MANCHESTER, N.H. – Until the COVID-19 pandemic ends, the Manchester Board of School Committee (BOSC) will meet remotely.
In an 8-7 vote, the BOSC agreed to continue remote meetings until New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu concludes Emergency Order #12, which allows temporary modification of public meeting access laws that allow remote public meetings during the pandemic.
The BOSC tried to meet partially in person and partially remotely last Monday, but had to adjourn prematurely due to technical difficulties.
The motion to indefinitely continue remote meetings, made by Ward 9 BOSC Member Arthur Beaudry, was opposed by Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig. Echoing earlier sentiments from members of the Manchester School District administration regarding school re-entry plans, Craig urged flexibility given the ever-changing nature of the pandemic and that a “blanket” approach would signal surrender to efforts at slowly getting back to normal.
Craig also cited transparency concerns, stating that many members of the public had difficulty following remote meetings due to their variable sound and video quality.
At-Large BOSC Member James O’Connell agreed.
“I think it’s high time this board met at city hall,” said O’Connell. “I think it’s an error to continue on remotely, which is not satisfactory for most of us and many of those in the public.”
Ward 11 BOSC Member Dr. Nicole Leapley felt that the board should serve as a role model by continuing to follow social distancing measures it is asking the public to follow.
“We’re staying at home when possible, wearing masks and social distancing, I think it’s essential for people to participate remotely,” said Leapley. “If residents have to participate remotely, I think it’s important that we all participate remotely.”
Beaudry and Leapley were joined by Ward 3 BOSC Member Karen Soule, Ward 4 BOSC Member Leslie Want, Ward 7 BOSC Member William Shea, Ward 10 BOSC Member Jane Beaulieu, Ward 12 BOSC Member Kelly Thomas and At-Large BOSC Member Joseph Lachance in supporting the measure.
The motion was opposed by Ward 1 BOSC Member James Porter, Ward 2 BOSC Member Kathleen Kelley Arnold, Ward 5 BOSC Member James Dobson, Ward 6 BOSC Member Dan Bergeron and Ward 8 BOSC Member Peter Perich as well as O’Connell and the mayor.
Later in the meeting, the board unanimously agreed to meet again on July 20.
Assistant Superintendent Jen Gillis said that potential plans for school re-entry could be proposed by that meeting, but noted that time tables for decisions on school re-entry cannot yet be determined given the ongoing changes in the course of the pandemic.
The Board of Aldermen will meet in person at city hall on July 7.