Only Certainty About Area Back-to-School Plans is Uncertainty

The coronavirus sent all Connecticut students home for full-time, long-distance learning last March, giving them no choice but to finish the remainder of their 2019-2020 school year from their homes.

This month, as the 2020-2021 school year begins, there are a variety of return-to-school strategies in the works throughout the eight neighboring towns that make up the North Central Connecticut region. These include different plans to return to school buildings full-time and part-time.

Moreover, in each district, parents have been given the choice to opt their children out of returning to a school building at all and instead choose a full distance-learning model to participate in from their homes.  

That said, even the best-laid education plans that have been created over the summer can change overnight if a significant COVID-19 outbreak occurs in any school district. Changes to the start-up plans would be made based on the best available information and in coordination with the North Central District Health Department, CSDE, and Department of Public Health (DPH) and in accordance with state statutes, executive orders from the Governor, and recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

These are the most current back to school plans as of late August.

Going Back to School Buildings Full Time

Two North Central districts – Stafford and Vernon – will have students return to school buildings for full-time instruction at the start of the 2020-2021 school year. This will continue as long as public health data continues to support this model. These and other district reopening plans were created with guidance from the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) Adapt, Advance, Achieve information published during the summer.

Various Hybrid Models

Back-to-school hybrid models split student populations into two groups (or cohorts) that alternate between in-school building learning and long-distance learning. These models are designed to reduce the number of students in the school at any one time, which provides more room for social distancing in the school building.

The Ellington and Enfield schools are starting the 2020-2021 year with a hybrid model that haseach cohort attend school for two consecutive days (Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday) with the other three days spent in distance learning. Ellington plans to re-evaluate the plan the week of September 28 with the possibility – assuming favorable health data and other conditions – to move to a full five-day, in-person model (with a distance learning option) starting on October 5, or another date to be determined as recommended by the Superintendent of Schools.  For now, Enfield has indicated its hybrid will run through at least mid-October.

East Windsor will open school with a similar hybrid instructional model. Students across the district will attend school in person two days per week (Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday) with three days online. All students will work remotely on Wednesdays with tutorial, small group, or 1:1 support available for half of the day and independent work provided for the other half.

Suffield students will also be divided into two cohorts. They will attend classes as scheduled during synchronous learning (Monday, Tuesday; Thursday, Friday). Students who are in the remote cohort and full-distance learning will join their in-school classmates via “live” Google Meets which will be posted on their Google classroom page or SeeSaw page. Elementary students will have some options built into their schedule.

Through September, the Somers Public Schools will follow a similar hybrid plan where approximately half of the student body will be learning on campus, while the other half is engaged in learning off campus. The Somers in-person days for Cohort A will be Monday and Thursday. Cohort B will be on campus every Tuesday and Friday. Both cohorts will alternate Wednesdays on campus.

Different Levels/ Different Plans

Windsor Locks elementary schools will open their doors to students four days a week, separated in classroom cohorts that will enter the buildings through separate doors.

Windsor Locks Middle School and Windsor Locks High School, however, will move to a hybrid model, a change from an original full in-person plan because more students than expected selected to return to school in-person.  The schedule for the first week of school will be in-school two days and remote two days. Following that, students will be fully in-person or fully remote for a full week at a time. Their schedules will alternate weekly – for example: Cohort Gold will spend Week 2 in-person, Week 3 remote, Week 4 in-person, and so on, while Cohort Maroon will spend Week 2 remote, Week 3 in-person, Week 4 remote, and so on.

Once again, each district will also be providing a full long distance learning option for students whose parents do not want them to take part in full or hybrid on-campus learning. For more information about how all these plans will be implemented in accordance with the safety regulations to stop the spread of the coronavirus, visit the district’s Board of Education page.

By Laura Hayden

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