Manchester school officials are trying to determine how many students have at-home internet access as the district grapples with the potential impact of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, a top federal education official said that if officials close schools because of the virus, they have the responsibility to ensure students have access to instructional alternatives, such as online learning.
Before making a decision to close, “the school district needs to very carefully consider who will be winners and who will be losers,” said Frank Brogan, U.S. assistant secretary of education.
Brogan spoke to a Union Leader reporter after touring the Making Community Connections (MC-2) charter school in Manchester.
Brogan said the U.S. Department of Education won’t force schools to close. He said the agency will issue up-to-date information to local and state education officials. But like what to do when it snows, the final decision will be up to them.
Schools in Newmarket closed for a day this week because of possible exposure of a employee to the virus.
A handful of Winnacunnet High School students have self-quarantined after a trip to Italy.
In Manchester, Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Gillis said the School Messenger survey was emailed to parents Monday. Officials hope to obtain information they can use to make decisions about want to do if the coronavirus threat escalates.
Gillis said the email response rate was better than normal. A paper version of the survey also was sent home with students.
Gillis agreed with Brogan that if schools have to close temporarily, all students must have access to alternative learning. Current estimates are that 85 percent of students live in homes with internet-enabled devices, she said.
“It’s not going to be the same for every single student. We have to have redundancies; we have to have alternatives,” Gillis said. She is leading the response to COVID-19 for the district of 13,500 students, the largest in the state.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance for schools in communities with identified cases of COVID-19.
Training teachers for on-line instruction.
Developing a triage plan for technical issues because of limited IT support and staff.
Encouraging adult supervision for children using distance-learning approaches.
Confronting a lack of student access to computers and internet.
Finding ways to distribute food to students who rely on school lunch programs.
Gillis said lunch programs are part of her coronavirus planning.
Many school districts have long-established “blizzard bag” programs that provide online lessons for students on snow days. Manchester does not, which Gillis said may change.
“COVID-19 or not, it’s something to stay on our radar,” she said.
Brogan started a three-day tour of New Hampshire schools on Monday. On Tuesday, he visited Making Community Connections Charter School in Manchester, where he talked to students about their school.
The charter school, which also goes by MC-2, offers individualized, project-based learning in a year-round setting.
“MC-squared’s biggest strength is to take our hobbies and interests and turn them into credits,” said John Carignan, a student at the MC-2 school in Keene.
Aaliyah Dumesle said she suffered from bullying and was ostracized by cliques at a Manchester high school. At MC-2, she gets support for her social anxiety and is a student leader.
“I’ve learned how to cope. We’re a community that supports each other. Here, there isn’t a group, it’s just us, and we work together,” she said.
On Tuesday, Brogan visited two charter schools — MC-2 and The Academy for Science & Design in Manchester — and Mount Zion Christian School in Manchester. On Wednesday, he is scheduled to visit public schools in Franklin and Concord Christian Academy.
Brogan, a former chancellor of higher education in Florida and Pennsylvania, praised the alternative learning styles on display at MC-2.
“Change takes guts,” he said. “It takes courage, good, old-fashioned courage. Every year that people aren’t making changes is a year students won’t get back.”
- The Year the Internet Thought I Was MacKenzie Bezos – WIRED
- Easy ways to get the fastest internet connection possible in your home – Komando
- Elon Musk says Starlink internet private beta to begin in roughly three months, public beta in six – TechCrunch
- Verizon is canceling home internet installations during the pandemic – The Verge
- Ethiopia’s internet shutdowns are disrupting millions of lives – Quartz Africa
- How to check if your service provider is throttling your internet – CNET
- 8 charts on internet use around the world as countries grapple with COVID-19 – Pew Research Center
- How to boost your home internet speeds while you’re stuck at home: Tech Support – Yahoo Money
- Welcome (Back) to the Appointment Internet – New York Magazine