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I. Introduction

Dear Fellow Granite Staters,

This public health and economic crisis we’ve endured is unlike anything we have faced before, but despite the constant turmoil over the past several months, we’ve seen the very best of New Hampshire. The frontline workers who have risked their safety to keep New Hampshire running and look out for all of us. The educators and educational staff who, without any warning, transitioned to mandated remote learning and made the best of an impossible situation, and the parents and kids who adapted as best they could. The small business owners who have done everything they can to keep their businesses running and their workers employed.

Granite Staters have looked out for not just themselves, but each other — doing their best under a worse COVID-19 crisis with higher per capita cases and fatalities than either Maine or Vermont, among a worst-in-the-nation COVID-19 nursing home crisis with over 300 Granite State seniors being lost to COVID-19, and among the biggest COVID-19 related jobs losses in the country. Unfortunately, this public health and economic crisis is far from over. And the next challenge is planning for the upcoming school year.

I have been inspired by the educators in my life — whether it was the professors in college who inspired me to become a legal aid lawyer or my sister who served as a teacher for decades and now as a grade school principal. Public service takes many forms, and our public school educators are among the best in public service we have. They should not be forced to choose between their safety and their jobs. We owe them, and we owe all Granite Staters, a plan for going back to school that protects their safety.

Last week, Governor Sununu released his so-called “guidance”, which simply passed the buck down to local school districts, similar to what the Trump administration did. Complete and total local control on public health is not a plan, it’s a punt, school districts do not have their own epidemiologist and medical experts. Pushing all decisions to local school districts is playing politics in a pandemic. With about six weeks before school starts, what families, educators, and educational support staff wanted was as much certainty as could be provided, what Governor Sununu delivered was chaos. A Governor’s job is to work hard and make tough decisions looking out for everyone, not wait for months, and then punt all the work and all the decisions to everyone else.

The “Live Free and Learn Safe” plan below, addresses key issues facing our public schools in a substantive, specific manner. It has been informed by conversations with public health professionals, educators, parents, and by CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics guidance. “Live Free and Learn Safe” does not simply pass the buck, it provides specific funding mechanisms and actions that can be taken, right now. This is the type of guidance my administration would produce if I have the honor and privilege of serving as your next Governor.

While no plan is perfect, the “Live Free and Learn Safe” plan is an actual “plan”. It is the product of hard work, and that, at a minimum, is what is needed when facing key challenges: hard work. That’s the approach I’ve always taken. Whether it was right out of law school, serving as a legal aid attorney at New Hampshire Legal Assistance during the last economic crisis, the Great Recession, helping save people’s homes, including stopping Wall Street banks from foreclosing on homeowners, and helping folks get access to unemployment insurance and health care to get by. Or serving in the State Senate where I helped secure the greatest increase in education funding in over two decades.

During this pandemic, like many other Granite State families, Erin and I juggled child care and managed constant uncertainty. When the childcare center closed for our two young daughters, Iris and Josie, it changed everything. Like everyone else, we did our best to adapt (often with more than the recommended screen time). With months of uncertainty behind us, parents need guidance, support, and some semblance of a plan for this fall.

Overall, the closure of schools and childcare centers impacts not just families, but it also impacts our businesses and our economy. We need to get this right, not just for educators, educational support staff, parents, and property taxpayers who fund the schools, but for our economy and our recovery. The “Live Free and Learn Safe” plan provides some certainty to our business community and our economic recovery in addition to our kids, parents, educators, and schools.

Thank you for reading the “Live Free and Learn Safe” plan below and I look forward to our continued work together.

Take care,

Dan Feltes

State Senate Majority Leader

II. Objective

We all share the common objective of returning to in-person education. In numerous studies over the past few months, it is clear that students learn best when they are in-person in the classroom with their educators and fellow students. Nothing can replace that. But we must return to school safely. This document provides a detailed plan for what a school re-opening program would look like under a Feltes Administration.

It is important to understand that one size does not fit all. No two schools are identical and there is certainly room for flexibility within this plan and there will be an open line of communication throughout the year regarding what works and what does not. However, there is a baseline that must be met to ensure our students, educators, and educational support staff are not put in harm’s way. There also must be clear guidance on what happens when there is a positive COVID case and how public health and safety measures are funded. We cannot cut corners on public health because of cost barriers.

Appendix A at the conclusion of this document includes a checklist for schools to follow.

