By Henry Greenbaum
The Londonderry School Board met in the Londonderry High School Cafeteria on Tuesday night, Aug. 10, with the plan to discuss the Reopening Task Forces’s recommendation and then approve or alter them.
There was a sizable crowd present that evening eagerly awaiting the board’s plans and there was a clear divide of those wearing masks and those not.
Chairman Michael Saucier led off the meeting with a statement on safety plans for the schools. “On June 17, the New Hampshire Department of Public Health had updated its guidance on masks and [the Londonderry] school district adjusted to that guidance making masks optional for students,” said Saucier. “With that said, the state required each school district to gather community input as a finalized plan to reopening school this Fall and therefore a Task Force was created.”
The Task Force created by the school board would gather that community input and based on that, plan how to safely reopen the schools in the fall. The Task Force chose Chad Franz as their chairman who spoke at the meeting on their behalf.
Members of the taskforce worked very hard on making recommendations that they hope would be satisfactory to most of the citizens in Londonderry.
Saucier said, “On behalf of the board, I would like to publicly thank all of the members of the Task Force who volunteered many hours of their time over these Summer weeks…and we are very grateful for their service and for the work they have done on behalf of the schools and the families of Londonderry.”
After finishing his statements for the meeting, Saucier gave the floor to Franz who presented the Task Force’s plans for safely reopening the schools. “Starting with the youngest learners, Moose Hill, we do recommend no cohorts at recess…addressing learning gaps, follow the RTI model in all school screenings and assessing to meet needs of students’ district guidance plan regarding math and literacy…”
Franz also addressed recommendations for special services when reopening the schools in the fall. “For special services, we do recommend in-person meetings for IEP 504 plans, but also offer remote if requested or needed,” said Franz. “If the district needs to go remote, consider in-person services for all special services.”
The topic of mental health concerning students as they return to school came up as part of the plan. They recommend that the school board make relationship building as schools reopen.
Franz said, “Other actions that the Task Force recommend are as follows; monitor students that need additional social and emotional support, explore resources and tools that may help on this. Provide parents and students with information and connect them to mental health resources including school staff. Encourage development of community-based activities for students and staff as well. Provide staff training and professional development regarding both student social/emotional needs and self-care.”
The Task Force’s plans were met with very mixed reviews by the public attending the meeting. Resident Natasha Duran-Moulton spoke during public comment by saying, “We should not risk our children’s health and safety for a classroom.”
Londonderry Rep. State Representative Al Baldasaro was met with a a great deal of applause when he said, “I watched two of my grandkids yesterday. One was three years old, and one was six years old. Within a 15-minute period, they put their hands all over their faces…this mask thing is a feel good [expletive] because your kids are getting on buses together today.”
Local doctor, Ryan Donno, had a different opinion than Representative Baldasaro, being a doctor who has worked on the front lines of this pandemic. “I strongly urge the School Board and the Superintendent to enforce masking and social distancing in the schools,” said Dr. Donno. “There is very strong scientific evidence to support this. The American Association of Pediatrics and the CDC recommend this for all children over age two.”
“To children under 14, COVID is less dangerous than drowning, car accidents, the flu, homicide, suffocation, and almost anything,” argued Christine Perez.
After receiving public feedback, the School Board made two amendments to the Task Force’s plans.
The first amendment is to have student transportation follow federal law unless it is determined to not be valid, then the process will be decided upon by the School Board.
The other amendment is to have quarantine and contact tracing follow the current New Hampshire Department of Public Services guidance and allow them to make adjustments with oversight from the School Board if necessary.
With the amendments to the Task Force’s plans for the schools reopening in the Fall put in place, the School Board unanimously approved it.
The meeting ended with School Board Vice-Chair Jenn Ganem announcing that she would be resigning from the board the following day. See related story on page 1.
The Londonderry School Board will meet again on Tuesday, Aug. 24, at the LHS cafeteria for the final meeting before school resumes.