LONDONDERRY — School officials have decided to move the district into a fully remote learning model for the holidays due to several factors, including upcoming holiday travel, rising coronavirus numbers and a strong need to keep students and staff safe.
School board members supported Superintendent Scott Laliberte’s plan to move the district’s six schools into the remote model at a meeting Nov. 10.
Londonderry approved its current model in August, a combination of in-person, hybrid and remote plans giving students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12. The new school year started Sept. 8.
The current plan stresses safe distancing in classrooms, mandatory wearing of masks for students and staff, keeping students to specific cohorts or groupings during the day, less changing of classes and movement throughout various buildings, and how to handle extracurricular activities, sports, music, physical education, dining services and transportation.
But with many factors now to consider, Laliberte said it was best to put a temporary state of remote instruction in place.
“This plan will call for a predetermined period of remote instruction beginning Thanksgiving week through January 15,” Laliberte said. “Students would return in-person, conditional upon the state of public health conditions, on January 19, 2021.
What drove this decision, Laliberte said, was multi-faceted, including a gradual escalation of the public spread of the virus, predicted complications that may arise from post-vacation holiday travel, and a potential impact from visitors coming to Londonderry.
“There is a lot of conflicting information out there on the virus,” the superintendent said. “You really can get overloaded real quickly.”
Laliberte said he believes Londonderry’s model in place now is working well, with minimal cases reported within the district, and good collaboration with staff, administration, public health and state information all making everything work up to this point.
“Our school communities have done remarkable work in keeping students safe and minimizing the impact of those positive cases that we have encountered,” Laliberte said. “It is my position, and that of the district administrative team, that a pre-emptive and planned period of remote learning will allow us to continue learning with less interruption in the short term and return to our current model in mid-January given appropriate health conditions.”
Laliberte noted that during Thanksgiving week, Monday, Nov. 23 would be a teacher work day and a non-instructional day for students. Teachers will then contact students to make sure technology is in place, material requirements are met, and class schedules are planned.
Remote instruction begins Monday, Nov. 30.
And special education programs that are currently in-person may remain in place, along with student transportation, and dining services. Other safety guidelines will be considered when it comes to winter sports and other activities.
Londonderry Fire Chief Darren O’Brien told the board that the school district has handled things well.
“There has been very minor outbreaks at the school with cases here and there,” the chief said, adding he blamed the rising numbers on complacency and pandemic fatigue. He gave full support to the school decision.
“This decision was made for the safety of everyone,” O’Brien said. “I think we are taking the right approach. It’s the unknown now. I think we are getting there, but I think it’s going to be a long winter season. I will do my very best to keep everyone safe and well.
Board member Jenn Ganem gave full support for the plan.
“These are hard decisions,” she said. “It is our reality. We can accept it or fight and be miserable.”
Ganem also gave big accolades to Laliberte and his team for all their hard work.