WATERTOWN — The Board of Education, meeting Monday, August 30, discussed the reopening plan for schools, welcoming the Torrington Area Health District Director Robert Rubbo, MPH, R.S.

He noted that the regional health district includes 18 towns with 130,000 individuals and provides local health services, “We are not the state or CDC or a representative of either.”

Mr. Rubbo described what has been learned about the virus, noting that it is highly unlikely that Covid-19 could be spread on surfaces but it can be spread through airborne droplets.

Addressing the Delta variant, he said this virus is perhaps twice as contagious as previous instances of the virus and there is more concern that the variant could spread faster.

Although the Delta variant may not be any more deadly than the original virus, Mr. Rubbo emphasized the importance of taking proactive mitigation measures. “The more a virus spread, the higher the likelihood it will mutate.”

Efficacy of masks is a top mitigating strategy and Mr. Rubbo said that, if everyone wears them, the spread is slowed because the number of airborne droplets are reduced.

Superintendent Dr. Alison Villanueva promised to post all answers to community questions on the web at www.watertownps.org.

After a brief discussion, the board decided it would review the policy that described specific conditions that would apply for students who would qualify for homebound education, per state statute.

The document also specifies homebound instructors who will work with those students and the board expects to discuss the matter at its next meeting.

In her report to the board, Dr. Villanueva described the first day of school, noting it was great to see students on school grounds and excited for the year ahead.

She addressed the high temperatures and how the schools are keeping children safe, with constant monitoring and the use of fans.

Last year, fans were not in use due to the potential to spread Covid-19.

In other business, the board welcomed guests from Advanced Manufacturing Technology: Interim Associate Dean AMC Northwest Region Rich DuPont, State Apprenticeship Director with the Connecticut Department of Labor Todd Berch, Town Manager Mark Raimo, and Town Council Chair Mary Ann Rosa.

They described the ongoing work to improve trade education in Watertown Public Schools and pathways to build a critical knowledge base to grow employment opportunities, specifically manufacturing jobs that the governor identified as key to recovering from the pandemic.

Ms. Rosa said the town is supportive of the effort as the panel noted more than 6,000 jobs are unfilled due to a lack of people with the right skills.

The program would provide opportunities for adults in partnership with other organizations, utilizing the public school facilities.

The panel noted the equipment stored for the schools that can be used for training, which is a unique asset in the state.

This initiative could address the current unemployment issue and, in the short-term, support existing workers in the community who want a chance to build skills.

Another goal would be to build a college program for high school students who can earn college credits that would provide immediate employment opportunities, such as apprenticeships, on graduation from high school.

The Department of Economic and Community Development has committed significant funds to this effort.

Leslie Crotty, education board chair, said that grants are making this programming possible, especially for adults, and commended the town manager for his collaboration with the school system; he brought the idea to the board.

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