District plans that include any amount of in-person instruction need to follow these steps before beginning such instruction or allowing staff and students into a school building.
July 22, 2020 – CONCORD, NH – Today, NEA-New Hampshire released our Principles for Reopening, a document that reflects the values of the organization regarding the safe reopening of our schools.
In the middle of a pandemic that shows no signs of slowing in the United States, Governor Sununu and Commissioner Edelblut have put the priority on flexibility leaving thousands of students and staff to fend for themselves at the local level.
The 56-pages of reopening guidelines adopted by the Governor can be summed up in five words to our school children and educators: “You are on your own.”
“Because the Governor and Commissioner want no serious role in creating standards for ensuring safe environments for our public-school children, our efforts must now be spent creating safe school environments one district at a time working with school boards and superintendents,” said Megan Tuttle, NEA-New Hampshire President.
To that end, these Principles for Reopening serve as a set of minimum requirements to be met when negotiating any return to in-person instruction. District plans that include any amount of in-person instruction need to follow these steps before beginning such instruction or allowing staff and students into a school building.
“If, after working together with the district, it is determined these requirements will not be met, students and staff must return to remote instruction until their school can be made safe,” said Tuttle.
NEA-NH’s document addresses the importance of communication, the full staffing and funding needed to safely reopen, a phased reopen approach, steps to ensure student and staff safety, modifications and waivers needed to implement new protocols, staff and workload assignments to address alternative learning arrangements, and access to the proper technology for everyone involved.
“We’re doing the Governor’s work here,” said Tuttle. “If he or the Commissioner had paid attention to health experts and the surveys, this is the document he would have presented last week. Now, instead of having a statewide set of criteria to work from, we must now go district-to-district to ensure our kids and staff are safe because he failed to lead this effort.”
“This document was also created by education professionals to address the real challenges involved with any return to in-person instruction,” said Tuttle. “It is what can be produced when you actually listen to those on the front line.”
“No one wants to see our children back in school more than us. No one,” said Tuttle. “The same instinct that moves an educator to go to any length to protect their students, is also telling us that rushing our children back into classrooms, hallways and buses until we know it is safe, is clearly not the best thing to do.”
The educators of this state were looking to the Commissioner and Governor to address the real fear they have about returning to in-person instruction without the safeguards other professions receive. The Governors’ guidelines did nothing to address or even acknowledge those fears.
The guidance issued by the Governor and Commissioner runs counter to our core value of advocating for and protecting the safety of students and staff.
“They are asking everyone returning to a school building this fall to take part in an experiment to see how many COVID-19 safety standards can be “flexed” at our schools before we get sick enough to close them again,” said Tuttle. “Let me be very clear – we refuse to participate in that experiment.”