Concord stays open despite storm, while some schools switch to remote classes, others close

  • Police respond to a car off the road on LakeView Drive near the Long Pond Road intersection in Concord on Friday morning. Sarah Pearson / Monitor staff

  • A Concord High School student walks across Warren Street to get to school as a bus travels in the snow on Friday morning. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Concord High School students enter the campus as others walk across the skyway between two buildings during the morning snow storm on Friday, January 7, 2021. Concord was one of the few schools that held school. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord High School students enter the campus as others walk across the skyway between buildings during the morning snow storm.

Monitor staff
Published: 1/7/2022 10:29:09 AM

School districts chose different approaches during the winter storm that came through New Hampshire Friday morning with some opting for a “traditional snow day” closing school entirely, others pivoting to a remote learning day, and a few, like Concord, choosing to keep the buses rolling and remain open.

“School continues on,” Concord Superintendent Kathleen Murphy said Friday. “Not everyone agreed with the decision I made this morning, I appreciated their concerns. The forecast of three to four inches, in New England, doesn’t seem like a lot, but I think it can be challenging for some families and I understand that.”

Bow and Dunbarton, Epsom and Merrimack Valley were among the districts that took advantage of COVID-inspired technology and went remote, keeping students and teachers at home while still holding classes.

Districts in Allenstown, Andover, Deerfield, Henniker, Hopkinton, John Stark, Kearsarge, Pembroke and Weare all closed school completely Friday, citing the winter storm’s impact on road safety and travel time.

Concord wasn’t the only district open. Students in Franklin and Pittsfield made the trek to school by the time an inch or two of snow had fallen Friday morning. Murphy said bus transportation was slowed but ultimately successful despite the snow.

Murphy confirmed there were more employees absent than usual, but said that hasn’t been unusual in recent months due to COVID-19 quarantining, and many schools have been “walking the line” of having enough staff to remain open. Murphy said that building administrators had to do some last-minute planning to cover classes when employees struggled to get in on time in the snow.

At Concord High, attendance for both teachers and students was sparse. Some students who did attend found themselves in classes without a teacher or a substitute. Those students were directed to a common area.

Murphy said Friday that she opted not to pivot to remote learning for Concord schools because it’s a decision that needs to be made farther in advance to make sure students are prepared to learn at home with electronic devices, internet access and supervision for young students.

“You have to make sure everyone has their computers, their one-to-one laptops,” Murphy said. “We’ve been reticent about doing remote learning at home. That is going to be a topic to revisit. Last year we would just turn around in one day and say, ‘tomorrow we’re remote.’ We have to redo all the plans in making sure they have access to the internet and their computers.”

Although area schools have been operating fully in-person this year, many districts, such as Bow, prepared plans over the summer that allowed for switching to remote learning should it be necessary due to COVID-19 or inclement weather.

“This was a hard call for me as I wanted to push through the storm and have school like a real North Country NH native,” Bow and Dunbarton superintendent Dean Cascadden wrote in a message to families on Thursday night. “This storm has very tricky timing and it may hit both commutes. The hardest snow comes when we would be getting students in. I know all our systems are stressed including the snow clearing crews. ... In the end, I felt a remote day was the best call for safety, and for school continuity.”

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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