Keene High School

Keene High School is among the SAU 29 schools that will continue remote instruction until February.

Students in N.H. School Administrative Unit 29, which covers Keene and six nearby towns, will not resume in-person learning until February, after the SAU again extended its period of fully remote instruction, according to Superintendent Robert Malay.

SAU 29, which also includes Chesterfield, Harrisville, Marlborough, Marlow, Nelson and Westmoreland, had planned to resume some in-person instruction Jan. 19 after moving all classes online in November — and then extend that period by two weeks after its winter break — in response to the rise in COVID-19 cases locally.

However, the SAU told parents in an email Thursday that students will continue remotely through the end of the month, with a return to some on-site learning scheduled for Feb. 1. Malay confirmed that decision Thursday afternoon but did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

In its email to parents, SAU 29 did not offer a detailed explanation for the decision to remain fully remote but indicated that it was not entirely based on COVID-19 infection rates, adding that the move will allow SAU 29 “to further prepare for the return of students to onsite teaching and learning.”

Prior to Thanksgiving, most SAU 29 schools offered a hybrid model, with students attending in-person classes two days each week and learning remotely for three days, though schools in Marlborough and Westmoreland were offering on-site instruction five days a week. Families can also opt to have their children learn fully remotely all year.

Malay announced at a Nov. 13 emergency meeting of the SAU’s seven school boards that all districts would adopt a fully remote schedule by Nov. 30 due to the increasing transmission of the coronavirus in Cheshire County, in accordance with the SAU 29 Comprehensive Reopening Plan. At least one SAU 29 school — Fuller Elementary in Keene — transitioned to remote instruction before Thanksgiving break after someone at the school tested positive for COVID-19, and several others identified cases in their respective school communities but continued with limited in-person instruction until the end of November.

SAU 29 initially intended for students to resume on-site learning Jan. 4, but that date was extended to Jan. 19 late last month. Malay called the delay a “precautionary measure” aimed at preventing further viral transmission after the holidays.

“I realize that many people were hopeful we would be back onsite on January 4th,” he wrote in a Dec. 28 post on the SAU 29 website. “You are not alone as I was hopeful for that as well. I know that my children, like many others, respond better onsite than they do remotely, and I want us all to get back there as soon as we can with high levels of confidence that we will all be safe.”

Caleb Symons can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1420, or csymons@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @CalebSymonsKS.