NH Education News Roundup, August 16, 2021

In this week’s NH Education News Roundup: New Hampshire Education Network kicks off 2021-22 year; Governor signs education-related bills; schools issued guidance for COVID-19 protocols; and charter school grants announced. 

Reaching Higher’s next Education Network Meeting open to new members — The New Hampshire Education Network’s next monthly meeting is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 13, at 3 p.m., and we’d love to welcome new members who are interested in the future of education in the state. We’ll provide an overview of upcoming policy issues, including updates on State Board of Education meetings, rulemaking for the new Education Freedom Accounts, and new education-related Legislative Service Requests, and take time for questions and networking. We’ll also be seeking input on future meetings. Register here. 

Governor signs key education-related bills — Gov. Chris Sununu signed 30 bills into law last week, including three education-related bills:

  • HB 278 gives charter schools first right of refusal in the purchase or lease of public school facilities. 
  • SB 148 is an omnibus bill that provides $9 million in transportation and tuition reimbursement for career and technical education centers, a move intended to enable more students to attend CTE programs. It clarifies that the sending district is responsible for providing and paying for transportation costs and authorizes the state to fully reimburse those costs. The bill adds career and technical education courses to the state’s established dual and concurrent enrollment program, which allows high school students to take classes for simultaneous high school and college credit. It also expands the dual and concurrent enrollment program to include students in grade 10. 
  • SB 147 promotes in-person assistance with the Free Application for Federal Assistance (FAFSA) by adding it to the list of indicators of an adequate education. The original bill had made the FAFSA a requirement for graduation (with a waiver option), but the House Education Committee amended the language. 
    State health official offers guidance on school mask mandates — State Epidemiologist Benjamin Chan offered guidance to schools and daycare officials on an online call last week, recommending face masks for everyone inside schools and daycare facilities in counties with “substantial spread” of COVID-19. Currently, all 10 New Hampshire counties have substantial spread. Chan also recommended using an 80% vaccination threshold for facilities where children are 12 and older. School districts around the state have adopted a variety of different safety measures. Many school districts, including Concord, Somersworth, and Nashua are requiring face masks at the start of the year, while others, including Merrimack Valley and Keene, have made masking optional. There have been nine COVID-19 outbreaks in child care centers and preschools since early July, Chan said.

    Charter school grant recipients announced — The New Hampshire Department of Education awarded the first $6.8 million of a $46 million federal grant designed to expand and replicate charter schools in the state last week. Four schools were chosen to receive start-up grant awards totalling up $1.2 million each, along with an additional $300,000 for meeting “Department identified priorities”: Northeast Woodland Chartered Public School in North Conway, Spark Academy of Advanced Technologies in Manchester, Gathering Waters Charter School in Keene, and Heartwood Public Charter School in Berlin. Two schools were chosen to receive expansion grants totalling up to $600,000 each: Founders Academy in Manchester and MicroSociety Academy Charter School in Hudson. One school, CSI Charter School in Penacook, received a replication grant totaling up to $1.2 million.

Report provides analysis on ‘digital divide’ in higher ed — “Bridging the Digital Divide: Lessons from COVID-19,” a report published by Inside Higher Edis currently available for free download. “The digital divide, digital equity and digital accessibility are not new concerns in higher education,” writes the report’s author, Lindsay McKenzie, “but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many institutions to confront these issues head-on with renewed efforts and innovative strategies.” The report examines the factors underlying inequities in digital access and ways that institutions can address these inequities. Topics include data and analysis of 2020-21 postsecondary enrollment, evidence-based instructional practices, and financial implications of remote learning. 

Education Up Close

Senate Takes Next Step in Advancing Biden’s Historic $3.5T Agenda for Education, Families
The 74, Linda Jacobson, August 11, 2021

WEBINAR: Student Mental Health: What schools are (or should be) doing this year
Chalkbeat, August 24, 4-5 p.m.

As schools hire teachers and counselors, a funding cliff looms
Chalkbeat, Matt Barnum, August 6, 2021