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.

Roxboroughsports / Flickr/Creative Commons

The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association says high school students should be allowed to play sports this fall, though the final decision is up to individual schools.

In guidance issued Thursday, the NHIAA announced it was delaying fall sports practice until Sept. 8 because of the coronavirus. Many high school teams typically start training mid-August.

File Photo, NHPR

Originalmente escrito en inglés por Ethan Dewitt para The Concord Monitor y publicado el 15 de julio del 2020. 

Traducido al español por María Aguirre

Photo Credit woodleywonderworks via Flickr Creative Commons

The uncertainty over school reopening plans has more parents in New Hampshire exploring the option of homeschooling for the first time.

Courtesy

New Hampshire’s flexible school reopening guidelines have left many parents and teachers feeling uncertain about next year. Some are eager to get back in the classroom, while others are more hesitant.

NHPR’s Alex McOwen spoke with parents and teachers from across the state, and asked them for their thoughts on school reopening. Here’s what they had to say.

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New Hampshire's largest teachers' union says schools should not reopen until the state agrees to reimburse districts for PPE and reopening costs, and districts can ensure there's a nurse on staff and good air quality in every school building.

Courtesy of Steve Rothenberg

Governor Chris Sununu’s guidelines for reopening New Hampshire’s schools leave many decisions up to local school boards - many are looking at a hybrid model, a mix of in-person and remote learning.

But as districts work to solidify these plans, vocational and technical education schools are already experimenting with how to offer students hands-on education at a safe distance. 

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NHPR File

Bus drivers are among the many school employees raising concerns about districts' plans to reopen.

New Hampshire has struggled for years with a school bus driver shortage, and the pandemic could make it even harder to retain drivers.

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Ann Levett's worst day as superintendent of Savannah-Chatham County Public School System wasn't March 26, the day Georgia's governor first closed schools, keeping Levett's more than 37,000 students home in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Her worst day came just a couple of weeks ago, Levett says, when she realized the infection numbers around Savannah were so high that she wasn't going to be able to reopen schools.

File Photo, NHPR

A week after Gov. Chris Sununu issued statewide school reopening guidelines, local school boards are fielding safety concerns from teachers and parents as they consider how to reopen amid the pandemic.

As scientists study the burden of COVID-19 around the globe, it's pretty clear that despite some cases of serious illness, kids tend to get infected with the coronavirus less often and have milder symptoms compared to adults.

"It seems consistently, children do have lower rates of infection than adults," says Dr. Alison Tribble, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan.

What Will Reopening Schools Look Like?

Jul 17, 2020
Empty classroom
Pickpik

What will school look like this fall? The state released its school reopening guidelines last week, which leave a lot of decisions up to individual districts. We chat about how parents, teachers, and administrators are feeling about possibly returning to school in September. 

Air date: Monday, July 20, 2020. 

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Gov. Chris Sununu’s guidelines for reopening New Hampshire schools call for in-class instruction in most circumstances, but leave major decisions for how to resume teaching during the pandemic to local districts.  

Johannes Thiel via Flickr cc

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

Courtesy of VLACS/Facebook

New Hampshire's online public charter school is expanding in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Virtual Learning Academy Charter School, known as VLCAS, offers full-time online school to nearly 300 students in New Hampshire, mostly in high school. Approximately another 12,000 high schoolers who are enrolled in their local public schools also take some VLACS classes.

The American Academy of Pediatrics once again plunged into the growing debate over school reopening with a strong new statement Friday, making clear that while in-person school provides crucial benefits to children, "Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics." The statement also said that "science and community circumstances must guide decision-making."

Updated 3:40 p.m. ET

In the latest move from the Trump administration to push for states to reopen schools this fall, Vice President Pence couched guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to safely reopen schools, saying it shouldn't be used as a "barrier" to students returning to classrooms.

Michael Brindley / NHPR

 

A task force convened by the New Hampshire Department of Education to determine how schools should re-open in the fall has sent their final recommendations to Gov. Sununu.

