With COVID-19 concerns keeping instruction remote for now, school districts throughout the state have begun making decisions about whether to cancel April vacation. And thus far in the Monadnock Region, school officials are taking a wide range of approaches.
Locally, districts have sent out surveys to inform determinations on the matter ahead of April 20, when most breaks begin.
In N.H. School Administrative Unit 29, which covers Chesterfield, Harrisville, Keene, Marlborough, Marlow, Nelson and Westmoreland, more than 3,600 parents, students, staff members and other stakeholders responded to a survey asking if the break should be canceled. Around 75 percent of respondents said yes.
Some of the pros of canceling the break, according to districts facing the decision, are that teachers and students have developed routines for remote learning and that many have already canceled vacation plans, N.H. Public Radio reported.
On the other hand, the article noted, April vacation would also afford a break from a stressful transition into remote learning.
The N.H. Department of Education has said that it will leave the decision up to individual districts, NHPR reported.
In SAU 29, the final call will be made and posted to the district’s website on Monday, according to Superintendent Robert Malay, who said that certain considerations involving contracts and unions need to be taken first.
In addition to vacation plans already being abandoned, Malay said another motivation for people wishing to cancel break is not wanting to disrupt their remote learning routine, which might be extended for the rest of the school year. Gov. Chris Sununu is set to announce a decision on the matter by April 17.
In the Monadnock Regional School District — which covers Fitzwilliam, Gilsum, Richmond, Roxbury, Swanzey and Troy — the school board decided on Tuesday to reduce spring break, instead of cancelling it, by two days.
The first two days, April 20 and 21, will be regular remote-learning days. Staff and students will have the remainder of the week off, as originally planned.
Prior to the board’s decision, the district also conducted a survey, which received more than 600 responses. According to Superintendent Lisa Witte, a slight majority of respondents — 57 percent — said that they wanted to cancel the break altogether. Parents and caregivers favored canceling the vacation (65 percent), Witte noted via email, while staff and students were more evenly split, with 52 and 57 percent, respectively, wanting to keep it.
The ConVal Regional School District — which encompasses Antrim, Bennington, Dublin, Francestown, Greenfield, Hancock, Peterborough, Sharon and Temple — will be working through its April vacation and will move up the last day of school. Although that date hasn’t yet been officially set, it will be a week earlier than it would have been, according to Superintendent Kimberly Rizzo Saunders.
The decision in that district came after a survey of parents and staff. About two-thirds of respondents said that they would rather have schoolwork continue through the typical vacation period.
“Other people were not as enthralled with the idea, and they said that they really could use the break,” Rizzo Saunders said. “But ultimately, when I took the survey results to the board, the decision was to eliminate the break and continue remote learning.”
Hinsdale, on the other hand, has taken a different course, with the school board deciding Wednesday that it will go ahead with April vacation.
“There hasn’t been many challenges in making [remote learning] work for kids, but the amount of effort it has taken has stretched people, and some people are really ready for a break,” Hinsdale Superintendent Wayne Woolridge said. “Plus, many of our teachers have students as children so they’re doing double duty. The break is at that point in the year because it’s a time where people really need to catch their breath in order to finish the last stretch.”
Although Hinsdale’s transition to remote instruction has mostly been smooth, Woolridge said there have been some issues.
“I hope that as the stimulus money becomes available to towns, that they look at upgrading their bandwidth availability because that is no longer a luxury for students and teachers,” Woolridge said. “We hope the stimulus money can be used to connect with kids and families that have poor bandwidth. That would be a good place to use it.”
An updated statement about COVID-19 procedures, which the Fall Mountain School District posted to its website April 1, says: “We believe that everyone will be ready for a break and have decided to continue with the April school vacation week (April 20-24) as planned.”
Jaffrey-Rindge, which is slated to begin April vacation on April 27, hasn’t come to a final decision on whether it will go forward with the break.
“Our next step is to hold a school board meeting, likely early next week, which is when the decision will be made,” district spokesman Nicholas Handy said.
The district sent out three separate surveys this past week to parents, students and staff to collect input, according to Handy, who said the feedback was mixed.