Taking a step back from the on-going management of the COVID-19 circumstances each of you face on the ground, the range of scenarios that might result in a disruption of education in your building could be, from worst case – public health orders the closure of your facility to, best case for disruption (if there can be such a thing) – concern among parents causes them to not send their children to school.
In each of these scenarios, I know that we are all working on our response and wanted to use this opportunity to layout some broad considerations for that response. Of course, in the event of a public health disruption, we will simply be reacting to the order. In the other circumstance, we will have more control over both making the decision and the timing and implementation of that decision. I do believe that it will vary and will not look the same for every community.
The basic outline of our response is summarized as: Remote Instruction plus remote support results in remote learning for our students.
Remote instruction: There are many considerations that each of you is weighing when making this decision. The first thing to know is that the state board of education passed an emergency rule on March 12, 2020 that allows you to conduct remote instruction as you see fit. We will be providing a Technical Advisory on this new rule shortly, but for now know that you have broad authority to determine when and how remote instruction will take place.
We have given consideration to the broad range of learning resources that districts and students might have access to from full on-line to fully analog and every combination in between. Just saying, some of us were around before we had ubiquitous computers and we were able to make it work. When you are making these determinations, consider the resources in your community. If there is a public health disruption, there will be more limitations, however, if there is a temporary disruption for a specific instance in a community, those community resources (clubs, community libraries, etc.) will be very valuable. I have met with some of these non-profits already and they are eager to help.
Remote Support: This type of support takes two forms (and maybe more as we lean in).
We have filed a waiver with the USDA to create flexibility around our food programs in the state. You can get specific guidance by talking with Cheri White in our office to see how this might work for you. She can be reached at 603-271-3860 or email@example.com
Remote support also includes our IEP students. With respect to IEP support services, we see three possible scenarios. The services may be of a nature that they can be provided in a remote instructional environment. Another option may be to have a limited number (hence lower COVID-19 risk) continue to come to the school for those specific services. Finally, if we are simply not able to provide those services, we may need to revert to compensatory services.
The determination to disrupt your educational system is of course a difficult one and we all play a role. Public health may order such an action. If I felt it was necessary statewide, I would act. More likely, however, it will be a community by community determination. We may not want to close schools in Berlin, but may close schools in towns bordering MA, as an example.
On Thursday, the State Board of Education passed an emergency rule giving schools greater flexibility to move to remote instruction should you or state officials determine your buildings are not safe for students. You do not have to gain state approval before beginning remote instruction.
“A school district may conduct instruction remotely. The district shall create a plan that shall include procedures for participation by all students. Academic work shall be equivalent in effort and rigor to typical classroom work. There shall be an assessment of all student work for the day.”
The Department is also increasing its remote instruction resources for schools and parents.
Many school districts have decided to hold professional development days in order to build their capacity for remote instruction. Some have also scheduled remote instruction days to have students test these capabilities. These are prudent and proactive steps. If you would like assistance with remote instruction, please ask. We’re happy to help.
Deep Cleaning: We had a question on a recent conference call requesting help with Deep Cleaning a school. Here are the latest CDC Guidelines for school Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations.
Conference Calls: We are going to hold more conference calls to provide up to date information and answer your questions. We are planning to hold these on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at Noon until further notice. We will send out the call-in information ahead of each call.
You can listen to past calls here.
This is a quickly changing situation. Stay up to date on COVID-19 in New Hampshire by regularly checking www.nh.gov/covid19
I continue to appreciate all of your effort and continued focus of putting our children and families first. You truly are on the front line and I thank you for that. If you have any questions, my cell number is 603-931-2071.
Frank Edelblut | Commissioner of Education
New Hampshire Department of Education
101 Pleasant Street | Concord, NH 03301