Change made to allow kids to adjust as schools plan to reopen
By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
NAUGATUCK — When, and if, Naugatuck schools reopen for the 2020-21 school year, students won’t spend a full day in classes for the first two weeks.
The Board of Education July 14 voted to make the first two weeks of the school year, which is scheduled to start Aug. 31, early dismissal days.
Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini said he wants students to have an easy transition back to school with new guidelines and requirements in place, like wearing masks, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At the beginning of the year, we know that in a lot of our school buildings it’s going to be hot and they’re going to have to wear masks,” Montini said. “We want to provide a more gentle transition as they come back after this long gap from being in school.”
Schools have been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus. Students finished out the school year with distance learning online at home.
State officials have said the plan is to fully reopen in-person instruction for the 2020-21 school year, if public health conditions permit. The state issued guidelines and requirements for school districts to follow that cover cleaning and disinfecting, classroom layout, signs and messages, ventilation, and bus transportation. There are also other mandates, such as wearing masks inside schools and on buses.
School districts must develop reopening plans for fully returning to school, continuing distance learning or a mix of both.
Montini said having early dismissals the first two weeks will also provide opportunities for professional development for teachers, and for teachers to help families get a better handle on virtual learning.
“So, that at the end of the first two weeks, we’re prepared for all three plans and we’ve helped train and support our families’ understanding of what distance learning would look like, as well,” Montini said.
The school board was expected to finish its reopening plan this week to send to the state for review.
“We have to develop a plan that provides for all students to return to classroom learning in school buildings at the start of the school year, unless they choose themselves to continue to learn online from home at the start of the school year,” Montini said.
Officials were developing several plans. One is for students to be fully back in school with some families opting to keep their children home for distance learning. Another is designed to improve distance learning in the event it becomes necessary to close schools again, Montini said.
There are also a couple of hybrid options that would have half of the students attending schools and the other half doing work online at home on a rotating basis. Groups of students would either physically attend school every other day, or for a week then spend two weeks doing distance learning. Montini said the latter option would provide time in case people get sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 symptoms appear within two to 14 days.
The hybrid options are designed to mitigate class size and reduce the risk of the spread of the coronavirus, he said.
“A lot of how we operate is going to be fluid,” Montini said. “We need to be ready with our plans to move into plan two or three at any time based on that data and react to our situations and circumstance.”
The board also waived community service requirements for the upcoming school year for Naugatuck High School seniors to graduate.
“The health and safety guidelines that we’re receiving would actually prevent kids from going out and engaging in the community,” Montini said.