June 23, 2020 - CONCORD, NH -The STRRT Task Force reviewed half of their preliminary draft recommendations and sub-actions for reopening New Hampshire’s public schools today during an online meeting where members worked to fine tune the recommendations prior to submitting them to the Governor on June 30.
“We are concerned that these recommendations do not go far enough to protect the health of our students and staff, and that loosening these guidelines even further seemed acceptable to the Commissioner and some members of the Task Force,” said Megan Tuttle, President of NEA-New Hampshire.
“We watched in disbelief as the slide containing the recommendation for public health protocols listed ‘consider CDC guidance’ as the official recommendation.”
Face coverings, PPE, and social distancing are precautions that have proven to be effective in preventing the spread of the virus.
“We were alarmed to hear Task Force member Phil Nazzaro offer a proposal to change the recommendation that districts ‘adopt policies’ for social distancing to simply asking districts to ‘consider’ having such policies in place. We believe the lives of our students and staff are too valuable to allow the definition of a safe environment to change from district to district.”
NEA-NH was glad to hear Task Force members recognize the extra time, effort, and dedication our educators have put into creating the current remote learning environment in our state.
“The Task Force recommendation to create new hybrid teaching capacity, a blend of in-person and remote learning, represents a significant change to students’ learning environments and teachers’ working conditions,” said Tuttle. “Some Task Force members seemed to understand that educators and their representatives must be involved in any plan to create and implement such a model, and we hope that this realization in included in the final report.”
While only five of the ten recommendations were shared during the webinar, a common concern of whether these recommendations were realistic and enforceable was shared by Task Force members. Will students adhere to social distance and face mask policies? Do districts have enough space for social distancing? Are there enough resources for PPE and technology needs? NEA-NH continues to believe that before any discussion about how our schools should reopen for in-person instruction, a threshold determination must be made as to whether they should do so.
“We are very concerned that Task Force is racing to complete their recommendations in time to reopen schools this fall simply because that is when they are scheduled to be reopened,” said Tuttle. Their timetable does not take into consideration if the virus will be sufficiently contained by then, and whether there will be enough resources for their recommendations to be implemented statewide.”
While we believe in-person instruction in our neighborhood public schools is the best learning environment for our students, we can never support a plan that is not based on sound scientific and medical advice or that puts them, or their family at risk.