EASTHAM — Following a dismal report on the aging high school’s ventilation system, the Nauset Regional School Committee voted unanimously on Aug. 31 to keep the building closed to most students for an unknown time period.
This is a change from a month ago, when district administrators announced a hybrid model for the Nauset Regional High School in which students would be educated in person two days a week. As of Sept. 1, the hybrid plan was still in place at the middle school, and all the elementary schools in the district were still expected to reopen for in-person learning on Sept. 16. The plans, however, could still change.
“It bothers me that kids won’t be in the classroom,” said Ed Brookshire, an Eastham member of the regional committee.
Supt. Tom Conrad had been trying all summer to get a report on the HVAC system from the maintenance company, Mechanical Air Controls, that has been servicing the school for years, said Chris Easley, the committee chair.
“They have avoided us like the plague,” Easley said of the company.
But when the report finally came, the news was “not pretty,” Easley said.
Most of the fans, which are in individual classrooms, don’t provide a proper air exchange.
Nauset Regional High School is in the financing stage of a $131.8 million renovation project. Voters were supposed to approve funding in the spring, but the pandemic delayed all the town meetings until fall. For the last few years, the administration has avoided major maintenance projects at the high school, knowing that it was on track to be renovated, Easley said. More maintenance funding went to the middle school.
“We don’t expect people to go into an unsafe building,” Easley said.
The school committee meets next on Sept. 9 to discuss a report on which of the high school buildings may be salvageable with fixes to the ventilation system, Easley said. But for now, the plan is to educate all students at home. Other buildings in district towns are also being considered as potential classrooms, he said.
Afternoon sports still begin Sept. 18, according to an email from High School Principal Chris Ellsasser to parents on Sept. 1.
And those students with high needs will be invited back to work in person with teachers in the classrooms with proper ventilation, the email stated.
For students and teachers, the focus has shifted to developing a decent remote learning system.
Along with attendance being enforced and work being graded as in regular school, Nauset will provide extra assistance for this new form of learning.
There will be a “support strategy designed to use day-to-day data (attendance, grades, wellness checks, late/missing work) to initiate early intervention for students who show signs they might be struggling,” wrote Ellsasser.
“Our opening days of school will focus on developing classroom cultures and relationships and showing students how to learn using our remote model,” he continued.
There will be “instructional videos” and “support/information meetings for families” he added.