Welcome to our District News and Updates Blog. As we work through the complexities of developing our reopening plan, we will be posting responses to some of the most frequently asked questions, derived from the emails we have received. We are grateful for the hundreds of emails and questions that have been submitted, though answering all of these emails individually is beyond our capacity. As such, we will be adding questions received with the best available answers on an ongoing basis. Please subscribe (click here) to receive notifications of new posts.
Will Masks be Mandatory?
The State of NH has chosen not to make wearing masks mandatory in their reopening guidelines. Therefore, the School Board will have to vote on the matter as a part of their deliberations on August 4th in order to make them mandatory by District policy. The administration supports mandatory masks with clear articulated expectations for their use. In the coming days, we will release details on these expectations, which will articulate both how masks are to be worn and when masks may be safely removed. The District intends to provide five cloth masks to each student who attends in person schooling. Daily mask wearing will be enforced in the same manner that all other school rules are enforced. Families expressing an overall objection to mask wearing are advised to choose remote learning as their best option.
What is the difference between Block and Hybrid Scheduling at LHS?
We are exploring a variety of different ways to reduce interaction between students in all schools, but LHS has unique challenges because of its size and the number of changes in classes made each day. The two main solutions are based upon the ideas of having fewer students in the building and reducing the number of transitions in a day.
A ‘block’ schedule would involve holding four longer classes each day, with classes meeting every other day. (For example A,B,C, and D Periods meet one day, E,F,G, and H periods the next.) All students could be in attendance, or this could be combined with other models with fewer students in the building. Instructional time remains the same because of the longer classes. This model presents challenges in scheduling and requires teachers to prepare differently, but would ensure that the amount of instructional time is preserved, and greatly reduces the number of times when students are in hallways.
A ‘Hybrid’ schedule would involve half of our students attending school in person each day, with the other half learning remotely. The following day, those students would switch, with the remote students coming in to school and those in school learning remotely. This would allow for much smaller groups of students in the building at once and for the use of a more traditional class schedule, but requires teachers and students to work both remotely and in person simultaneously, and reduces in person instructional time. It requires that individual families establish independent remote learning environments for their high school students. It will also require us to verify that all students have access to technology that can be used both in the classroom and at home.
The District does not propose to use a ‘Hybrid’ schedule for Grades PK-8, as we consider this model to be highly problematic both for the learning of younger students and for families in which all adults in the household must work. We also believe that the structure of elementary (individual classrooms) and middle school (Team pods) are conducive to our adherence to distancing guidelines given the current rate of infection in our area.
Is the District purchasing plexiglas dividers for desks?
No. We have not included these dividers in our plan for two key reasons. First, they are very difficult to keep clean and sanitary on an ongoing basis throughout the day. Second, they significantly disrupt the air flow in a room, rendering air filtration difficult. They are also not included in the State Guidelines, or any of the CDC Recommendations.
Will families be allowed to choose the option of having their students learn remotely if they wish, and would those remote learners be able to access in school programs or co curricular activities?
Yes they will. While we do understand that some families will choose to learn remotely, their students are still Londonderry students, and they will have access to all of the same materials, clubs, or other learning opportunities as those learning in person.
What is the difference between Remote Learning and Homeschooling?
Remote learners are still enrolled in the Londonderry School District. Their programs, instructional materials, and academic credit are still developed by our teachers and provided by the District. Homeschooled students are no longer enrolled in the Londonderry School District. When a family chooses to enter homeschooling, they assume full responsibility for all planning, instruction, materials, evaluation, and monitoring. The School District regards students entering homeschooling in the same manner that they do a student who transfers to another school district.
If a family chooses to enter remote learning, and their student receives special education services, is it possible for them to receive those services in the school building?
Yes, so long as in-person services are permissible under applicable health regulations. The special education administrator in each building will work in conjunction with your child’s case manager to identify when those services will occur in the building during their scheduled time.
If a family chooses to enter remote learning, and their student receives special education services, is it possible for them to receive those services remotely?
Yes, the special education administrator in each building will work in conjunction with your child’s case manager to identify how those services will occur in the remote setting. The delivery of services and future case management will be overseen by a staff member devoted to remote learning.
Can families choose to change from in-person to remote learning, or remote to in person, during the school year?
Yes they can, with some limitations. Families will be asked to make a choice prior to the start of school. There will be a ‘grace period’ of 2-3 weeks (to be determined) at the start of school during which families can reconsider their initial choice. Once the year is fully underway, we will require that students remain in their choice of learning environments until the close of the marking period, in order to ensure that a transition can be made without significant impact to their learning. Exceptions will be considered for extenuating circumstances.
