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Parents Fight To Resume In-Person Learning In Nashua Schools

File Photo, NHPR

There's a strong push across the state to get students back in the classroom. In Nashua, where schools have been mostly remote since April because of COVID-19 concerns, a group of parents is fighting the school board to resume in-person learning.

NHPR's Morning Edition host Rick Ganley spoke with one of those parents, Wayne Georgiana, about how his family has been handling remote learning for about ten months now.

Rick Ganley: Students with special needs and those in grades kindergarten through second have been given the option of a hybrid learning model. But the majority of students, including your two daughters, have been fully remote since April. Can you talk about some of the challenges that you're facing as a parent with schooling this year?

Wayne Georgiana: Sure. Well, to start, I'm a small business owner, and I haven't really been able to do any work because of my freshman daughter. She has an IEP. She should be in school, but I have to sit with her and basically redo my freshman year all over again. And then as for my second daughter, we're to a point where she's just kind of uninterested anymore.

Rick Ganley: What resources does your daughter no longer have access to that she would have if she was in school or in a hybrid learning model?

Wayne Georgiana: So with her plan, she needs to be in a classroom setting, because there are special ed teachers that have paras. And so she needs access to the paras for extra help. So instead of disrupting the class frequently, she could just call on the para, but the para is not there. She gets the special ed teachers, but she's not getting the time and she's also not getting the tutoring that the plan calls for. So that's where we're missing out.

Rick Ganley: In Nashua, I know you've organized as a group called Nashua Parent Voice, and you're looking to remove board members who have opposed opening schools back up. Why take that step?

Wayne Georgiana: Nashua Parent Voice was created for the parents that had a choice taken away from them. Remote doesn't really work for everyone. There are some kids that remote maybe works for them, but there are kids that need to be in school. There's just over a thousand of us that are like minded that we want our kids in school for many of reasons, and the biggest one is the social and the mental health aspect of being in school. Plus, we don't feel that the education is the same as being inside of an actual classroom in a learning environment.

Rick Ganley: The board obviously has said that this is a public health issue and they are keeping school buildings closed to as many people as possible in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 that this is a public health emergency. What's your response to that?

Wayne Georgiana: Well, quite honestly, we have so much more information now. You know, Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, Dr. [Benjamin] Chan, who is the head of New Hampshire's epidemiology department, you know, they've all said, the CDC has been saying now consistently that kids need to be back in school. Kids aren't super spreaders. In fact, there are child care centers that have been open from the beginning and really have had no problem.

Rick Ganley: There have been many parents in the district and in other districts across the state, really, who have switched to private schools or they're now homeschooling their children. Are you considering pulling your daughters out of the Nashua School District?

Wayne Georgiana: Oh, yeah, my daughter just got her acceptance letter to [Bishop Guertin] and Lowell Catholic, because we don't know what this board is doing. In fact, one of the founders of Nashua Parent Voice has sold their house and moved to a district where their kid is in school. We have friends that have pulled their kids, unenrolled them and re-enrolled them into home schooling. So, yeah, we're looking because, I mean, this is crazy. If other towns can do it, why can't Nashua?

Rick Ganley: I'm wondering about community tension in the long run. Communities across the state are divided on how to to balance this student in teacher safety with in-person learning. What are the concerns about how this tension will affect Nashua Public Schools in the long term when you do get back to getting kids in a classroom?

Wayne Georgiana: We're not upset with the teachers, right? We understand. We get it. But, you know, it's going to be hard because the kids that chose remote, they've been told they're going back to school three times now and they haven't. And so, you know, there's a lack of trust. And, you know, quite frankly, as taxpayers we're quite upset because we're paying our taxes, but yet our schools really aren't being used.

Rick Ganley: So what can the district do to earn back the trust of frustrated families like yours?

Wayne Georgiana: Well, they already know the teachers that want to be back into the school without the vaccine. They know the teachers that are on the fence saying, well, I'm nervous, but I would give it a try, and they know the number of students that want to be back in school. And therefore they should allow us to have a choice.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
Mary McIntyre is a senior producer at NHPR.

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