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.

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 education@nhpr.org.

Sarah Gibson/NHPR

Whether remote, hybrid, or in person, back-to-school is a bit more complicated for students with additional needs. We talk with educators and families about how back to school is going for them, as they adapt special education services for the new school normal.

Air date: Wednesday, September 16, 2020. 

DHHS

A coronavirus outbreak among students at Windham High School will force that school to remain remote for at least the next week.

The school was supposed to reopen with a hybrid model on Wednesday, but news that sixteen students had tested positive for COVID-19 prompted the school to change its plans last minute and reopen with a remote model.

Sarah Gibson / NHPR

For months, families across New Hampshire have been wondering what school would look like. And now, a lot of them have a first taste. There have been technological glitches and reports of positive coronavirus cases in several districts.

But as NHPR’s Sarah Gibson reports, many people say they’re relieved the new school year has finally begun.

Todd Bookman

As the school year begins, New Hampshire Public Radio is asking students, teachers and parents to share their stories of what education looks like during coronavirus. 

Click here to tell us your story about the classroom and COVID-19

This is part of our initiative COVID & The Classroom, covering what it's like to return to school in unprecedented times.

This week, we asked people: “How is ‘back to school’ different for you this year?” 

Here’s what we heard:

Flickr/Ivan Radic

The state’s online charter school is getting $7 million in CARES Act funding, in response to a massive spike in enrollment during the pandemic.

The Exeter-based Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS) offers online classes to students in New Hampshire. Demand for VLACS classes tripled over the summer as families looked for options to remain remote this school year. Despite hiring more than 70 new teachers, VLACS says thousands of potential part-time students are still on the wait list.

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

A school year like no other is underway in New Hampshire.

By mid-week, most districts had reopened with a fully in-person, hybrid, or remote model, and families, teachers, and students were getting a first glimpse of what education during the pandemic could be like for months to come.

Tonia Orlando

Some schools are wrapping up their first week of classes on Friday - whether that's remote, hybrid or fully in person. NHPR’s Sarah Gibson caught up with one school leader about what it's been like so far.

Jessica Arnold/Arnold Imaging LLC

New Hampshire schools can continue offering meals to all young people under 18 free of charge for the rest of the calendar year.

Schools have had more flexiblity to provide meals and receive reimbursement from the federal government since the USDA issued waivers during remote learning last spring.

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

The coronavirus pandemic is creating major problems in public schools in New Hampshire. But the picture for private schools is different.

Most independent schools are reopening in person, and as NHPR’s Sarah Gibson reports, interest in some of them is higher than ever. 

Courtesy of Julia Playda

Many high school seniors face a difficult choice right now. Go back to school and risk bringing coronavirus into your home, or take online classes and potentially miss out on major parts of senior year.  

NHPR’s Ava Sasani caught up with three students to find out how they’re approaching school this fall.

Needpix

The Manchester School District is re-examining its plans to offer a hybrid model to kindergarten and first-grade students, citing a shortage of teachers willing and able to return to in-person teaching.

Dan Tuohy for NHPR

The New Hampshire Alliance for Public Charter Schools says its members need more money to handle costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

Like traditional public schools, charter schools received federal CARES Act relief money, but some say it wasn't enough to cover the cost of new air filtration units, PPE, and laptops for students.

Photo Credit woodleywonderworks via Flickr Creative Commons

The state’s child care licensing unit has received four applications this summer to reopen non- day care spaces as sites for child care and remote learning. 

Officials tell NHPR they did not receive applications like this last year. This comes as many businesses in the state are struggling to remain open due to the economic stress of the pandemic. 

One of the businesses applying for this license is Cowabunga - an indoor playground in Manchester that hosts parties for kids. 

Education Reporters On Back-to-School Challenges

Aug 21, 2020
Flickr

Education reporters describe a back-to-school season like no other. As districts around the country wrestle with what education will look like this fall, reporters are digging into reopening plans and talking with teachers, families, and administrators. We check in with journalists covering this topic, both at the state and national level. 

Air date: Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. 

Dan Tuohy for NHPR

With school just weeks away, some districts are still at odds with teachers' unions over whether to reopen buildings.