III. Re-Opening Safely

A. Census of Educators, Educational Support Staff, Bus Drivers, and School Population

Summary:

  • The Department of Education will distribute a survey to all parents, educators, educational support staff, and bus drivers at no cost to individual school districts asking for information on access to transportation, access to remote learning options, and comfort level for the upcoming school year.

One major variable around returning to in-person school is how many educators, educational support staff, bus drivers, and students will be comfortable returning to school and how the students are planning to get to school (bus, drive, walk, etc). The Department of Education shall immediately mail a survey to each household with public school children and a survey to all public school educators, educational support staff, and bus drivers. The survey shall ask a minimum of three questions:

  • Do you plan to learn/teach remotely this year regardless of the public health measures adopted by the school district?
  • Do you have access to regular, independent transportation to and from school or will you plan to take the school bus this school year?
  • Do you have access to remote learning opportunities at home?

The surveys will include a prepaid return envelope directed to the relevant school district and a link to fill out their surveys online. It is important to recognize that, for many, the comfort level of returning to in-person learning is dictated by the safety measures put in place. The purpose of the survey is to understand these three baseline statistics.

The data received in this survey will be fundamental to planning the logistics and capacity for the remainder of the school year. The survey is not binding and parents and educators reserve the right to change their preferences; however, in these unprecedented times, we must have a baseline understanding of what percentage of students and educators are not planning to return to in-person learning under any circumstances for our planning purposes.

B. Physical Assessment of schools

Summary:

  • The State of New Hampshire shall coordinate a statewide physical assessment of all school buildings using the existing Department of Education air quality assessment as a springboard to ensure there is proper air circulation and hallways/classrooms are large enough for distancing.
  • If schools cannot pass a physical assessment then students, educators, and educational support staff must continue with remote education until the fixes can be made.

New Hampshire must immediately coordinate a physical assessment of all schools using the existing Department of Education air quality assessment as a springboard. That assessment shall include whether windows open, whether there sufficient HVAC systems that can circulate the air in our classrooms and whether social distancing can be maintained. The science is clear; air circulation and social distancing are critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19. There is reduced transmissivity outside where there’s air circulation preventing the contaminated droplets from being contained in an enclosed space.

We know what works, but if our school buildings are unable to safely operate and do the bare minimum of effectively circulating fresh air then they are unsafe to return to without these fixes. A state-funded and coordinated assessment needs to happen immediately to determine which classrooms and schools are unusable. The CDC recommends business owners do an assessment of air circulation to ensure their building is safe for occupancy. If schools cannot pass the initial physical assessment then they must continue with remote learning until these infrastructure fixes can be made.

C. Community Spread Assessment

Summary:

  • There must be a clear standard for community spread levels that the state establishes. School districts don’t have their own epidemiologists and need clear guidance.

Data must drive our decisions, and that starts with having clear metrics around community spread. We all agree that learning in person is preferable to remote learning; however, we must have clear guidelines that dictate if we return to remote learning. The decision to return to remote learning cannot become a political football or a guessing game that leaves educators and students stuck in the middle, potentially risking their health and safety.

Any county that has a case rate of over 100 cases per 100,000 people (14 days) or a case rate of over 25 per 100,000 people with a greater than 8% positivity rate in testing must shift entirely to remote learning. If hospitalizations statewide increase by over 10% in a 3-day average (with a minimum threshold of 100 hospitalizations), if there are less than 20% ICU beds available, or less than 25% of ventilators available then the entire state must shift to remote learning. It is important to note that the virus does not follow municipal and county borders, and we know many educators and educational support staff do not live and work in the same county. The county restrictions are a bare minimum. The state Public Health Department shall be available to make recommendations for school districts in adjacent communities.

Nothing in this standard is meant to restrict the ability of local school districts or the Department of Education from taking more preventative measures when deciding whether to return to remote learning. Our towns and school districts need clear guidance, especially given that each town does not have its own public health director in New Hampshire. We must abide by the clear standard laid out above for returning to remote learning until we get a potential second wave under control.

D. COVID Testing

Summary:

  • New Hampshire shall fund and coordinate a state-wide effort to have on-site, free testing available to educators and educational support staff every week. We must be able to spot positive cases before an outbreak occurs.

Our educators and educational support staff shall have access to free, on-site testing every week. Frequent testing will allow each school district to immediately identify a potential outbreak and provide educators and educational support staff the certainty that they are healthy, and if an educator or educational support staff member becomes ill they will be able to get medical assistance immediately.

