MANCHESTER, NH – In the spring semester, Central High School in Manchester faced an unprecedented challenge. The school suddenly had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers and students alike were thrust into remote learning classes without any prior preparation. No one was suggesting the school year be canceled entirely; despite the difficulty, instructors and staff did their best to make sure children received the best education possible.
The difficulties which presented themselves are still present for the fall. Parents, whether working from home or outside the home, have their hands full with their children at home all day. Children, in some cases, attend the online classes inconsistently, or on their own schedule. Still others have difficulty accessing computers and finding hotspots to access the classes at all. In many ways, online instruction is far from perfect.
Yet, despite all the difficulties involved, Principal John Vacarezza will take the lead in implementing the school board’s decision to close down the Central High School building to most all students for the first quarter of the school year – 45 days – which would last until November 9th. By that time, the district will re-evaluate whether they want to stay closed for another quarter, or allow students to come in.
For the present, only those students with severe disabilities are being allowed in the building. Their transportation remains the same as it always has been.
For everyone else, including those with non-severe disabilities, school will take place online, albeit with an altered schedule. Online classes will take place Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, with Wednesdays being reserved for small group instruction.
More focus will be placed on having students attend classes on time. The school plans to call parents in order to remind them that classes are still ongoing. Volunteers, of which include the police department, have been delivering textbooks to the homes of students. Additionally, students without computers of their own could check out Chromebooks for educational use. The school district, rather than Central High itself, was responsible for providing food to families in need of it.
Organized sporting activities and outdoor club activities are expected to resume under guidelines from the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association. Students in band practice will be much more spread out than before. Other clubs are encouraged to meet online through Zoom.
“Just because we can’t be in school at this time does not mean we can’t offer opportunities for students to interact and socialize, albeit in a different manner than usual,” Vacarezza said.
For parents who wish to enroll their students at Central High from other school districts, assistance can be provided from the registrar’s office either by phone or in person. Students who attended middle school in the Manchester School District are automatically enrolled in high school based on their location.
“Safety is paramount in this situation,” Vacarezza said. “We’re working hard to meet the needs of all students, so that everyone can receive a quality education.”
This fall, plans in Central High will center around having less busy work in favor of meeting student’s needs where they are. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, students will also have to embrace the structure they are given. School courses will are expected to be completed, with few excuses being accepted for non-completion.
Teachers at Central High want to be with their students, while feeling no small amount of concern for their safety. Many have been working through summer vacation trying to find ways to implement best practices going forward. Throughout the entire pandemic, teachers have demonstrated dedication and perseverance.
Regardless of whether the school reopens in November for all or continues with remote learning, Principal Vacarezza will continue to lead Central High with the same compassion and courage he has done for the last seven years.
He exemplifies his favorite saying, “Go Central Pride.”
Winter Trabex is a freelance writer from Manchester.