June 10, 2020 – Concord, NH
NEA-New Hampshire released their statement on the safe re-opening of our public schools today.
Something important happens in our schools and classrooms that remote learning can never replace.
While remote learning is a necessary response to a national emergency, it can never replace the productive learning environment of our schools and classrooms; it does not provide equal opportunities for an adequate education; and it is clearly unsustainable for the majority of New Hampshire’s parents.
Remote learning does not provide the important socialization skill building found in our public schools; the one institution that routinely brings together children from different backgrounds and circumstances for a major part of their day.
NEA-NH is looking forward to the day when we can safely re-open our schools. But 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. That determination must be based on local health conditions and on the resources available to support the types of protections needed to ensure the health and safety of students, staff, and visitors.
As an absolute precondition to reopening, there must be:
- A scientific consensus from relevant health authorities that the virus has been sufficiently contained and that the local health infrastructure can effectively address current and future outbreaks.
- A plan to continue to contain the virus that includes robust COVID-19 testing, effective contact tracing, and case isolation within the school community in coordination with broader community and state efforts.
Should these two preconditions be met, any statewide plan that is enacted must:
- Address how the health and safety of students and staff will be protected if schools reopen for in-person instruction. This plan must be universally applied across all school districts in the state and be sufficiently funded to accomplish the requirements and goals of such a plan.
- Include a medically appropriate method to determine how social distancing can be maintained in every area students and staff will interact.
- Establish hygiene and personal protective equipment requirements for staff and students
- Address disinfecting and sanitizing facilities and equipment on an ongoing basis
- Create special protocols for students, staff, families, and guardians who are at higher risk from COVID-19
- Include procedures for when a student or staff member contracts COVID-19
Unless these safety conditions can be met, an educator should not be forced to return to the classroom or school environment, and should be free to make the decision not to return to protect their health and the health of their family without penalty or retribution.
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. Students and staff should be able to attend school safely and return home without the risk of infecting their family members.
About NEA-New Hampshire
NEA-New Hampshire is the largest union of public employees in the state. Founded in 1854, the New Hampshire State Teachers Association became one of the "founding ten" state education associations that formed the National Education Association in 1857. Known today as NEA-NH, and comprised of more than 17,000 members, our mission to advocate for the children of New Hampshire and public school employees, and to promote lifelong learning, remains true after more than 165 years. Our members are public school employees in all stages of their careers, including classroom teachers and other certified professionals, staff and instructors at public higher education institutions, students preparing for a teaching career, education support personnel and those retired from the profession.