Dear SAU 70 School Community,
If you’ve followed the news, you’re aware that our Governors are working to slowly ease off on our mitigation efforts and begin to reopen our economies. While that is certainly a good sign, it is also creating a new round of uncertainty. The implications of some of these measures on our school system prompt many questions. Will we begin school in August in-person or remotely? If we are allowed to begin in-person, will we need to incorporate social distancing measures? Will we require masks or other PPE? Will students or staff members from high-risk groups be allowed to work or learn remotely? Will testing be required? Will we need to check temperatures of anyone entering the buildings? How will we modify our curricula to address possible gaps in learning? Will we be able to run any summer programs for credit recovery, remediation, or enrichment? How will we be able to maintain social distancing on our buses? Will we need to conduct school in shifts to limit our use of available space?
What if we are required to continue remote instruction when school resumes? How will we modify our courses and curricula to more closely approximate the depth, breadth, and rigor of our normal instruction? How will we ensure that we can adequately assess and grade student learning? Will we be able to improve overall consistency in the use of videoconferencing tools? How will we ensure equitable access to necessary technology? How will we ensure equity in general? How will we provide training for our staff in best practices in a digital learning environment? How will we redesign student activities to preserve important social interaction and honor school traditions? How will we best support students with special needs?
Right now, we are expected to plan for both of these possibilities, and to develop answers to all of those attendant questions - and then some. We have also been told that we should plan for a “hybrid” approach that contemplates a partial in-person and remote model. And, we will need to engage in all of this planning remotely, with school budgets that will be facing pressure from the economic fallout caused by severely reduced revenue. In order to do this planning well, what we need most is time. Our teachers are scheduled to work until June 19, after which they will need (and have a contractual right to) a hard-earned summer break. In order to accomplish some of the critical planning that lies ahead, I asked the SAU 70 Board to revise the 2019-20 calendar to make June 5, 2020 the last day for regular instruction. At their May 4th meeting, they voted to make this change, and today, the NH DOE confirmed that we will have met and, in fact, surpassed the legal requirements for a full year of instruction by that date. The law requires 180 days or 990 hours for elementary schools, and 945 hours for middle and high schools. By June 5, we will have accrued 1155 hours at our elementary schools, 1118 at RMS, and 1152 at HHS.
I am sure that this decision will prompt many of your own questions. Please know that I will be working with our staff and our school boards to conclude this school year and plan for the next. We will also be developing educational resources and activities for students and their families to access through the summer months. With June 5th as a target, our teachers and administrators will be able to plan and pace remaining instruction and identify students in need of additional support. They will then be able to focus on modifying curricula and planning instruction for next year, and creating summer learning opportunities for students who need them.
COVID-19 has disrupted all of our lives. We will learn many things from this crisis, and from our responses to it. As a school system, we need some time and space to reflect, evaluate, modify, and plan forward. I'll continue to be in touch as more information comes in from Concord and Montpelier.
Thank you for your patience and understanding,