Board weighs prospects of reopening full-time

The Pioneer Board of Education heard the first outline of a plan to bring students back to school five days. 

Meeting in regular session March 16, the board heard Superintendent Benjamin Halsey give an update on a possible path to reopening full-time. Mr. Halsey said a group of regional superintendents has petitioned the state Education Department and county health departments for permission to bring students back on a regular schedule starting two weeks after Easter recess.

That would make the target return date April 19. Mr. Halsey said the plan hinges on students and staff continuing to wear masks and to social distance, along with following current protocols for preventing the spread of Covid-19.

For the first half of 2020-21, Pioneer followed a hybrid model of in-person and online instruction, with fully remote instruction available as an option for students. Starting in January, some hybrid students were brought back to four days of attendance. As of now, all of Pioneer's schools have at least some students attending four days. Wednesdays remain a fully remote day of instruction for general education students.

Mr. Halsey said data supports that schools have not been the source of Covid-19 outbreaks. He also cited increasing vaccination rates, a downturn in the number of infection cases, and a growing consensus among some government officials that schools should be fully open. 

Mr. Halsey added that one of his goals for the spring is to have a graduation ceremony for the Class of 2021 that more closely resembles Pioneer's traditional commencement. He has also been working with the Music Department on seeing whether concerts and other events can be held in front of an audience. 

Earlier in the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Nicholas Silvaroli said the bidding process is under way for $10 million in capital improvements approved by voters last summer. The project would bring a number of upgrades to the high school, including roof replacement. locker room renovation, auditorium stage improvements, and an expanded foyer area.