Algonquin returns to full in-person learning


Owen Jones

Freshmen Jeffery Dratch and Jacob Cifuentes enter the school building on their hybrid in-person day. Algonquin will be switching to full in-person learning on Monday, April 26.

Laura Anderson, Managing Editor

After over a year of remote and hybrid learning, Algonquin will be returning to full in-person learning on Monday, April 26.

In an email sent from Superintendent Greg Martineau to parents and guardians on March 10, he announced that while the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s vote to make amendments to the Student Learning Time Regulation, the district had already planned to reopen the high school and middle schools. 

“Regardless [of the amendment], The Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough were planning to return middle and high school students to a traditional five-day, in-person schedule,” Martineau said in the email.

Dr. Andrea Ciaranello, an infectious disease doctor and a member of the Medical Advisory Team, believes the district’s decision to return full in-person was due to a concern for student’s mental health as well as in preparation for any future mandates at the state level.

“The district and Dr. Medina have been carefully tracking educational outcomes for students in hybrid models compared to full-time models and mental health implications like depression, anxiety, suicide risk and substance abuse, and find that while many kids are doing quite well in hybrid and are happy with that overall, there are a lot of kids that would really benefit from being in school full time,” Ciaranello said. “The state has not yet mandated high school to return full time, but I think they probably will pretty soon so I think the district is also trying to anticipate that happening as well.”

In order to ensure the safety of the community upon the return the administration, following the guidance of the Massachusetts DESE and the district’s Medical Advisory Team, has implemented some changes to the building.

“Probably the notable changes are that we are bringing in tents so that classes can be conducted outdoors without worrying as much about the weather,” Principal Sean Bevan said in an interview via email. “Also, we are expanding the spaces where students can eat lunch to include the B gym.”

Bevan stressed the magnitude to which the Medical Advisory Team has assisted this year to make certain all of the decisions and adaptations are best suited for the school.

These changes and the growing administering of COVID-19 vaccines have helped many students to feel safe attending school.

“I don’t have concerns [about returning to school]. Myself and many others I know have at least one vaccination, if not both, and the school is doing a good job with COVID-19 testing and sanitation,” senior Zak Mansour said.

Bevan and the administration continue to promote the pooled testing that is offered by the school as it will help mitigate the spread of positive cases among the school. 

In addition to testing, he recognized the importance, and struggles, of social distancing especially with more people in the building.

“There is always room for improvement, and I think that closely adhering to social distancing guidelines will be the one place that will be toughest,” Bevan said via email. “It’s been a long time since students have been able to be social in a way that is casual and ordinary, and there will be the impulse to return to that. Unfortunately, it’s clear that we need to keep applying a high degree of care and prevention with our social interactions, even as some parts of society are starting to open back up.”

Dr. Ciaranello added the importance of individuals doing what they can both in school and out of school to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The district has done a ton on their end to really make sure that ventilation and cleaning and all those things are up to the standards that they should be,” Ciaranello said. “I think what individual people can do is wear a good fitting mask and wear it all the time that you’re not eating or drinking and wash your hands a lot and keep your distance from folks as much as you can. Three feet is probably totally sufficient [with a mask]… Every little bit to reduce the risk outside of school will help reduce the chance that COVID-19 comes into school and then gets transmitted in school.”

While the majority of the student body is returning to school full time, those students participating in the school’s stand-alone remote program will remain learning fully remote.

“As we return most students to in-person instruction, we need to keep in mind that there are many students who still cannot, and we need to continue to reach out to them to keep them engaged and to ensure that they are progressing academically,” Bevan said.

Ultimately, the measures put in place and the efforts that have already been shown throughout the year by students to protect the community, have led Bevan to feel comfortable returning to full in-person instruction.

“I am very excited to have more students back with us,” Bevan said. “It will feel a little bit more like a regular school environment but with some major differences.”