No one, but especially educators and educational support staff, should be required to pay anything to get tested and we must not be adding an additional burden on educators and educational support staff to get tested on their personal time. We have the capacity and flexibility in New Hampshire to provide on-site testing at least once a week. This program shall immediately be put out for bid or be run through our National Guard.

When medical professionals are at a school for on-site testing, the testing shall also be available for high school students. New Hampshire testing rates continue to lag behind other states, which will make it impossible to spot a potential outbreak before it is too late.

In addition to the regular free testing, New Hampshire shall provide daily temperature checks for our educators and educational support staff. We have learned a lot about the virus over the past few months including that in many symptomatic individuals the virus presents with a temperature. Daily temperature checks will not catch everything, but they will help provide an additional layer of safety and preventative measures. Educators and educational support staff shall have daily temperature checks administered on-site.

E. PPE Available For Free and Required

Summary:

  • The state must provide free medical grade masks for our educators and educational support staff who are returning to the classroom
  • All students in middle school and older, and all staff shall be required to wear a mask while at school
  • The State shall provide 5 reusable, cloth face coverings to every student for use throughout the school year and have disposable PPE available
  • Hand sanitizers must be available in every classroom

Educators in New Hampshire already spend an estimated $423 out of pocket on supplies every year. They must not be asked to purchase their own PPE to safely be at work. New Hampshire must provide free PPE for our educators and educational support staff. This includes free medical grade masks available for educators and educational support staff. The overwhelming evidence is that cloth masks protect asymptomatic individuals from spreading the virus to other individuals, but medical-grade, N95, or meaningfully equivalent filtering facepiece respirators provide additional protections to the wearer of the mask. Our educators and educational support staff deserve the best. No exceptions.

Initial research has shown that middle school and high school aged children contract and transmit the virus at rates similar to adults. New Hampshire must require all staff and all students in middle school or older to wear a cloth face covering. The science is indisputable. Wearing a mask decreases the risk of transmission of the virus. Unless there is clear guidance, the wearing of cloth face coverings will become a political football. That’s unacceptable, and a tremendous disservice to our students, educators, and educational support staff. There shall be breaks available for students to go outside, maintain distancing, and remove their masks.

For students under middle school-aged, there will not be a cloth face-covering requirement; however, students are encouraged to wear them if they are comfortable. For younger students, the presence of a cloth face covering may lead them to touch their faces at a greater rate than normal, which will actually be counterproductive and increase the spread. For students in special needs populations including those who are deaf or hard of hearing, clear masks shall be provided. Educators and educational support staff whose responsibilities include diapering and toileting of students shall be provided gloves and gowns for educators.

Additionally, schools shall have free PPE for students at the school and readily available. Economic stigma can take many different forms and we must be aware that the presence of masks and the availability of PPE at home could certainly become a social issue. The state must provide 5 washable, reusable cloth masks to every student at the start of the school year, similar to what North Carolina recently announced. For any student who is unable to wear a cloth mask, there will be clear face shields available. Safety is the number one concern and one of the top inhibitors is access. School districts shall have free PPE for students available at the entrance of the school for any student who either does not have access to PPE at home or forgot theirs on that day. New Hampshire shall join the Northeast Regional PPE Purchasing Partnership to ensure sufficient access to PPE throughout the school year.

We also know that hand washing and hand sanitizer provides an additional layer of protection for students, educators, and educational support staff. Hand sanitizer must be available in every classroom for students who shall use it upon entry and exit of a classroom. We also must ensure that we have the staff necessary to routinely check our restrooms to ensure that they are sufficiently cleaned and stocked with hand soap.

F. Physical Distancing Measurers

Summary:

  • Hallways 12 feet or narrower shall be designated as one-way hallways. Hallways 12 feet or wider may be divided into two “lanes.”
  • In classrooms, desks shall be 6 feet apart when feasible. If 6 ft distancing is not possible, 3 foot distancing along with the presence of clear plastic shields surrounding desks are allowed.
  • Students shall remain in one classroom and the educators shall rotate depending on the subject matter where feasible.

The public health data is clear. Physical distancing is critical to reducing the spread of the virus. To maintain physical distancing throughout the school day there are a number of steps all school districts shall take.

