NEWTOWN — The Board of Education, meeting Tuesday, October 6, approved the transition to a full in-person education model for middle and high school students starting November 2.

Superintendent Dr. Lorrie Rodrigue reported a smooth transition from the hybrid attendance model to a full in-person model for the elementary students.

All precautionary and mitigation strategies put into place for the hybrid model remain in place.

There are no new cases of Covid-19 in Newtown, which prompted Dr. Rodrigue to describe the transition timing as perfect before she said that the next step is to bring the secondary students back to school full time.

Dr. Rodrigue noted the complexity of schedules at these schools, which increases the challenge of maintaining social distancing.

She’s worked with the principals at the schools to prepare for a safe plan.

They shared copies of the schedules, which had been coordinated in order to facilitate bus routes.

Commenting on the low ridership on buses, Dr. Rodrigue said bus monitors are rotating responsilbities to cover a vacancy.

Kimberly Longobucco, Ed.D., principal at Newtown High School, reported that there is adequate space in classrooms and students are following guidelines such as wearing masks.

To address the finite space available for lunch, the schedule will use an eight-day rotation that allows students to go home for lunch and attend a final class remotely in order to reduce the dining population.

Thomas R. Einhorn, principal at Newtown Middle School, described a similar rotation last period of the day.

Student representative Jillian Clure commented that she and other students were eager to return to school.

Chair Michelle Embree Ku shared her concerns regarding safety in the cafeteria, appreciating the time and effort that went into figuring out how to handle the situation.

In order to fulfill a request made by the board at a previous meeting, the superintendent promised a detailed report, including expenses related to Covid-19, for the next meeting.

She noted that the district follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for all sports and activities, with a limited number of spectators at home games, made up of people supporting the home team.

During the meeting, Dr. Rodrigue led a presentation on Diversity and Equity, which she noted aligns with the beliefs in the district’s strategy.

She also noted the interrelationships that support diversity and equity, including culture, practice, and leadership among teachers and administrators.

The framework for change includes a review of current practices that demonstrate a safe, inclusive, and respectful environment for students and staff along with the development of future practices that align with values, believes and commitments.

Continued assessment and modifications should ensure the promotion of equity, inclusivity, and respect.

The vision is to expand on current practices by making future commitments and Dr. Rodrigue said, “I know we can do better. We need to listen to those issues that arise all the time.”

She added, “I think, like any district, we need to evolve and grow.”

The education board’s resolution on equity and diversity focuses on building cultural awareness, documenting incidents of racism within the schools and holding all students and staff accountable for their actions.

The resolution provides training aimed at maintaining a safe, inclusive, and equitable learning environment for all students.

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