Mahar to remain mostly remote until at least Jan. 19

  • Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange. RECORDER FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/16/2020 5:35:11 PM

ORANGE – Ralph C. Mahar Regional School will remain mostly remote until at least Jan. 19, School Committee Chair Peter Cross said this week.

The committee originally voted for a hybrid learning model before reconsidering the decision and opting to go remote. Each month, committee members revisit the possibility of returning to the building if it is deemed safe enough to do so. Massachusetts and the country are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases and it is expected to get worse following Thanksgiving.

Cross explained his committee will again meet and vote Dec. 10, but even if a decision is made to return, that will not take effect until the second semester begins, on Jan. 19. According to calendar on the school district’s website, the Christmas break starts with a half-day on Dec. 23 and lasts until Jan. 4.

Cross and School Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Teahan-Zielinski said the building is open for about 30 students with special needs and those with poor internet connectivity at home.

“We are not sure we have enough staff to manage this situation if we were to go ... hybrid,” Cross said.

He mentioned five faculty members are unable to work at the school due to living with family members who are particularly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. Cross said another three are excused due to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

“If we were to have people come back, that would be problematic,” he said. “We realize that technically there aren’t that many cases in Orange, but the cases are spiking everywhere.”

Ralph C. Mahar Regional School caters to Orange, New Salem, Wendell and Petersham students in grades 7 through 12.

“I know there’s a lot of parents who are not happy about what we are doing,” Cross acknowledged.

He said some students are not performing particularly well due to remote learning.

Teahan-Zielinski, in her first year as superintendent, said the school has been slowly adding students to in-person learning based on need.

“You’re not going to please everybody all the time,” she said. “It’s a balance.”

Cross said this is an extremely difficult time to be a school committee member but he is proud of his colleagues and the work they have put in.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.




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