First, all hallways 12 feet or narrower shall be designated as one-way hallways to avoid students and faculty coming into close contact in the hallways. Hallways 12 feet or wider may be divided into two “lanes” so that students and faculty can safely pass each other while maintaining physical distance. Schools shall also eliminate the use of lockers to avoid the potential for close contact and congestion in the hallways. Educators must be cognizant of the book load being carried by students and shall avoid overburdening students with heavy materials.

Second, in each classroom desks shall be 6 feet apart when feasible. If the 6-foot distancing is not possible, 3 foot distancing along with the presence of clear plastic shields surrounding desks are allowed, which the town of Salem, NH has proposed. The state will acquire and distribute the necessary clear shields. Students may remove masks while at desks and behind the clear shields.

Finally, in order to maintain physical distancing and discourage travel throughout the school students shall remain in one classroom and the educators shall rotate depending on the subject matter where feasible. In High School classrooms, school districts are encouraged to adopt a model that more closely resembles a college semester structure where fewer courses are taken at a time, but meet more frequently and for longer periods of time to reduce the number of people each educator and student comes in contact with during a school day.

G. Meals

Summary:

  • Lunch shall be pre-packaged and brought to classrooms
  • Breakfast shall be pre-packaged and available for students to pick up

For many students, the meals they receive at school are the only consistent meals they receive throughout the week. It is critical that our schools continue to serve breakfast for qualified students and lunch.

In order to reduce congregation, students who are eligible for breakfast may pick up their pre-packaged breakfast in the cafeteria. Students should bring breakfast outside or to their classrooms to avoid indoor congregating in the cafeteria. Lunch shall be pre-packaged and brought to each classroom to reduce the potential for close contact in our cafeterias.

H. Cleaning Protocols

Summary:

  • Schools shall follow all CDC recommendation for cleaning
  • Electrostatic sprayers are used in our hospitals, airports, and retail stores, all schools shall be provided the tool for cleaning
  • Custodial training and schedules must be adjusted and follow a specific checklist

Schools shall follow CDC guidance for all cleaning recommendations. Custodial staff will be trained on CDC guidelines for surface and room cleaning and sanitization. Custodial schedules must be adjusted to reflect the increased daytime cleaning requirements with specific tasks assigned to each custodian prioritizing high-touch locations throughout the school.

The state shall provide electrostatic sprayers to all schools that do not already have them. Every evening custodians will use electrostatic sprayers to disinfect classrooms. Electrostatic sprayers are used in hospitals, retail stores, and airports to quickly and effectively clean surfaces.

Custodians will follow a checklist of their assigned tasks and record the time each task was completed to ensure transparency and accountability throughout the day.

All middle and high school students will be asked to clean their desks and learning surfaces upon sitting down and leaving any location. All middle and high school classrooms will have hand sanitizer stations for students to use as they leave or enter a classroom. In elementary schools, students will be taught and practice handwashing throughout the day.

I. Transportation

Summary:

  • Parents are encouraged to drop their students off at school and schools may stagger drop off if needed to control traffic
  • Any students taking the bus will be required to wear masks, windows shall be open, and hand sanitizer at the door.

In order to re-open schools safely, we must plan from the moment students leave their homes to how they get to school to how they go home. New Hampshire already faces one of the worst bus driver shortages in the country, and ensuring safety on buses will only exacerbate that shortage.

First, parents are encouraged to drop their students off at school whenever possible. The best option for dealing with the complications of bus travel is to avoid it. Parents and students are encouraged to create small “travel groups” that reduce stress on parents and traffic at schools by allowing parents to rotate picking up and dropping off when possible. Larger schools may create staggered drop off times as necessary to ensure reasonable traffic flow around the school. But we must acknowledge that many families, especially low-middle income families, do not have the luxury of reliable personal transportation or employment with predictable schedules and need a safe alternative.

All students who are on school busses will be required to wear a mask. Weather permitting, the windows on the busses shall remain open at all times. The state shall provide clear plastic shields for all bus drivers as an added level of protection for drivers who have students passing them throughout the trip. All buses will be required to have hand sanitizer available at the door which students should use before and after.

All cleaning procedures shall follow the CDC guidelines for cleaning non-emergency transportation vehicles. “Shifts” should be defined as each day the bus is in use.

