OXFORD — The Board of Education, meeting Tuesday, January 12, heard an extensive presentation on expanding the pre-K program. The presentation stressed that class sizes have become unmanageable due to new referrals and an increased level of intensive needs.

An additional teacher would allow more of a 1:1 learning model when appropriate, implementation of highly effective and individualized instruction, more time to collect data and more according to the presentation.

Director of Special Education Tracy Hussey called the proposal one of the initiatives for the district. She said the initiative offers an opportunity to follow the peer model and the state Department of Education recommended ratio.

She noted a reduced staff and an increase in referrals combined with increased student needs presented unique instructional challenges. The class size has become unmanageable in the second half of the school, according to the presentation, due to the referrals and the intensive needs of the students entering through the Birth to Three system.

Presenters also went over the Intensive Education Program, which would be a self-contained, special education classroom that provides individualized instruction to students with severe cognitive, functional, social/emotional and communication deficits. It would also have staff that are trained in areas of Autism Spectrum Disorders, Applied Behavioral Analysis and Discrete Trial Instruction.

The presentation said the goal of the program is for students to become as independent community members as possible with faded adult support over the years. It also highlighted the need for the program so there is a designated classroom for intensive, direct 1:1 instruction at the early elementary school.

Ms. Hussey pointed out the district has the staff members who can guide paraprofessionals with Applied Behavior Analysis training.

Board members did approve for an additional pre-K teacher during the meeting after hearing the latest enrollment numbers for the district. There are currently 1,645 students enrolled, according to the Dr. Jason Mc Kinnon’s presentation.

He went over the schools’ reopening update, noting schools are currently in hybrid mode and were remote for the week after New Year’s Day. He called the reopening a smooth process and reported the state is transitioning to Phase 1b for Covid-19 vaccinations.

Staff members can start signing up for vaccines, which will begin on Wednesday, January 20, at Pomperaug High School. Depending on when the Pomperaug Health District receives doses, will determine how quickly they can vaccinate staff members, according to Dr. McKinnon.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced on Thursday, January 14, Phase 1b will include people who are ages 65 and older as well as residents who have an underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk of the virus.

People ages 75 and older will be prioritized in the first wave, as recommend by the Allocation Subcommittee. The state is first booking residents ages 75 and over, then it will open to individuals from 65 to 74.

Phase 1b also includes: frontline essential workers such as firefighters, correction officers, incarcerated people, food/agricultural workers, postal workers, the educational sector of teachers/support staff/daycare workers, transit workers and grocery store workers.

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