Hybrid start 'successful' despite challenges, superintendent says

Oct 5, 2020

Dartmouth Public Schools’ hybrid learning plan began with the official start of in-person classes on Monday with the pandemic posing myriad challenges — including the district’s first positive Covid case in the high school community.

Although Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bonny Gifford said that it’s been a “successful start” at a School Committee meeting on Oct. 5, just one day prior, she sent a letter to high school parents announcing that a “member of our school community” had tested positive for the coronavirus

The letter did not specify whether the person was a student or staff member.

At the meeting, Gifford noted that the district can only give out general information about which school was affected. 

“We cannot give personal information,” she said. “We give out what we can.” 

If someone is feeling ill, Gifford said, nurses will look into the symptoms and that person will quarantine at home. Those who are symptomatic will be asked to get tested immediately.

If there is a positive case, much like the one announced on Sunday, the superintendent stated that school officials will reach out to the Board of Health to assist with any contact tracing.

“We are well prepared for these things that will come up,” she said.

Another challenge faced by the district includes the middle school’s remote learning system, TECCA. 

As students prepared for online learning to start in September, some middle school parents hadn’t received vital information on how their kids’ remote classrooms would operate until after classes officially began.  

Committee Chair Chris Oliver said he was “disgusted” with the way the state’s Department of Education investigated online programs.

He noted that there are only two 30-minute live lessons a week per subject, with only one that is recorded and available to watch afterward.

“I have got a huge fundamental problem with that,” he said. “We are trying to offer this as a solution to Dartmouth families.”

The committee chair then expressed his frustration with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for their “poor communication.” 

“This is completely unacceptable for the students and families of Dartmouth,” he added. “They were inadequately prepared for Covid-19 and for all these districts signing on board.” 

Despite the challenges, Gifford said, “It was really joyful to see kids standing at bus stops.”

The superintendent noted that teachers were extremely happy at every building she’s been to.

“We know we’ll have bumps as we go along, but we’re here to try to solve those,” Gifford said.