NORTH ANDOVER — Parents and students hoping for a full-time return to classrooms flanked the driveway of the School Administrative Building chanting and waving signs Thursday evening as School Committee members arrived for their regularly scheduled meeting.
About 45 parents and students attended the rally, which took place along the sidewalk outside 566 Main Street at 6 p.m. The protest, dubbed the Rally to Return, was arranged through a Facebook page earlier this week. North Andover public schools are currently in a hybrid model of learning that combines both in-person and online education to try and limit the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s been a long time; it’s been almost a full year since these lockdowns began and I think our kids are suffering more than anybody else,” said Ron Carpentino, who has a 16-year-old daughter at North Andover High School.
Standing with him were the two children of School Committee candidate Rebecca Stronck. Her daughter Emily Stronck, 10, was holding a cardboard sign with colorful lettering that said “I want to be in school” while her son, Gabriel Stronck, 8, was holding a complementary sign that read, “We need to be in school.”
Stronck, who’s running on a platform of safely bringing children back to school buildings full-time, was eventually given the mic by rally organizers.
“This community shouldn’t accept anything but a plan to get our students back to school five days a week safely,” said Stronck.
Many at the rally expressed their frustration with what they say is a lack of planning on the part of the school district, a concern exacerbated by an email sent to the school community by Superintendent Gregg Gilligan on Feb. 12.
In the email, Gilligan said he had heard from both parents seeking a full return to classrooms and those who are satisfied with the hybrid model. The email included no mention of when or how a full return to school buildings would take place.
“We just want to hear a solid plan tonight from the School Committee,” said David Evangelista, one of the rally’s organizers.
Students at the rally echoed the parents’ concerns, saying they wanted a full-return to the classroom because they were falling behind academically in the hybrid model.
“I got my first D ever my last trimester and I was not very happy,” said Kristofer Rhoton, 17. “I needed the time and the one-on-one stuff. I wish I had that, but I wasn’t able to get the help that I needed.”