COVID and the Classroom | New Hampshire Public Radio

COVID and the Classroom

Credit Sara Plourde, NHPR

The coronavirus pandemic has upended the education system across the country, and in New Hampshire. School leaders are making some of the hardest decisions of their lives, and school staff, students, and families are navigating unknown territory that could have big consequences.

For some, the risks of contracting and spreading the virus are too high to return to school. But closing or limiting access to school can hamper kids’ education, deepen existing inequalities, and wreak havoc on family finances.

NHPR’s “COVID & the Classroom” tells the stories of how Granite Staters are weighing the necessity of employment and school with the realities of the pandemic. We’re here to answer your questions, investigate what’s not working, and share how communities and families are adapting.

Every few weeks, we ask you a new question to help inform our reporting. Click here to see our current question.

You can also email us tips and questions about what you’re seeing, or photos of remote learning at

A high school student plays tennis.
Ben Conant

With the number of COVID infections declining and the governor’s announcement last month that mask-wearing is now optional in the state, the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association has changed course and now says high school athletes should have their choice, mask or no mask, for all upcoming state playoff games.

File photo NHPR

School districts and non-profits are gearing up for a busy summer with expanded programs to help students catch up on academics and socialize after a year of disruptions.

Many schools are reporting higher than average interest among families in summer school. These programs are offered every year, but are receiving an extra boost through federal COVID relief funding.

Courtesy of Hopkinton School District/Facebook

More New Hampshire superintendents and assistant superintendents are leaving their jobs this year, as part of a nationwide trend many attribute to the stress of managing school districts during the pandemic.

Dan Tuohy for NHPR

The New Hampshire Attorney General's office says that school mask mandates are legal, in spite of pushback by some parents, lawmakers and school board members.

School districts and private schools are receiving calls and emails alleging that requiring students to wear masks is akin to forms of child restraint prohibited by state law.

N.H. State House dome.
Allegra Boverman for NHPR

New Hampshire lawmakers are considering a program to expand school choice for thousands of K-12 students. It’s called an Education Savings Account, and it would give taxpayer dollars to families to pay for tuition at private and parochial schools, or other options.

If passed, it would be one of the most sweeping programs of its kind in the country. Here’s what you need to know about it.

Courtesy of Haleigh Swabowicz

Many New Hampshire high schoolers are back in the classroom for in-person learning five days a week for the first time since March 2020.

Haleigh Swabowicz is a senior at Nashua High School South, which until this week had been in either a remote or hybrid learning setting. She shared what it was like to return to school full-time — for the first time, again.

Courtesy of Melinda Shofner

As of this week, nearly all schools in New Hampshire have fully reopened. Until now, it’s been a patchwork of different reopening plans, depending on the district. And for the Scopel Shofner family, in Barrington, it’s been a complicated year: the parents work at two different high schools, while their two kids go to other schools — each with a different approach to the pandemic. I checked in with that family via Zoom last night.

Mary DeWinkeleer, a teacher at Londonderry High School
Courtesy photo

Many New Hampshire school districts are back in the classroom this week for full-time, in-person learning after more than a year of hybrid or remote classes.

Dan Tuohy for NHPR

The New Hampshire Department of Education says it has granted seven waivers to schools that say they can't meet Governor Sununu's deadline of reopening fully next Monday.

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

COVID-19 cases among school-age children in New Hampshire are on the rise, with kids under the age of nineteen now making up a quarter of new daily cases.

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

Some school districts say they need more time to fully reopen than they have under the April 19 deadline Gov. Chris Sununu has set. They point to teacher vaccination timelines, understaffing, and inability to social distance on buses and in some classrooms as the major hurtles to a full return.

Empty classroom

A continuación, lee las noticias del miércoles 7 de abril. También puedes escucharlas haciendo click en el audio. 

Una nota: Lo escrito es nuestro guión para nuestras grabaciones. Tenlo en cuenta si ves algunas anotaciones diferentes.

Los casos de COVID-19 aumentan en New Hampshire, algunos de residentes menores a 18 

Sarah Gibson | NHPR

A year ago, people flocked to vacation towns in states like New Hampshire to flee COVID-19. For some, it was just a brief escape. But others settled into a rural lifestyle.

The question now is how long these newcomers are going to stay.


New Hampshire parents who are currently collecting unemployment benefits to take care of kids during remote learning will no longer be eligible once schools fully reopen this month.

Sarah Gibson/NHPR

School leaders in New Hampshire say they were caught off guard by Gov. Chris Sununu's order Thursday that all schools reopen fully, five days a week, by April 19th.

