MANCHESTER, N.H. – Following up on Monday’s marathon Manchester Board of School Committee meeting regarding the return to school, Manchester School District leaders held a Facebook Live event on Wednesday to answer some frequently asked questions they’ve received. The full video will be available on the Manchester School District Facebook Page and Manchester School District Communications Director Andrew Tolland indicated that there may be more comparable events in the near future honing on specific topics related to the district’s return-to-school plan. In the meantime, here are some of the highlights from Wednesday.
Extra-curricular activities will still be available at schools according to Assistant Superintendent Amy Allen despite Grades 2 to 12 being full remote until November. However, parents and students can expect those activities to look different due to social distancing protocols.
On Monday, the Manchester Board of School Committee approved a “regionalized” schedule for “low risk” and “moderate risk” sports at Manchester Central and Manchester Memorial High Schools. The “high risk” sports remain to be determined, most likely depending on metrics to be determined by the Manchester Health Department.
Manchester West High School was not included in Monday’s decision, but more guidance from the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association and athletic directors across the state is coming this Friday according to Athletic Director Christine Telge-Pariseau.
Middle schools sports are postponed until Sept. 25.
However, all of this is fluid and could change at a moments’ notice depending on pandemic metrics.
One of the key issues with remote learning in the spring was a lack of standardization among equipment for teachers according to Director of Information and Educational Technology Stephen Cross.
The district is now obtaining laptops that facilitate synchronous education and recording video for asynchronous education as well as tablets with styluses. More Chromebooks are being purchased for students with the expectation that every student will have one. When asked on minimal specifications for parents who wish to buy their own equipment for students, Cross did not have an immediate answer, stating that anything equivalent to a Chromebook would be fine.
Wifi hot spots are expected to be provided in the parking lots of all schools for families without internet access. Fiberoptic installation is also taking place at certain schools according to Cross.
Allen indicated that even after the pandemic concludes, remote learning will remain a part of the educational process in Manchester and the infrastructure being put in place now will be a part of the foundation for future decades.
Specific details are still being determined for the return of most students in November, but here Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Gillis one of the keys is increased air ventilation. Plexiglass shields are also being ordered and plans are in place to reorganize classrooms to allow six feet between all desks. There will also be six feet between seats on busses.
Water bubblers will not be available, but water bottle refilling stations will.
Additionally, teachers will be moving from classroom to classroom to minimize student movement throughout schools.
Manchester Health Department Director Anna Thomas said that 180 children under 19 have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Manchester and 600 were identified as close contacts to others who have been diagnosed. She added that one third of those diagnoses were carriers that did not show common symptoms.