SAU 16 took swift action in March of 2020, shutting down schools for the safety of our community. His team promptly created a Covid-19 Response Plan. During Phase II of this plan, four committees were created. These four committees consisted of a minimum of 20 stakeholders per committee to discuss and plan for the following scenarios in the upcoming 20-21 academic year: a Full Return to School, a Hybrid Return, an Interrupted Return, and a Remote Return. These committees consisted of a variety of stakeholders to include: senior leadership, special education services, mental health, staff, parents, students, health care professionals, security, and food services.
On July 20, 2020, the Senior Leadership Team presented a working draft of the SAU 16 fall plans regarding returning to school. The team outlined four specific conditions of return: Condition 1 - Full Remote - Governor Stay at Home order, Condition 2 - Low Density Partial remote - which means things in our area are not settled, not seeing a decline in cases, Condition 3 - In-person With Safety Requirements - face masks and shields for grades 6-12 with masks optional for students in grades k-5 (although the requiring of face masks could be revisited at any time). Shields would be worn by staff so students may still see their teacher’s face. Condition 4 - Full Return With No Restrictions.
During the meeting, the team shared the recommendation from the SAU administration of return to school (condition 3). The following reasons were given for this decision: a. low transmission rates in the Seacoast region, b. students are best served in an in-person environment, and c. a functioning school helps a community to thrive and is vital to the livelihood for many people in the area.
Results of a survey given to parents SAU-wide included the responses from 3,000 families. 85% of those who responded to the survey indicated they would be willing to have their children come back to school in-person. 70% of the families who responded will have the ability to transport their own children.
On both the national and state level, it has been highly encouraged that students return to in-person learning. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with the goal of having students physically present in school.
The primary reporters of child abuse and neglect in the state of New Hampshire are teachers and childcare workers. Due to the closure of schools, the State Division of Youth and Child Families reported a 50% drop in child abuse and neglect reports in the first two weeks of Covid 19 according the private organization Waypoint.
June 2020: Four committees complete work on four return-to-school scenarios.
July 20th: Joint Board meeting: Senior Leadership team recommends return-to-school under condition 3 for the entire SAU, in-person learning with precautions. Parents uncomfortable with children returning in-person will have the option of VLACS (remote learning).
July 28th: Exeter Regional Cooperative School Board meeting: Recommends condition 3, continuing with in-person return. SAU not comfortable routing children to VLACS option after all, would rather work to keep students Blue Hawks.
August 3rd: Senior Leadership and Swasey Staff presented and recommended a return-to-school plan specific to Swasey under condition 3 with remote learning option. HVAC upgrades had been completed and plenty of PPE available. Q & A for public sharing plans that have been made and protocols in place.
August 6th: Following staff survey results, the Senior Leadership team changed course and recommended a full remote learning platform under condition 1.
August 10th: Swasey meeting cancelled and replaced with a SAU 16 Joint Board Meeting.
August 17th: Exeter Regional Cooperative School Board defeats motion to return under condition 3 as originally slated. Motion passes to support the recommended full remote learning platform under condition 1.
August 20th: Senior Leadership presents full remote plan to Brentwood School Board. A motion to return under the original plan of full in-person with safety precautions (that had been in place up through 8/3) and the option of remote learning for those families who desire it passes.
A motion to begin the school year with remote and revisit in January was defeated.
Updated data on Covid cases was discussed during this meeting. At the time of publication: state of NH Covid cases between the ages of 0 to 9 is 2.2%, hospitalizations at .6%, and deaths at 0%- between the ages of 10- 19 is 5%, hospitalizations at .7% and deaths at 0%. Melissa A. Litchfied, Chair Brentwood School Board, member Exeter Coop School Board