What will school look like this fall for New Hampshire students?

Published: Jul. 21, 2020 at 5:45 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2020 at 11:38 AM EDT
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LEBANON, N.H. (WCAX) - School districts in New Hampshire are continuing to develop their back-to-school plans for the upcoming school year. But as our Adam Sullivan explains, those plans will likely not all look the same.

According to a recent survey issued by the state's school reopening task force, the vast majority of parents in the Granite State favor sending their kids back to school but it will largely be up to individual districts to figure out how to make that happen.

“Nobody is interested in putting our staff and our students into an environment that would not be safe,” New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said.

The state recently rolled out its plan for reopening classrooms and Edelblut says there will likely not be another statewide school closure due to the pandemic.

"There are universal guidelines around making sure that you are screening individuals that come in. There are universal guidelines around if an incident or suspected incident of COVID takes place in a school, there are protocols to how you need to respond to that," Edelblut said.

But the vast majority of the additional protocols will be crafted by educators on the front lines-- things like mask wearing, busing, class sizes and athletics. The planning is still ongoing but the majority of parents support the premise kids will be returning to the classroom. That's according to a survey that got 56,000 responses.

"Whether it's a hot meal or a positive environment, they need to be back in school," said Patricia Sites, a mom of four from Plainfield.

I bumped into Sites and one of her sons as they were eating lunch on the Lebanon green.

"This was the worst thing that could have ever happened to them socially, academically, emotionally. This was very, very difficult on kids," Sites said.

"I am kind of excited to go back, be back in the classroom, be with my friends. Will be nice to get out of the house and see everybody again," said V.J. Sites, a soon-to-be seventh-grader.

Though he also acknowledges there is some anxiety associated with returning to the school.

"It's a bit scary but I think if we do things right, if we keep everything clean, wear masks, I think we can be OK," he said.

The task force focused on reopening schools was made up of educators, parents, administration officials and health care workers. The first date of school will be determined by each district. Edelblut says it's a collective effort entire communities have a stake in.

"So when I talk about a safe environment, it has to be safe for our students as well as our staff that are in that environment," Edelblut said.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has said that any parent who does not feel comfortable sending their child to class will be allowed to take part in remote learning. Those plans are also underway.

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