NH school districts chart their own reopening plans

Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 7:40 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 23, 2020 at 4:30 PM EDT
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HANOVER, N.H. (WCAX) - New Hampshire’s teachers’ union says school guidance for reopening is lacking universal mandates. Meanwhile, individual districts continue to work on their back to school plans.

School districts in New Hampshire are taking the lead when it comes to formulating back to school protocols, and school officials in Hanover says those plans are still evolving.

“Safety of our children is our most important consideration as we do this planning,” said Dresden School Superintendent Jay Badams. The district includes schools in both New Hampshire and Vermont and the district’s 30-member School Start Task Force is ironing out reopening plans.

"Those people include a physician who consults for the district, our public health officer from Hanover, our school nurses, teacher leaders, support staff leadership," Badams said.

The district will have a delayed start to help teachers get acquainted with new social distancing layouts. Masks will also be required, even though they are not mandated in New Hampshire at the state level. "Firm guidance that's uniform across the state, across the states -- we are an interstate school district -- certainly would be helpful. But in the absence of that, we've been planning for multiple contingencies," Badams said.

But some educators in New Hampshire feel the state’s education department is punting its responsibilities when in comes to universal requirements like masks. Megan Tuttle is the president of the NH-NEA, which includes 17,000 teachers and support staff.

"If you have one district having a mandated mask and one district not, that doesn't do anything if you live in one district and teach in another," Tuttle said.

She also says The Granite State is dropping the ball when it comes to allocating additional funding for things like thoroughly cleaning schools' heating and cooling systems. "If they are in poor air quality, along with the educators, that's not safe for anyone. And we have schools that are 40, 50, 100 years old," Tuttle said.

Dresden is one of the wealthier districts in the state. Cleaning and regular maintenance will be done regularly following protocols. According to a survey, 80% of parents in the district favor an in-person return to school, provided that appropriate precautions are taken.

"From a health perspective, I know that parents are very nervous. That is only preliminary survey data. We know that many of those parents would have answered if given that option. So, we are continuing to work with our public," Badams said.

Tuttle worries about the districts that were struggling before the pandemic. "We want to go back to school, to back, and to educate. That is what we want to do, but we are only going to go back if it's safe," she said.

Tuttle says Governor Chris Sununu did a good job shutting the state down back in March, but she fears that returning to schools without proper planning could lead to a surge in cases. But New Hampshire education officials have said another

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