reopening schools

NH Teacher's Union Criticizes State's School Reopening Guidelines

New Hampshire's largest teacher's union said that the state is not doing enough to help protect students and staff from contracting the coronavirus

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Before schools reopen, districts need full staffing and funding, a phased reopening plan, and health and safety agreements for staff and students, New Hampshire’s largest teacher’s union said in a series of steps it released Wednesday.

The steps, released a little over a week after the state released its own guidance for districts, also include modifications on state regulations related to learning time, renewing teaching licenses and workers’ compensation benefits, as well as requirements for staff assignments and learning arrangements, and computers and internet access for all.

"If, after working together with the district, it is determined these requirements will not be met, students and staff must return to remote instruction until their school can be made safe," Megan Tuttle, NEA-NH president, said in a statement.

The phased reopening step, for example, supports at least three days of professional development for educators to set up in-person or virtual classrooms and receive training on health and safety protocols; meet students and families over two to four days in person or remotely; and then use the first six weeks of instruction to build relationships.

"During this time, expectations and rules will be set, new structures and routines will be learned, and the groundwork will be laid for Social-Emotional Learning and academic learning throughout the year," according to the document. An assessment of public health data and educational progress would be made six to eight weeks after school starts.

A spokesperson from the Education Department declined to comment on the document.

Tuttle had criticized the state’s guidelines, saying they did very little to keep students and staff safe from the coronavirus.

The state is leaving it up to each school district to decide whether to fully return to the classroom, continue with remote learning or develop hybrid models that combine elements of both. The guidance released by Gov. Chris Sununu outlines recommendations for screening, social distancing, hygiene and other safety measures aimed at preventing further spread of the virus, but includes very few mandates. Sununu has emphasized the need to provide flexibility for districts that face different challenges and levels of risk.

On Tuesday, Frank Edelblut, New Hampshire education commissioner, said he doesn’t think the state will need to go back to a statewide remote learning model. But with the severity of the coronavirus still in flux, it could still happen on an individual school level.

As of Wednesday, 6,295 people had tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, an increase of 36 cases. Two new deaths were announced, for a total of 402.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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