As the state awaits an announcement from Governor Sununu on schools reopening, New Hampshire mayors say they’re moving forward with plans for next year.
NOTE: On July 14, Sununu released the state's guidance for reopening New Hampshire schools. You can find more on that here.
Mayor Bob Carrier of Dover says he won’t be waiting until the last minute. Instead, he says, local officials have been proactively planning what next year will look like.
“It could be staggered classrooms, bussing only up to 11 people possibly,” he says. “Double bus routes. It could be, you know, different time frames. They’re working on that as we speak.”
Mayors Jim Donchess of Nashua and Joyce Craig of Manchester both say their cities will likely adopt a hybrid system, with some instruction taking place in the classroom, and some taking place online.
But, with revenue shortfalls on the horizon, Craig says she’s concerned about the increased cost of operating schools during a pandemic.
“Our public schools in Manchester are getting about $5.8 million dollars in CARES Act funding, which sounds like a lot,” she says. “However, we have about 14,000 students, 22 buildings, and almost 2,000 faculty and staff in our district.”
She says most of that money go towards increased transportation costs, with fewer children allowed on each school bus. But, she says, more money will be needed to cover costs associated with special education, technology, sanitation, PPE, and HVAC filtering.
PPE costs are also a concern for Mayor Caroline McCarley of Rochester who says she was told by the Governor that when schools reopen, they will be responsible for the full cost of PPE.
McCarley says this came as a surprise.
“I would have presumed there was going to be more money relative to the school system and the cost of PPE,” she says. “So, do I know if it’s a concern yet? No. But I am worried about another expense that appears to be presumed at the local level.”
Governor Sununu is expected to make his announcement about school reopening later this week. The state's guidelines are expected to be broad and leave the final decisions about reopening up to local school districts.
New Hampshire's largest teachers' union, the NEA-NH, says they're going to fight efforts to reopen schools until they know they're safe and are following guidance from medical professionals.