Task force: Concerns over social distancing, hybrid learning
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Many parents, teachers and education officials are anxious for students to get back to school this fall, but there’s a lot of concern about achieving social distancing and workable hybrid learning plans, a New Hampshire education task force acknowledged Tuesday.
The School Transition Reopening and Redesign Taskforce plans to issue 10 preliminary recommendations by June 30 to the state. The group got through questions and suggestions on the first half, which deal with establishing district and school management communications plans; determining public health protocols; preparing the school environment; supporting student, family and educator wellness; and establishing hybrid learning capacity.
Task force members recognized that it’s very difficult for students to social distance and that guidelines may work for one district, but not another.
“We could write all the recommendations in the world, but kids are going to do what kids are going to do,” said member Phil Nazarro of the New Hampshire State Board of Education.
Students also have mixed feelings about whether the wearing of personal protective equipment, such as masks, should be forced on them, said student representative Ben Lambright.
Members also expressed concern about teachers’ workload and well-being over balancing classes in school with remote learning. Member Keith Noyes, a teacher, said colleagues with young children of their own would be in “crisis mode” trying to follow a schedule where students are alternating days at home and school.
NEA-New Hampshire President Megan Tuttle issued a statement afterward saying the association is concerned that the recommendations “do not go far enough to protect the health of our students and staff.”
“We watched in disbelief as the slide containing the recommendation for public health protocols listed ‘consider CDC guidance’ as the official recommendation,” Tuttle wrote, adding that face coverings, PPE, and social distancing are precautions that have proven to be effective in preventing the spread of the virus.
Other working recommendations for the the task force involve transportation policies; school meal delivery plans; planning for instruction; professional development considerations; and technology considerations for dynamic learning environments.
Other coronavirus-related developments in New Hampshire:
Money from New Hampshire’s share of federal coronavirus relief aid is going to youth, mental health and substance abuse, and veterans, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said Tuesday.
He said $5 million will go toward such areas as training for teachers on effective remote learning strategies; suicide awareness training; an internet crimes against children program; and organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club and Police Athletic League.
Sununu said $6 million will go into a program that focuses on substance use disorders, and $7 million will be provided for housing and mental health support for veterans.
Sununu also said a program providing extra pay going to front-line workers at New Hampshire nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will continue to July 31. Workers at Medicaid-funded residential facilities and social service organizations that serve Medicaid clients at home are receiving $300 weekly stipends.
The New Hampshire Electric Co-op is looking at available federal and state funds to expand broadband access, the CEO told members.
Steve Camerino addressed members at the co-op’s annual meeting on Monday, New Hampshire Public Radio reported.
The co-op covers nine of the state’s 10 counties.
Gov. Chris Sununu recently announced that $50 million from the federal CARES Act would be available for broadband projects. The co-op board plans to discuss the funds Wednesday.
As of Tuesday, 5,571 people in New Hampshire had tested positive for the virus, an increase of 15. Four new deaths were reported, fora total of 343 people who have died from the coronavirus.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause more severe illness and can lead to death.
This story has been corrected to show that Megan Tuttle is president of NEA-New Hampshire, not the New Hampshire State Teachers Association, and Phil Nazarro is representing the New Hampshire State Board of Education on the task force, not Southern New Hampshire University.