How will remote learning look different this fall than it did this past spring?
District teachers and administrators have done a considerable amount of work this spring and summer in improving our ability to offer remote learning. After analyzing the results of our end of year surveys of parents, students, and staff, teacher teams from each building have been working with administrators to develop new guidelines addressing the frequency and type of communication, as well as means of supporting the social and emotional needs of students.
How will Moose Hill School facilitate social distancing with our youngest learners?
First, we are looking for ways to create more space within the classroom, primarily by removing furniture or materials that would not be conducive to distancing. (Touch tables, common use manipulatives, etc.) We are also looking to remove materials stored in classrooms that would occupy space. PK and K students do not have their own desks, so we will demonstrate spacing visually or kinesthetically for the students. (Use of floor markings, ‘pool noodles’ or other materials).
We are also working on ways to enhance existing cleaning processes, as well as ways of facilitating things like recess and dismissal in more distanced ways. Most of all, staff are developing ways to teach students about hygiene and precautions in a way that is positive and developmentally appropriate. We are working on ideas to introduce face masks, though are keenly aware of the challenges. We are also following daycare models/studies that have been open throughout the pandemic with no evidence of spread or cluster spikes as the risk of infection in small children is very low. Much more information will be forthcoming in the days and weeks ahead.
Why are student temperature checks not a part of the initial District plan?
Checking student temperatures each day would require queuing large groups of students at the school entrances, creating a greater risk of transmission. To be most effective as a screening tool, temperature checks should be done at home prior to entering a public setting. Temperature checks will not identify asymptomatic students. Temperatures checks are also readily subject to the ambient temperature, leading to both false positives and negative results.
What will the school do if there is a suspected or positive COVID-19 case in the school?
We are developing a comprehensive guide to protocols surrounding any suspected COVID case that will be released prior to school starting. All school personnel, including school nurses, teachers and administration will be trained on how to respond in the face of a possible infection. Any person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 will be reported immediately to public health by calling 603-271-4496. The district will work with public health to identify close contacts and identify who will need to quarantine for 14 days. In conjunction with public health guidelines, a person can return to school once symptom-based criteria are met for discontinuation of isolation.
What are symptom-based criteria for discontinuation isolation?
Any person with COVID-19 symptoms who is not tested and can be managed at home should self-isolate until:
- At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, and
- At least 72 hours (3 days) have passed since recovery – which is defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms.
What does classroom capacity look like if distancing guidelines are followed?
This depends on the size of the room, which varies across the District. Our building administrators and staff have been in each classroom in their buildings, and are establishing capacities for each. Our intent is to stay as close to 6’ distancing between desks or seats to the greatest degree possible. While capacities vary, on average in Gr K-8, we are estimating 18 students per classroom while maintaining 6’ distances.
How will student transportation operate?
- All drivers and students will be required to wear masks during the operation
- The bus capacity will be two students per bench
- Students will be assigned seating (Siblings will be assigned to the same bench whenever possible)
- Maximum ventilation will be provided
- All buses will be cleaned between runs; and sanitized when return to bus terminal
- High School and Middle School students will be riding the same bus routes
- Parents are encouraged to supervise social distancing at bus stops while waiting for the bus
- Specialized transportation will be provided using A and B routes to allow for physical distancing as needed.
Why is there a range now of 3 to 6 feet of physical distancing guidelines for NH Schools?
Over the last six weeks, the emerging science on COVID-19 has been updated by the scientific community to reflect that fact that physical distancing at 3 feet and 6 feet can both be effective mitigation approaches, especially when combined with other strategies such as wearing face masks. It is important to note, that we are messaging as a school district that it is the combination of our mitigation strategies working together that will increase the safety and lower the risk of infection for both staff and students, like wearing face masks AND focusing on physical distancing in class.
As part of our reopening plans, our goal is be at or above 6 feet of physical distancing for students while they are seated and working in class. From analyzing our typical classroom spaces we believe we can safely place 16 to 17 students in a classroom in our elementary schools and middle school and maintain 6 feet of social distancing. In our high school, we believe we can safely place 18 to 19 students in a classroom and maintain 6 feet of social distancing. Based on our current parent responses from our July 2020 reopening survey to parents, we can place the students that want to come to in person school this year in classrooms and be able to meet that 6 feet of physical distancing in nearly all settings. However, we also realize that school is a dynamic place, and it is our combination of seeking these class sizes, along with our other mitigation strategies such as face masks specifically that will keep students and staff safe when they are under 6 feet from each other. We do not currently project we will have classroom settings where students and staff will be required to be less than 3 feet of physical distance from each other in our general education settings for extended periods of time. Further personal protective gear (such as face shields etc.) will be provided for staff and students if they will be closer to each other than these guidelines for extended periods of time.
