Beverly High seniors to return five days per week

Paul Leighton, The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.
·3 min read

Mar. 5—BEVERLY — Beverly High School seniors will return to in-person learning five days per week starting March 22 under a plan approved Wednesday night by the School Committee.

The plan also calls for students in the three other high school grades to be in school two out of every three days starting March 29.

Mayor Mike Cahill, who is a member of the School Committee, said the return to a five-day-a-week in-person schedule will give seniors something they "desperately need" in the final weeks of their high school careers.

"Every additional hour we can provide them in person matters to their overall well being," Cahill said during the meeting. "The impact on this class has been hard, hard, hard. They lost the last third of their junior year, and their senior year has been what it's been to date. There's hopefully some academic benefit to adding this time for them, and I expect there will be. I expect the social/emotional mental health benefits to be greater."

The 4-3 vote to approve the plan came despite the objections of the teachers union. Beverly Teachers Association president Julia Brotherton urged the committee to hold off on making a decision until teachers start receiving COVID-19 vaccinations. She also cited the risks posed by new variants of the virus.

"Now is not the time to ease restrictions," she told the committee. "It's not the time to move students closer together in our classrooms. We need to hold steady for just a little longer."

Committee members John Mullady, Kaarin Robinson and Lorinda Visnick voted against the return plan. Visnick said the March 22 date was "too early" considering the fact that teachers were just deemed eligible for the vaccine.

"I wonder if there's an appetite to push it out a little further to give our staff a realistic opportunity to get vaccinated before we double the number of children that are going to come into that building and let it have some time to take affect," she said.

Under the plan, seniors will go to school in-person five days a week up until lunchtime, then finish the day remotely. Juniors, sophomores and freshmen will go to school two out of every three days.

Under the current hybrid schedule, high school students are in-person every third day, giving them either one or two days a week in school.

Brotherton said Thursday that the teachers union was "disappointed" by the committee's decision, "but we are hoping for swift action to get teachers vaccinated."

Brotherton said the change does not need to be negotiated with the union because it does not involve more hours or longer classes.

School Committee President Rachael Abell said the committee will consider changes to the middle school schedule at its next meeting. Middle school students currently have in-person learning two days per week. Elementary school students have already been attending school in-person five days a week for about four hours per day.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at pleighton@salemnews.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.