Unions:Return to In Person Learning Irresponsible, ‘Shortsighted’
The president of the NEA-NH said Gov. Chris Sununu's order that all public schools must return to full time, in person learning five days a week by April 19 "neither safe nor responsible" while the AFT called it "shortsighted."
Sununu said that about 60% of students are already back in classrooms at least two days a week and there will be plenty of time for districts to prepare. He called remote learning a "good backstop" during the pandemic but is not the same as being in person.
"We just know we have to get our kids back into schools, not just for educational reasons, for mental health reasons, for socialization," Sununu said during his weekly coronavirus briefing. The remote option will remain for parents and students who are not yet ready to return.
Teachers who received the COVID-19 vaccine will have received their second dose by the 19th, Sununu said.
NEA-NH president Megan Tuttle said that while educators are eager to return to classrooms that vaccines will not be fully effective until two 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," Tuttle said.
She said Sununu should follow the flexibility he has touted when it comes to his guidance during the pandemic and that the needs of individual districts should be taken into consideration. Many districts were already planning to bring students back in early May and that the earlier than expected return will make protocols now in place impossible to maintain.
AFT-NH President Doug Ley was also not pleased with the announcement and called Sununu's decision "shortsighted" and disputed that teachers would receive their second dose by the 19th.
"Second, the governor in his announcement today did not mention a plan for those schools which cannot achieve at least 3 feet of social distancing due to size of the school and student population. What about social distancing on buses or in the cafeteria," Ley said.
Ley also questioned how teachers will be able to accommodate both in person and remote learning.
"The Governor has once again tried to swoop in for credit while leaving school districts to do the real work," Ley said.
The announcement comes as all residents over the age of 16 will be eligible to receive the vaccine as of Friday and can begin to make appointments via the state's website.
The Pfizer vaccine is the only one authorized by the CDC for teens age 16 and 17.