School board approves fall back-to-school plan
Posted: Jun 22, 2021 4:20 PM
While plans may evolve if local community and state infection rates of COVID-19 change, the Newtown Board of Education approved a back-to-school plan for the fall during a special meeting on June 22.
A parent speaking at the night’s public participation likened hearing the details of the plan to ice cream being picked up – there was ice cream first, then sprinkles, then the cherry. And that’s because the parents at the reunion heard a number of things that they approved of, as indicated by the comments and applause.
As long as health indicators at the local level continue to improve and there are no new mandates or state decrees, preschool to grade 12 teaching will resume in person, “with the continuity of all services from August 2021 “, indicates the plan in part.
There are several parts of the plan. Many of the key aspects highlighted are included here along with meeting coverage, and the plan will be made available online in its entirety once updated, according to meeting discussions.
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Lorrie Rodrigue, presented the plan to school board members at the special meeting.
The main points of the plan include that “Cohort D” is no longer an option for families to have students to learn at home; Newtown Middle School and Newtown High School no longer requiring daily early termination; and all elementary schools and Reed Intermediate School no longer require early termination on Wednesdays.
With respect to masks, the plan then reads: “It is our continued interest and intention to create and maintain an environment conducive to the health and well-being of the students.” Newtown Public Schools will only require masks to be worn, both for students and adults, in schools when required by executive orders or state requirements. “
The school board approved an update to the mask portion of this plan to read further, according to discussions at the meeting, “Adults working with children should wear a mask unless they are fully immunized,” adding the warning, “However, volunteers working with students will be instructed to wear a mask unless fully immunized. “
Masks have been a recent topic at Education Council meetings, with parents mainly speaking out in public participations to call for students wearing masks to be optional in the fall. Dr Rodrigue stressed during the meeting that masks will remain mandatory for students in school-related activities until July 20, when a decree will end.
According to the plan, Newtown public schools will encourage social distancing in accordance with guidelines from the Department of Health (DPH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC); desktop screens will no longer be used; digital and blended learning will remain where appropriate; Kindergarten to Grade 6, class groups will move between school activities as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic; students in grades 7 through 12 will be in non-cohort classes and have lunch; all lunches will be served in cafeterias as health parameters allow; cafeteria meals will continue to be provided free of charge to students until June 30, 2022; shared use of the playground and physical education equipment will be permitted and the equipment will be periodically cleaned and disinfected; according to the guidelines, groups and musical ensembles will be allowed to practice and perform with periodically cleaned and disinfected material and equipment; college and high school sports will continue to follow Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) guidelines; and all clubs and activities will resume in the fall.
The plan continues to emphasize that parents and caregivers will need to keep students home when they are sick; staff and students will need to notify the school nurse if students are sick or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19; all facilities will be cleaned and disinfected in accordance with DPH and CDC guidelines; existing improvements in ventilation and air purification will remain in place; transport will resume at full capacity.
“While we encourage unvaccinated students to protect themselves on buses by wearing a mask, masks will remain optional unless the state of Connecticut indicates otherwise,” the plan says.
The plan also specifies that DPH and CDC guidelines for quarantine will continue to be followed, which currently requires seven days of quarantine with a negative test on the fifth day, those vaccinated will not be required to put in quarantine or isolate if asymptomatic, and only direct contacts will be notified. ; students who need to be quarantined will receive homework through Google Classroom and supported by a tutor or mentor; COVID-19 tests will continue to be provided by the Newtown School Health Center; volunteers will be allowed and unvaccinated volunteers will be asked to wear a mask.
The plan finally emphasizes, “We will continue to support immunization for eligible staff and students through our local Newtown health department and other community partners.” “
Dr Rodrigue said at the meeting that the district has no further direction from the state regarding what will happen after the current executive decree ends on July 20.
“But our back-to-school plan must be submitted or posted publicly … by June 23,” said Dr Rodrigue.
The Superintendent said a lot of time had been spent thinking about the plan and what to include in it. Newtown Health Director Donna Culbert was consulted on the plan, the data was assessed and stakeholder feedback considered.
Discussions by school board members at the meeting ranged from how students with fragile medical needs will be housed; adding mental health as a more prominent aspect of the plan; and how the academic needs of students will be taken care of. Particular attention was paid to how to formulate masking protocols for adults, both staff and volunteers.
As Dr Rodrigue summarized in an introduction to the back-to-school plan, “Newtown public school staff and management learned many lessons from the challenges encountered throughout the pandemic. While we stand ready to fill the learning gap, we also remain inspired to transform our practices so that they continue to provide innovative, high-quality learning experiences for all students. While our plan focuses on an in-person model, it may evolve based on health metrics and any future requirements from the state of Connecticut. “
Reflecting on the plan, vice-chairman Dan Delia suggested sharing the plan or a letter about it with the state to announce Newtown’s priorities for the 2021-22 school year.
Eliza Hallabeck can be contacted at [email protected]