The specific science on the 3 foot to 6 foot physical distancing guideline:
A June 1st 2020 study published in The Lancet looked at 172 different observational studies from 16 countries and 6 continents of the coronavirus and other similar viruses to find that that transmission rate of the virus was low at both the 3 foot and 6 foot physical distance range in both health care and community settings, such as schools. Other countries in Europe and Asia have been updating their physical distancing guidelines to this 3 foot to 6 foot range as a results of these findings especially as they moved away from their initial school reopening plans and found that combining multiple mitigation strategies, which is what the Londonderry School District is proposing, is what will keep students and staff safe.
Below is a chart that shows the findings from The Lancet study referenced above that shows the findings around 3 feet and 6 feet of physical distancing. The study considers a school where students also wear face masks a setting that has a “low baseline for risk.”
What is the thinking and science behind allowing 2 students to sit in each seat on a school bus?
Much like the discussion around 3 feet versus 6 feet of physical distance in the classroom, we are proposing 2 students on a bench because it includes a collection of mitigation strategies working together to keep the students and bus drives safe while they are on the bus. With students wearing masks while they are on the bus, and making sure the buses are cleaned in between runs, and before runs happen every day, we are making the buses a safe environment. The added difference for our bus runs will be the increased ventilation that will happen on the buses with the windows and hatches open that we cannot benefit from in a classroom. The increased cleaning, face masks, and increased ventilation will mitigate risk along with having assigned seats for students while they are on the bus.
The spacing of students is central to the process of planning for capacity. Two students per seat allows for 52 students per standard sized bus. Under this model, we would have adequate space to transport all students (given some route alterations) in a single bus run. We would have students with siblings sit together, and that single seats would be issued to the greatest degree possible. Assigned seating is a part of any plan under consideration.
Should we choose instead to implement a standard of one student per seat, this would reduce the capacity of a standard bus to 26 students. While exact details would depend on the number of students to be transported, we can reasonably predict that a significant number of the buses would need to carry out two runs for each school in order to transport all students to school. The result would be that any students picked up on the second run would arrive at school approximately 30-40 minutes after the first run. This means that the start time of school would have to be staggered or delayed in order for all students to arrive and likewise to depart in the afternoons. It would also result in increased need for students from the first runs having to queue and to move around the school, as well as add to non-instructional time requiring supervision. We would have to either bring on more contracted staff to supervise students for this prolonged arrival, or embed the arrival time in the instructional day, which would result in a decrease of instructional time by 60-80 minutes per day.
We did look into adding buses to the fleet in order to accommodate this, but have learned that school bus procurement has been delayed significantly by pandemic-related plant closures and a dramatic increase in demand resulting from other districts exploring similar plans. Additionally, STA has indicated that there is a significant shortage of licensed school bus drivers, and that they anticipate difficulty in even staffing our existing routes. So, even if STA were able to find buses, it will be very difficult to find people to drive them.
Ultimately, we want to be sure to keep our students as safe as possible. Our position is that two masked students per seat is safe, which means that many of the logistics issues are resolved.
Will there be school bus transportation to and from day care providers from Moose Hill School?
Yes, but to Moose Hill only. Due to bus capacity limitations, we are currently unable to provide transportation to or from the following daycares for ELEMENTARY students (Grades 1-5): Applewood Learning Center, Creative Little Angels, Cozy Kids Child Care, Londonderry Learning Academy, The Learning Tree, World of Discovery and The YMCA.
Where the Moose Hill bus runs to and from daycare providers are separate, and have far fewer students riding each bus, we will still be running transportation to and from these daycare providers to Moose Hill School for both AM and PM sessions.
Will the District be working with the YMCA on before and after school care this year?
Yes. We will continue to work with the YMCA to offer these services. They will be observing the details of the School District plan for reopening regarding safety measures and cleaning. Details are being worked out, and the YMCA will be releasing information on these programs in the near future.
How will larger remote class sizes impact instruction?
When we responded to the parent requests for in person versus remote school, we tried to be as efficient as possible with remote staff so that we could have smaller class size for in person school. This will help increase the physical distance in our classrooms for students and staff. We currently have 11 teachers working with our remote students in grade 1 to 5. With this model, we currently do see larger class sizes in our remote school than we would normally have for in person school, and obviously also larger than the in person class sizes that we created this year for safe distancing.
In response to these class sizes, we will monitor closely students experiences during the first couple weeks of remote school, and work with those teachers to understand the effectiveness of this experience.
