BRIDGEWATER-ROXBURY-WASHINGTON — Region 12 Superintendent of School Megan Bennett told Voices school officials are waiting for more guidance from state on the next steps for schools to begin the planning stages for reopening in the fall.
In the meantime, distance learning continues for Region 12 while the administrative team begins rough plans for safe learning spaces when students and teachers return.
Ms. Bennett noted the region will face additional costs for cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment for the next school year. The costs are uncertain until Gov. Ned Lamont determines a new game plan for Connecticut schools.
Gov. Lamont announced on May 14 that Connecticut has received $111 million in federal coronavirus relief aid for school districts, which will be used “to support continued learning and address educational disruptions due to the pandemic.”
According to a news release from the governor’s office, the new aid “will complement the $27.8 million already announced for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund.”
“We are waiting for more guidance and information about the environmental conditions needed for our return to school,” said Ms. Bennett via email.
The state Department of Education plans to expedite the allocation of funds and provide ongoing technical assistance to districts “with a particular focus on those with the greatest needs.”
With the funding, the department is expecting regular feedback from districts to solidify strategies they plan to use in addressing student learning gaps, provide universal access to high quality remote learning and safely reopen schools.
Ms. Bennett said Region 12 officials are currently working to design the school environments that support continued social distancing, curricular changes and provide a safe learning space for students.
She noted representation from facilities, finance, curriculum, special education and building administrators are included in the decision-making for the next steps. The Region 12 staff has been making grading determinations that capture student progress while distant learning.
“We are working on graduation, planning virtual celebrations and events and ways to keep students engaged through the end of the year,” said Ms. Bennett.
She highlighted the district plans extensive curriculum work during the summer. The Region 12 staff will also need to assess students’ skills and learning needs to make educational decisions for next year.
“This will mean that lessons will need to be tailored to allow for multiple learning access points,” said Ms. Bennett. “Conceptual learning and identifying skills will be essential for educational recovery.”
State Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona is sending a letter to every superintendent in the state with information about the funds, according to the governor’s press release. He acknowledged, “districts are expending resources as they navigate uncharted waters.”
He said the state Department of Education has developed an expedited process to allocate the federal grant to bolster districts’ efforts to meet areas of greatest need within school communities and to continue providing education to all students.
Ms. Bennett called the governor and the state Department of Education very open with the public, noting that transparency has allowed for common knowledge. She said schools are working to adhere to the regulations.
“Distance learning is not ideal,” Ms. Bennett said. “The Region 12 staff has done an outstanding job of making education boundless. I am proud of the learning opportunities that were created with very difficult circumstances.”
She added the agriscience team will plan for the safe return of the animals who are currently boarded with local farms; smaller animals are home with a few students.
“Agriscience is very hands-on, so we will be evaluating how we can safely provide the learning experiences for the students with social distance,” said Ms. Bennett.
She said Region 12 will welcome 27 new students; 17 to the Agriscience Academy of Shepaug Valley School next year.
The state Department of Education has provided all districts with guidance on statewide priorities that include: ensuring all students have access to appropriate technology and connectivity; access to high quality curriculum that addresses the needs of all learners, including students with disabilities; addressing student learning gaps and safely reopening schools; and social and emotional supports for educators and students as they transition back to school.
Region 12 continues to update its website on the latest Covid-19 information from administrators. Region 12 also has phone lines that are covered throughout the day with staff members available to anyone with questions. There are also community service links for the three area towns.