At a minimum, clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces in the vehicle at the beginning and end of each shift and between transporting passengers who are visibly sick. Ensure that cleaning and disinfection procedures are followed consistently and correctly, including the provision of adequate ventilation when chemicals are in use. Doors and windows should remain open when cleaning the vehicle. When cleaning and disinfecting, individuals should wear disposable gloves compatible with the products being used as well as any other PPE required according to the product manufacturer’s instructions. Use of a disposable gown is also recommended, if available.

  • For hard non-porous surfaces within the interior of the vehicle such as hard seats, armrests, door handles, seat belt buckles, light and air controls, doors and windows, and grab handles, clean with detergent or soap and water if the surfaces are visibly dirty, prior to disinfectant application. For disinfection of hard, non-porous surfaces, appropriate disinfectants include:
  • EPA’s Registered Antimicrobial Products for Use Against Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 external icon, the virus that causes COVID-19. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for concentration, application method, and contact time for all cleaning and disinfection products.
  • Diluted household bleach solutions prepared according to the manufacturer’s label for disinfection, if appropriate for the surface. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
  • Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol.
  • For soft or porous surfaces such as fabric seats, remove any visible contamination, if present, and clean with appropriate cleaners indicated for use on these surfaces. After cleaning, use products that are EPA-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 external icon and that are suitable for porous surfaces.
  • For frequently touched electronic surfaces, such as tablets or touch screens used in the vehicle, remove visible dirt, then disinfect following the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products. If no manufacturer guidance is available, consider the use of alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol to disinfect.

J. Hybrid Model

Summary:

  • Guaranteed job protections for all educators who prefer to teach remotely
  • All students have the option of learning remotely
  • Remote learning in school districts where physical distancing is not possible
  • Preparation plan for what happens when schools transition back to remote learning

We know that not every student, educator, and educational support staff will be comfortable coming back to school this fall, and we know there may be a second wave that requires New Hampshire return to an entirely remote learning environment. All school districts must have remote learning options available.

As explored in further detail above, before any planning can take place, schools need to know how many students, educators, and educational support staff plan to come back to the school for in-person learning. This will help plan for ongoing remote learning but also for social distancing and safety measures in schools as well as the possibility for grouping students and holding smaller classes. The Department of Education must immediately fund a census to all parents, educators, educational support staff, and bus drivers. This is a critical step in the reopening planning process.

There will be students, educators, and educational support staff who will not be comfortable and should not return to school based on a variety of reasons. It is critical that we do not leave these students behind. We know that there are staff and students all across New Hampshire who are in high-risk COVID-19 health categories and/or live with someone who is in a high-risk category. School districts shall pair educators who can teach remotely with students who are participating in remote learning. Educators who are unable to return to the classroom must have guaranteed job protections and be offered opportunities to teach remotely. Educators must not be forced to risk their life to keep their job, and a willingness to return to the classroom is not a measure of commitment to their job and students.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner has said that there will likely be a second wave of COVID-19 this fall, which would necessitate that all classroom activity is suspended and shifted again to remote learning. We also know that despite our best efforts there will be cases in our schools, which, as we explore in depth below, may require schools to shift to entirely remote learning again.

Finally, there will be some school districts for which physical distancing is not possible, either due to the total population of students, the size of classrooms, or both. As stated at the outset of this plan, no school districts are identical and what must happen in Manchester is different than schools in Coos County. If school districts are shifting to an entirely or partially remote education, there should be opportunities for students unable to receive an adequate education remotely to attend classes in-person. Many students in New Hampshire do not have reliable access to the internet, a home computer, or supervision throughout the day. We must acknowledge that and address it at the local level.

IV. When a Case Occurs

Summary:

  • If there is a confirmed case within the school building the entire school must close for a minimum of 2 days to ensure thorough cleaning and proper contact tracing
  • Any student, educator or educational support staff who came in contact with the positive case must quarantine for 14 days
  • If there are multiple cases within a 14 day period then the school must shift to remote learning for 14 days

This guidance would be wholly incomplete without clear instruction for what must occur when there is a positive case of COVID in a school. New Hampshire schools shall follow the CDC guidelines for a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the building regardless of what the community spread looks like in the area.

If there is a confirmed person with COVID-19 in the building, the state shall be notified immediately and the school shall immediately close for all students and staff for a short (minimum 2 day) dismissal to allow for thorough cleaning/disinfectant (pursuant to CDC building cleaning protocols) and proper contact tracing. Once contact tracing and cleaning have been completed all individuals who did not come in contact with the positive individual may return to school. Any individuals who did come in contact with the positive person must quarantine for 14 days. The positive individual must have two documented negative tests before returning to the building.

