July 27, 2020

Senator Hassan Holds Virtual Roundtable Discussion on Challenges to Reopening New Hampshire’s Schools in the Fall

Senator Hassan Hears from School Leaders and Parents About Personal Protective Equipment and Broadband Needs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan held a virtual roundtable discussion today on the challenges that school districts are facing as they make plans for remote, in-person, or hybrid approaches this fall. The Senator heard from teachers, schools administrators, and parents from across New Hampshire on a number of issues, including concerns over safety, staffing, accessing personal protective equipment, and a lack of broadband access for expanded online learning.

 

Participants included Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig; Mark MacLean, Superintendent of the Merrimack Valley and Andover School Districts; Kevin Carpenter, Principal of Kennett High School in North Conway; Jessica Stein Pollack, President of Christa McAuliffe School PTO in Concord; Rachel Borge, Director of Special Services for the Hudson School District; Brenda Willis, Derry School Board member; and Katherine Brown, a teacher at Rochester Middle School.

 

“I am really grateful for what you do all the time,” Senator Hassan told the participants on the call. “I am particularly grateful for what you are trying to do right now, which is in the face of considerable uncertainty, chart a course forward to help your students learn and be safe…One of the things I am working on here in DC is making sure that you all have the resources you need to execute the plans that you're putting together.”

 

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig discussed the need to support teachers during this challenging time: "I can't say enough, I'm a parent of a child in Manchester Public Schools, for what the teachers did, changing immediately to remote learning, was incredible. But we know we need to provide them with more supports and ensure that they have everything they need to continue to provide education to our students, and that comes at a cost." 

 

Participants also discussed their school districts’ reopening plans and highlighted the need for more federal funding to ensure that both children and teachers can safely return to the classroom in the fall.

 

Rachel Borge, Director of Special Services for the Hudson School District raised concerns regarding nationwide shortages of personal protective equipment: “Yes, we need funds to purchase the things that we need to bring our kids back to school. To purchase the protective equipment for our staff, and in some cases for our students who won't be able to provide it themselves, but also it's not just solely about the dollars, it's about the products, because the products aren't available.”

 

Senator Hassan responded that she has been pushing the Trump administration to fully invoke the Defense Production Act, which could help ramp up production and distribution of personal protective equipment, testing kits, and other medical supplies.

 

One issue that was brought up by many of the participants on the call was the need to expand high-speed internet for online learning. Kevin Carpenter, Principal of Kennett High School in North Conway, spoke about how one approach to reopening his school will depend on expanded broadband capabilities on the school’s property.

 

“Under our model we're going to have some of our kids, they're going to be doing remote even though they're in school, just so that we minimize those number of transitions,” said Principal Carpenter. “We're only going to have the kids transition once in a day to keep that cohort down. So they'll be meeting with other teachers in other classes, but they'll be in one classroom with one teacher, but learning from and working with a completely different teacher in the building. So [it will be important to make] sure that our building can support that and have the bandwidth to support a thousand devices running at the same time  between the teachers and students.”

 

Senator Hassan is working to support students and teachers during this public health emergency and joined in introducing legislation to provide $430 billion to support child care facilities, K-12 schools, and higher education institutions during the pandemic. Senator Hassan previously joined the rest of the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation in announcing $82 million in March to support New Hampshire schools, colleges, and universities as part of the bipartisan CARES Act. Senator Hassan has also called for greater support for students who experience disabilities in upcoming COVID-19 response legislation, and cosponsored legislation to help ensure that all K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices during the crisis. Last month, Senator Hassan held a virtual roundtable with New Hampshire teachers on remote teaching.

 

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