SALEM, N.H. — This week school officials are meeting to determine how students and teachers can return to school in the fall.

"I believe our community expects to return to school (in the fall), so that's the direction we are taking," Superintendent Michael Delahanty told the School Board last week. "We'll have other cautions in place because we can't assure or guarantee our students will be separated by 6 feet. There's just no way we can do that in our classrooms."

Since schools were forced to close in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, district officials have been contemplating how to reopen safely.

While 6 feet of space cannot be accommodated, the school district is ordering materials such as Plexiglas barriers for desks and masks to ensure students can go to school, Delahanty said. District officials will present their full reopening plan to the board at its July 14 meeting, Delahanty said.

Currently in New Hampshire, state officials have a committee creating guidance for how to reopen schools.

However, that guidance is not expected to be released until the end of July. With the uncertainty of what that guidance is, and what will be enforced, Delahanty has Salem creating its own plan. They are looking at other neighboring states' school reopening plans to help, he said.

"There are no guidelines, there is no direction, and there is no consistency," Delahanty told the board. "The only thing we are certain of is an incredible level of uncertainty with regard to this virus. We know that New Hampshire has done a terrific job diminishing the number of cases ... while other parts of the country cases are beginning to spike."

District officials have considered various schedules, from half-days to rotating what days and weeks students come in, he said.

"The difficulty with that is that working parents wouldn't be accommodated," he said.

Also, buses will be an issue, he said. The district could implement a wider radius for students walking to school, and encourage parents to drive their children, Delahanty explained. 

School district officials previously approved purchasing enough laptops to ensure each student has one, so they don't have to share during the school day and adapt more easily to remote learning.

Also, there is the potential that some parents will not want their students to return to school. The district is preparing to have some staff teach remotely, Delahanty said.

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