Jon DiPietro

Editor’s Note: On Sunday, Gov. Chris Sununu ordered public schools closed through April 13.

IN RESPONSE to the recent COVID-19 threat, the New Hampshire Department of Education and Manchester School District are working on distance learning contingencies. They would allow instruction to continue without students physically attending classes. Many colleges and universities are already activating distance learning and it seems likely at this point that local school systems will follow suit.

These are positive and responsible actions to take. But it causes me to ask the question, “What if it works?”

What if students thrive? What if we find out that classrooms are complementary but not essential? What if parents discover that their children can obtain an adequate (if not excellent) education from the safety and comfort of their own home.

We live in an Information Age in which the cost of information is quickly approaching zero. Need to clean out your lawn mower’s carburetor? There’s a YouTube video for that. Forgot how to solve a quadratic equation? It’s a quick Google search away. Want to take a 200-hour course to learn professional photography? It’s less than $100 on Udemy.

Yet, while the cost of learning just about anything you want is approaching zero, the real (inflation-adjusted) cost-per-student of education in Manchester has increased 24% over the past 11 years from $9,174 in 2009 to $13,564 in 2020. And we all know what has happened to secondary education costs. Why isn’t the cost of education following the cost of information?

My two youngest daughters have taken multiple classes through VLACS (Virtual Learning Academy Charter School). In every case, they finished their course weeks or months ahead of schedule. They loved the independence and flexibility. They thrived. It may seem counterintuitive, but the autonomy motivated them to finish the material sooner.

Multiple caveats are in order. First, online instruction will never and should never completely replace classroom instruction. Second, the younger a student is, the more they need teachers and classrooms. Third, not all students will thrive under a virtual model. But there is a sweet spot somewhere in there that can help students excel, provide families with flexibility, and reduce taxpayers’ costs.

Now, think about what this future may look like. Local instruction severely constrains resources and geography. Your child can only have the best teacher roughly within a 15 or 20-mile radius. With online instruction, your child can learn from the best teachers in the world. As demand increases, the quality and scope of these services will only improve.

I applaud Commissioner Frank Edelblut’s leadership and initiative during these times and commend Superintendent John Goldhardt for starting this process. When and if the time comes for Manchester kids to embark on this distance learning experiment, it will be interesting to see what happens if it actually works.

Jon DiPietro is a digital marketing consultant living in Manchester.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

NEW HAMPSHIRE takes pride in our dedication to the democratic process. Granite Staters have turned out in record numbers for our midterm and primary elections because this is a state that deeply values every individual voice. As we move toward September’s primary elections, we have needed to…

Thursday, July 02, 2020

WHEN I was in college, I took a plain wood-framed mirror from my dorm and put it in an art show with the title “Portrait of a Racist.” My campus had been struck with a spat of racist incidents — messages left on public bulletin boards. The community had a deep period of reflection.

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RECENTLY, we watched with anger as Gov. Chris Sununu referred to people like us as “union bosses” during his televised debrief, simply because our fellow union members were demonstrating for their right to a fair contract. We want to set the record straight on exactly who the union is and wh…

Wednesday, July 01, 2020
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

I GREW up hearing stories about my grandfather, Leo Crochetiere, who came here from Quebec in 1922 to realize a better, more prosperous life. He started out as a leather cutter in the Lawrence shoe mills. It wasn’t glamorous work. The hours were long and the pay was low, but it was honest wo…

SINCE the beginning of the pandemic, New Hampshire Grocers Association (NHGA) has been actively engaging in evaluating the evolving edicts of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidelines and the State of New Hampshire’s Emergency Orders. To address the food industry’s needs…

Monday, June 29, 2020

FOR THE past several months, people experiencing homelessness in Manchester have had access to public health supplies, facilities, and services through encampments around the city. They have been provided with portable toilets, hand washing stations, hand sanitizer, and assistance services —…

Sunday, June 28, 2020

WE HAVE learned a lot about summer camp during this pandemic — from the joy it brings to young people, to the comfort it brings to parents, to providing first-time jobs to counselors and for being the economic engine for the surrounding community. I believe that the camp industry may in fact…

Friday, June 26, 2020
Thursday, June 25, 2020

MORE THAN 100 Americans die by guns every day in this country, with hundreds more shot and wounded. And right now, with families quarantining, economic turmoil, and a historic spike in gun sales, the risks of gun suicide — risks I’ve seen firsthand — are rising and rising.