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

A year ago, New Hampshire schools shut down for what many thought would just be three weeks. Now, schools across the state are reopening fully. NHPR's Sarah Gibson visited Deerfield Community School, where teachers and students have been spending a lot of the pandemic outside. And as they return, many are hoping that doesn’t change.

Reopening Public Education

Mar 24, 2021
Sarah Gibson, NHPR

As school staff across the state are vaccinated, many districts are considering a return to fully in-person learning. We ask how these decisions are being made, what the hopes and concerns are, and what changes to education might be here to stay. 

This show is part of NHPR's COVID & the Classroom coverage. 

Air date: Thursday, March 25, 2021. 

Dan Tuohy for NHPR

A bill to expand school choice in New Hampshire is moving forward in the New Hampshire State Senate.

Weekly N.H. News Roundup: March 19, 2021

Mar 18, 2021

The state launched its new vaccine registration site this week, known as VINI, which opened to teachers and childcare staff in the 2A vaccination group. New data on vaccine distribution shows lower vaccination rates for Black and Latino Granite Staters. And as educators get vaccinated, districts across the state are expanding in-person learning.


Air date: Friday, March 19, 2021.

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.

A vaccination site in Dover, New Hampshire.
Sarah Gibson/NHPR

New Hampshire residents who work as teachers in nearby states say they're having a hard time getting vaccinated, despite New England's efforts to give shots to educators.

School hallway
Sarah Gibson / NHPR

New Hampshire schools are slated to get over $350 million in the latest federal COVID relief package, a significant boost to what has already been a major increase in federal education aid during the pandemic.

The $350.5 million is more than twice what the federal government promised to K-12 schools in New Hampshire in December’s COVID relief package and roughly eight times what schools here were allocated in the CARES Act a year ago.

Vaccination clinic for school staff at Dover, N.H. high school.
Sarah Gibson for NHPR

Some of the first teachers in the state received their COVID-19 vaccine shots Friday, as New Hampshire eyes fully reopening more schools.

NHPR Education Reporter Sarah Gibson visited one of the vaccination sites in Dover to get a better look at the process. She joins NHPR's Ed Brouder to discuss where the state is now at and what is next in the vaccine scheduling process.

Sarah Gibson | NHPR

On Tuesday, the Manchester, New Hampshire School District announced tentative plans to expand in-person classes from two days a week to four, starting in May. And at Manchester West High School in Manchester, that experiment is well underway.

For over a month, staff there have been encouraging students who are learning English as a second language and others needing extra help to come in four days a week.

And getting students re-engaged a year into the pandemic is a massive effort.

Voter in Exeter, New Hampshire
Todd Bookman / NHPR

Voters across New Hampshire are choosing school board members today, and in some towns the election has come down to one issue: school reopening.

That’s the case for many residents in SAU 16, which serves Exeter, Brentwood, Kensington, East Kingston, Newfields, and Stratham.

Board chair Helen Joyce, of Stratham, says this is the first time in nine years that someone has run against her. Other historically easy races now have multiple candidates, she says.

Photos courtesy the LEAF School

Governor Chris Sununu's executive order requiring schools to open for in-person learning at least two days a week goes into effect on Monday.

With most districts already open two to five days a week, the order has made a difference for only a handful of mostly charter schools and a few traditional public schools that had stayed remote because of concerns about COVID safety.

COVID vaccine shot
NH National Guard

New Hampshire will start vaccinating teachers and school staff on March 12, Gov. Chris Sununu announced at a press conference on Thursday.

Sununu says the first of these vaccines will be available to school districts on March 12 through regional public health networks. Those who do not have access to these clinics can make appointments directly through the state registration site, starting March 17, for appointments starting March 22.

COVID vaccination site in Dover
Dan Tuohy / NHPR

New Hampshire health officials say they're evaluating President Biden's directive to vaccinate teachers and school staff before the end of the month but are sticking for now with their original plan to roll out those vaccinations by April.

COVID and the classroom image
Sara Plourde / NHPR

Gov. Chris Sununu has ordered all New Hampshire schools to be open at least two days a week, starting next week. 

NHPR's Sarah Gibson spoke with Lola Duffort, education reporter for VTDigger, about the Green Mountain State's school reopening status, and how it compares to the Granite State.

photo of sign saying this stairwell is up only
Sarah Gibson/NHPR

While nearly all school districts in the state are offering in-person learning or a hybrid model, where students take classes in-person some days and at home others, Gov. Chris Sununu has ordered the remaining districts still in a fully-remote model to switch to at least some in-person learning.