Many of the concerns were the same. Educators, administrators, school officials and parents want their children to return to school safely, if possible.

That was the focus of a virtual roundtable discussion Monday afternoon as U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., spoke with a list of school leaders about the prospects of opening schools around the state and making sure students and staff were safe and well cared for as the pandemic challenges continue.

Hassan is working to support students and teachers during this public health emergency and joined in introducing legislation to provide $430 billion to support child care facilities, K-12 schools, and higher education institutions during the pandemic.

She previously joined the rest of the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation in announcing $82 million in March to support New Hampshire schools, colleges, and universities as part of the bipartisan CARES Act. Hassan has also called for greater support for students who experience disabilities in upcoming COVID-19 response legislation, and cosponsored legislation to help ensure that all K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices during the crisis.

Monday's round table discussion joined others the senator has hosted in the past on remote learning and other issues facing the state.

Hassan began the meeting by calling out those participating and crediting their hard work.

"You are all education leaders and I'm very grateful for this," she said. "Everybody's life has been turned upside down, and nowhere more than in our schools. You are charting a course forward to help your students learn and be safe."

Hassan called on each leader to offer a glimpse into their school districts and communities to get an update on how school reopening plans are faring, what is being planned and how the federal government can continue to support measures to bring safe education to both students and staff.

Concerns were similar in many cases.

Mark MacLean, superintendent of the Merrimack Valley School District, told the senator his school district is grappling with choices to make sure all students and families were comfortable with how to educate their children this fall.

"There are no solid answers," MacLean said, adding it's a goal for his district to be open-minded and compassionate, but in the end, the virus doesn't care what decisions are finally made.

His district surveyed families and found a large margin liked a more hybrid, combined model of teaching, part remote learning and part in-person return to the classroom.

Add in the additional costs for preparing a school district for teaching during COVID-19 and there are also concerns about what the cost is for personal protective gear for both staff and students, making sure there is enough sanitizing and cleaning done in the buildings and also ensuring that a community has the support of a strong broadband, internet system to make remote learning feasible for all families.

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig said her district has 22 schools, 14,000 students and about 2,000 teachers and staff needing a decision on how to move forward.

She, too, said the district did a survey to gauge how families felt. A further decision would be coming by Aug. 10.

"And the school board voted to require masks and 6-feet social distancing in our schools," Craig said.

Derry School Board member Brenda Willis told Hassan and the others that her district would be hosting meetings this week to give more details on which way the Derry district hopes to go this fall.

Willis said the Derry district was also considering different scenarios for a return to the classroom, adding a survey showed about 78% wanting to return physically to the school building.

"And I hope they'll trust we are doing the best we can," Willis said. "We've learned a lot and our goal is to educate the best we can."

Hassan said this is a unprecedented time.

"This will be a school year like no other," she said.

The senator assured all she would continue to fight for the Granite State with federal support and resources and funding to make sure the new school year works and is safe.

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