The up-Island school committee this week weighed proposals to allow in-person learning for younger students in its reopening plan, although no final decision was made.

Chilmark School principal Susan Stevens and West Tisbury School principal Donna Lowell-Bettencourt came before the district committee Wednesday with updates on reopening plans.

Both principals vehemently opposed adopting hybrid models for students at the K-5 grade levels, citing the exposure risks of a model that requires additional day care services when students are not in school.

“Because those students need care when their parents can’t have them at home all the time and they’re not in school, it widens the ring of who they’re exposed to,” Ms. Lowell-Bettencourt told the committee. “This expands the group of people, adults and children, their students may be exposed to. It also expands the exposure of my staff.”

She recommended that the West Tisbury School adopt full-time in-person learning for students in the K-5 age group, while allowing those in grades 6-8 to use a hybrid model. She said recommendation was drawn from data she has collected through parent surveys about school reopening.

Facility updates and enrollment limitations — specifically for non-district students in the school choice program — have already been put in place to meet health guidelines at the West Tisbury School. The in-person model will also likely include a phased-in approach to avoid health risks, Ms. Lowell-Bettencourt said.

Ms. Stevens concurred, but went one step further, proposing that the Chilmark School bring its K-1 students back for full time in-person learning beginning Sept. 17, the school’s current remote opening date. Ms. Stevens reasoned that students of that age qualify as high need, noting the building’s ample space to accommodate them safely.

“I’m nervous about the kindergarteners,” the principal said. “Putting those little kids on devices to me, it’s going to be very difficult to teach them. They can’t read, they can’t really do anything independently.”

Fielding comments from committee members, committee chairman Katherine DeVane stressed the importance of looking at the big picture.

“We have to take several things into account. Obviously getting the best possible education for all of the Island kids, the best mental health for Island kids and the best health and well-being for our entire district,” Ms. DeVane said.

Reaction from Island health officials was mixed.

Dr. Jeffrey Zack, an emergency room physician who has been advising on school reopenings, cautioned about straddling too many reopening plans, urging the committee to create one health plan and stick to it.

“It kind of comes back again to what are our goals,” Dr. Zack told the Zoom audience. “What’s more important? You know, complete safety or getting our kids back to school and doing that in a safe manner?”

He also cautioned against rushing students back to in-person learning without adequate health protocols or testing procedures in place. “Unless you have the ability to sort of triage, diagnose and start a process of tracing early, then we’re going to be in the same position that most of the United States is in, or at least in the South,” he said.

Board of health officials from Chilmark and West Tisbury echoed the doctor’s sentiment, concluding that differing approaches among school districts could pose a threat to the health of the Island community at large.

But committee members Robert Lionette and Alex Salop pushed back.

“It just strikes me that we are, in our effort to be so cautious, we may be throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” Mr. Salop said. “I feel like the finger is being tipped. I think it is being tipped on the safety balance, versus our students’ well-being,” he also said, citing in-person learning plans at Vineyard Montessori and Falmouth Academy as evidence.

“I can’t understand how rational people can come to a different conclusion, with very similar demographics,” he added.

With a dearth of information about other Island schools, Ms. DeVane chose to stall decision making until after an all-Island committee meeting planned for Thursday. (That meeting later saw no outcome after the committee did not complete its agenda.)

Eager to settle the plan, on Wednesday committee member Skipper Manter proposed a hard deadline for the decision. “By the end of next week, we need to know, everybody needs to know what’s going on,” he said.

The committee set Monday as their next meeting date, but that meeting was cancelled Friday and rescheduled for Thursday, immediately after the next all-Island meeting, when more information about a school testing program is expected from Dr. Zack.

In brief financial business, the committee voted unanimously to allow the schools to purchase supplies ahead of receiving a school reopening grant and Ms. Lowell-Bettencourt announced the reception of a $32,400 grant recently endowed to West Tisbury to support therapy services for students.

Wednesday also marked the conclusion of Ms. DeVane’s term as committee chairman. The committee voted unanimously to elect Mr. Salop in her place, with committee member Roxanne Ackerman continuing as vice chairman, effective immediately.