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Lack of plan results in trouble with remote learning; shortened school week suggested

By Andrea Hanley | Mar 31, 2020

NASHUA – A letter sent out by numerous state educational leaders suggesting adjustments to the remote learning schedule is putting a spotlight on critical issues faced by the Nashua School district.

Signed by Megan Tuttle, NEA-NH President, Bridey Bellemare, Executive Director of NH Association of School Principals, Jane Bergeron-Beaulieu, Executive Director of NH Association of Special Education Administrators, Barrett Christina, Executive Director of NH School Boards Association, Carl Ladd, Executive Director of NH School Administrators Associations, and Nicole Heimarck, Executive Director of NH-CTE Directors, the proposed new schedule during the time the state partakes in remote learning would result in a four-day school week, to allow for one day of staff, “outreach, planning, preparation, or (to) attend to other needs as they arise in remote instruction,” and a limitation on the hourly amount of school work students may receive.

The amount of time suggested for Pre-K is 30 minutes, K-1 is 45 minutes, grades 2-3 is 60 minutes, grades 4-5 is 90 minutes and grades 6-12 is 30 minutes per teacher for a maximum amount of three hours per day.

In a Board of Education meeting Monday night, Gregory Rodriguez, Assistant Director of Technology, informed the board that the Chromebooks being dispersed in the district for remote learning were not a one-to-one ratio of students to Chromebooks, but 7,000-to-11,000, and that Chromebooks are given to families regardless of how many students are in the household.

BOE member Jessica Brown mentioned during the meeting that on Monday of last week, her daughter in middle school did work for seven hours, then later stated that the amount of time went down on a daily basis throughout the rest of the week.

While not every student is in need of a district-supplied Chromebook, according to BOE member Sandra Ziehm, “44% of students” are enrolled in the free lunch program that requires low-income to qualify, equating to “almost 5,000 students.”

Only 2,000 shy of the amount of Chromebooks available in the district, that’s assuming students who do not qualify for the free lunch program are not in need of their own device for remote learning.

Additionally, while a household may have multiple capable devices, many parents statewide are working remotely from home, requiring devices for their family’s income.

“We have so many different groups of kids,” said Ziehm, “we have kids who don’t speak English … some of them have never been to school before in their lives.”

Ziehm also mentioned that an introduction of technology in a classroom-setting can be a frustrating process for students who do not yet have exposure to it. It becomes overwhelming in a home-setting when students: “have to learn how to use a computer while focusing on learning.”

Although New Hampshire’s remote learning plans mimic that of other nearby states, New Hampshire is not a state where we had a pandemic plan, so we were totally unprepared, especially in Nashua,” Ziehm said.

“We’ve had parents that have refused to do it because it’s absolutely too intense,” Ziehm said. “One of the big points is that we have to be flexible when you’re learning processes and content, but there’s no place for it.”

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This content is being provided for free as a public service to our community during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to The Telegraph at https://home.nashuatelegraph.com/clickshare/checkDelivery.do;jsessionid=40C089D96583CD7318C1C1D9317B6162.

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