Schools seek federal aid; absentee ballots ready to go out

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Education officials struggling to line up transportation, technology and teaching staff for the upcoming school year in New Hampshire told U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan on Monday that they need more money from Washington to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hassan, a Democrat, held an online discussion that included a superintendent, principal, teacher, parent and others involved in the reopening of schools. Several said their communities are working on plans that would involve either remote learning or hybrid models in which groups of students would take turns being in their classrooms.

Mark MacLean, superintendent of the Merrimack Valley and Andover school districts, said the next relief package from Congress should help parents — including school employees — who can’t work if their young children remain at home. The districts are spending their first allotment of federal funds on technology, cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment, but, he said, “We know that we need more money."

Kevin Carpenter, principal at Kennett High School in North Conway, agreed.

“The CARES Act funds don’t go very far at all,” he said. “We’ve already exceeded what we’ve been allocated.”

Transportation is a big issue, he said, because eight towns send students to the high school. Officials are considering offering high school students a fully remote option, while grouping elementary school pupils into small groups. Having enough teaching staff also likely will be a challenge, he said, if teachers can’t work because their own children are home.

“We don’t live in an area where we have a ton of teachers floating around,” he said.

Rachel Borge, director of student services in Hudson, echoed concerns about funding for technology, sanitation and other areas. But she also raised a new concern: teenagers from low-income families who got jobs during their spring semester of remote learning to help their parents.

“Now that we talk about returning to school, we have these teenage kids who are struggling with competing motivations,” she said. “That’s a new struggle we’re trying to problem-solve.”

Hassan said money for education, from preschool through college, should be “a huge part” of the relief package.

“We need to make sure all students, including students with disabilities or who have other particular needs, have their needs addressed at a time when it is so critically important that our kids know that we’re supporting them through this challenge," she said.

In other news related to the coronavirus in New Hampshire:

ABSENTEE BALLOTS

New Hampshire cities and towns are now ready to send absentee ballots to voters who want to avoid polling places this fall because of the coronavirus.

The state has temporarily changed eligibility requirements for absentee voting and created a separate box to check on the absentee ballot noting the virus as the reason for voting absentee.

The secretary of state's office said Monday that ballots for the Sept. 8 primary and Nov. 3 general election have been sent to communities and can be requested through city and town clerk offices. Officials urged voters to make requests as soon as possible.

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TELEHEALTH

New Hampshire's rural hospitals are getting help caring for COVID-19 patients through a telehealth program based at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

The hospital's Tele-Intensive Care Unit allows doctors in rural hospitals to confer with critical care specialists and anesthesiologists at Dartmouth-Hitchcock via video until the patient can be transferred to the larger facility. Officials say the advice being given to more than 20 hospitals includes information about sedation, pain management, ventilator management and other issues.

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THE NUMBERS

As of Monday, 6,441 people had tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, an increase of seven from the previous day. The number of deaths stood at 409.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause more severe illness and can lead to death.


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