School Committee Asks State For Help Returning To Full In-Person

Christopher Huffaker
·2 min read

ANDOVER, MA — The Andover School Committee wrote a letter to state officials asking for help returning to full in-person learning Thursday, citing three major obstacles: space, staff and transportation.

Committee Chair Shannon Scully wrote the letter and the full committee signed on with only minor edits at the committee's Thursday meeting.

The letter, addressed to Gov. Charlie Baker and education Commissioner Jeff Riley, notes that Baker has repeatedly pushed for more in-person learning, but says there are logistical challenges for public school districts like Andover in doing so.

The request is broken into three sections:

1. Space within schoolhouses

"Mathematically, under COVID distancing requirements, we cannot fit our entire student population into classrooms at three-foot desk distancing, with the most problematic spaces being at our high school," the letter notes. "Andover has applied to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) program nine times to get help with severe overcrowding at our high school, and we have been turned down each time."

The letter asks for state support in adding space and increased financial support for long-term facility constraints.

2. Staffing availability

The letter says that staffing is not only an obstacle to more in-person learning, it's a challenge for current operations.

"Every instance of a school in our district being forced into fully-remote learning for a period this year (typically a week or more) has been due primarily to a lack of staff," the committee wrote.

For more in-person learning, the district would have to use more spaces like cafeterias and gyms, requiring additional staff.

"We would need to hire 34 additional teachers at an estimated cost of $2,380,000 to return just K-2 students full-time."

The nursing staff is also carrying a heavy burden due to contact-tracing needs.

To help with these issues, the letter asks for staff to be vaccinated as quickly as possible, for state-funded and administered testing, for more contact tracing resources, for teachers to be considered essential emergency workers and for incentives to attract more teachers and nurses to public schools.

School committee members noted that they have been speaking to the town's legislative delegation about these issues as well.

A version of the letter opened to the public has received dozens of signatures from community members, as of Monday evening.

The full meeting is available here, from AndoverTV.

Christopher Huffaker can be reached at 412-265-8353 or chris.huffaker@patch.com.

This article originally appeared on the Andover Patch