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N.H. School Districts On Edge As COVID Numbers Rise Across State

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

A spike in coronavirus cases is forcing many New Hampshire school superintendents to consider going remote.

So far, state officials say school reopening has contributed very little to the state’s coronavirus numbers, but many districts’ reopening metrics require them to reassess their schedule when community transmission levels reach those seen in the last week.

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Recent cases have prompted schools in Timberlane, Raymond, Pembroke and Milford districts to go remote this week, and substantial transmission in Coos County is prompting some districts there to close buildings.

The state's latest COVID numbers show a little over 60 active cases in Coos County, a significant jump since just last week. The majority of those cases are in Colebrook and Berlin. Berlin’s numbers do not include the outbreak last month at the federal prison, which state health officials recently took off the list of active cases.

“I definitely think there is some surprise in the community,” said Berlin Superintendent Julie King, who moved the district to a remote model after three cases there last week – the first since the school year began.

King says Berlin had been bracing for months for a surge, but even after the summer tourism season, there were barely any cases, and some residents began to wonder if the region would stay largely insulated from the coronavirus.

“I think we let our guard down,” she said.

So far, four districts in the North Country have closed their buildings in response to the recent spike. The Littleton school board votes on Monday night whether to go remote as well.

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

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