HAVERHILL — High School students will return to full-time, in-person instruction in April, per a decision made by the School Committee in agreement with the administration Thursday.
Seniors will be back in class Monday, April 12, with freshman, sophomores and juniors following on Monday, April 26, the week after school vacation.
Additionally, graduation ceremonies will be back at Haverhill Stadium on Friday, June 4. Principal Glenn Burns said the ceremony will be as traditional as possible, although the number of guests will be limited and a host of safety rules will be in place.
Last year due to various emergency orders amid the pandemic, seniors were asked to drop by the high school alphabetically over a five day period, with each family having a time slot to observe the acceptance of diplomas .
Glenn said seniors will receive packets this week detailing specifics on graduation, as well as Chapel and the Night of Stars scholarship ceremony.
"We've added a few extra things this year to give graduates a good send-off and allow them to spend more time with their peers," Burns said. "We're still waiting on confirmation on those things, which we have not announced yet."
Superintendent Margaret Marotta said the Class of 2021 will have a prom of some sort, such as a catered affair under a tent, but details are still to be worked out.
Marotta said the staggered approach to the return to full-time, in-class learning in April is based on the size of the student body.
"The assumption is that the vast majority of seniors are going to come. ... It's a senior year and they're all going to come," she said. "We're hearing that at the younger grades, more of the kids are likely to be remote and so that would stagger the number of students, even though it's not the number of grades, that would be returning all at once."
She said in order to maintain the proper distance between desks, some of the more popular classes may be held from the library or another area of the building remotely on a rotating basis. In an effort to gain more space, she said, the district is issuing a request for proposals for locations available elsewhere in the city. Busing still must be worked out.
Marotta initially proposed returning seniors April 26 and freshmen, sophomores and juniors April 28, but revised those start dates after School Committee member Scott Wood asked her to move them forward.
In a 6-1 vote, committee members supported the earlier start dates Thursday. Only Toni Sapienza-Donais opposed, saying she supported Marotta's original plan.
Mayor James Fiorentini said he wanted students to return even sooner.
"Let's get these kids where they want to be, where their parents want them to be, and where the science says they should be," Fiorentini said.
A survey will be emailed to parents of high school students asking if their children plan to attend five days.
"We really want them to participate in the survey so we can have an accurate count and welcome all of our scholars back to Haverhill High School and make sure they have a great experience as we close out the school year," Burns, the principal, said. "We're sending surveys to the parents of our 1,856 students and if anyone doesn't answer, we'll follow up with a phone call."
For students in the lower grades, the district is planning a gradual return in three phases beginning April 5. Parents do have the option of having their child attend the city's Remote Learning Academy for the rest of the school year.
Phase 1 begins April 5 for kindergarten and first-graders, students at the Greenleaf Academy, those in the TEACH program, and those with high needs. Students in grades 2, 3 and 4 return April 8.
Phase 2 begins April 12, with fifth- and sixth-graders.
Phase 3 begins April 26, bringing back seventh- and eighth-graders.