BRIDGEWATER-ROXBURY-WASHINGTON — Region 12 Superintendent Megan Bennett gave a Covid-19 update for the region during the Board of Education meeting on Monday, January 11, which included the announcement of another positive case in the district.
Region 12 has seen about 15 positive cases since the start of the school year. Ms. Bennett told the board, school officials have not been using outside sources to bring in substitute teachers and only been using the region’s staff to cover classes while offering staff members additional pay.
She said she thinks that move has kept the region safe, not bringing substitutes who might have been exposed while at other districts. She called it a small price to pay in order to keep schools open.
“We can keep our doors open as long as people continue to act responsibly,” Ms. Bennett said.
Ms. Bennett told the board that conversations about the vaccine are happening in the background. She reported that 82 percent of staff members want to get the vaccine, while noting some are uncertain. She said the region is working with the New Milford and the Newtown Health Departments. She noted the state is moving into Phase 1b of vaccine distribution.
She also gave a report on Region 12’s initiative on building diversity, tolerance and inclusion and thanked building administrators for their efforts at promoting unity and understanding. Ms. Bennett said the schools have done different activities to understand how bias can get in the way and learning how to make students feel welcome and included.
She pointed out the efforts help students learn and embrace other cultures. She referenced the incident of rioters storming the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 6, which was an open conversation in classrooms. The discussions were handled based on students’ feelings and making sure administrators listen and direct students to resources.
“The middle school addressed the incident through social studies,” said Ms. Bennett. “They explored what is the government and its role.”
Shepaug Principal Kim Gallo told board members conversations about the Capitol began the night it occurred, beginning with what communication to students will look like. She said staff members they looked into handing students who have a different opinions and respect for them.
Some areas school officials plan to delve into further include asking students to cite their evidence of certain facts and explain how they get to their decision or opinion.
Connecticut has been warned by the FBI, along with all other states, to prepare for possible armed protests around the time of Inauguration Day. Protective protocols are being put in place at Connecticut’s Capitol building.
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has agreed to move forward with a winter sports season. Student athletes can start their first practice as of January 19; however, alternate football season was not approved.
Ms. Bennett said students who had Covid-19 need to be cleared by doctors due to potential breathing issues. There will be required mask-wearing, no live audience at games, which will most likely live-stream instead, as well as several other restrictions likely to be put into place.
Ms. Bennett noted officials will be looking into other schools and monitoring their health status on a case-by-case basis. The winter season has been reduced from 12 to 6.5 weeks. She reminded the board that all decisions were made with safety in mind.
Ms. Bennett also announced Region 12 will be welcoming Bethel students to the Agriscience program, which will be the school’s seventh town. She reported Bethel called Region 12’s agriscience program a 21st-century vision of agriscience.
Ms. Gallo, the Shepaug Valley School principal, announced she will be officially retiring from her position as of June 30, 2021. Ms. Bennett noted she is sad to see her go, noting Ms. Gallo was Shepaug’s first female principal.
Ms. Gallo said she will give a further statement on her retirement at a future Board of Education meeting.