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New Hampshire Schools Weigh Whether To Go Remote Until After The Holidays


With coronavirus cases rising and Thanksgiving around the corner, some school districts are weighing whether to go remote until after the holidays.

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The state’s current travel guidancerequires people who have travelled outside of New England to quarantine for two weeks. This has a lot of families preparing to keep their kids remote after Thanksgiving and winter break.

As essential workers, teachers are exempt from the state's post-travel quarantine guidance, but some worry that not quarantining teachers will undermine their schools’ efforts to control transmission rates within the building.

Officials from the state health department and department of education say district leaders can expect updated travel guidance soon, but some school boards, like Concord’s, are deciding this week whether to go remote from Thanksgiving through Martin Luther King day in January.

Concord Superintendent Kathleen Murphy wants to keep students in the building for as long as possible, but says this will be challenging with teachers in quarantine.

Credit Graphics by Sara Plourde/NHPR

“If you’re an elementary teacher you can remote into your class, but you can’t just have the kids sitting there without a professional. You have to have someone in them,” she says. “The staffing is going to be an issue.”

In some districts, the upward trend of new COVID cases could shut schools down before the board votes on holiday closures. Manchester’s daily case count is pushing that district into a red zone on its reopening metric, which would prompt schools to stay mostly closed.

Berlin schools have already gone remote in response to a spike in coronavirus cases there, and superintendent Julie King says that could change the board’s calculation on whether to go remote for two weeks after Christmas break.

“Schools being closed is causing workforce problems in our community, especially with so many in quarantine and isolation right now with the high number of COVID cases,” she wrote to NHPR. “If we can get the community back on track with low rates of the virus, we'll be able to move back to onsite learning and I'm not sure we would want to stop that flow.”

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.

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