Unions across the state are still in the process of  bargaining with districts over how reopening plans affect current contract provisions.

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Sara Plourde for NHPR

In the third of our four-part series, "The Exchange: Live From Home," we talk with two New Hampshire authors on parenting and education, and an infectious disease specialist, about the triumphs and challenges of back-to-school season as a family. Listen to the audio below, and watch a video of the event. 

Air date: Thursday, August 20, 2020. 

CDC.gov

State health officials said this week that they're prepared for a likely increase in demand for coronavirus contact tracing as schools and colleges reopen this fall. This process involves finding out exactly who an infected person might have exposed to a communicable disease. 

Gov. Chris Sununu has described New Hampshire's contact tracing program as one of the best in the country. But the state hasn't shared many details on the program until now. 

Pikist

State health officials say schools should be prepared to send students with even mild symptoms of the coronavirus home, and that rapid testing will be necessary for schools to remain open.

Back To School, From The Perspective of Teachers

Aug 14, 2020
Pexels

We talk with New Hampshire teachers. In districts where schools are opening, many educators are wrestling with how they feel about returning to the classroom. Meanwhile, in those districts staying remote or hybrid, teachers are adapting - yet again - to new ways of doing their jobs. 

Air date: Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. 

Dan Tuohy for NHPR

Governor Chris Sununu says state public health officials will work hand in hand with school districts to identify positive cases, conduct contact tracing, and notify the public about outbreaks in schools.

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Michael Brindley / NHPR

High schools in New Hampshire are now required to grant credit for alternative programs approved by the state board of education or a local school board. The program, called 'Learn Everywhere,' has been the subject of heated debate for over a year.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Despite disruptions in school due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Chris Sununu says he will not waive requirements for special education.

Over 30,000 K-12 students in New Hampshire are legally entitled to special ed services, but many of these were postponed or limited during statewide school closures earlier this year.

The Health and Science of School Reopening Decisions

Aug 12, 2020
Pikist

Here in New Hampshire, most school districts have released their guidelines for this fall, which range from all remote instruction to a hybrid model to all in-person instruction. We discuss how these decisions are made, the science driving them, and protocols if infections occur. 

Air date: Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. 

Ted Siefer for NHPR

The Manchester school board has voted to have most students learn remotely for the first quarter of the school year. The board approved the district's plan for reopening schools Monday night.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

When Nicole Finitsis tuned into a recent virtual school board meeting to learn what the fall might look for her second grade twins, she hoped to get some clarity. But instead, she says she left more confused than ever.

Genevieve Andress for NHPR

Across New Hampshire, parents, teachers and students are getting a first glimpse of what school might look like this fall.

For many, the picture is not as they had hoped. 

Stethoscope
jasleen_kaur

With most New Hampshire schools just a month from reopening, there's one staff member on many people's minds: the school nurse.

As schools across the country grapple with bringing kids back into the classroom, parents — and teachers — are worried about safety. We asked pediatricians, infectious disease specialists and education experts for help evaluating school district plans.

What we learned: There's no such thing as zero risk, but certain practices can lower the risk of an outbreak at school and keep kids, teachers and families safer.

File Photo, NHPR

The Nashua School District, like many across the state, plans to reopen its schools this fall under a hybrid learning model, with students in school a few days a week and then learning remotely for the rest of the week.

The district announced a reopening plan Monday to begin the semester fully remote, but transition to that hybrid plan starting in October.

But how do teachers feel about that plan? NHPR's Peter Biello spoke with Adam Marcoux, the president of the Nashua Teachers' Union, to find out.

Update, Wednesday, 7 p.m.: Superintendent Jahmal Mosley and Marcoux, in a joint statement Aug. 5, said there continue to be many details that need to be worked out. They said once the reopening plan is approved, they can work together to address safety concerns, contractual issues, and other issues raised.

Courtesy of Kelly Bresnahan

School districts are facing a lot of unknowns. One of the biggest questions is whether teachers with health concerns have to return to school or if they can work remotely. NHPR’s Sarah Gibson caught up with three teachers in the midst of figuring out how their districts will accommodate them, and whether that will be enough.


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