HARTFORD, Conn. — While many students, families and faculty are preparing to adjust to life back in the classroom, we have received countless questions about plans and precautions in place.
We are compiling guidance from state officials and school districts to keep you informed, as they make plans for the upcoming school year amid COVID-19 pandemic.
This article will be updated as we learn more from the State of Connecticut, school districts and receive updates on their reopening plans.
FREE Back to School Supply Event in Torrington on August 22
The Torrington Police Activities League (PAL) in partnership with area organizations will be holding the 13th annual Northwest Connecticut Free Back to School Supply Event on Saturday, August 22 (rain or shine) at Torrington High School between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. To volunteer or for any questions, email email@example.com
The event will be a contact free drive through distribution and will focus on school supplies. This event allows for over 400 area families to receive school supplies to prepare for school.
Torrington PD says any support is greatly appreciated. Monetary donations be made out to the Torrington Police Athletic League (please note Back to School Event on check) and can be sent to:
Torrington Police Activities League
Attn: Officer Robert Simon
16 School Street, Suite 106
Torrington, CT 06790
Middletown Public Schools
Superintendent Michael T. Conner, Ed.D. said in an August 6 letter sent home to the community that the district will begin the academic year in a hybrid model.
He said the decision was made based on a comprehensive analysis of our parent survey, input from our Re-entry Task Force that consists of teachers, administrators, and district leaders, and insights from focus group sessions with students.
"Critical themes that you have articulated – academic rigor, high-quality blended experiences, more virtual contact, and personalization of learning – will be grounded in the plan, and the safety and well-being of all MPS stakeholders will remain its overarching theme," Conner wrote in the letter.
The Middletown Public Schools community can expect details of the model and supporting structure to be presented to the town's Board of Education on Wednesday, August 12, with official dissemination of the “yellow plan” to families and stakeholders on Thursday, August 13.
Information regarding the “yellow plan” can be found on page 57 and page 58 of The Re-Entry: Getting Back to Innovation and Equity document and are attached for your review
According to Superintendent Conner, in order for schools to finalize schedules, student cohorts, bus routes, and other important operational logistics, each family must complete a form in PowerSchool. The form will be available on Thursday, August 13, and must be completed by Tuesday, August 18.
Governor Lamont — State of Connecticut
Gov. Lamont announced Thursday, August 6 that the state is committing a $266 million package to support school districts safely reopening in the fall, saying "We've got your back and putting our money where our mouth is."
According to a release, the Coronavirus Relief Funds will complement the $15 million already committed from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) and $111 million from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds, bringing the total funding for Connecticut schools to $266 million – one of the largest PK-12 state funding plans per-student in the country.
Gov. Lamont says the grants are an essential component to providing the best possible educational opportunities during this uncertain time.
The $266 million has been allocated for:
- Academic and staff support
- Student support
- PPE/Building Cleaning
Guidance from state officials regarding schools reopening include the following:
- Districts should prepare to open every day for full-time instruction at the beginning of 2020-2021 academic year, so long as public health data continues to support this model.
- Students in grades K-8 should be placed in cohorts, and the grouping is encouraged where feasible for grades 9-12.
- All staff and students expected to wear a protective face covering or face mask that completely covers the nose and mouth when inside the school building, except for certain exceptions including when teachers are providing instruction.
- Review building space and reconfigure available classroom space, such as gymnasiums and auditoriums, to maximize social distancing, consistent with public health guidelines in place at that time.
- Buses should operate close to capacity with heightened health and safety protocols.All students and operators required to wear face coverings. Social distancing required on buses.
According to officials, the plan was developed by a series of surveys with over 23,000 citizens and 16,000 students.
- Gov. Ned Lamont announced the Everybody Learns Initiative during a news conference in Waterbury. The $45 million initiative is designed to close the digital divide, helping students in under-served communities receive easier access to technology during remote learning.
- Gov. Lamont announced as part of the initiative, the state is acquiring another 50,000 Chromebooks. The devices are to be used those students who aren’t comfortable coming back to the classroom. Gov. Lamont said they will not be left behind and there will be resources available to help make the best use of the Chromebooks. Lamont added that the state is working to establish 200 hot spots around the state, which would include areas like community centers and libraries.
The State of Connecticut said its back to school plan and guidance are grounded in the six following guiding principles:
- Safeguarding the health & safety of students and staff
- Allowing all students the opportunity to return into the classrooms full time starting in the fall
- Monitoring the school populations and, when necessary, potentially cancelling classes in the future to appropriately contain COVID-19 spread
- Emphasizing equity, access, and support to the students and communities who are emerging from this historic disruption
- Fostering strong two-way communication with partners such as families, educators and staff
- Factoring into decisions about reopening, the challenges to the physical safety and social-emotional
Connecticut Education Association
The CEA also released its Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-2021 school year.
According to the organization's website, they strongly advocate that the state amend its plan to include their guidance, as to safety in education for all students, and all teachers and staff.
"Any return to the classroom must be done in full compliance with expert health and safety guidelines," they wrote. "In addition, Connecticut must enhance its plans for remote learning for at-risk students and teachers, which will be necessary for some under any scenario, and may be necessary for all if circumstances warrant."
The Connecticut Education Association's six recommended requirements for the fall are as follows:
- Do not open school buildings if Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and public health and safety requirements cannot be met.
- For any school reopening, guarantee that funding for COVID-related expenses will be provided by the state so that all school districts can meet the CDC and public health and safety requirements.
- Recognize and address the risks for students, teachers, and staff in school during a pandemic.
- Understand that moving the economy forward is dependent on the safety of schools, not on the mere reopening of schools.
- Allow schools to begin the school year through distance/remote learning where necessary; for any in-class learning, require that districts reduce density and allow staggered schedules to meet CDC and public health and safety requirements.
- Institute testing for all students, teachers, and staff who return to school, once per week, and institute contact tracing protocols.
New Haven Board of Education
The New Haven BOE will host an online meeting Tuesday, July 21 at 5 p.m. to discuss returning to schools.
The meeting comes as many still question if, despite Connecticut's positive containment efforts recently, it is safe to send children and teachers back into school for the upcoming semester.
The Board of Education in the Elm City also outlined a daily cleaning schedule to help mitigate the risk of infection:
- Restrooms cleaned at 9AM, 11AM, 1PM and after dismissals (unoccupied time)
- Soap dispensers and towels filled according to restroom cleanings.
- Common touchpoints spray/wipe continuously as per checklist
- Meals in classrooms teachers to assist with proper trash disposal
- Pre-K toys & play equipment disinfected throughout the day and each night
- Water fountains shut off and bagged
- Classroom & bathroom doors remain open
- Students leave desktops clear at the end of day
- Staff to utilize disinfecting wipes to periodically
- Hand sanitizers to be placed in all rooms
- Signage throughout the school reminding everyone to physically distance & hand wash
Below is the PDF summary of the State of Connecticut's fall reopening model.