Despite pressure from state officials to keep kids in classrooms this year, Raymond High School is unlikely to be the last school to make a temporary switch to remote learning.

As of Friday, 62 Raymond High School students had tested positive for COVID-19 — almost a fifth of the school — with some still waiting for test results or quarantining after exposure. The school board voted Oct. 6 to switch to remote learning at least through the weekend.

“We need to stop what’s going on at the high school,” board vice chair John Harmon said during a meeting last week. “But I don’t know how much say we have in the matter, which is strange.”

Last year, local school boards were allowed to make their own decisions about when to go remote. The districts that used fully in-person learning or hybrid schedules last year had the ability to switch to remote if COVID-19 infections were rising.

Nearly every school district, as well as charter schools and private schools, used two-week periods of remote learning to slow local outbreaks.

But this year, state policymakers are pushing harder to keep schools in-person all the time. The state Board of Education is considering a rule to require in-person instruction the entire school year, except for snow days. Individual families could also request remote learning, but schools might not be able to switch to remote.

Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut has said the proposed rule would give school boards and parents more flexibility for remote learning than existed before the pandemic, but the rule is more restrictive than the current COVID-era rules that allow for remote learning.

Raymond school superintendent David DeRuosi said he was in touch with Edelblut about Raymond’s situation last week, and he said the commissioner has been sympathetic.

“Clusters started to appear in various student groups,” DeRuosi said. “By the time we saw the numbers pop, this virus was out.”

The morning after Raymond’s board voted to go remote, Edelblut said in a statement that he understood families were worried about the virus. But he underlined the department’s strong preference for in-person learning this year.

“Remote learning should be a last resort, and should only be in place for a short period of time if found to be absolutely necessary for safety reasons,” the statement read.

District leaders agree, said Carl Ladd, president of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association.

“They know it’s hard for families and staff,” Ladd said. “It’s not a path that anyone wants to go down, but sometimes it’s the only path available in the short term.”

Rules in place now allow districts to go remote for short periods if necessary because of COVID cases or COVID-caused staff shortages.

“To throw a monkey wrench into all of that in the middle of an uptick in COVID cases just seems counterproductive,” Ladd said.

“Our numbers warrant what’s going on at the high school,” DeRuosi said last week. “At some point you’ve got to go into mitigation mode, trying to stop the spread.”

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