Some students will be allowed to return to Concord schools

Monitor Staff
Published: 8/18/2020 4:32:20 PM

While the Concord School District is going remote in the fall, some students will have the option of being in the building and getting in-person instruction, including students on individual education plans (IEPs) and those enrolled in the Concord Regional Technical Center (CRTC), school officials decided Monday.

In a special meeting of the Concord School Board, held remotely via Microsoft Teams, the board voted to approve two of interim superintendent Kathleen Murphy’s recommendations, one to allow CRTC students attend class in person, and the other to allow certain students who are considered to be “at-risk,” who may not receive the necessary educational support at home, to have the option of attending school in person.

CRTC at Concord High offers many vocational programs like cosmetology, culinary arts and automotive technology that require hands-on experience that is difficult to get remotely.

“We cannot, as effectively, provide an education to students without having them there in-person,” school board president Jennifer Patterson said.

The CRTC students will likely be in the buildings only a few days a week and will follow the district’s social distancing and mask guidelines.

CRTC director Steve Rothenberg said he is working with each of CRTC’s nine sending districts to determine plans and schedules for each student.

Some board members spoke up in support of having the program be in-person, saying that because the students are high-school age, they are capable of complying with safety regulations.

“I’ve seen what goes on there. It is a very controlled group, a very mature group,” said board member Tom Croteau. “Those kids want to be there, and I know that there’s a good potential for them being a lot safer, if they are willing to follow the instructor’s instructions about safety.”

Last spring, CRTC brought students back into the buildings at the end of the semester to finish final projects and undergo final assessments. Murphy said this was a positive experience that makes her believe in-person learning will be a success for the technical center in the fall.

“The experience we had is all students were safe, all the protocols were observed and we were able to see that students were able to achieve what they needed to achieve and no one was ill,” Murphy said.

Several board members expressed concern about in-person learning, that instructors would be forced to go in to work even if they do not feel comfortable doing so.

“I have to feel comfortable that a teacher that really feels strongly about not returning to in-person teaching won’t be penalized for that,” said board member Barb Higgins.

Murphy said she will work with the teacher’s union to come up with plans that work for each teacher. Larry Prince, director of human resources, said that so far, about 80 to 90 instructors, out of about 560 in the whole district, have requested to work remotely.

Croteau and Patterson, along with board members Dave Parker, Liza Poinier, Jim Richards and Danielle Smith voted in favor of reopening CRTC, while Gina Cannon, Chuck Crush and Higgins voted against it.

The “at-risk” students from all of the district’s schools who will be allowed to attend in person include special education students on individualized education plans (IEPs), students with disabilities on 504 plans, English language learners and homeless students.

“I think our vulnerable kids need the extra support,” Cannon said.

On Aug. 13, Gov. Sununu said state special education requirements are not waived for fall, and announced an executive order that requires districts to provide the full spectrum of special education services to students that need it, including in-person instruction if this is required.

“Regardless of the instructional model that the school may choose to pursue, students that have an IEP that requires special needs, whatever level that might be, those needs will be met and provided by the school district,” Sununu said.

The students that choose the in-person option in Concord would be in the school building to receive any necessary special education services in-person and participate in online remote learning with the rest of their classmates in a supervised setting. The amount of time that these students would spend in the school buildings would depend on their individual learning plans.

A remote option will still be available for everyone, and students will not be required to attend in person if they do not feel comfortable doing so.

Board members Cannon, Croteau, Crush, Parker, Poinier, Richards, Smith and Patterson voted in favor of allowing those students to attend in person, while Higgins opposed it.

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