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COVID-19 Round-Up: How Schools Near You Are Handling Outbreaks And Absent Staff

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School Photo Credit: By Akbarali - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=93462367

As Connecticut Education Association teachers push for all schools to transition to full-remote learning in the near future, the current situation is a patchwork of approaches to COVID-19 safety across the state's various schools.

It's hard to keep track of which districts are providing remote learning, which ones have in-school classes, and why.

For a round up of what schools and districts in your area are doing about COVID-19, scroll to the bottom of the article.

Complicating the matter is that within districts not all schools are providing the same type of education. Individual schools within a district have gone fully-remote for days or weeks at a time due to COVID-19 infections among staff and students.

Some schools are having to close and provide fully-remote learning due to a lack of available staff.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Connecticut and across the nation. 

Whatever is being offered, the goal of school administrators is to preemptively curb the spread of COVID-19 amid the holidays or drive down an uptick in positive test results in the education community. 

On Tuesday, teachers with the Connecticut Education Association held an informational protest in Stratford. Teachers advocated not to return to school after the Thanksgiving break due to safety concerns. Instead, they want all students in the state to attend classes remotely.

Gov. Ned Lamont has called for schools to provide in-person education - which would relieve strain on the economy. 

Here's a round-up of what's going on in schools and districts near you as of Wednesday, Nov. 25.

NEW HAVEN

The city school district transitioned to fully-remote education in late October as COVID-19 cases spiked in the area. Students will receive remote learning indefinitely. 

EAST HAVEN

Around  Nov. 12, Deer Run Elementary went to fully-remote education. At the time of this decision, it was reported that there were 150 people in the school district community who were in quarantine due to potential COVID-19 exposure, according to the New Haven Register. Students are slated to return on Nov. 30, assuming there is a green light from the local board of health.

WEST HAVEN

Superintendent Neil Cavallaro of the West Haven school district announced on Monday, Nov. 23 that classes would be held online between Nov. 30 through Dec. 4 to "curb the potential spread after the Thanksgiving holiday." 

HAMDEN 

Likewise, the 10 elementary schools, middle school, and high school represented by the Hamden Public school district shifted to online learning on Monday, Nov. 23, and will remain closed until Martin Luther King Day on Tuesday, Jan. 19. The district's Board of Education made the call at a Sunday, Nov. 15 meeting. 

"Some of the reasons for the move to full remote learning include the recent spike in infections in Hamden and the difficulty with staffing school buildings due to a large number of staff who have been quarantined or who are home for related reasons," read a letter from the BOE on the district's website. "On some days in the past weeks, it has not been possible to find sufficient numbers of substitutes and some of our schools have had to close."

WALLINGFORD

The Wallingford School District's Board of Education opted in a Tuesday, Nov. 17 emergency session to keep both Lyman Hall and Mark T. Sheehan high school classes remote, and for Dag Hammarskjold and Moran middle schools to do the same on Monday, Nov. 23. The decision was brought on by 214 cases reported in Wallingford between Oct. 24 and the meeting, according to the Meriden Record Journal, and 177 potential cases were pending in the school system according to the school's nursing direction Kathy Neelon. 

Superintendent Salvatore F. Menzo wrote on Tuesday Nov. 24 in a letter to parents on the district's website that the middle and high school in the district may remain closed until Jan. 19. 

MERIDEN

In nearby Meriden, 10 of 12 schools have reported active COVID cases, according to the Meriden Record-Journal, most with less than 6 cases. Although 5 percent of students are currently quarantined, according to reporting by the publication, the district has yet to propose distance learning for all its students. 

BRIDGEPORT

Schools represented by the Bridgeport Board of Education shifted to an entirely online schedule indefinitely on Monday, Nov. 23. The decision was announced on Wednesday, Nov. 12, according to the Hartford Courant

WATERBURY

All students within the Waterbury School District began online learning on Tuesday, Nov. 17, and will not return to school until at least Jan. 18 according to Superintendent Verna D. Ruffin

"While we were hopeful that our schools would remain in our current hybrid learning model through this week and the early part of next week, it has become increasingly challenging," wrote Ruffin in a letter to parents. "Based on the rise in coronavirus transmission in the city, and in collaboration with Mayor Neil M. O’Leary, the City of Waterbury Department of Public Health and the Board of Education, I have made the decision to transition ALL students to virtual learning effective tomorrow, Tuesday, November 17, through Monday, January 18."

Students will return to a hybrid model, partially in-person and partially online, on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

MILFORD

Following Milford High School's transition to online classes on Monday, Nov. 16, the district's 4 middle schools also halted in-person classes. Both will resume, tentatively, on Friday, Jan. 8, and the district's elementary schools will resume their in-person activities.

The decision was made in part due to a lack of staff. On a recent day, the superintendent said there were 181 staff members reported absent.

"While the high school shift to distance learning allowed us to redeploy 15 high school staff members to our elementary and middle schools, we are finding that it is not enough," wrote Superintendent Anna M. Cutaia in a Tuesday, Nov. 17 letter to parents. "Unfortunately, the rise in cases continues to impact our in-person learning model, again most notably in the area of human resources."

CHESHIRE

As of Monday, Nov. 23, approximately 18 students within the Cheshire School district are currently afflicted with COVID-19, with "<6" reported at Cheshire High School, "<6" at Dodd Middle School, "<6" at Chapman Elementary School. 

"In order to protect individual privacy cases more than zero and less than 6 are not specifically identified, but given the <6 designation," reads the district's COVID overview page. 

Between one and six teachers at both the high school and Dodd have also tested positive, and are currently isolating. 

At Cheshire High School, 13 staff members and 35 students who have been in close contact with those who tested positive are also quarantining at home, and six staff members and 19 students who were in contact with positive cases are quarantined from Dodd Middle School. Students from all 7 schools in the district are currently quarantining due to contact with individuals that tested positive, as are staff from each school with the exceptions of the Darcey School and the Norton School. 

DERBY

In the Derby School District, 255 students and 88 staff members throughout the school system are currently in quarantine. 11 students and 6 staff members are currently convalescing after receiving positive COVID-19 test results, according to the district's daily COVID-19 metrics. 

BETHANY

The town of Bethany announced that it will move its schools to online learning on Wednesday, Nov. 25 until Monday, Dec. 7 after hosting half of its students online and half of its students in-person on Monday, Nov. 23 and Tuesday, Nov. 24, after the town reported 24.8 positive COVID cases out of every 100,000 people tested between Nov. 1 and Nov. 14. None of these positive COVID tests, however, came from students or staff within the district. 

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