All remote teachers have guidelines for how they can and should use their time throughout each school day. We are not setting up the expectation that students should be on the computer screen from 8:42 am to 3:13 pm every day as being a student in remote school. We do not think this is an effective or healthy model for students to learn. Our remote staff will look at their lessons and goals for the day and decide how to use their time to deliver:
- Live video lessons for the whole class (short duration)
- Live small group video lessons
- Taped Lessons.
- Independent lessons.
Knowing the options in front of them and the class sizes for remote, teachers use of whole class video lessons will be effective for morning meetings and a few other short and quick lessons during the day. The rest of the time our remote teachers will most likely utilize live small group video lessons and record lessons that will help set up students for different tasks throughout the day. These approaches will allow our staff to better personalize the experience for each student and better meet their needs. Our remote staff will also be able to use office hours to answer specific questions that students will have as well.
We have already assigned some of our staff that normally run reading classes or other intervention services back into the classroom, both in person and remote. That said, there will continue to be academic support services available to students learning remotely. We understand that the class size for our remote elementary classes is not ideal, but we simply do not have enough staff to lower the class size and maintain all the services for the needs of our students. We believe that, by structuring classes carefully and maximizing the support that is available, our students will be successful learning remotely. Again, we will monitor how the first few weeks of school go for our remote staff and students and decide if we need to make further changes after that.
Can my student wear a gaiter to school as a face mask?
We have been monitoring the guidance on gaiters since our Reopening Plan was approved on August 4th. Since that approval, the New Hampshire Division of Health and Human Services has not changed
their guidance on gaiters. However, the Centers for Disease Control did update their guidance
on gaiters and has provided more caution in their use. We are summarizing their stance below:
On the CDC’s web page titled, “How to Select, Wear, and Clean Your Mask” they state, “CDC does not recommend the use of gaiters or face shields. Evaluation of these face coverings is ongoing but effectiveness is unknown at this time.” Further down the page, they do not go as far as saying families should not choose to wear gaiters like they do with face masks that contain valves. They simply state that families should use “caution.”
At this point in time, the science around the effectiveness of gaiters is not settled by the scientific community. For this reason, we are making our families aware of the CDC stance and allowing them to adjust their daily practices around face masks if they should choose. If the New Hampshire Division of Health and Human Services, and/or the CDC determine that students should not wear gaiters to school as their face mask, we will certainly comply with that clear public health directive. (September 23rd, 2020)
What are the different scenarios where my family might have to quarantine during the school year even if no one in our household tests positive for COVID-19?
The New Hampshire Division and Health and Human Services released a “COVID 19 School Toolkit
” on September 9th
that lays out a couple of different scenarios that might mean a family might need to quarantine during the school year even if no one in their household tests positive for COVID-19.
Travel outside of New England
Scenario A – Whole Family Travels Outside New England
Right now, per the Governor’s orders, any family member that travels outside of New England will need to quarantine from school for 14 days upon their return to New Hampshire. They can return to school after those 14 days assuming they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms. A negative test during this quarantine time period will not allow you to come back early per the New Hampshire Public Health Guidelines.
Scenario B – One Family Member Travels Outside New England and Becomes Symptomatic Back in New Hampshire
If you have a family member that travels outside of New England and develops COVID-19 symptoms when they return, all other members in your family now become “household contacts.” Household contacts will need to quarantine until that family member, who traveled outside of New England, tests negative for COVID-19.
As a school district, we are recommending the family member who travelled outside of New England gets tested, so that if it comes back negative the students who are “household contacts” can come back to school sooner. (Assuming they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms)
If your family chooses not to get tested, then the household contacts would need to quarantine for 14 days and could return to school after that time period assuming they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms.
If you have a family member that travels outside of New England, and they do not develop any symptoms of COVID-19 when they return, then no one from your household will have to quarantine assuming they are not symptomatic themselves.
Being a Close Contact for a confirmed case of COVID-19
A close contact is defined as being under six feet for more than ten minutes.
If one of your family members is determined to be a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, they will need to quarantine for at least 14 days from their last close contact with the confirmed COVID-19 case. It is recommended that they get tested during this quarantine as well, but a negative result will not shorten the length of the quarantine. If after 14 days of quarantine since contact with the confirmed COVID-19 case, and they do not have any symptoms, they can return to school with or without a negative test.
During this time period, when one of your family members is quarantined for being a close contact, all other members of the household will be considered “household contacts.” Those household contacts cannot return to school, and quarantine themselves, until the member in your family that is the close contact tests negative for COVID-19.
As a school system we are recommending that the family member who is determined to be a close contact gets tested, so that a negative test result will allow any student that is considered a household contact to come back to school sooner.