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Following COVID-19 case, Mahar School Committee may reconsider vote to start hybrid learning

  • Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 12/22/2020 5:06:40 PM

ORANGE — A Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District School Committee vote to enter a hybrid learning model on Jan. 21 may be reversed in a few weeks, at least in part because a teacher and some office workers she came into contact with are quarantining after it was learned the teacher had tested positive for COVID-19.

The unidentified educator contracted the novel coronavirus from her adult daughter, who she lives with, according to School Committee Chair Peter Cross. She was working out of Ralph C. Mahar Regional School to teach students remotely and briefly spoke with four or five masked workers in the high school office, Cross said.

Mahar instituted a remote learning model when the academic year began, though students with the highest needs have been in the building. Also, Cross said, most faculty members have been in the building to teach their students, who have been learning from their homes.

School Committee members voted 5-2 on Dec. 10 to enter a hybrid model with the knowledge they could change course during their next meeting on Jan. 14.

“We’ll assess the COVID situation and decide then,” Cross said. “I didn’t vote for it, but that’s OK.”

Cross said he and Vice Chair Patricia Smith voted against entering a hybrid model that would incorporate a mix of remote and in-person learning, while Dianne Salcedo, Chris Paul, Sunday Lefebvre, Jack Radner and Lynn Peredina voted in favor of it. Cross said Patrick Davis abstained from the vote and Maryanne Reynolds and Carla Halpern were absent from the Dec. 10 meeting.

Cross said he thinks there is a strong possibility the committee will reverse its decision.

The latest data from the state Department of Public Health, released on Dec. 17, puts Orange in the “red” or highest-risk category, with 26 new COVID-19 cases within the previous two weeks.

English teacher Ian Bashaw, Mahar’s union president, said five or six teachers are breathing a sigh of relief after learning they will be able to continue working remotely even if Mahar enters a hybrid model. He said this was initially not the case, but an agreement was reached between the union and Mahar’s central office.

“A lot of us do see a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said, “with the vaccine coming out.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-7  72-0261, ext. 262.


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