By Elio Gugliotti, Editor
NAUGATUCK — School officials are preparing to increase the amount of time borough students spend in the classroom.
All students that are attending school in-person will do so more often starting Oct. 5, according to a plan Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini presented to the Board of Education Sept. 24.
“We do look forward to seeing the kids in school more frequently and hopefully we progress to more in-person instruction,” school board Chairman Jeff Litke said.
Naugatuck schools are following a hybrid model of education that blends in-person instruction and remote virtual learning for students.
High school and middle school students are divided into two groups. They are attending school in-person two days a week — either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday — and distance learning at the home the other days. Students in grades K-6 are going to school Monday through Friday.
Students are following an early dismissal schedule and remote learning at home in the afternoons.
Starting next week, K-6 students will attend school for full days — six and a half hours — Monday through Thursday and have an early dismissal on Friday.
High school and middle school students will remain split into two groups. Students will attend in-person two days a week and every other Friday, which will be early dismissal days. City Hill Middle School will follow a full-day schedule and Naugatuck High School will have a five-hour day.
Lunch for students in grades K-8 will be served in school, according to the plan. Naugatuck High students will be offered meals to take home.
Montini said the decision to expand in-person learning is based on health metrics in the state, an overall good start to the school year and class sizes.
“We’re basing this on data and experience,” he said.
Class sizes are the driving factor for continuing to divide middle and high school students into two groups.
Based on students who are attending school in-person, the class sizes allow for students to maintain social distance in class, according to Montini.
The issue at the middle and high schools is keeping students socially distant in classrooms. Based on the number of students attending school in-person, there would be 10 classes with 16 or more students at City Hill. At Naugatuck High, there would many classes with 20 or more students.
Montini said officials are looking at alternative spaces at City Hill to hold some classes and there’s a chance students will be able to attend all week at some point.
The high school, however, is a different story due to some smaller classrooms and spaces.
“We are not in a position to leave the hybrid model at the high school,” Montini said.
The plan is fluid.
Montini said if class sizes increase due to a large number of students who opted for full distance learning come back to school in-person the board will have to revisit the plan. Nearly 32% — 1,351 — of the district’s 4,270 students are distance learning full time.