If a school reports multiple cases within a 14 day period then the entire school must return to remote learning for 14 days to ensure the virus does not continue to spread within the school.

If a family member, roommate, or any other individual that a student, educator, or educational support staff has come in contact with tests positive for COVID-19, that individual shall quarantine and not return to school until they have either quarantined for 14 days apart from the positive individual or the positive individual and the student, educator, or educational support staff received two documented negative test results. The student shall shift to remote learning for the quarantine period as feasible.

V. Funding and Support For School Districts

Schools in New Hampshire have been underfunded for decades resulting in increased property taxes, underpaid staff, and under-resourced schools. Any plan that does not specifically address how resources will be distributed is incomplete and pits the desire to keep our schools safe against the budget realities. We must spare no expense when it comes to protecting our students, educators, and educational support staff.

CARES Act Funds

Summary:

  • Our school district must not be forced to decide between safety and cost
  • New Hampshire has CARES funds available to allocate to a school safety fund for infrastructure upgrades and public health materials
  • The state shall establish a staff hotline so that all school districts have clear guidance for where any questions will be directed
  • New Hampshire shall join the lawsuit against Secretary DeVos’s rewrite of the CARES Act guidance

There is approximately $300 million remaining in the unrestricted state funds and an additional $44 million was specifically appropriated to school districts. These funds are critical to ensuring that school budgets are protected, including protecting the largest increase in education funding in two decades provided in the last state budget. The state shall appropriate an additional $100 million into a school safety fund, which will reimburse schools for any infrastructure or public health purchases needed to keep our schools safe. This is likely to only be a start. Our federal delegation is fighting hard for additional funding for our schools and the Trump Administration must support their efforts to provide these needed resources

The state shall use the additional CARES funds to provide medical-grade masks to all of our educators, provide cleaning supplies to our school districts, provide clear dividers for our busses, and provide clear desk dividers for any classroom that is unable to maintain 6-foot distancing.

The state shall also use available funds to cover all necessary professional development training needs for both educators, educational support staff, and custodians. The Department of Education shall run regular online professional development for educators, at no cost, to provide additional resources for remote learning and reaching children during the pandemic.

The state shall allocate resources as needed to ensure the mental health of students and staff can be met. Our students and staff may experience high levels of stress and anxiety over the incredibly difficult situation that we are facing. Resources from the CARES Act shall be made available to school districts to ensure the proper counseling services and support is available to all students and staff. The state shall also stand up the statewide children’s mobile crisis unit established in Senate Bill 14 as soon as possible so that any child experiencing distress can receive proper care within an hour regardless of where they are across the stare.

The state shall also include funding for anti-discrimination and bullying training. In particular, Asian-American students across the country have been targeted and subjected to repeated race-related insults based on misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. While efforts have been made to combat discrimination in schools, COVID-19 related discrimination is new and unique, and handling it in an effective way is something the state can and must assist with.

Additionally, the state shall establish a staffed hotline from 6 am to 9 pm to field questions and concerns from parents, students, staff, and administrators regarding any element of the re-opening guidance. School districts across the state do not have access to the public health resources and expertise that our state does and this hotline will provide a clear line of communication between the public, our schools, and the state public health department.

Finally, New Hampshire shall join the lawsuit challenging Secretary DeVos’s rewrite of the CARES Act to send taxpayer dollars that should go to public schools to private schools. Other states across the country including; Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, California, New Mexico, have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for misinterpreting the CARES Act that sets standards for distributing relief funds to schools. New Hampshire must join this lawsuit and stop Secretary DeVos from diverting funds from low-income areas to private schools.

VI. Staff and Faculty Protections

Summary:

  • Provide medical-grade PPE to our educators, educational support staff, and bus drivers
  • Extend stipend to educators, educational support staff, and bus drivers
  • Job protections and paid sick days for educators and educational support staff
  • New Hampshire will create a back to school jobs program that aggressively hires substitute teachers, educational support staff, bus drivers, and custodians.

Our schools cannot function without our educators, educational support staff, custodians, and bus drivers. They cannot be treated as secondary throughout the reopening planning process. Staff must not be forced to risk their life to keep their job, and a willingness to return to the classroom is not a measure of commitment to their job and students.

