Is your school in or out?

  • Hopkinton High School was ranked as the number one New Hampshire high school by U.S. News & World Report for the third year in a row, April 21, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

Monitor staff
Published: 11/29/2020 7:13:30 PM

With Thanksgiving break complete and winter break just around the corner, Concord-area school districts have varying plans for how to deliver education going forward. Choosing an option that keeps schedules consistent and students safe in the wake of holiday travel isn’t an easy task.

Gov. Chris Sununu said Nov. 17 that school districts should “dig deep” and resist switching to remote through the holiday season. Merrimack Valley and Andover school districts will be continuing in a hybrid model through the holidays.

But many other school districts, including Hopkinton, Pittsfield and Kearsarge will be switching to a remote or majority-remote model after Thanksgiving break, citing concerns about Thanksgiving travel and increasing case numbers in their communities. Most schools in Hopkinton and Kearsarge will be remote for just the first two weeks in December, while Pittsfield will stay remote through winter break.

For some districts, best laid plans to remain in a hybrid model have gone awry based on staffing availability, as large numbers of employees will have to quarantine after Thanksgiving travel. The John Stark Regional district had been “resisting” switching to remote based on Gov. Sununu’s recommendations, according to superintendent Jacquelin Coe, but with the number of staff members quarantining, the Center Woods Elementary schools will be remote for a couple days after Thanksgiving break, and John Stark Regional High School, Weare Middle School and Henniker Community School will be remote until Dec. 7.

Coe said classes were starting to look like groups of students in cafeterias, connecting remotely with quarantined teachers and being supervised by different people each day.

“Paraeducators, office staff and administrators are subbing for classes. In fact, I am penciled in to cover at Center Woods Upper Elementary School on Dec. 2,” Coe wrote in an email to parents Wednesday. “Despite our best efforts, this is beginning to have a negative instructional impact.”

Similarly, Concord School District had planned to stay hybrid for all schools after Thanksgiving, but due to high numbers of staff quarantining after Thanksgiving travel, the middle and the high school will be in remote learning until winter break. Elementary schools will remain hybrid.

In Bow-Dunbarton, the high school is hybrid but the elementary schools will be remote until Dec. 7 due to staffing shortages. At the middle school, grades five and six are hybrid, but grades seven and eight are remote, also due to staffing. Superintendent Dean Cascadden told parents in a message Wednesday that he will try to shift employee assignments around and enable seventh and eighth grade to switch back to hybrid before then.

Other districts like Franklin are waiting until the last minute to make plans for after Thanksgiving, waiting for the most recent information on cases before deciding whether to return in person.

“I will continue to monitor the situation at all three schools in regard to positive COVID-19 cases and staff quarantines during the holiday break,” Franklin superintendent Dan LeGallo wrote to families on Nov. 24. “I will let you know next Monday afternoon where we are at for next Tuesday.”

Many districts have not yet decided how they will operate in January, after returning from winter break. But a few already have plans to go remote.

Concord, Hopkinton and Pittsfield school districts are all planning for a remote learning period from winter break to Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jan. 18, to allow for staff and student quarantine before returning to school.




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