Local school boards should “dig deep” and keep buildings open for classes through the holiday season despite rising cases of COVID-19 in New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu said.
On Tuesday, Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut and Sununu reacted to the Manchester school board’s decision to return to all-remote classes starting next Monday and continuing until Jan. 19.
Sununu said “about a dozen” clusters of COVID-19 cases have been reported in the state’s public schools. On Monday, Concord schools announced three cases involving one employee and two students.
“We don’t have any official outbreaks in schools,” Sununu said on the Good Morning New Hampshire radio program with Jack Heath. “That is a success story, an amazing success story for public schools in New Hampshire.”
A cluster is defined as three or more cases among individuals in a group. An outbreak involves transmission between clusters.
Edelblut said he has been working with school superintendents to continue in-person schooling between Thanksgiving and the end of the year.
“Our schools are actually very safe places for our students, and that’s mostly because of the great work by our school leaders,” Edelblut said. “If the kids are in school, they are in a more structured environment.”
The state education chief said he sees no scenario in which all-remote learning would be necessary again.
“We want to continue to support our communities to be successful. There is not a lot of transmission coming into the school,” Edelblut said.
Sununu said local boards, teachers and parents should be commended for limiting the virus’ spread.
The governor said studies have shown that prolonged, all-remote learning reduces socialization, which is essential for students’ physical and emotional health.
“I would just ask folks to dig deep and find a way to get kids back in the classroom,” Sununu said.
Democratic legislative leaders criticized Sununu’s original plan for not giving local school officials enough specific guidelines for when to reopen schools and when to reimpose restrictions.
Sununu said his reopening plan gave school officials detailed guidance from state public health experts while maintaining local control.
On social media, Manchester’s decision received mixed reaction.
“The impact of the schools shutting down is much worse. Suicide, abuse, drug abuse, depression. Research it.... you’ll change your mind; all for a virus that hardly impacts the kids,” posted Laurel Ciechon of Plymouth.
Several others said many students did well during remote learning.
“I’m willing to bet all the schools will be doing this,” said David Cloutier of Concord.