CLAREMONT — The Claremont School Board voted to shift to remote learning through Friday amid an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the city, including one each in the Claremont Middle School and Stevens High School.
The 5-2 vote on Wednesday evening came the same day the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ map showed that Claremont’s case count had risen to 75. That’s more than twice the case count of Hanover, which with 30 cases had the next highest count on the New Hampshire side of the Upper Valley.
Claremont had 97 identified active cases of the coronavirus as of Sunday, according to state statistics, and Hanover, 25.
Claremont’s count includes at least 21 seniors living at the Earl M. Bourdon Centre, where an outbreak is ongoing.
School Board Chairman Frank Sprague, a former Stevens High principal, said he would prefer to have the students remain in schools in person, but given the state of the pandemic in the region it’s time to take a break. Students would return on Jan. 19 after the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. Sports also are on pause until the 19th.
“We’re clearly seeing an encroachment into the schools,” Sprague said in a phone interview.
As a result of a large number of students and staff having contact with the positive case at the middle school, Sprague said several teachers would be in quarantine, leaving substitutes to oversee students.
“When does education become education and when is it simply day care?” he asked.
Moving to remote learning will allow teachers who would otherwise be at home and out of work due to exposure to the positive case to continue teaching students in their classes online, Sprague said.
While middle schoolers began remote learning on Wednesday, students in the district’s two elementary schools and at Stevens were set to make the shift on Friday. Sprague hoped the break from in-person learning would give the virus time to run its course following the Christmas holidays. He acknowledged that the board and administrators may need to consider extending the remote-learning period if case numbers in Claremont and Sullivan County don’t level off or drop off soon.
At the county complex in nearby Unity, a total of eight workers at the Sullivan County nursing home have now tested positive for COVID-19, Administrator Ted Purdy said, and results from this week’s testing of residents were still pending as of Thursday afternoon.
The facility began COVID-19 vaccinations on Wednesday, with 117 residents (92 percent) and 107 staff members (50 percent) receiving the vaccine, Purdy said in an email.
In addition, the Sullivan County Department of Corrections now has three positive cases in workers, County Manager Derek Ferland said in an email. All DOC employees and 40 percent of inmates, for whom testing is voluntary, were tested this week, Ferland said. Results are pending, he said.
The school district isn’t the only organization in Claremont that’s shifted its operations as the virus spreads. National Institute Of Modern Martial Arts on North Street, which provides before- and after-school care, camps and supervision during remote-learning days, closed last week after a student and a staff member tested positive, said Tammy Havlir, NIMMA’s office manager. NIMMA plans to reopen this week, Havlir said, in part to help families during the remote-learning days.
The Center for Recovery Resources on Pleasant Street was closed for in-person services on Thursday afternoon, according to a Facebook post. But staff continued to be available by phone and Facebook’s messaging app, and the center remains open for some services, including Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Temperature screenings now are required for entry to the Claremont Savings Bank Community Center, according to the Claremont Parks and Recreation Department. Anyone displaying a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or above will not be allowed to enter.
The Claremont Soup Kitchen announced in a Facebook post on Wednesday that it would be closing its dining hall and offering takeout services only. In a Facebook post, Claremont Savings Bank said it would close the lobbies of all of its branches to the public, beginning on Saturday. Drive-up locations in Claremont, Charlestown and Springfield, Vt. will be open.