COVID & the Classroom | New Hampshire Public Radio

COVID & the Classroom

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.

Learn more about stories we’re working on and ways to get in touch.

We welcome tips, questions and stories about what you’re experiencing - and we love to see photos showing how learning is different right now. Get in touch at education@nhpr.org.

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
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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.


MEDIAWEEK VIA FLICKR CC

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.

Couresty of Bishop Guertin

Students at Bishop Guertin High School got a chance to speak to an astronaut in outer space on Friday. The project was the culmination of over a year of preparation by students at the Nashua private school to connect, via amateur radio, to the International Space Station.


Courtesy of Demetrios Tsaros

New Hampshire schools are trying to keep track of kids learning remotely. And if students are chronically absent, the school has a few options: Call the parents. Send a school employee to knock on their door.

Or, call the state’s Child Protection Services.

That option is becoming more popular as the pandemic drags on.

Image of an elementary school classroom with a chair up on every other desk
Sarah Gibson / NHPR

It’s school budget season in New Hampshire - and this year, the numbers are more convoluted than usual.

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

Lawmakers are looking for ways to help school districts address anticipated budget shortfalls resulting from declines in enrollment during the pandemic.

State lawmakers heard hours of testimony Tuesday on a bill that would significantly expand access and funding for school choice in New Hampshire.

The past year has been a living civics lesson for our country: two impeachments, a tense election, a split U.S. Senate, and an insurrection at the Capitol. We talk with two New Hampshire educators about how they’re bringing these realities into their classrooms, and how students are tapping into this moment. 

Looking for lesson plans, activities, and podcast episodes for students? Check out Civics 101. 

Air date: Monday, February 1, 2021. 

Courtesy of Julie Turner

The state's largest school district is resuming in-person learning for the majority of grades on Monday.

The Manchester school board modified its reopening metrics earlier this month, allowing schools to reopen with a hybrid model in spite of substantial community transmission of COVID-19.

Photo Credit woodleywonderworks via Flickr Creative Commons

A bill to significantly expand access to school vouchers in New Hampshire is gathering momentum in the Republican-controlled State House.

HB 20 would establish an “education freedom account program,” allowing families whose children have left their local public school to redirect state aid to the educational program of that family’s choice.

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