Coronavirus

Hybrid instruction is likely to continue for at least another few months in the Monadnock Regional School District, following a vote of the school board Tuesday night.

Monadnock returned to classes last month under a hybrid model, with students attending school two days per week and learning from home the other three days.

The reopening plan called for the board to re-evaluate that decision Tuesday and discuss whether the district could return to full in-person instruction. But with a recent uptick in local COVID-19 cases — Cheshire County had 18 active cases as of that morning, according to the state health department — Superintendent Lisa Witte said now is not the time.

She added that switching back and forth between models could be hard on students.

“Changing course suddenly — as adults, it’s troublesome,” she said. “But we know, and there’s data to support it, that multiple transitions really can make an impact [on] educational progress.”

The board agreed, deciding in a weighted vote of 10.909 to 0.970 to continue with the hybrid model through at least Jan. 15. It will revisit the issue at its Jan. 5 meeting.

Monadnock covers the towns of Fitzwilliam, Gilsum, Richmond, Roxbury, Swanzey and Troy. In recent weeks, both Gilsum STEAM Academy and Troy Elementary School have had a COVID-19 case among staff or students. The N.H. Department of Health and Human Services listed the Gilsum school case as still active as of Tuesday.

Board member Nicholas Mosher of Roxbury said he’d like to consider going fully remote through the holidays, when increased travel and visits to family could lead to more transmission.

“It’s something that I would like to see us do to be proactive, and stemming any spread within our school system,” he said.

Karen Wheeler of Gilsum proposed amending the motion to have the board reconsider right after Thanksgiving. But a couple other board members said that would create too much uncertainty for teachers and families, and the motion failed on a weighted vote of 10.909 to 0.970.

Witte reminded the board that if the coronavirus does start spreading rapidly in local communities before January, she has the authority to take the district fully remote.

The half-dozen parents who spoke — including some who work in the school district — all supported staying with the hybrid model. They pointed out that a full return would make classrooms and hallways more crowded, just as colder weather makes it harder to go outside.

Nikki Tommila of Fitzwilliam, an Emerson School teacher with three kids in the district, said children can sit far enough apart right now that they don’t always have to wear masks. If they all came back at once, they would sit two to three feet away from one another, she said.

“I think it’s working for a majority of teachers and families,” she said. “I know it’s not ideal for everybody, but I do think it’s working. A full return really does scare me.”Paul Cuno-Booth can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or pbooth@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @PCunoBoothKS

Paul Cuno-Booth can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or pbooth@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @PCunoBoothKS