DERRY — The school district's upcoming switch back to an all in-person model of learning caught some off guard who felt there was no notice given on the recent school board agenda and teachers and families weren't given time to react or plan.

At the school board meeting on Feb. 9, officials announced that students would be returning to Plan A, or the all in-person learning model.

The district had been in a hybrid model after beginning the school year in September with a phased-in, all on-site approach to the school day.

With plans now in place to return to all in-person learning, families will still be given the opportunity to keep their students in the remote learning model.

Pre-kindergarten through fifth grade will return to in-person learning after February vacation on March 1; middle-schoolers return on March 15.

The decision was made due to meetings with health officials, administration and members of the district's teacher union leadership, according to Superintendent MaryAnn Connors-Krikorian.

Connors-Krikorian said she is looking forward to having students back in the classrooms every day. Safety protocols would be in place, including everyone required to wear masks, and six-feet of distance kept in common spaces, hallways and offices.

In the classroom, though, it's a three-foot social distance plan or possibly more, depending on the number of students and the size of the space.

The superintendent also urged families, if traveling out of the New England area over the February vacation, to notify their schools and be prepared to honor the state's 10-day quarantine guidelines.

Assistant Superintendent Austin Garofolo said coming back to the in-person model is best for students.

"Students will have physical opportunities to be in front of teachers, with their peers five days a week," he said. 

Garofolo noted that the three-foot distancing plan in classrooms may increase the need for contact tracing and probably the need for quarantines if cases arise. 

"But that is outweighed by the need for students to be on-site for their academic and especially their social and emotional needs," he said.

But for parent Jenna Paradise, the news about the move to an all in-person model came as a bit of a surprise. She spoke out at the recent meeting, saying no mention of the discussion was on the night's agenda, and people were caught off guard with little time to offer feedback or views on the decision.

"I'm really, really disappointed the way this was rolled out tonight," Paradise said, adding there were no surveys of families asking what their views were about sending their children back to school.

"And some of the hybrid kids are just getting adjusted now," Paradise said. "Now it's either you go all in or you go all out."

Paradise also questioned the district's plan saying it's now three-feet of distance in the classroom, but that's without knowing what the numbers of students returning will be.

"You don't know how many people are going to be in the class," she said.

Middle school educator Cynthia Cleary had concerns.

"If parents are under the impression that their students are going to be well separated from each other for the whole day, that's not reality," she said.

Cleary said she understands everyone has the best intentions and interests of students and staff topping the list and she looks forward to seeing all her students in person again. But she added it's still frustrating.

"I just think it could have been handled a little differently," she said

Connors-Krikorian said it's all about the data, saying district officials meet regularly with health officials and decisions were made due to the positive move in the right direction as per the coronavirus numbers.

"The numbers have drastically changed, reduced," she said. "That's been one of our main points of feeling that it's time to go back."

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