EASTHAM — The Nauset Regional High School ventilation system turns out not to be as bad as expected, with the majority of classrooms expected to be ready for an Oct. 15 opening, School Supt. Tom Conrad told 100 school committee members and parents during a nail-biter of a virtual meeting on Sept. 10.
Just 10 days earlier, the superintendent had announced that schooling would have to be fully remote, after a report from the ventilation company gave the antiquated campus an “F” for ventilation.
This news had stunned the parents of 921 students who had been preparing since early August for a hybrid plan, which had students learning virtually at home for three days each week and in person at Nauset for the other two days.
The pandemic has altered plans repeatedly, so it was unsurprising that 100 people joined the Thursday meeting on Zoom. When Conrad revealed the news about the ventilation repairs and the new Oct. 15 opening date in the final hour of the meeting, school committee member Josh Stewart said, “You guys kind of buried the lede tonight…. I feel much better hearing that.”
Chris Easley, chair of the regional school committee, had just finished a passionate plea to get the students together.
“I have heard from more parents than I can tell you, and the chorus is ‘creative measures,’ ” said Easley, who lives in Wellfleet. “Finding a method to get a large group of kids together at the middle and high school is important. It is a critical part of education,” he said, “That is the priority of parents of kids in our system.”
Mechanical Air Controls, the ventilation contractor, already has Building N ready, Conrad reported. Building A, another classroom building, is nearly ready, with new parts and fans being installed. Buildings B, C, and E are also in line to be repaired by Oct. 15. They house many classrooms, science labs, and ceramics and arts, Easley said.
The cafeteria won’t be open to students. They will stay in their classrooms for lunch, which will either be delivered or picked up at a designated location, Easley said.
If all goes according to plan, most of the campus will be re-opened on Oct. 15, with the exceptions of the auditorium, gym, and cafeteria, Easley added.
Another piece of good news is that repairs to the ventilation system may not break the bank. Easley estimated the cost to be around $100,000. The school system has $50,000 already budgeted for ventilation repairs, Easley said. Though this is costly for a school that is about to undergo a complete renovation estimated at $132 million, it’s not as bad as expected, he added.
Evidence of the stress among staff and parents was highlighted by Conrad, who told everyone during that meeting that his health was fine.
“The rumor had been floating around that I had a heart attack,” said Conrad, who is 63. “I think my health is excellent. I did not have a heart attack, and I pray that I never do. I feel a little awkward sharing that, but that’s where I stand.”