Connecticut students will return to schools statewide come this fall, though classrooms will have a different look, according to state officials.
Gov. Ned Lamont and state Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona laid out the basic metrics for schools and parents as Connecticut plans to reopen in the fall with a full five-day school week for students, albeit with restrictions in place, at a news conference late Thursday afternoon, June 25 in Hartford.
“Our kids have not been in a classroom for months now,” Lamont said. “This is a long break, and they’ll be coming back in August and September.”
Lamont said that it was essential that schools open as close to possible as a normal time to provide students with a regular school day and week.
He noted that districts will be re-evaluating their classroom spaces to provide the most effective social distancing practices possible.
It is also possible that some auditoriums or gymnasiums can be used by classes to ensure there is more open space for students and staff.
“Just like the rest of reopening, we thought it best to do this on a statewide basis,” Lamont added. “We’re going to have consistency across all 169 of our towns for the sake of the quality of the experience of everybody, and so employers will have staff working similar hours. There won’t be different situations from one district to the next.”
While more official, specific, guidelines for school districts are expected to be released on Monday, June 29, Lamont said that districts will have children “cohort” in one group - specifically in grades K through 8, with classes largely sticking to one classroom to allow for more efficient contact tracing in the event of a positive COVID-19 case.
Cardona noted that it will be more difficult to cluster students in high school, though they will be taking measures to evaluate students in hallways and classrooms.
“We want that fifth-grade class to stay as a group,” Lamont said. “Stay as a group so we don’t have to walk around hallways to go to different classes. This way if there was an infection, we’ll know where those 25 kids and teacher were, so it’s more self-contained.”
When schools reopen, face coverings will be required for all students and staff, social distancing will be in place, students will be mandated to frequently wash hands, and districts will be installing enhanced cleaning and disinfecting methods of spaces and surfaces.
Some districts have also floated the possibility of installing plexiglass barriers around desks to allow teachers to provide more intimate learning for students.
“We’ve been developing this reopening plan for the last few months. It’s difficult trying to develop a plan for school reopening when you don’t know what we’ll look like as a state in a few months,” Cardona said. “We need a plan that promotes health and safety, and we’re developing it with our educational partners.”
Buses are expected to be full to the maximum capacity possible while still maintaining social distancing.
“Connecticut’s positive trends allow us to plan to reopen daily,” Cardona said. “Districts should expect to see an uptick in community transmission and must come up with alternative plans and be prepared.
“We must remain flexible and responsive to the data as we continue to learn,” he added. “We’re going to be monitoring community transmission but also transmission in schools.”
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