Naugatuck schools preparing to reopen under hybrid plan


By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

Early indications show 21% of borough students choosing to stay home

NAUGATUCK — Early responses from parents as to whether they will send their children to school in September showed more than 20% of Naugatuck students will stay home and do online learning.

As of Aug. 12, about 21% of Naugatuck students had opted to do online learning completely instead of attending school under a hybrid model, according to information Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini shared with the Board of Education Aug. 13.

“That certainly is higher than I anticipated,” said Montini as he updated the board on the district’s reopening plan.

As of Aug. 12, the district received responses from parents of 2,221 students about their intentions for the upcoming school year. Of those 2,221 students, 863 opted for full distance learning and 1,358 to return to school.

There are about 4,025 students in the district. Montini said schools officials will reach out to families they have not heard from to determine their intentions. He said the number of students who opt to stay home will impact class sizes and how the district allocates staff.

Officials are reviewing options for students who chose virtual learning. The district may assign teachers specifically for distance learning or students may follow classes live online. The last resort, Montini said, is to offer students a separate online educational program.

The board last week approved changes to the school year calendar. The first day of school is Sept. 2 — two days later than originally planned — and the first week of school will be half days for students.

The district is preparing to reopen schools under a hybrid model amid the COVID-19 pandemic that will include in-person instruction and online learning.

This screenshot shows Naugatuck Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini discussing the district’s reopening plan during a virtual Board of Education meeting Aug. 13.

Under the plan, students in grades 7-12 will be divided into two groups and attend school in-person Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday for three and a half hours. Students will do remote learning at home in the afternoon, and the days they aren’t physically in school.

Students in grades 7-12 will be able to follow classes live online while distance learning, according to the plan.

Students in grades K-6 will attend school Monday through Friday for three and a half hours and remote learn in the afternoons, according to the plan.

Students in K-8 will remain in cohorts, and middle school teachers will teach classes in students’ homerooms, according to the plan. Naugatuck High School students will change classrooms, but do so at staggered times.

Students will get a grab-and-go lunch to take home as well as a breakfast for the following day.

The plan is to follow this model through Oct. 2, and officials will evaluate how the model is working in late September to determine how to continue.

Montini said the district is also working with Spark Little Learners Daycare in Naugatuck and the Naugatuck YMCA to provide child care on site at the elementary and intermediate schools, except Salem Elementary School and Hillside Intermediate School due to the schools’ proximity to the YMCA.

Officials stressed the plan is fluid. Montini said he understands the plan is “incredibly impactful” on education and families.

“We’re in a situation that is not ideal to say the least,” he said.