When hybrid learning begins at the middle and high school in Dover on Monday, it will be the first time some students have stepped foot in a classroom in nearly a year.
Spencer Mitchell, 14, of Barrington, was inside Dover High School for freshman orientation Tuesday and said he got a sense of what his first day will be like next week.
“It’s a pretty big school, so they gave me a good tour of it, so I know where all my classes are. You had to be six feet apart from everybody, and then you had to wear masks, which is kind of annoying, but it is what it is,” Mitchell said.
Parents in Barrington have a choice of Dover High School, Oyster River High School in Durham or Coe-Brown Northwood Academy in Northwood for their children.
Dover High School has approximately 1,500 students altogether and offers a regional career technical center.
Mitchell said he is not nervous about going back to school with 750 other teenagers in his cohort and is “happy to get back to normal life.”
On Feb. 19, Gov. Chris Sununu issued an emergency order mandating schools offer in-person instruction to all students at least two days a week starting on March 8.
Dover had asked the state for a waiver to allow it to move from remote learning to a hybrid model beginning March 15, according to a letter sent to parents Monday. Superintendent William Harbron said in the letter that Sununu did not approve the waiver.
Harbron said Wednesday that elementary school students in the district started in-person learning five days a week last month.
At the younger grade levels, it is possible to keep students safe with social distancing at three feet apart. At the middle and high school levels, that needs to be expanded to six feet for safety measures, he said.
Harbron said the district has addressed the heating and cooling system at the high school and filters are changed on a regular basis.
Harbron is confident that enforcing strict social distancing and mask wearing requirements will keep students like Mitchell safe.
“You will never eliminate all risks. You can mitigate risks,” Harbron said.
Harbron said 23% of middle schoolers and 18% of high schoolers will stay in their remote learning option because they opted out of in-person learning.
Sununu has indicated that he wants to more fully reopen in-person learning in classrooms across the state and may issue an order to mandate more options for students later on this academic year.
During his press briefing on Feb. 18, when speaking of the mandate that goes into effect Monday, Sununu said it is both for more robust learning and for the behavioral, mental health and isolation issues that many students have been dealing with.