Search
  • Gates MacPherson, NH Dems

ICYMI: Sununu and Edelblut’s Guidance Leaves Schools to Fend for Themselves


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Mary Heath, a state representative from Manchester and retired educator with over 30 years of experience as a teacher, dean of the School of Education at Southern New Hampshire University, and deputy commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education, wrote an op-ed lambasting the school reopening guidance Governor Chris Sununu and Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut released last week.


Key points:

  • “Instead of mandating masks that would help reduce the spread of any illnesses, Sununu is placing that decision on school districts by making them optional for classrooms and on school buses.”

  • “Sununu did not include nearly enough input from New Hampshire’s legislators. Many are career educators and local stakeholders who could have provided guidance to Sununu and Edelblut that would actually keep our students and teachers safe.”

  • “The guidance did not adequately address how schools will get resources to meet the new requirements… It says that masks should be worn and that Granite Staters can find a mask almost anywhere, but throughout New Hampshire, some industries and sectors are facing a PPE shortage,”

  • “The guidance did not adequately address the needs of teachers who are at high risk. One in four teachers are at a greater risk of contracting a serious illness if infected with COVID-19. When asked about substitute teachers, Sununu acknowledged we will need more but he doesn’t have a plan to hire them, and New Hampshire was already struggling to hire substitute teachers before the COVID-19 pandemic.”

  • “Sununu needs to state unequivocally that if school districts decide not to fully reopen in the fall, they will not face any repercussions from Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos. Federal funding must not be diverted.”


Concord Monitor: Sununu, Edelblut guidance leaves schools to fend for themselves By Mary Heath As a lifelong Manchester resident and educator with over 30 years of experience teaching and serving in administrative roles at the New Hampshire Department of Education and Southern New Hampshire University, I am deeply concerned with the guidance Gov. Chris Sununu issued on Tuesday, which I believe will not be enough to keep our students and teachers safe from COVID-19 if they go back to school. First, the guidance Sununu released defers the responsibility and related costs of keeping our children safe to school districts. Local control is paramount to New Hampshire’s school districts – however, it is the responsibility of Sununu and Edelblut to issue a necessary guide to keep our students and teachers safe. Given the increased risks of having children in school due to COVID-19, which is highlighted by the CDC, the N.H. Science and Public Health Task Force said that students can go back to school only if the correct safety measures are put in place, like masks and a minimum of 6 feet of distancing. However, instead of mandating masks that would help reduce the spread of any illnesses, Sununu is placing that decision on school districts by making them optional for classrooms and on school buses. And, Sununu only recommends placing desks 3 to 6 feet apart despite the CDC guidance that says seating and desks should be spaced at least 6 feet apart. There are 13,585 students enrolled in Manchester public schools. If we are going to allow students to go back to school, the guidance must make 6 feet the minimum spacing requirement and a mask mandate must be issued unless a student is physically unable to wear one because of a medical issue. I would not feel comfortable having Manchester’s students or teachers in classrooms without masks. Second, Sununu did not include nearly enough input from New Hampshire’s legislators. Many are career educators and local stakeholders who could have provided guidance to Sununu and Edelblut that would actually keep our students and teachers safe. Instead, the Sununu administration’s school reopening plan was written by a consulting firm hired by President Trump’s U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Third, the guidance did not adequately address how schools will get resources to meet the new requirements. The guidance says schools should ensure that HVAC systems are working properly and are increasing the circulation of exterior air as much as possible, but our schools lacked adequate HVAC before the pandemic. It says that masks should be worn and that Granite Staters can find a mask almost anywhere, but throughout New Hampshire, some industries and sectors are facing a PPE shortage and long-term care facilities even receiving defective PPE from the federal government. Based on his plan, too much of the responsibility to get protective equipment will fall on teachers and school administrators. Finally, the guidance did not adequately address the needs of teachers who are at high risk. One in four teachers are at a greater risk of contracting a serious illness if infected with COVID-19. When asked about substitute teachers, Sununu acknowledged we will need more but he doesn’t have a plan to hire them, and New Hampshire was already struggling to hire substitute teachers before the COVID-19 pandemic. To go into this crisis without a plan if teachers get sick is irresponsible and shows a deep lack of understanding as to how New Hampshire’s school system works. In addition, online instruction will continue to be a necessity. Schools need additional funding to purchase the necessary technology and to train teachers on the best strategies for online instruction. We cannot talk about schools reopening without also addressing the unreasonable and dangerous demands coming from President Trump and Education Secretary DeVos. Sununu said that the decision to send students back to school in the fall was not in response to the demands of Trump and DeVos that states fully reopen schools in the fall. However, as they continue to push for schools to fully reopen, Sununu needs to state unequivocally that if school districts decide not to fully reopen in the fall, they will not face any repercussions from Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos. Federal funding must not be diverted. Commissioner Edelblut said, “Nothing can ever eliminate all risk, but we must balance that risk with the need to educate New Hampshire children.” The risk Commissioner Edelblut is talking about is the risk of a child or teacher returning to school and contracting a potentially fatal COVID-19 infection at a time when the number of COVID-19 cases among young people is increasing. The health and safety of our teachers, students, and parents are not risks I believe are worth taking. (Rep. Mary Heath of Manchester represents Hillsborough District 14 in the N.H. House of Representatives. She served as dean of the School of Education at Southern New Hampshire University and as deputy commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education, and has over 30 years of experience as a teacher, a learning disabilities specialist, and assistant superintendent.)

###

105 N. State Street
Concord, NH 03301

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram

Paid for and maintained by the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
Not Authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

Contributions to the NHDP are not tax deductible for federal income tax purposes.