The recommendations emphasize the need to prepare for multiple scenarios next year – including in-person instruction with new safety guidelines, continued remote learning, and the option many states are considering: a hybrid model of remote and in-person instruction.

Jessica Hunt/NHPR

The transition from high school to adulthood is already major life change, and COVID-19 has complicated that process for many recent graduates. We talk with three graduating seniors about what's next for them, how their plans have changed during the pandemic, and what they're looking forward to. 

Air date: Thursday, June 25, 2020.

Flickr/Ivan Radic

The N.H. Department of Education says districts need to prepare for a hybrid model of remote and in-person learning for the next school year as the pandemic continues.

The hybrid model is one of a list of draft recommendations a state task force is working on to deliver to Gov. Chris Sununu next week.

Courtesy of Kimiya Parker-Hill 

High school seniors are having an unusual end to their senior year, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Graduation ceremonies have moved online, or to mountain tops or drive-in movie theaters, and many colleges don’t know how or when their campuses will reopen

NHPR’s All Things Considered Host Peter Biello interviewed three graduating high school seniors: Chloe Armstrong from Kennett High School in North Conway, Kimiya Parker-Hill from Manchester West High School in Manchester, and Shannon Jackson from Coe-Brown Northwood Academy in Northwood.

Kennett High School seniors and their families traveled up a ski mountain in North Conway, N.H., to receive their diplomas.

"Out of all the different types of graduations different high schools are having, I think this is the coolest," says senior Eva Drummond. "It's the Mount Washington Valley and we're known because we have our mountains and our ski areas."

Drummond grew up skiing Cranmore Mountain, but she never expected to go up it in her graduation gown and sneakers.

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Now that the school year has largely concluded for New Hampshire districts across the state, we turn our attention to what education might look like this fall.

We reflect on how remote learning went, review what we've learned, and discuss what options are available for the upcoming academic year, whether that is more remote learning, a transition back to in-person learning, or a hybrid model of both methods. 

Air date: Tuesday, June 16, 2020. 

Courtesy of Enna Grazier

 

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way many of us do our jobs, including those of us here at NHPR.

Our reporters haven't been able to get out and record your voices as much as usual. So, we've asked people to step in for us - to record their own lives and share how daily life has been interrupted in big and small ways.

Via khsmwv.com

High school graduations typically follow a pretty familiar script: Graduates sitting side by side in caps and gowns, each one getting a handshake from the principal as they receive their diploma.

But in this unprecedented year, high schools across New Hampshire have had to go back to the drawing board to figure out what they can pull off that’s both safe and celebratory.

Kristy Cardin

The New Hampshire Department of Education is wrapping up a survey it says will help the state plan for re-opening and redesigning schools next fall.

The survey, which has been completed by over 50,000 parents, teachers, and administrators, asks participants to rate how remote learning has gone, and whether families and educators want to head back to school. The goal is to get input to share with a state task force on school reopening and redesign (STRRT).

On March 15, Gov. Chris Sununu announced K-12 school closures across New Hampshire and a transition to remote learning. Just over a month later, he extended his order through the end of the school year.

  

The decision changed the way the education system operates.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

An order issued by Gov. Chris Sununu regarding services during the pandemic for students with disabilities is drawing praise from special education advocates and concern from school districts.

The emergency order issued Tuesday clarifies the timeline and requirements for districts to meet the needs of students who get special ed services through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Sara Marzinik

On March 15, Gov. Chris Sununu announced K-12 school closures across New Hampshire and a transition to remote learning. Just over a month later, he extended his order through the end of the school year.

The decision, while necessary, changed the way the education system operates. 

Congressional Democrats have accused U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of trying to reroute hundreds of millions of dollars in coronavirus aid money to K-12 private school students. The coronavirus rescue package, known as the CARES Act, included more than $13 billion to help public schools cover pandemic-related costs.

Courtesy of Dave Warrender

High school career and technical schools are slowly reopening to students studying for jobs deemed essential during the pandemic.

This week, Concord Regional Technical Center began bringing in small groups of EMT and nursing assistant students who are preparing for their licensing exams.

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