Souhegan Seniors Voice Concerns Over In-Person Classes After Thanksgiving Break

Two Souhegan seniors decided to use their voices to express concerns regarding COVID-19 and modality changes following 2020’s Thanksgiving break.


Claire Sullivan, left, and Paige Colby.

Jen Korkuc, Editor of Politics


“Dear Adam Steel and Mike Berry,

We would like to express our concerns about your decision for segment five. We do not believe that it is safe to continue with schools in the way that they currently are.”


On November 12th, 2020, two students decided to voice their opinions to Souhegan’s Administration on what they believe could be a possible detriment to the health and safety of SAU-39 Schools. Upon hearing Adam Steel, Superintendent of Schools’ announcement that there would be no modality changes after Thanksgiving break despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Seniors Claire Sullivan and Paige Colby decided to write a pointed letter voicing their concerns addressed to Steel and Souhegan’s principal, Mike Berry. Arguing that “…we believe it’s nearly impossible to keep schools open in a way that does not endanger all students’ physical and emotional well-being”, Colby and Sullivan outlined several arguments in their letter, with support from nearly 40 students from different grades and modalities.

In the letter, Sullivan and Colby cited the notable increase of COVID-19 cases in the state of New Hampshire (enough to stop full contact tracing), and that it has become increasingly difficult to track who has traveled where. To support this point, they mention that “Polls that [Administration] have shared show that almost 15% of participants intend to travel from New England and 58% intend to meet up with people outside their family pods [for Thanksgiving].” Additionally, the letter addresses the fact that many college students will return home from campus to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families, and this could also pose a medium for the spread of the Coronavirus in our community.

Upon hearing Steel’s announcement there would be no modality changes following Thanksgiving break, Claire Sullivan says that “I thought that it was really important that I put my concerns out there.” She continued to say that “Souhegan has always taught students to advocate for themselves, to use the channels of communication to make their voices heard. This was an issue that was really close to me and really affects me.” Sullivan has been a remote student for most of this year, but has siblings that attend in-person school. After writing the initial draft of the letter, she reached out to her friend Paige Colby for advice. 

While I do believe that Souhegan has done an impressive job at keeping Covid-19 cases to a minimum, I also think Thanksgiving creates so many moving pieces and increases the danger exponentially.

— Claire Sullivan, Souhegan Senior

Colby remarks that “Claire shared a… letter with me explaining she wanted to send it to Adam Steel and wanted to know my opinion… I suggested that we turn it into something larger that other students could support and share a bit about their personal experiences.” Colby is also a senior and a remote student as well, and plans to be for the whole year, saying that “I could make [being] remote work and I wanted to help protect the students who absolutely need to be in person.” She helped Sullivan gain student support for the letter, and gathered signatures and testimonials from Souhegan attendees across grades. “Like other students, I was nervous that students would get upset at me for voicing my concerns… I really appreciate that most people are comfortable with not agreeing 100% with each other.” 

To date, the letter has not gotten a response from Superintendent Steel, however principal Mike Berry reportedly responded promptly and wanted to meet with Sullivan, Colby, and others who expressed solidarity with their arguments to address the issue. According to Colby, “…our principal emailed us back pretty quickly… I really appreciate that. I’ve met with Mike twice now and you can tell that he really wants to have conversations with students about Souhegan.” According to the authors of the letter, the meeting lasted roughly 35 minutes, and around 10 students were present to express their concerns about how Souhegan were handling Thanksgiving break. Sullivan mentioned that “There was a mix of in-person and remote students, this was especially important because we wanted the school to know that there was support in both mediums”. Colby adds, “I was really proud of how well [the students] articulated themselves about why they supported Souhegan being 75% remote…[they] reaffirmed the points we made in the letter.”

Furthermore, Colby and Sullivan were also asked how they thought school was going for them so far. They started off by praising Souhegan’s effort to support students during this pandemic. Colby commends the school for “taking precautions seriously,” and adds that she’s very proud of how teachers have adapted. Some criticisms were also expressed, with Sullivan saying, “This year has not been easy, I have a heavy class load and I haven’t really seen anyone outside my family in months. I wish more than anything that I could be having a normal senior year, but I can’t right now.” Colby added, “I think Souhegan just needs to be doing more…they have a great foundation, but I think they need to work on thinking about students’ mental health… it still feels like we’re being hard-pressed to get through everything.” Moreover, the two students also expressed stress about college applications and the many AP classes they are enrolled as seniors.

I’m really glad that most people are taking precautions seriously and I’m really proud of how teachers have adapted

— Paige Colby, Souhegan Senior

As of November 28th, Souhegan plans to continue to offer both remote and on-campus modalities after Thanksgiving break. While Claire Sullivan and Paige Colby’s letter did not achieve its intended goal, they expressed their hope that it at least made the administration second-guess their decision. Additionally, they also hope it inspires other students in the Souhegan community to speak their minds and convey their concerns to authority when they think student voices should not go ignored. “We think that it is important to know that not everyone is happy, it is important that our voices be heard.” 


With the cold winter and flu season fast approaching and COVID-19 case numbers continuing to rise in the state of New Hampshire, the student body remains waiting to see what changes these factors could bring into their school year. The members of The Claw wish you a safe, happy and healthy end to your Thanksgiving break!