The Soapbox: Thankful for our school support staff

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Stand up. Speak up. It’s Your Turn.

Thanksgiving will be a little different this year. We’ll be gathering with family and friends, though probably in smaller groups. We’ll be watching football games played in empty stadiums. And some will be trying to pass the mashed potatoes through Zoom.

But COVID-19 can’t change the spirit of Thanksgiving, or our ability to give thanks for the blessings we enjoy, even in these difficult times. Especially in these difficult times.

I am thankful for the thousands of people across New Hampshire who have worked through this pandemic to ensure that our children will continue to receive an education. Since New Hampshire schools pivoted to remote instruction in March, I have praised our teachers. They have drawn national attention for how quickly they adopted a new model of instruction, helping our children learn when they couldn’t be together in the classroom. And I remain thankful for teachers who resumed in-class instruction this fall, or who go above and beyond expectations to stay connected to their students learning remotely.

I would also like to express my thanks for the thousands of school support staff who have been working outside the classroom to make this unusual academic year possible. This pandemic has made us appreciate people we may have taken for granted in the past, people who are working hard to provide continuity of education during the most disruptive period in our schools’ history.

Our bus drivers are working long hours, rearranging their routes, and wiping down their vehicles to ensure that our students have a safe way to get to and from school each day.

Our school nutrition staffs shifted seamlessly in the spring from in-person to delivery, making sure that families who rely on school nutrition programs weren’t going hungry. Since the spring, they have provided well over 6 million meals, working in conjunction with bus drivers, local police and fire departments, and volunteers to provide meals to any students who needed one.

Our custodial staff worked through the summer to deep-clean school buildings, and prepare classrooms for socially-distanced instruction. Now that children and staff are back in most school buildings, at least part-time, they are maintaining a higher level of sanitation to keep them safe.

Our school nurses are managing not only the skinned knees or bumped heads, but the serious work of maintaining a safe learning environment for students and staff alike.

I want to thank them all, including those not specifically mentioned above. Without their dedication, as well as that of teachers, administrators, and parents across the Granite State, it would not have been possible to provide the in-person and remote instruction that is helping our students continue to learn this year. I’m going to include them in my prayer of thanksgiving before I dig into turkey and stuffing this year. I would ask that you take a moment to share your thanks for their hard work as well.

May you and your family have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving, and a wonderful holiday season.


Frank Edelblut is Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education.