West Hartford Public Schools 2020-2021
Reopening Schools Newsletter Contents
I. In-School Learning
II. Remote Learning
III. Special Education
IV. Contingency Plans
V. Learning Intentions Survey
The hope for this fall is for the majority of our students to return to in person school. We recognize that there are also children with health risks that make this impossible. In addition, there are those with members of their families that are at risk who fear exposure, and others who believe that opening schools is the wrong decision, and do not plan to send their children. We have maintained throughout our planning that parents will have a choice of in-school instruction or an at-home, online program.
The difficulty in offering a complete plan so early is that we cannot fully design the program without knowing how many children will be in it. That’s why I am asking you to tell us your intentions for the upcoming year. Please look over the basic tenets of our plan and share your intentions by completing the Learning Intentions Survey on returning to school in the upcoming year, no later than Friday, July 17th. The form is linked at the bottom of the page, following the details of the reopening plan.
I. IN-SCHOOL INSTRUCTION
For those who elect to come to school, it will look very different from what we have been used to in the past. Our advisories for reopening schools are working to plan for measures that foster a safe and positive school climate for in-person and remote school environments. More information is forthcoming. The following information outlines specific physical health and safety protocols and in-person school structures.
A. Masks: Masks will be mandatory, with a few exceptions for health reasons. We will plan opportunities for “mask breaks” during the day, and will encourage the use of the outside areas around the schools for classes, where, if distanced appropriately, students can remove their masks. In addition to masks, some will also need face shields for medical reasons. We have purchased enough masks for all students or staff who might need them, including pediatric masks for the young (or those with small faces).
B. Hand washing: A practice of hand washing at regular intervals, will be a mandatory occurrence, and we will continue to educate our children (especially our youngest) on appropriate cleaning techniques. Hand sanitizer stations will be located throughout the building.
C. Distancing: Class sizes will be smaller than typical; therefore we need information about who is staying-in / opting-out so that we can build our class lists. As much as possible, we will try to maintain six feet of social distancing in our classroom setups. We know that no matter how hard we try, it will be impossible to maintain six feet of distance at all times, which is why masks are so important.
D. Cohorts: Elementary students will stay in the same cohort throughout the day. They will eat together, and specials teachers will come to them whenever possible, as we want to minimize students traveling in the building as much as possible. Each classroom will have bathrooms assigned to it for usage. Meals will likely be served in classrooms and outside based on the current guidelines. At the middle school, team structures will keep children in cohorts in the same way, and movement throughout the building will be limited by team.
E. Block Schedule: At the middle school and high school, we will be shifting to block scheduling for the year. Students will attend only half of their assigned periods on alternating days (A-day / B-day) thereby limiting classroom transitions from seven or eight per day to only three to four. Most hallways and stairwells, where appropriate, will be one way, and passing times will be staggered so as to limit hallway traffic. Masks will be worn at all times, other than outdoor breaks. Classes will be longer, but students will still be able to take part in a wide variety of offerings that makes our middle and high schools so special. At the high schools, we will also attempt to schedule students so those with free periods either arrive later in the day or are dismissed early from campus.
F. Bus Transportation: Current guidance from the state is that we do not need to limit the number of students on our buses as long as all are wearing face masks. I know from many parents that I have spoken to, however, that they will be transporting their child to and from school. In the next two weeks, you will receive communication from the Transportation Department asking whether or not you will be using transportation during the year. It is important that we have accurate information so that we can organize our bus runs and plan for appropriate seating.
G. Sanitation: Cleaning protocols in school have been greatly enhanced, and our custodians have been trained on cleaning in a pandemic. In addition, bathrooms will be cleaned at least twice daily, and a sign in sheet will be hung so that people know the area has been sanitized. After eating in classrooms, desks will be wiped down and sanitized, as well as periodically during the day.
H. Illness Protocols: It is critical that people stay home when they are sick. I have typically been a parent on the “tough it out” side- you might not feel great, but you can get through the day. This cannot be anyone’s mantra any more. If your child does not feel good, they need to stay home. There will be no bonuses, awards or anything else for perfect attendance, be it for students or staff. In order to take care of each other, we need to take care of ourselves.
II. REMOTE LEARNING
The following are some basic details about remote/at-home learning at this time.
A. Grouping: Students from various schools will be grouped by grade (this is for efficiency reasons- we are likely have the benefit of scale to create full classes and a more comprehensive program if we combine schools).
B. Scheduled: At the middle and high schools, students will be scheduled by subjects/grades. Depending on cohort size, a more limited variety of electives may be offered through remote (at home) learning.
C. Synchronous & Asynchronous: Instruction at all grades will feature significant synchronous (real-time) teaching in addition to asynchronous lessons and resources, individual and small group conferencing, with integrated supports based on individual student needs. Group sizes and screen time duration will vary based on developmentally appropriate guidelines.
D. Grab and Go Bagged Meals: Students with need will have access to pre-packaged lunch at designated school sites during specified times.
III. SPECIAL EDUCATION
Some of the people most impacted by our closure are those children with special education needs. Dr. Gretchen Nelson, Pupil Services Director, will be sending more information to all of you about our plans, our testing and therapy protocols, and reentry specifications. We look forward to welcoming your children back to access their education in school, if possible, or to continue with online learning. Students attending in person programming will receive services as outlined in their IEP with some adjustments to align with new school structures. PPTs and team meetings will continue in a virtual format.
Students attending through the online platform will continue to receive services with an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP) that follows their IEP. Individual and small group, synchronous academic, and related services will be provided.
IV. CONTINGENCY PLANS
I will be submitting to the state in mid July the plans that I have described above, as well as a plan for if we are forced into a hybrid model, because we see an increase in cases and need to limit the number of students, and an all online model, if we are forced into quarantine again. Protocols will exist in case there is a positive test in school, be it a student or staff member. I will notify any school community immediately, and the state is currently recommending a 2-5 day shut down in order to investigate, contact trace, and clean.
I hope that this helps to paint a picture of what school will look like. I know that there are far more questions that I have not answered, and these details will come in mid July. Every decision that we are making is based on the well being of our children, be it their physical or emotional health. It is more important than ever that we continue to partner in your child’s education, share information, and work together. None of this will be easy. There will be some things that people do not like, and there will be, I am sure, changes made to our plans before opening.
Tom Moore, Superintendent