Returning to in-person instruction

Staff from the Manchester School District line up to be vaccinated for COVID-19 at Manchester Memorial High School on March 12.

All public schools must start offering in-person learning five days a week as of Monday, April 19, Gov. Chris Sununu has announced.

Administrators are being given 2 1/2 weeks’ notice of the change so they can make the necessary adjustments, the governor said.

“We want to get kids back into full-time learning. We have said all along that it has been proven that schools can be reopened safely,” Sununu said Thursday at his weekly COVID-19 briefing.

State officials estimated that 60% of schools currently are open for in-person learning five days a week.

“This is to get the rest of them there,” Sununu said.

By the time the change takes effect, Sununu said most teachers and staff will have gotten the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

April 19 was also chosen because it comes one week before school districts are off for spring vacation.

“In this way, they’ll be able to fully reopen and then have a week to work on any adjustments they need to make,” Sununu said.

In February, he ordered all schools to offer at least two days a week in classrooms for all students.

“Remote learning was a good backstop but it doesn’t come nearly close to providing a real course of instruction we all want for our children,” Sununu said.

Parents can still let kids learn from home

This change will still permit parents to keep their children home if they remain concerned about their health.

Since the pandemic began, state regulations have allowed parents to have their children learn exclusively from their residences if their health was at risk.

The latest federal COVID-19 bill will provide New Hampshire $350 million in additional aid for schools.

“The districts will have plenty of resources to support remote learning for those children who still need it,” Sununu said.

The change to five days a week will permit students to benefit from “six-to-eight weeks” of in-person learning for the balance of this school year, he said.

“We know this is not going to be easy, don’t get me wrong, it’s going to be a challenge for schools, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges,” Sununu said. “This is vitally important for our communities.”

Sununu said state and local educators this summer should work on coming up with an assessment to measure how much students have “lost” during this school year by getting so much of their instruction online.

The Biden administration has announced that New Hampshire schools are eligible to receive up to $41 million to do surveillance testing in public schools.

Sununu said he was pleased with those grants, but few school administrators in the state have taken advantage of the testing offer.

“There’s no question that there is testing fatigue out there, and that may explain the lack of interest,” Sununu said.

Monday, April 19, 2021