and most are open for 100% in-person learning.

Furthermore, there have been a number of studies throughout the pandemic that have shown teachers are no more likely to get infected with the virus than most other professions, even absent rules on social distancing or mask wearing.

Though we should certainly protect those at risk; including students, teachers and family members in the same household; we should also put an end to the lasting damage we are inflicting on our kids. It is time to open the schools to 100% in-person learning.
Chris Sarno, Stow

A YES vote on question 2 strengthens our Democracy

I am writing in support of Question 2 on the November 2020 ballot. This question asks voters to approve Rank Choice Voting.

I have experienced this process of voting for more than 10 yrs at WPI where I work. We use it to vote for faculty membership on all university committees. One of our most conservative faculty championed using it. The process eliminated the need for runoff elections, which took time and funds to implement. In a Democracy, it is critical to have candidates receive a majority (at least 50%) of the vote. When there are a multiplicity of candidates, a sign of a vibrant Democracy, it is often impossible for any one of them to receive a majority. However, there are often several attractive candidates among those vying for a particular office. Ranked choice voting enables voters to express more power in elections by allowing other candidates to benefit from what is essentially an instant run-off election.

This saves time and money for our election systems. It also provides greater power to each voter to express clearly their opinion about candidates. No particular party or ideology benefits. The process is easy to use, it is easily implemented by voters, so do not let anyone tell you otherwise. In addition, our localized computerized voting counters can be programmed to do the individualized counts to provide an instant run off. Voters can give a single candidate a 1st choice and rank no others. Voters can also rank two or three on the ballot, or all of them if there is a large number. This website provides a short, neutral video that explains how the process works along with its many benefits:

A key point is that this gives ALL voters more power over their choice. Because that is the case, this will also encourage more diversity of candidates and ideas for voters to consider. This process does NOT allow you to vote twice, but rather to express your ranked candidate preferences on a SINGLE BALLOT that has a pool of more than two candidates. Ranked choice voting also encourages more people to vote because their 1st, 2nd or even 3rd choice may be recognized. All of these features strengthen our Democracy, which requires our never-ending efforts to keep our country strong.
Pam Weathers, Stow