Governor Sununu is the “April Fool” with his back-to-school mandate

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Art by Sathvik Manam

Considering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the potential hazards associated with it, Governor Chris Sununu’s mandate for all New Hampshire K-12 schools to return to in-person learning five days per week is rash and risky.

When I got the text from my mom, I thought it was an April Fools’ joke.

“All schools have to return to a five-day week with in-person classes.”

You’re joking, right?

… Right?

Governor Chris Sununu announced in a press conference on April 1, 2021, that all K-12 schools in New Hampshire must return to in-person learning, five days per week by April 19.

He explained his reasoning on Twitter, citing that all teachers and school staff who wanted to be vaccinated would be by April 19. He also added that he was “providing plenty of time to allow school districts and parents to plan.” 

Concluding his statement, Governor Sununu said, “We need to get our kids back in school.”

Well, Mr. Sununu, I would have to disagree. 

Governor Sununu may think resuming in-person schooling five days a week is what’s best for students, but all things considered, forcing every school to go back to “normal”—when things are still anything but—is wrong and ill-considered.

While Governor Sununu says that he provided “plenty of time… [for] school districts and parents to plan,” I would argue that two weeks is not nearly enough. A full-time return to school while navigating COVID-19 restrictions and trying to keep the students and staff as safe as possible is a logistical nightmare.

Even with our desks three feet apart instead of six, will that still even be able to accommodate every student? 

How will lunches work, with the cafeteria now having to house double the amount of students it did in the hybrid model? 

The hallways are already packed enough, why make it worse? 

Most concerning of all, however, is that going to school five days a week with the entire student body puts us at a greater risk of an outbreak.

How is it even possible to fit 1,000+ students and staff inside the building safely, with the lowest risk of exposure possible and within COVID-19 guidelines? Even with everyone wearing masks and a large majority of the teachers vaccinated, you never know what could happen. We already have had large numbers of people quarantining in our hybrid model, so I can only imagine how much worse it could get with a full return to school.

One or two outbreaks in the wrong group at the wrong time could be the cause for postponement, or even cancellation, of the culminating, most anticipated events of our high school experience, from senior week and graduation to prom and award ceremonies.

In fact, as a senior, this mandate absolutely enrages me. I, and my classmates, have waited years for the final moments of our K-12 experience. Graduation, prom, award ceremonies, senior week—these are events we have all been excitedly anticipating since, at least, our freshman year. I want to be able to accept my diploma on June 11, and to get all dolled up in my prom dress on June 13, as is currently planned.

It is unfair that these events could be taken away from some, if not all of us. Forcing the entire student population to return to school in one fell swoop makes conditions ripe for an outbreak. Such an outbreak resulting in quarantines for senior students, thereby requiring them to miss senior week, graduation, and prom, would be devastating. 

Not to mention, the school year is 75% of the way over, with only 44 days left. 

We’ve already been forced to adjust to a completely different schedule than normal years, spending one day at home and the next stuck in socially-distanced classrooms with a sea of faces covered by masks and the lingering scent of cleaning wipes. 

We then had to make another adjustment, spending the 28 days between Thanksgiving and the end of first semester in remote learning. From awkward breakout room experiences to stressful deadlines, it was a relief to finally go back to our hybrid model. 

We have adapted to so many things since March 2020, and we’ve gotten into our groove with the hybrid schedule. The teachers have adjusted to the hybrid model and assigned work accordingly. We are comfortable with our hybrid class members, as well as the way work is assigned and deadlines are imposed.  

So, with less than 25% of the school year left, the Governor thinks mandating everyone to adapt to another change is a good idea?   

Plus, New Hampshire has always prided itself on the “Life Free or Die” motto, and Sununu tweeted last summer, “Here in NH, we value local control, and we know that each school district will make the best decision for their students and teachers.” 

Why change now? Why take away every school district’s right to decide for themselves if going back to in-person learning, five days per week would be appropriate?

Though COVID-19 is certainly an issue that impacts us all, allowing each school district to decide what would be best for their own students and staff, based on their one-of-a-kind circumstances, seems far more responsible and considerate than having big government get involved in a situation that they have no real control over. Governor Sununu’s mandate violates our “Live Free or Die” motto and goes against everything he said he believed in previously.  

The Londonderry School District has been trying their absolute hardest to make this a worthwhile year, to make sure the students (and especially the seniors) didn’t feel like they were being left behind. And, with one simple announcement from Governor Sununu, it feels like that has all been washed away.

Let’s be honest: The only reason we’ve been able to stay in school in a hybrid model is due to the fact that only half the school has been in attendance at-a-time. Both students and teachers have—however unwillingly and hastily—adapted to our hybrid schedule, and forcing us to change it now is both unnecessary and risky. 

It would be absolutely gut-wrenching to see even one senior having to quarantine during their final weeks of school, potentially missing out on the moments we’ve looked forward to since the beginning of our education, all because we rushed a return to “normal.” 

This year has been anything but normal, and yet, we’ve managed to make it 75% of the way through. 

As a wise person once said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” 

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