GILFORD — Speaking about returning to classrooms in September, high school French teacher Louise Jagusch says the situation is like a version of the Shirley Jackson short story, “The Lottery,” in which a citizen is selected by chance to be stoned to death.
In some regard, coronavirus can also strike by chance, so there appears to be a random nature about it. Much is yet to be discovered about the disease, she said.
“This is unprecedented,” Jagusch told the school board on Tuesday night.
She said she feels a responsibility to educate her students but also to keep them safe.
“I want to be with my students,” she said. “There is no question that they learn better in person, when there is an environment where they feel they are safe and they feel protected, and that is our duty to do that.”
The board ultimately decided that students would return with a series of precautions, including use of masks in classrooms. Parents can also choose to have their children participate in remote learning utilizing district teachers or an online charter school..
A survey sent to Gilford High School staff in July indicated 22.9 percent were most comfortable with in-person instruction, A total of 45.7 percent favored enhanced remote instruction and 28.6 percent favored a hybrid of in-person and remote on alternate days.
Jagusch said new data continues to come to light about the disease, including that teenagers can spread it readily.
“We need to slow the roll,” she said. “How many lives is this worth? Zero. Also, the evidence of long-term effect on people is unknown.”
In contrast to the staff survey, a Gilford High School family survey found 56.1 percent felt most comfortable with person-to-person instruction, 39.2 favored hybrid and 13.4 favored enhanced remote.
Jagusch said she’s empathetic to concerns of parents about remote instruction.
“I’m passionate about teaching, and I’m passionate about students. I want them alive.”
School board member Kyle Sanborn said the health of teachers who may be older and may have underlying health issues needs to be considered.
“Which is why I proposed that those teachers teach the remote classes for parents that chose that option,” he said.
Superintendent Kirk Beitler said cases of teachers with health concerns about returning for person-to-person instruction will be addressed one by one.
There are provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act that could come into play for teachers with underlying medical conditions. There is also a potential to address these concerns through family leave provisions.
Sanborn said he was disappointed with the mandate that students wear masks in the classroom.
“I believe that with desks socially distanced, and with the aid of tri-fold desk shields made from plexiglass, students should have the ability to take off their masks, especially at the elementary school level,” he said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends facial coverings in the classroom if students are seated less than 6 feet apart _ https://tinyurl.com/y674we6b
The Inter-Lakes School Board also will be reopening with a mask requirement in the classroom. Students will be given a remote learning option through the online charter school.
Cam Daly, a graduate of Inter-Lakes High School and Brown University, spoke to the board after it approved back-to-school plans Monday.
His parents are public school teachers. He said he was watching the meeting online with his parents, but decided to come in person after becoming embarrassed by some of the public remarks.
“I personally feel many of the people who commented and you guys are putting the wants of some of the people ahead of the needs of some of the students and faculty,” he said. “We are approving this and waiting for somebody to be infected, someone to die, something to happen to change it from in-person to remote.
“I don’t understand how people feel as if it’s safe to come back. My mother is a kindergarten teacher. I don’t understand how that’s going to happen."
He said he heard a school board member talk about all the precautions being taken.
“I don’t see how the proper precaution is not online. I just don’t feel like the safety of my parents who are older and the teachers should be put in jeopardy by people who want to finish high school or continue it in person.”