Screenshot - Tyler Hughes
McGowan presenting the plan to school board members on Dec. 17. The board unanimously approved the new hybrid reopening plan.
The Winnacunnet School Board unanimously approved a new, revised reopening plan on Dec. 17. The plan is set to take effect Jan. 11, and comes after an attempt to implement a reopening plan at the beginning of Trimester 2 was abruptly cancelled 5 days in advance.
The new plan differs from the previous reopening plan in that students will now be in the building all five days each week, instead of the previous two. Participating students will attend in-person school two or three days per week, rotating every two days by alphabet.
The new schedule calls for three classes per day from 8:00-1:30, with Warrior Block and lunch built into the school day, and office hours from 1:30-2:30. Students who are not in the building on any given day will learn either synchronously or asynchronously online.
“This schedule maintains the current schedule cycle, the A-B days, which will keep consistency, and we also heard back from the students and the teachers that the three blocks per day is very beneficial,” Principal William McGowan said while presenting the plan at the meeting. “The students will still be divided into two cohorts, based on the last names A-L and M-Z, and the students will have two consecutive days in a row, and two consecutive days out of the building.”
At the meeting, McGowan emphasized that there will be multiple layers of precautions in place to protect students, faculty, and staff from the potential spread of COVID-19. Everyone who enters the building will be required to wear masks, practice safe social distancing, and use provided hand sanitizer regularly. In addition, the building will be fully flushed with new, clean air at least twice per school day.
“We will have a checkpoint at three entrances that we will staff with nurses and administrators, and they’ll have real-time access to the PickUpPatrol app, so we’ll be able to see who has completed the [COVID-19 self attestation] screening or not,” McGowan said. “In classrooms, we will have a sanitizing cycle, and all classrooms will be provided with a full spray bottle of disinfectant, as well as cleaning rags.”
According to McGowan, students who choose to remain fully remote will continue to take part in remote classes with minimal disruption to their schedule. Whether staying fully remote or not, students will likely see a mix of synchronous and asynchronous assignments during their time remote learning.
“We can reschedule teachers so that a teacher will be teaching one of their assigned teaching sessions would be for those remote students, and then they would have the other assigned teaching sessions for the in-person students,” McGowan said. “For each block, we will put together a team of four teachers, a math, English, science and social studies teacher, and they will be available each block to work with those remote students that we could not provide a separate remote section for.”
The plan was met with initial skepticism in the form of intense questioning by school board members regarding the expanded amount of in-person time from the previous reopening plan. After nearly an hour of discussion and public comment, the board voted 6-0 to approve the plan. The board also decided to direct Winnacunnet administration to present a full reopening plan in January that they can implement when they see fit. Parents critical of previous iterations of the plan seemed satisfied with the new plan.
James Sununu, a North Hampton parent who told the board they needed to “go back to the drawing board” over the previous plan, was more positive about this plan.
“I want to thank the administration for coming back with this revised plan, which I think is a huge improvement over what was previously proposed,” Sununu said. “I urge you to vote to have a full reopening plan presented in January, as approved by Mr. [Henry] Marsh, so that when the time comes, it’s ready to go, and we aren't stuck waiting as a community.
Social Studies teacher and teachers’ union President Andrew Wallace also called into the meeting to express optimism about the plan, but he reiterated that it must be executed with caution.
“Teachers and staff at Winnacunnet High School are excited about the prospect of returning to face-to-face instruction with our students,” Wallace said. “It goes without saying that school will look much different under the circumstances, but teachers and staff are prepared to meet this challenge by utilizing a variety of educational tools and practices to deliver a high-quality experience that meets the academic and social-emotional needs of our students.”