Coronavirus updates: More schools shutting down, Legislature to suspend operations

  • New Hampshire Department of Safety CommissionerRobert L. Quinn (right) in the Emergency Operations Center at the Incident Planning and Operations Center in Concord effective to assist in the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. GEOFF FORESTER

Monitor staff
Published: 3/14/2020 8:51:10 AM

Schools in Pembroke, Allenstown, Chichester and Epsom joined a growing number of districts that have decided to close down for two weeks while evaluating the coronavirus threat.

SAU 53 Superintendent Patty Sherman said Saturday the decision was made “out of an abundance of caution.”

“Please understand that this situation is fluid and the staff and administration will be working together to address and answer questions as we have more information,” Sherman said.

Concord schools are poised to follow suit, with a special meeting of the school board called for Sunday morning. Parents were told school was expected to be conducted remotely for two or three weeks. 

Even the board members won’t meet in person and instead will conduct a call-in meeting, Superintendent Frank Bass told parents in a recorded message.

Schools in Bow and Dunbarton will be closed Monday so staff members can plan and prepare for a possible longer-term school closure and implementation of remote instruction, district officials said Saturday morning following an emergency meeting Friday.

Similarly, SAU 24, which includes schools in Henniker, Weare and Stoddard, will be closed Monday for staff planning and preparation. The SAU 24 board will meet Monday at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the district’s emergency response.

Likewise, Merrimack Valley and Kearsage school districts each called off school for students Monday with an eye toward a possible longer closure. Merrimack Valley has schools in Boscawen, Webster, Salisbury, Penacook and Loudon. Kearsarge serves students in Bradford, New London, Newbury, Springfield, Sutton, Warner, and Wilmot.

Manchester schools will be closed Monday, but starting Tuesday teachers will launch their remote learning plans.

Hopkinton school districts had not announced any closure plans as of early Saturday evening. The Shaker Regional School District, which serves students in Canterbury and Belmont, had also not announced any plans.

For Suncook Valley schools, Monday will be a professional development day for staff as they prepare to develop remote instruction plans. Schools were expected to reopen on Monday, March 30.

“We appreciate your patience and understanding as we all work together to make decisions that we feel are in the best interest of our students, staff, and our communities,” Sherman said in a letter to parents.

Sherman encouraged families to check the school district’s website for updates, but no new information about virus warnings had been posted since Monday.

Schools in Bedford, Exeter, Nashua, Hamstead and Plaistow have all decided to close for a week or two.

Seventh case

A woman who was in the Manchester office of the DMV over the past two weeks is the seventh person in New Hampshire presumed to have tested positive for COVID-19, the coronavirus disease.

The person is an adult female resident of Rockingham County, according to a press release from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

She was at the Manchester DMV from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday through Thursday of last week (March 2-5) and on Tuesday of this week (March 10). Anyone who was in the office on those days is asked to monitor themselves for fever, cough or shortness of breath. If they develop symptoms, they are asked to remain home and call their healthcare provider immediately.

The Manchester DMV will be closed on Saturday, March 14, for cleaning and a health investigation, according to the press release.

Franklin Pierce Universitygoes online

Franklin Pierce University in Rindge has joined the list of colleges and universities that will be conducting online classes after spring break ends.

“Our students will be on spring break the week beginning Monday, March 16; however, all in-person classes on our Rindge campus the week of March 23 are suspended. Classes will then transition to online instruction the week of March 30 until at least April 6.

“Graduate studies at our academic centers in Lebanon, Manchester, and Portsmouth will also be conducted online. In addition, as of March 12, the NCAA announced the cancellation of all spring athletic practices and competitions,” wrote Kim Mooney, president of Franklin Pierce University, in a statement.

Virus on display

The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, New Hampshire, has put up exhibit panels about the virus.

The panels are designed by the New York Hall of Science and shared with fellow science museums for visitors to learn more about the nature of the virus. The panels are near the reception area of the museum.

The museum has made some adjustments, including the creation of a ”social distancing” system for its planetarium. It said it will fill every other row with visitors, leaving the row between them empty, and ask families and individuals to leave two empty seats between them and the next person or group.

The museum said it also is changing the way it handles planetarium show tickets, to minimize the number of people touching the tickets. Staffers have been provided hand sanitizer and medical gloves and will use them as needed.

State government

The Legislature announced it will suspend all activities for at least a week, with the State House closed to legislative members, legislative staff, and visitors. However, it will remain open for governmental operations until further notice.

“As legislative leaders, our top priority is protecting the health and wellbeing of our members, staff, and the public. Out of an abundance of caution, today we are taking the step to suspend all legislative activities for at least one week,” Senate President Donna Soucy and Speaker of the House Steve Shurtleff said in a joint statement. “We will continue to monitor the situation and respond as needed and remain committed to working with Governor Sununu to take all necessary steps to curb the impact of coronavirus in New Hampshire.” 

The governor and state department heads called a press conference at 1 p.m. Sunday to talk about New Hampshire’s response to the COVID-19 threat. 

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.)

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