Governor Sununu’s order eliminates planned remote learning days from school districts

  • Stella and Juniper Zimmer of Peterborough get on the bus to Peterborough Elementary School on Wednesday morning. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/14/2021 4:22:36 PM

As area schools roll out plans to provide a five-day in-person option by next week in order to comply with Governor Chris Sununu’s executive order, Sununu has announced that scheduled remote days won’t count toward the state-required 180 days of instructional time.

On the heels of his initial announcement five-day in-person announcement, Sununu announced during a press conference that after April 19, remote days – with exceptions for COVID-19 specific situations outlined in his original order – wouldn’t be counted as instructional days by the state and would have to be made up at the end of the school year.

“They’d either have to make them up, or if they’ve already exceeded their requirement in terms of hours, they’d be OK,” Sununu said in a press conference April 8, when asked about schools who were not ready to return full-time by the April 19 deadline. “But, as of the 19th, it’s just going back to the same old rules and the same old implications if you don’t meet certain hour requirements. It’s very simple.”

Sununu said the state had received “20 to 30” requests for waivers for the April 19 deadline.

Sununu’s initial order does outline scenarios where entering remote learning is allowed. Schools can implement distance learning for all students or a segment of the population for up to 48 hours on their own judgment if the need is related to COVID-19 infections, staffing shortages related to infections, or another “unexpected event or series of events related to COVID-19.”

If a school needs to transition to remote learning for longer than two days due to COVID-19 infections, or staffing shortages, they must receive approval from the commissioner of education, in consultation with the Division of Public Health Services and Sununu.

For example, the Jaffrey-Rindge School District had several grade levels enter remote learning Monday, after a staffing shortage in which multiple staff members called out on Monday due to side effects after receiving their second COVID-19 vaccination over the weekend.

Staffing shortages, paired with a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the Conant High School community, caused the entire high school to enter remote learning Monday. The remote period is anticipated to continue through Thursday; had this occurred after April 19, the district would have had to request state approval or add two days to the end of the school year.

That situation is unlikely to occur after April 19, district officials said.

“With a few exceptions, the district hasn’t had to go remote for more than a couple days when responding to a COVID-19 situation,” Jaffrey-Rindge Communications Coordinator Nick Handy said Wednesday. “Putting a restriction on the number of days in a row that we can transition does remove flexibility, but we are hopeful that trend will continue and we won’t need to transition to remote for more than two days in a row. Should the need arise, we will have conversations with [New Hampshire Department of Education], per the governor’s emergency order.”

Other local school officials said they had either already returned to full-time in-person learning, or were on track to by the April 19 deadline, and said they didn’t anticipate large impacts to their districts.

The Mascenic Regional School District currently has a remote day each Wednesday for its upper grades, but plans to eliminate that on April 19.

Martin said she didn’t have major concerns about the order, and that it’s unlikely to be an issue as the school year wraps up over the next few months.

“I can see earlier on in this process that it might have been more of an issue,” Martin said.

The remote day also functions as a dedicated time for teachers to check in with fully-remote students. Sununu’s executive order specifically allows districts to continue to offer fully-remote options for parents who want it, and Martin said Mascenic will continue to offer it. She said she is currently in talks with teachers about how to handle fully-remote students moving forward.

“We’re going to have to make it work,” Martin said.

Kristen Kivela, superintendent of the Mason School District, said there haven’t been any instances in the Mason Elementary School that have required a longer remote period than two days.

“It hasn’t happened here, but there’s always the chance,” Kivela said. “COVID’s not going away, and two days won’t be enough to get my staff back if something happens.”

Kivela said she and other educators have consistently prioritized in-person attendance when possible.

“No one wants to do remote. We’re motivated to be here,” Kivela said.

Mason Elementary School returned to five days of in-person learning at the start of this month, a decision made prior to the governor’s order, and with that decision, Kivela said, the small number of students who were fully remote have been reintegrated into the school, at their parent’s decision.

Kivela said the number of fully remote students at Mason Elementary School was always small – about 15 at its height – but with the vaccination rollout, a so-far successful school year with little interruption, and a full-time schedule, those parents who were still opting for it decided to return their students to school.

ConVal Regional School District Superintendent Kimberly Rizzo Saunders said the decision shouldn’t impact the district, but said these decisions should be made at the local level by School Boards, and not from the state level.

The Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District has been operating with a five-day in-school option since the beginning of the year, and has not used distance learning as an alternative to snow days, according to Superintendent Bryan Lane.

“It doesn’t have an effect on us,” Lane said of the decision.

Weather-related events are not one of the exceptions allowed by the governor as an acceptable use of distance learning, though some districts have gone remote in place of snow days this year, including Jaffrey-Rindge.

“We used remote days during inclement weather this school year, but our families were already in a remote environment for much of the winter,” Handy said. “We don’t anticipate more inclement weather days for the remainder of the school year, so our approach to this school year doesn’t require any sort of change.”

The Jaffrey-Rindge district has discussed using remote days during inclement weather for the past few years, Handy said, and those discussions will continue.


Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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