Proposed new State Board of Education rule sends message that the health and safety of students and educators not a priority.
CONCORD, NH – NOVEMBER 10, 2021 – NEA-NH submitted a letter to the State Board of Education to consider as they addressed proposed rule changes to exclude the use of distance learning in cases of school-wide COVID outbreaks.
“Our members view this proposal as far too limiting on local school districts and respectfully request that the Board consider withdrawing their proposal or making substantial changes in order to accommodate for the health and safety of students and staff in our schools,” said Megan Tuttle, NEA-New Hampshire President.
NEA-NH surveyed members as to the efficacy of the policy change being proposed. Not surprisingly, 90% of respondents agreed that school districts should retain the ability to conduct distance education should it be necessary due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in the school.
“New Hampshire educators are not eager to revert to a remote instructional model. They overwhelmingly agree that distance education should be used sparingly in the name of health and safety for their students, and as such should be reserved as a potential option,” said Tuttle.
Feedback we received from our members on this proposal overwhelmingly questioned the logic of allowing distance education for inclement weather to count toward instructional days, while not allowing it for a health and safety crisis such as a COVID-19 outbreak. “The health and safety of our students and their families are equally as compromised, if not more, in the event of a COVID outbreak,” said Tuttle.
“The overwhelming sentiment from members on prohibiting this option of pivoting to temporary remote instruction was that it sends a message I am confident that the State Board does not want to send: that the health and safety of our students and our educators is not a priority.”
In a circumstance where COVID has spread in a school to the point where the only option left is to take a brief pause to arrest the spread to the students and the community at large, that the State Board would say that does not matter, by taking a commonsense option off the table seems short sighted.
“We urge the State Board to go back to the drawing board on this rule,” said Tuttle. “If there is a shared concern between the Board, the Commissioner, and New Hampshire’s educators that their needs to be further guard rails on the length of time or the way a school may utilize remote instruction, then I think there is common ground to be arrived at. However, this rule as is should not move forward to the legislature in its current form.”