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New Hampshire education commissioner doesn’t expect to need statewide remote instruction

New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut is seen Jan. 31, 2017, in Concord, N.H.

(The Center Square) – Speaking before state legislators recently, Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said it was unlikely remote instruction would resume on a statewide basis this fall, but some schools may need to incorporate it based on specific concerns.

In comments published in the Concord Monitor, Edelblut said with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to evolve, it would be difficult to predict what may happen in the future.

“But my sense today would be that we will not find ourselves again in the circumstance where statewide we have to go to remote instruction and support,” he said.

“I suspect … that there may be incidences that happen in our institutions that will result in a transition to some type of remote instruction model. And that could be for some kind of a classroom or wing of a classroom, or perhaps even a school building.”

Following the Department of Education’s July 20 release of statewide survey results on school reopening, Edelblut spoke to a joint panel of state lawmakers at a July 21 hearing.

Edelblut said he stood behind the decision to forgo a statewide mask mandate, although the guidelines highly recommend masks be worn by staff and by students when situations call for it.

That position gives school districts flexibility to introduce “realistic mitigation strategies” and still stresses the importance of wearing masks when appropriate, Edelblut said.

“The guidance does not in any way discourage,” he said. “It actually encourages quite strongly where another mitigation strategy, social distancing, is not possible.”

The survey polled approximately 11,900 teachers and staff; 42,000 parents; 1,000 administrative officials, and 1,200 student wellness providers on a variety of topics related to returning to school this fall.

Roughly 53 percent of high school teachers said it would make them feel safer if students wore masks, but only 40 percent of elementary school teachers agreed.

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