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Administration touts January return to in-person learning as largely a success

Staff Photo - Tyler Hughes

Buses pull up to Winnacunnet to pick up students on the afternoon of Jan. 25.

“Things are going very well.”

That was the crux of the recap Principal William McGowan gave School Board members on Jan. 20, just over a week into the implementation of a hybrid learning model at Winnacunnet.

For just over two weeks now, students have regularly been attending classes in the building as part of the hybrid plan that took effect Jan 11.

“I want to thank the students, they’ve been doing a great job with PickUpPatrol and things like that,” McGowan said at the Jan. 20 meeting. “Overall, it is a transition, this is day seven, for some of us, it feels like day 70, but we’re going to continue working to make improvements as we see fit.”

Students who chose to return to school are now able to attend classes in the building 2-3 days per week, and attend classes remotely the rest of the time. Students are split up into groups by cohort, with last names A-L in one group and M-Z in another. The schedule still allows for three classes per day.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Caroline Arakelian said she received a large amount of positive feedback about the return to school at Winnacunnet.

“I’m hearing a combination of students, parents, and teachers who are nervous, but eager, excited, and positive to be back,” Arakelian said. “I heard the comment several times that Monday [Jan. 11] was like the first day of the school year.”

Senior Erin Cropper was largely excited to return to school. Although she was reluctant at first, Cropper said she feels as safe as she “possibly could” given the current situation.

“Overall, my classes have been going super smooth,” Cropper said. “I’m comfortable in class being distanced from my peers, but there’s also so many unknowns for this pandemic.”

In an email sent to students and families on Jan. 31, McGowan said there were currently 13 students and two staff members either quarantined or excluded from school with possible or probable exposure. In addition, there were 8 students in isolation for a positive COVID-19 test or COVID-19 symptoms.

In addition, Arakelian said teaching staff have already begun to see positive effects on student engagement in day-to-day instruction.

“Connection is really the theme that teachers lacked before, they wanted to get back to it, students, those who were struggling with remote instruction, they weren’t turning on their cameras, now they’re back,” Arakelian said. “I did stop by the high school, and you could hear a pin drop. Everyone was in their classes and doing well.”

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