Schools cutting back on April vacation, beer pong isn’t social distancing

Schools around the state are diverging on what to do about April vacation, which is scheduled for the end of the month.

In Concord, April vacation will occur as scheduled, according to Interim Superintendent Frank Bass.

“Teachers, students and parents all need a break!” Bass wrote in an email to families.

Other districts have curtailed or canceled vacation to keep momentum going with online learning since schools remain closed.

The Kearsarge School District scaled back its vacation to give students and teachers Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off, but will resume classes on Thursday April 30.

School officials said they tried to balance consistency with ongoing remote instruction and giving teachers, students and parents a chance to “step back and find some respite.”

Districts in Amherst and Merrimack won’t interrupt classes at all after surveying parents who overwhelmingly favored canceling the vacation, NHPR reported.

State officials say it’s up to local districts to decide to modify their school schedules.

The numbers

New Hampshire has experienced about 200 more COVID-19 cases than Vermont, but infection rates remain far higher in the Green Mountain state, which has about half as many people.

As of Friday, Vermont had detected 679 COVID-19 cases with 24 deaths. About one tenth of one percent of the state’s overall population of 623,989 have been infected.

New Hampshire has identified 885 cases with 22 deaths. Based on New Hampshire’s population of 1.3 million people, that means about .07 % of residents have been affected.

Between 25% and 30% of New Hampshire cases are among health care workers, according to Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette.

Beer pong isn’t social distancing

Despite requests from Dartmouth College and Hanover officials to not return to town after spring break, some Dartmouth students have come back to live off-campus.

In the past few weeks, Deputy Fire Chief Michael Hinsley has been responding to complaints about people neglecting to follow social distancing practices and has been “actively interacting” with students off-campus.

Earlier this week, police responded to a house on Maple Street where a group of Dartmouth students were playing beer pong, according to Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin.

Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis said his department hasn’t responded to many complaints in the past few weeks, but when they do, they try to educate residents on best social distancing practices.

Police who see people disobeying the stay-at-home order can issue a civil fine or cite them for a misdemeanor violation, according to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, but Dennis said he hopes it won’t come to that.

“We are not looking to issue any citations,” he said.

Education funding

Gov. Chris Sununu announced plans for $82 million in federal funding coming into the state to support education. The money will be used to support the shift to remote learning, as well as cleaning schools, school meals and social and emotional support.

He said $9 million will go out in the form of “discretionary grants” to schools that have been “significantly” affected by the shift to remote learning and the COVID-19 response.

About $36 million will go to colleges and universities that had to make the shift to remote learning for the spring semester. Another $38 million will be distributed proportionally, Sununu said.

Sununu also said he would soon announce a plan to provide financial relief to long-term care facilities and other Medicaid providers.

The relief, which would likely come through federal funds, aims to “shore up the system” and would include some incentive pay for health care workers including those in public facilities, he said.

Energy assistance

Low-income residents who are sheltering in place will get more money to stay comfortable as temperatures transition to summer heat.

The Trump administration released $37 million in home energy assistance funding that was replenished after being diverted to fight the coronavirus. And another $900 million for the federal program is included in the stimulus funding signed into law by President Donald Trump.

The $37 million released this week is enough to help about 75,000 low-income families this year, and the $900 million will be enough to help about 3 million families when the funding becomes available, said Mark Wolfe, of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association.

“Due to the depth of the crisis, this funding only scratches the surface of what families will need to stay afloat,” he said.

Sens. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, urged the Department of Health and Human Services in a letter to release the stimulus funding immediately to help people struggling with their bills.

“As the economic impact of the coronavirus spreads, it will disproportionately hit low-wage workers who often live paycheck to paycheck,” they wrote.

Some of the money will be used immediately to help families pay their utility bills at a time when millions are filing for unemployment. But states have until the end of fiscal 2021 to use the stimulus money.

Members of Congress have been protective of the energy assistance program, rejecting the Trump administration’s efforts to eliminate it.

All told, the $3.74 billion Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program has served about 6 million households in recent years.

The program is especially important in the Northeast, where states are more reliant on oil to heat homes. The program also helps warm-weather states keep people cool in the summer.

(Material from the Valley News was used in this report.)

Source Article