As we have laid out above all staff must be provided medical-grade masks, for free from the state. Our educators deserve the best and anything short of that is unacceptable. We also must properly fund the safety measures so school districts are not cutting corners in order to save costs. We have approximately $300 million in federal CARES Act funds that we can use to support our schools. Additionally, we shall extend the frontline stipend which we provide to our firefighters, police officers, and long term care professionals to our educators and educational support staff.

If an educator or educational support staffer gets sick or is uncomfortable or unable to return to school due to a health barrier, there must be job protections. Educators and educational support staff must not fear losing their jobs for taking an extended sick period due to COVID-19 or if they are prevented from returning to in-person learning due to a health concern. Educators who are unable to return to in-person learning shall be paired with students who are also unable to return to in-person learning to continue remote learning. This process shall be facilitated by school districts.

Additionally, educators and educational support staff must have access to paid sick days. In New Hampshire, over a third of all workers do not have access to any paid sicks days. Our educators, educational support staff, and bus drivers must have access to paid sick days and paid quarantine days in the event that themself or a family member gets sick and needs care.

Finally, New Hampshire will immediately create a “back to school jobs” program. New Hampshire is heavily reliant on tourism, service jobs, and small businesses — all of which have been hit the hardest by this pandemic. With the additional CARES funds, we will create a jobs program to support our schools. This program shall include additional funding for substitute teachers, educational support staff to help with social distancing, additional school bus drivers to reduce bus capacity when needed, additional nursing to provide extra capacity in the event of additional medical needs at schools, and additional janitorial staff to cover increased shifts throughout the day. We face shortages in many of these fields even in good times, but the state must do everything we can to bolster our workforce.

VII. Parents

It is critical that parents are part of all decisions that we make regarding our education system, and while student and staff safety must be the top priority for any reopening plan, we must also realize that decisions do not happen in a vacuum. As we have laid out in the above sections, there is a high likelihood that New Hampshire returns, either permanently or temporarily, to a remote learning environment.

Throughout this pandemic we have asked parents to homeschool, provide child care, and maintain their jobs at the same time. Any plan that requires the potential for immediate transition to remote learning must also include job protections for parents. The current Governor must sign an executive order providing job protections for any parent that needs time off to take care of their children while schools are closed or transitioning to a remote learning environment.

VIII. Conclusion

The “Live Free and Learn Safe” plan provides some certainty to our business community and our economic recovery in addition to our kids, parents, educators, educational support staff, and schools. We are constantly learning more about this virus and developing new products and strategies for how to best deal with it. There likely will be additions and revisions to this plan as we move forward.

The reality is that no two schools are identical and there is certainly room for flexibility within this plan and there will be an open line of communication throughout the year regarding what works and what does not.

We need to get this right, not just for educators and parents and property taxpayers who fund the schools, we need to get this right for our economy and our recovery. We know this will be a trying year for families all across our state and our nation, we are all in this together. Thank you for your cooperation throughout this unprecedented time.

Appendix A — Checklist for Schools

Received Survey Data:

__ Educators

__ Educational Support Staff

__ Families

__ Bus Drivers

Physical Assessment of Schools:

__ Social Distancing Possible

__ Windows Able to Open

__ HVAC Systems Functioning

Community Spread Assessment:

__ Does the County Pass Community Spread Standards

COVID Testing:

__ On-Site Testing Available

PPE

__ Medical Grade PPE Available

__ 5 Cloth Masks For Every Student

__ Temporary Masks Available

__ Hand Sanitizer for Every Classroom

Physical Distancing:

__ Hallways Designated One Way or Split

__ Desks Spread 6 Feet Apart or 3 Feet w/ Clear Divider

Lunch:

__ Packaging Available for Individual Lunches

__ Packaging Available for Breakfasts

Cleaning Protocols:

__ CDC Standards Clearly Communicated

__ All Necessary Cleaning Products Available (Electrostatic sprayer, disinfectant, etc.)

__ Specific Responsibilities Designated

Transportation:

__ Traffic Flow Accounted For w/ Potential Staggered Drop Off Times

__ Plastic Shields Installed on Busses

__ Hand Sanitizer on Busses

Additional Resources

The CDC’s Considerations for Schools

The American Academy of Pediatrics: Guidance for School Re-entry.

Note: Public health standards updated in September 2020 to provide more clarity on public health triggers.

Written by

Dan served as a legal aid lawyer helping low-income NH families, seniors and veterans for almost a decade. Now serves as the majority leader in the NH Senate.

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