Hamden school district considering moving from hybrid model to remote learning until January, vote moved to next week

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HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — School districts in several newly-designated “Red Alert zones” are now navigating how to keep students safe despite the threat of widespread community COVID transmission.

Middletown, West Haven, and Hamden Public Schools all tell News 8 they are having staffing issues due to teachers and staff having to quarantine. The districts tell us they are not seeing transmission within schools themselves—rather, staff are facing community exposure, or even childcare issues as a result of other districts going temporarily remote. Substitutes have long been difficult to find.

Related: New London Public Schools, 2 schools in Middletown going remote due to positive COVID-19 cases

Now, Hamden Public Schools Superintendent Jody Goeler is recommending to the Board of Education that all students go to full-time remote learning starting the week of Thanksgiving and continuing through Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in late January— two weeks after New Year’s Eve.

City officials are concerned about a heightened risk of community spread as a result of possible small gatherings over the holidays.

“We feel really good about the protocols we have in place but it looks like its going in a bad direction and I think that’s one of the reasons the board is considering going fully remote,” said Karen Kaplan, Hamden Public Schools Director of Innovation, Technology and Communications.

Kaplan says the students have been excellent at social distancing and wearing masks, and there has been no virus transmission within the schools themselves. But, she says, after discussion with city leaders, the District is hoping to take a proactive approach to the second COVID wave.

The Board of Education is discussing the recommendation at their meeting Tuesday night.

Some Board members aid they need more time to make an informed decision. Other said parents need to know and start making plans now.

President of Hamden Education Association Diana Marinaro said, “Seventy-seven who have had to be quarantined since school started, and well over 50% of those are my teachers.”

Jennifer Caruso, a Hamden parent said, “I would like the kids to go back. But, again, I think there is a huge health crisis, and if we need kids to stay home, my bigger priority is insuring that, that is done well and in a supportive way.”

President of Connecticut Education Association Jeff Leake said, “We have been concerned from the start about the safety and health of our members and our kids in school. That’s what we’re trying to make sure we’ve done to the best of our ability as we go forward.”

As president of the CT Education Association, Leake told News 8 he’s looking for ‘uniformity’ from the state with regard to issues that arise from district to district.

If full-time remote learning is approved, it would go into effect on Monday before Thanksgiving.

If approved, Hamden would likely be the first Connecticut district to return to fully remote learning after beginning the year in a hybrid model.

Kaplan says the board will consider exceptions for children with special needs and for families who need support.

“We know there will be parents that this will be a difficulty for. We are working with the afterschool providers to provide full-day programs,” she said.

Late Tuesday night, the Board decided not to vote on the issue and has pushed back the vote until next week.

The Board decided Saturday to move all Hamden schools to full remote learning until mid-January.

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