LONDONDERRY — It's all about safety, flexibility and making sure students receive the best education possible.
That, according to Londonderry school officials, tops the list for a plan to potentially reopen the district's six schools this fall.
Londonderry administrators presented an overview of a school reopening plan Tuesday night at a school board meeting, telling the board it's a plan created to also be adaptable to changing circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"This is a big night for us," Superintendent Scott Laliberte said at Tuesday's meeting. "It's a tremendous weight and obligation to do the best for Londonderry. We are trying to design student learning under historic circumstances."
The extensive plan includes ways for the district to design not only its physical space for students in grades kindergarten through 12, but also how to make sure the learning community, educators, and curriculum meets the needs of everyone.
A big piece of the reopening puzzle is making sure safety guidelines are followed, focusing on national and state health/safety information and recommendations, while also tailoring Londonderry's plan to be specific to the district.
"We are focusing on being adaptable and flexible," Laliberte said. "What we came up with, we have to be able to turn on a dime."
The plan also includes strict and clear response if or when anyone in the school system is infected with COVID-19
Laliberte credited the district for its great work back in March when schools shuttered the classrooms quickly due to the virus, adding with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu releasing the state's official back-to-school guidelines and recommendations Tuesday, the timing for Londonderry's report couldn't be better.
The plan stresses reasons why returning to school could be done safely, including safe distancing in classrooms, recommended wearing of masks for students and staff, keeping students to specific cohorts or groupings during the day, more block scheduling, less changing of classes and movement throughout various buildings, and how to handle extra curricular activities, sports, music, physical education, dining services and transportation.
Laliberte offered four options for a reopening plan — an in-person return, continued remote instruction, a hybrid return with students attending at different times, or a staggered return, with some students returning in August, while others remain in remote learning until conditions allow for a full return.
Information that emerged from a parent survey and other focus groups said 32% of parents polled wanted or needed their children to be in school; 39% of parents said they are flexible, but wanted to keep public health guidelines as a focus; while 17% wanted to know more about public health before making a decision. About 6% said they were uncomfortable sending their children back at all this fall.
Laliberte said the district's preferred approach wold be an in-person return along with remote instruction, giving families a choice of how they would like to move forward based on their own concerns.
"From what we know, we are preparing to have at least 70% of our students as in-person return and 30% in remote instruction," Laliberte said. "It's becoming clear very quickly that whatever we do has to have options. Parents can choose if they are not comfortable where we are."
Other details offered to the board included purchases of hand sanitizers and other protective gear for students and staff, and ways to handle other parts of the day including bus routes, dining, and just moving students safely around the buildings.
The plan also includes strict rules for making sure spaces are kept clean.
"Could we do this, schedule this, supply this?" Laliberte asked. "We feel like we can."
Laliberte said the plan is a start and he realizes there is much concern among families, teachers and staff.
A public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 21, 7 p.m. in the high school gymnasium. No decisions will be made at that point. Families will have time to select what option they are interested in and make a decision by Aug. 12. Those options would be an in-person return, remote instruction for the year, or to leave the district.
"We are trying to encourage our parents to think of this as a long-term piece," Laliberte said. "What we are trying to avoid is the bouncing back and forth. We are asking people as you think this through to think of it as a whole year decision."
Assistant Superintendent Dan Black added the district has done its research and a lot of hard work went into the reopening plan.
"Our number one job is to keep everybody safe," he said. "If we do that, learning can happen."