By Jerome Reuter
The Londonderry School Board met last week on Tuesday, Aug. 24 and with two members resigning after the previous meeting, only three were left to conduct the proceedings.
Discussions mainly focused on the procedures for the school district reopening with the school year starting on Tuesday, Aug. 31. Right from the start, it was more than apparent that emotions were running high. Both the members of the board and concerned parents voiced their opinions regarding reopening. With news of the delta variant still developing and life returning to a state of relative normalcy, the concerns from the parents regarding their children going back to school are more than understandable.
A major concern was the testing of students for covid-19. The district will adhere to exclusion and quarantine regulations set by the New Hampshire Department of Public Health in the case of viral symptoms. Participation in pool testing will be on a voluntary basis. The district is not making the process mandatory and will be offered free of charge. “We have to abide by the rules and processes that the department of public health lays out for us.” Superintendent Scott Laliberte stated. This statement was met with concern from one parent who specifically mentioned the liability of pool testing “I was told by the superintendent that this was a public service…” She began “What are you going to do about false positives? Why would you want your kids tested without being around? You’re opening a huge liability. The schools are not in the business of healthcare.”
The Londonderry district will also maintain a social distancing policy of three feet and adhere to the guidelines laid out by the CDC for reopening. While continuing to wear masks and vaccinations are both recommended, they will not be mandatory or enforced. Many parents are still concerned over students learning proper hygiene and the sanitary condition of bathrooms used by multiple students. “Not once have you brought in a public nurse in here to speak with us.” A Londonderry parent said. “Has anybody here walked into the bathroom? Tell me how you can wash your hands without touching the surface…it’s embarrassing.”
It’s not just the prevention that has some parents up in arms. Another topic discussed was the mental health of children not being able to socialize with their fellow classmates. The socialization process during a child’s formative years of adolescence is imperative for healthy development. “In the past year and a half, I have noticed a dramatic increase in kids who have had suicidal behavior…” claims Danielle Viola, a licensed mental health counselor with twenty years of experience. Viola also offered her services to the board to create an avenue of communication regarding teenagers who have had their mental health compromised. While precaution and quarantine were both priorities during the height of the pandemic, it’s important to remember that such an event has a deep impact on several aspects of life. Mental health has had a stigma attached to it for many years, and teenagers being able to communicate their issues is of the utmost importance.
Despite the varying points of view during the meeting, there came a moment of clarity from one attendee in the form of a call for solidarity. “I’ve had first-hand experience of treating people during this pandemic. We’re in a surge of increased cases in the northeast…I cannot stress enough the importance of making sacrifices to slow this pandemic down…. this is a request to love thy neighbor…we’re all in this Covid mess together and we aren’t going to get out of it by fighting over politics.”
A healthy discourse between parents and the school board is essential for a district to operate properly, the division is apparent and at times painfully obvious.
Also during the meeting, the three members briefly reorganized with Amy Finamore being voted 2-1 as the chair person and Sara Loughlin assumed the vice chair seat.