Today, Governor Sununu announced that all New Hampshire schools must return to full-time five-day-a-week in-person learning by April 19.
To be clear, there has never been a question about whether educators want to go back into the classroom. We want nothing more than to be back to in-person learning, to be with our students to ensure they have what they need to succeed to end this period of interrupted learning.
“Vaccines are a large part of the solution to keep our educators and kids safe. But they do not reach their maximum effectiveness until 2 weeks after the second dose. Requiring educators to return to full-time, full-scale, fully-populated classrooms in some districts prior to that time is neither safe nor responsible,” said Megan Tuttle, NEA-NH President.
Part of the problem with the Governor’s date is the logistics of vaccine distribution. Not all teachers can get the shots right away, and even for those who do, the process takes time: Vaccines must be delivered in twin doses almost a month apart. Even in the best case, most educators will not be considered fully vaccinated until late April or early May at earliest.
Right now, many school districts are already on track to return to full-time classes by early May. The collaborative efforts of educators, administrators and parents have allowed many school buildings to begin to reopen safely by implementing distancing, retrofitting ventilation systems where possible, and providing students and educators the PPE needed so they can return to the classroom safely.
Classrooms, hallways, busses and lunchrooms suddenly filled with students makes many of the protocols now in-place to make buildings safe for those who have returned, impossible to maintain.
“From the start of the pandemic, the Governor and his team have touted the flexibility of their guidance,” said Tuttle. “The return to full-time, five-days-a-week classes should be afforded the same flexibility to ensure educators are re-entering fully populated classrooms after their vaccines have had a chance to reach their recommended maximum effectiveness, and to consider the individual needs and limitations of the districts across the state.”