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Sununu: New Hampshire won’t require schools to reopen

  • FILE - In this Feb. 10, 2020, file photo New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu speaks at a Cops for Trump rally in Portsmouth, N.H. Sununu said Wednesday, March 4 that New Hampshire will join 17 other states in defending the Affordable Care Act, as a case that is aimed at repealing the law goes before the U.S. Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File) Robert F. Bukaty

Associated Press
Published: 7/14/2020 9:29:03 PM
Modified: 7/14/2020 9:28:58 PM

CONCORD — New Hampshire will not require any schools to reopen this fall, but the state is offering guidance on how districts can do so safely.

Gov. Chris Sununu on Tuesday outlined recommendations for screening, social distancing, hygiene and other safety measures aimed at preventing further spread of the coronavirus.

While President Donald Trump is demanding that schools resume in-person instruction, New Hampshire is leaving it to each school district to decide whether to fully return to the classroom, continue with remote instruction or combine those two options.

“We feel very confident that all students can come back to the classroom in a safe, health and productive manner, in a practical way,” he said. “We also appreciate that in some districts, it could be because of staffing, it could be because of public health anxiety — maybe the rate of COVID starts to skyrocket in one town versus another — we want them to have that flexibility.”

The 54-page roadmap released Tuesday includes information about rearranging classrooms to maximize social distancing, screening of staff and visitors and other precautions. Schools that do reopen must provide accommodations for students and educators who are not able to return due to underlying health concerns.

Masks will be required for all outside visitors, including parents, and strongly encouraged for staff and students under certain circumstances, for example, when within 3 feet of each other during group activities.

Dr. Ben Chan, the state epidemiologist, acknowledged that some of the recommendations are inconsistent with previous advise to wear face coverings when within 6 feet of others. But he said, taken as a whole, the guidance is built upon layers of protection.

“I almost think about this as a Swiss cheese model. Each layer has holes. No layer is going to be 100% effective at preventing transmission, but when you put the layers together, the goal is to minimize the risk to staff, to children in the classroom, while trying to maximize the educational benefit of bringing students back to class,” Chan said.

The Republican governor initially ordered all schools to close for three weeks, starting March 16, and later extended that for the remainder of the academic year. The new guidance emphasizes that the pandemic “has created a traumatic event in the lives of students and educators” and urges school staff to support their social and emotional needs.

“Schools will need to model a sense of calmness and self-assurance to their students as they enter the school year,” the guidance states.

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