Area parents share concerns about school reopening plans

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Article Author: Fritz and others
Publication Name: Greenfield Recorder
Article Date: 9/6/2020
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With some families favoring remote instruction for their children, others favoring a return to in-person education and still others hoping for a hybrid of the two, there seems to be no one-size-fits-all method for returning to school this fall amid the challenges sparked by the pandemic.

Greenfield Recorder reporters asked parents from local school districts about concerns they might have with how their children will be educated during the coming year. Here is a sampling.

Greenfield School Department

Pete Brown, who has two children in the Greenfield public school system, said he doesn’t like his children having to start the school year fully remotely, but he dislikes the other options even more.

“The approach I’m taking is ‘What’s the least bad option?’” Brown said. “Ideally, the kids could be in school — that would be the best for everyone — but a lot of us don’t feel that’s safe or possible right now.”

The Greenfield School Committee decided in early August that all students will start with a remote-plus model in mid-September and as time passes and administrators assess how things are going, school officials and the School Committee will reassess. The remote-plus model, described by Superintendent Jordana Harper, is a mainly remote model, but includes some in-person services, such as teaching students in instructional “pods” while practicing social distancing.

“Some parents are questioning why, with COVID-19 numbers so low in Greenfield, are schools starting with fully remote learning,” Brown said. “I believe

if we want the numbers to stay low, remote is the best way to do it.”

Greenfield resident Jaimye Bartak thought the School Committee would choose a hybrid plan because the COVID-19 numbers are so low.

Bartak said second-graders, for instance, will have a difficult time learning remotely just because of their age and attention span.

“Remote just isn’t the way to educate young children,” she said. “Why can’t we look at doing more outdoor learning activities to start?”

Former School Committee member and former City Councilor Tim Farrell said for him, opening schools during a pandemic is no easy decision.

Farrell and Brown are both concerned that roughly 1,700 students will need Chromebooks, internet access and supplies, and not all families will have the means to provide them.

“This isn’t even about my kids,” Farrell noted. “I have a flexible work schedule and my wife is working from home. We’ve got what our children need to start school. Others don’t.”

Farrell, who has a second- and fourth-grader, said at the very least, school officials should be contacting every parent or guardian.

“Families need to feel supported and because many don’t, frustration sets in,” he said.

Frontier Regional/Union 38 school districts

Frontier Regional School parents urged administrators to slow down the school’s September reopening at a School Committee meeting that followed a vote by the two districts to proceed with a hybrid model for the fall.

“My thoughts on this are evolving as I hear from everybody … but as the child of public school teachers and as an advocate for public schools, my feeling is always trust the teachers, listen to the teachers.,” said Frontier parent Erika Higgins Ross, referring to numerous comments made by teachers in favor of a remote model.

By way of addressing the concerns of teachers, Superintendent Darius Modestow explained later at that meeting he planned to slow down

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