Hinsdale Superintendent Wayne Woolridge talks about the reopening plan during a School Board meeting at the school district office in Hinsdale, N.H., on Aug. 18.

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HINSDALE, N.H. — The Hinsdale School Board approved the district’s reopening plan Tuesday night, which requires masking in the elementary and middle/high schools.

“We need [masking] to pass,” said Elyse Cote, elementary school nurse, who said along with masking, the schools need to have in place three-feet distancing and regular sanitizing of all surfaces.

“We are trying hard to keep students in school,” she said.

At the end of the meeting, the board voted 4-0 to approve the plan.

Hinsdale will kick off its school year on Tuesday, Aug. 31.

A draft version of the plan is available online, though the version now available doesn’t include amendments made during Tuesday’s meeting.

The board had hoped to approve the plan at its Aug. 18 meeting, but told administrators to come back with a more detailed plan than originally presented.

Wayne Woolridge, superintendent of the district, said they had listened to the board’s concerns and added details.

Along with the suggested mask mandate, the revised plan includes more details about assessing students’ needs, how to deal with absences, who would be asked to quarantine if a student tests positive and how lunch periods will be managed.

Ann Freitag, middle/high school principal, said assessments will be conducted to determine “where the learning gaps are,” so that measures can be put in place to help students erase those gaps. These measures are designed to be applied on an individual basis, so that each student gets the attention they need, she said.

“We do expect kids to be in school,” said Freitag, adding if a student is sick, whether it’s COVID-19 or any other sickness, they should stay home.

Using COVID relief money, the schools hired two interventionists to assist the teachers in helping students who fell behind because of the pandemic.

After-school classes will be made available for students who need additional time, and a late bus is being scheduled for those kids.

Counselors will also be available to work with students, their families and staff members to manage the stresses particular to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Freitag.

“Can we come in, too?” joked board member Holly Kennedy. “Some days we need it.”

If students need to stay home because of sickness, they will be given two days to make up any missing school work for every day out, said Freitag. They also will receive schoolwork packets while they are out, whether they are sick or are in quarantine because a member of their household has tested positive for COVID-19.

If a student is sick, their parents will be required to submit the results of a COVID test or a doctor’s note before they return. If no COVID test is conducted, the student will not be allowed to return for 10 days.

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Students who are in close contact with other students who test positive will not be required to quarantine, but will be asked to monitor their own health. However, if someone in their household tests positive, then quarantine will be required.

The school also will provide homeschooling options for parents who will not be sending their children in for classes.

Unless the positivity rate gets higher and the schools need to close, the schools will not be providing remote classes, said Woolridge.

“We want to maintain the continuity as long as we can, unless the spread changes up or down,” he said.

Administrators and teachers at both schools are also developing “pivot plans” that can be implemented if the district does need to switch to remote learning.

Band and choir practices at both schools will be conducted outside or in spaces that allow for 6-foot spacing, and all physical education will be conducted outside, depending on the weather.

Extended learning opportunities, in which students sign up to work in businesses and organizations around the community, will be offered. Students who participate will be required to abide by workplace rules when it comes to COVID-19, said Karen Thompson, the district’s director of personalized learning.

Students in the elementary school will get many mask breaks, said Principal Joe Boggio, including outdoor reading sessions.

“That’s one of the most effective things we’ve done,” he said.

“I do believe we can keep our students safe, if we follow our protocols and we are committed to our protocols,” said Woolridge.

Patricia Wallace, the district’s director of student services, said they will provide all accommodations for special needs students as are required by law.

She also noted that offering a virtual meeting for parents of special needs students actually increased attendance at those meetings over previous years.

“That’s at least one good thing that has developed out of the COVID issue,” said board member James O’Malley.

Sam Kilelee, the district’s athletic director, said the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, which is the governing body for sports competitions among all public and some private high schools in the state, has not given much guidance, meaning many of the schools have to come up with their own policies for sports.

When traveling to games, school athletes and their coaches will be riding as many buses as possible to allow for spacing and will be wearing masks.

This policy will apply for field trips as well, said Woolridge.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.