The Nashua School District is responding to pressure from parents and some school board members to hasten reopening plans after weeks of being almost entirely remote.
At a school board meeting on Tuesday night, Superintendent Jahmal Mosley presented the district’s metrics for moving between remote, hybrid, and in-person models. With transmission levels of COVID-19 now among some of the highest in the state, Mosley said Nashua meets the state's criteria for staying fully remote or hybrid.
The state’ guidelines recommend that schools in towns with “substantial” community transmission (i.e. more than 100 new infections per 100,000 over prior two weeks) stay in a hybrid or remote model.
But the district decided in September to postpone the transition from a fully remote to hybrid model, before Nashua was experiencing substantial transmission. It is currently offering a hybrid model to CTE students and several hundred students with significant special education needs, but most students could stay remote until next year.
A group of parents, called Nashua Parent Voice, sent an appeal to the Nashua Board of Education in late September, saying at-home learning was failing students, and the district had not adequately communicated its metrics for reopening.
Board member Paula Johnson said parents were right to be frustrated and she was prepared to meet with them in person with masks or without.
“They're taxpayers,” she said. “And they have a big investment. And their students - their children - are the investments into the system. And if we are failing them and they're that angry, then we're not doing something right and we need to listen to them.”
On Tuesday, the board voted to establish a Pandemic Education Committee with board members and parents to advise the district on reopening plans.
Superintendent Mosley warned that even if Nashua tries to reopen gradually, there might not be enough teachers willing and able to return in person.
“The staff capacity to conduct school operations - that's something that not just me but every superintendent in New Hampshire and the nation has continued to struggle with,” he said.
Mosley said the district would decide on Nov. 9 whether to move some younger grades into a hybrid model before the end of the year, based on staffing availability and public health data.
Amy Medling, the founder of Nashua Parent Voice, said she was "encouraged" by recent communication with Mosley and Mayor Jim Donchess.
"But we need to keep working, we can still do better," she said. "We still need two full days minimum and we still need the high schoolers and middle schoolers to get back to school before the end of the year."