NEWTOWN — The Board of Education, meeting Tuesday, July 21, held a special meeting to approve the district’s re-entry plan for the fall.
The plan will include a full-time instructional model with 100 percent of the student population returning to physical classrooms, although parents and students may voluntarily and temporarily choose not to participate.
A survey in August will determine a more accurate number of students expected to attend school in person at the start of the next school year; those students not attending in person will be required to participate in distance learning.
During the presentation of the plan to the board, Assistant Superintendent Anne Uberti pointed out that the state is considered low risk, which prompted the governor to open schools; a change to moderate or high risk would shift the student population to home either on a part-time or full-time basis.
Superintendent Dr. Lorrie Rodrigue said the plan was designed to be flexible and fluid and meets state requirements to offer health and safety measures for students and adults.
She thanked everyone who worked to develop the plan, including a group of 40 people on the re-entry committee.
As wellness is an important area of concern, there will be training sessions created by health professionals to educate teachers and sessions that parents can share with their children.
A screening checklist will assist parents when deciding whether to send their children to school when unwell and social distancing will place students at least three feet apart, with desks facing forward with clear plastic dividers when the district is unable to achieve a six-foot buffer.
“Communication is going to be huge,” Ms. Uberti said, explaining there will be office hours with the superintendent and a concerted effort to facilitating two-way communication.
She will act as the health and safety compliance liaison to provide information to parents and ensure that the district will remain in compliance and health professionals will serve as building liaisons, also providing information.
All students and staff will wear masks all day with breaks and removal for eating; face shields and plastic barriers are not meant to replace masks but to supplement mask use.
Students will be grouped in cohorts and expected to attend classes online if they are not appearing in school.
In Newtown High School, students with free periods or study halls at the end of the day will be allowed to leave the campus to reduce the number of people in the building.
After the school year starts on September 3 and students have had a chance to acclimate to the new protocols, teachers will assess students in kindergarten through ninth grade using the NWEA fall assessment soon after they become comfortable with the new school year and protocols.
Chromebooks will be the primary device used in distance learning and the district will repeat the practice begun in the spring to provide hot spots for families with connectivity issues.
Sharing of materials will be discouraged and, when sharing must take place, cleaning and disinfecting will be done according to standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Director of Teaching and Learning Dr. Frank A. Purcaro shared a sample of schedules to illustrate how the in-person, hybrid and full distance learning models would be implemented.
In the latter two models, a Wellness Wednesday would be used to disinfect the buildings with distance learning in the hybrid model or allow students to work independently as teachers collaborate or engage in professional development.
Ms. Uberti touched on how the Social Emotional Learning component of the plan will be implemented to ensure no child is left behind.
She said that all conferences between parents and the school district would be held virtually as she described facility changes, such as bag lunches replacing hot lunches, the use of water bottles instead of water fountains, the formation of cohorts for recess and the approach to transportation.
The district will provide buses for all students, where everyone will wear masks and seating will be organized by cohorts with families together and, as possible, open windows.
Families can elect to transport their children and the details of disembarking are in progress.
Responsibilities expected of and resources for families are available in a draft of the plan, which is available at newtown.k12.ct.us.
“That was a lot of information,” Chair Michelle Embree Ku said before thanking those working to produce what she described as an amazing plan.
Ms. Uberti asked for patience from parents as the plan is implemented, acknowledging they will have a number of questions.
Before adjourning, the board voted to rescind its earlier decision to pre-pay the amount owned for leases of security cameras in school buildings.