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In Concord Visit, Dr. Jill Biden Tells N.H. Schools: 'Help is Here'

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

Dr. Jill Biden visited the Christa McAuliffe School in Concord on Wednesday to tout the nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Biden last week.

After visiting students, the first lady spoke of the toll that remote schooling and limited child care has had on parents, especially mothers. She promised that the millions of dollars headed to New Hampshire schools would change this.

"When schools like Christa McAuliffe open and childcare providers are safe and affordable, parents can focus on the careers that they love and support their families,” she said.

During the visit, fourth grader Vivian Wierwille presented Biden with the first of a 2021 U.S. silver dollar celebrating Christa McAuliffe, the teacher from Concord who was killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.

Credit Sarah Gibson for NHPR
U.S. District Court Senior Judge Steven McAuliffe unveiled the 2021 Christa McAuliffe Silver Dollar during Dr. Biden's visit to Concord.

The Biden family are longtime friends of McAuliffe’s widower, judge Steven McAuliffe. Biden said Christa McAuliffe was an inspiration to generations of girls and teachers, like her.

The push to reopen schools fully is top of mind for Concord and other school districts currently in a hybrid model because of the pandemic.

With teachers getting vaccinated, and emerging consensus that schools can safely reopen with proper mitigation measures and a three feet distancing model, Christa McAuliffe Principal Kris Gallo is hoping to bring students back to school five days a week later this spring.

Gallo said the question of a full reopening is less about funding and more about space. The district is assessing how many students will fit into the building if they sit three feet apart, rather than six, and whether any of the students who opted for a fully remote option will want to return to the building this semester.

Credit Sarah Gibson for NHPR
Dr. Jill Biden stopped by the Christa McAuliffe school as part of a Help is Here tour.

As for the millions of dollars headed to the Concord School District with the American Rescue Plan, Gallo said she hopes to dedicate it in her school towards programming this summer and fall.

“Not just for special education but for all kids - focused on learning loss, focused on social emotional learning, but focused on fun,” she said. “We’ve lost so much fun this year: no field trips or guest speakers or guest readers. These are the things that kids live for, so we can’t wait to bring that in.”

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