Parents are expressing frustration and disappointment after school officials voted Monday to once again delay the start of hybrid learning in Nashua.
Most Nashua students have not seen the inside of a classroom since March 13, 2020, when the pandemic began and fully remote instruction was launched.
Although the Nashua School District was set to begin implementing its phased-in hybrid learning plan next week, the Board of Education decided Monday to hold off on the hybrid schedule and remain fully remote — at least for now.
The board voted 6-3 to remain fully remote until the Nashua COVID-19 dashboard shows moderate case levels for two of three metrics for 14 consecutive days; the metrics include the number of positive tests on a seven-day average, the number of new infections per 100,000 people over the prior 14 days and the number of new hospitalizations per 100,000 people over the past two weeks.
“I think this has gone on long enough,” said Ashley Lavoie of Nashua, a parent with two children in the district. “ … These kids need to have an option to be back in school.”
“I have little faith that the school board is going to vote anytime this year to put our kids back in school if they can’t even meet in person,” echoed Kim Silverman, a Nashua grandmother who is raising her 9-year-old grandson.
Silverman said her grandson, who has had a lot of trauma in his life, is struggling to adapt to remote schooling.
“If the Band-Aid is never pulled off, we will be out of school for years to come,” agreed Kelly Mazzone, another Nashua parent with two children in the district. She urged school officials to reach out to neighboring communities that have had hybrid learning in place for months in order to get the problem in Nashua resolved.
The Board of Education was notified on Monday that 185 city teachers are on leave for various reasons, including those on leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“I would like to support something tonight because I think parents are looking for some definite answers, but I am not sure that one size fits all,” said Dotty Oden, school board member, explaining there are many challenges with staff availability — especially at the high school level.
Adam Marcoux, president of the Nashua Teachers’ Union, said there are city teachers who want to come back into the classroom and teachers that don’t. However, he stressed that substitute availability has been an issue for years.
More concerning, he said, is that the number of teachers retiring and resigning will likely increase as the year continues.
“These children are failing. They are falling behind,” said an emotional Lisa Wilson, a local parent with two children. Wilson said she is upset with the school board, superintendent and teachers’ union for not being able to work together to get the kids back in the classroom.
“We are stronger when we work together to mitigate this disease spread,” said Bobbie Bagley, director of public health. According to the city’s health department, there have been 4,606 positive cases in Nashua, 542 active cases and 60 deaths. In addition, the city is experiencing a 13.2 percent positivity rate and a 2.4 percent hospitalization rate, according to the data provided.
“We don’t want to send students and teachers to be sacrificed in a COVID-fest environment indoors,” said Sonia Prince of Nashua. She urged the school district to wait until spring to implement hybrid learning so that teachers will have time to get the vaccine and windows can be open to improve circulation in the schools.
“Other schools and districts — whether they are large or small — have been doing it successfully and we haven’t done anything yet,” said Paula Johnson, school board member, adding she fears that students will not get back into a classroom this school year.