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COVID shifts Bethlehem Elementary to remote learning

November 19, 2020
BETHLEHEM — A COVID-positive case led Bethlehem Elementary School administrators to shift quickly to remote learning last Monday. The BES School Board decided unanimously two days later to extend remote learning through Jan. 19, citing concerns about increased holiday travel and the rising number of North Country cases.

BES Principal Sue Greenlaw said, "For a long time, the North Country felt like a safe place, and we didn't see high case numbers like other parts of the state. Watching the numbers rise around us and seeing positive cases in other schools, it made sense to err on the side of caution. It was a huge wake-up call for all of us."

Lisbon Regional School also reported a positive case last week, but the other SAU 35 schools remain untouched. The Profile School administration planned two weeks of remote learning for Thanksgiving and Christmas, returning to hybrid programs in between the holidays.

Greenlaw said such a dramatic shift would be counterproductive for younger students.

"I spoke with the staff, and we felt that going in and out would not be in the best interest of elementary school kids," she stated.

The principal also indicated that remote learning would be more efficient and structured than what families experienced earlier this year.

She said, "The kids will not be behind their computers at all hours of the day. The technology we now have allows the teachers to have face-to-face contact with their students. I feel confident that our kids will keep moving forward academically."

According to Greenlaw, the person who tested positive for coronavirus was an adult employee. She said the staff member typically had minimal contact with students, and all teachers who had contact were immediately tested with negative results.

"We loved having the kids in the building and they were happy to be there. It was not a decision made lightly at all," said the principal.

The number of positive COVID cases almost doubled across the state within 48 hours by the end of last week. By 9 a.m. last Friday, the number had shot up from 232 to 462 cases, of which 48 were under 18.

In a press conference last Thursday, Gov. Sununu said, "If you ask me where we are going to be in two weeks, I'd say over a thousand. The numbers are going to increase very aggressively."

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