A group of Nashua parents whose children have been in fully remote learning since March 2020 are seeking to remove Board of Education members they claim are denying students the right to free and adequate education.
“Multiple petitions are being drafted for the recall of multiple members on the board,” Alicia Houston, a Nashua parent, said on Friday.
Although no elected offices are eligible for recall in New Hampshire under state statute, Nashua’s City Charter does provide a procedure for recall of any elected at-large position.
The recall provisions were deemed invalid in 2005 by a superior court judge, but that case was never challenged in the state’s highest court and the recall process remains in the charter. If the signed petitions are certified by the city clerk and if the individual sought to be removed does not resign within five days, an election is supposed to be held within 30 to 45 days, according to the charter.
“We are doing things as expeditiously as possible, but we are also taking into consideration the implications of what could happen. We don’t want to cripple our district, but we need people who are going to listen to the public,” said Houston.
She did not specify which board members are being targeted.
Although kindergarten, first-grade and special education students were able to participate in hybrid learning this past fall in Nashua, all other grade levels have been fully remote since mid-March of last year.
Last Monday, the Board of Education voted again to delay hybrid learning until the Nashua COVID-19 dashboard shows moderate case levels for two of three metrics for 14 consecutive days.
Parent Orry Carr said while charter and private schools in Nashua had an adequate plan to return to in-person or hybrid learning, Nashua did not. He said student enrollment has dropped, and that school officials are paralyzed by fear and continue to make excuses.
“Since Nashua public schools closed in March 2020, the Nashua Board of Education, Superintendent Jahmal Mosely and the Nashua Teachers’ Union have failed to bring our kids back to school for a single day, yet during that same amount of time, a COVID-19 vaccine has been developed, tested and distributed. Now their fallback excuse is to wait for the vaccine,” Carr said.
After learning from public health officials that Nashua’s rate of community transmission has risen to 10 times the level it was in October, the school board made the decision to remain in remote learning, except for small groups of students, until the rate of community transmission decreases, Board of Education President Heather Raymond said on Friday.
“It is clear that our community is currently divided into two camps — people who believe that the best course forward is to have schools open for in-person learning irrespective of the rate of community transmission of the virus, and people people who feel that the best course is to continue with remote learning until that metric changes or the vaccines are available to teachers,” Raymond said. “Both sides are becoming more entrenched and more frustrated as time goes on.”
She pointed to the Nashua City Charter, section 74, which states that the Board of Education is required to act in the best interests of public health.
“We are checking with the Nashua COVID-19 dashboard daily,” Raymond said in a statement. “If people practice social distancing and mask wearing, the numbers will go back down. When they do, Nashua is ready to return to hybrid and will add additional grades as outlined in our hybrid learning plan, phase two.”
Adam Marcoux, president of the Nashua Teachers’ Union, said some members want to return to the classroom and others don’t.
Most recent data indicates that Nashua has 542 active COVID-19 cases, a cumulative case count of 4,606, a total of 60 deaths, a 1.3% case fatality rate, 2.4% hospitalization rate and 13% positivity rate, according to Angela Consentino, epidemiologist for the city.
Remote learning, while it should remain an option for those families that want it, is not working for many children, according to Houston.
“We have kids in lower income brackets and minority sectors that need to understand their rights. A lot of the kids that need our help the most, they are muted. They have been silenced,” she said.