NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The New Haven Board of Education unveiled what parents have been waiting to hear – the reopening plan detailing items like safety and academic growth.
The highlights are the three plans for instruction: one that would be fully operational and in-person learning, another would be a hybrid mix of in-person and online and a third model would shut down schools and move completely online.
“As a parent, I am concerned that there are too many moving pieces to this puzzle,” said a parent.
News Haven Public Schools along with the Health Department will be monitoring the fluid situation and the alternative plans will be activated depending on the infection rate situation across the state.
Michael Pinto, the Chief Operating Officer of NHPS said Tuesday, “The primary focus, obviously, is to ensure student and staff safety, making sure we provide a clean and safe learning environment and we are looking to be adaptive and we need to be able to adapt in real-time to changing conditions.”
Some of the items that were discussed Tuesday include essential COVID-19 safety like students being provided with adequate privacy, PPE, and regular health monitoring.
Some of the main changes include monitoring and tracking exposure as well as suspected cases of COVID-19 amongst students and staff and identifying a separate isolation room in every building. As part of this effort, parents will be asked to take their child’s temperature before heading into school in the morning.
Proper hand washing techniques will be taught and enforced in the building as well as enhanced social distancing efforts by providing face shields for teachers, and plexiglass and plastic barriers for students.
The plan extends to school buses as well and includes a requirement that students wear a face mask at all times (unless they have a medical reason that would excuse them) and a caregiver providing a face covering for students before boarding the bus. School bus drivers must wear masks and will enforce social distancing guidelines. Buses will also be disinfected each day.
School leaders say parents should begin now in preparing their kids to wear masks that cover their mouth and nose throughout the day.
One parent says that’s not enough.
“I would much rather have my daughter miss a year of learning than to lose her to the coronavirus,” said the parent.
Another major focus is on students with special needs.
As for meals, breakfast and lunch will be served in classrooms. Grab-and-go meals from café will be boxed lunch to eat in the cafeteria with social distancing or in classrooms. Social distancing markers will be placed on the floor to guide through the serving line.
There are also changes coming for the first day of school. It was originally set for Aug. 31, but because of the COVID-19 situation, a waiver is set to be put in place from the school district to the State to actually waive the number of days students need to be in school from 180 to 177. So now, the scheduled first day of school will be on Sept. 3.
“It’s possible that two weeks into school, we could have a spike in cases and change course and go to a different level,” said New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker.
Teachers are weighing in on the plan as well.
“They share textbooks, they share Chromebooks, they share different supplies. Are those going to be wiped down?” said a teacher.
“If the state has paused Phase 3, not allowing more than 25 people indoors at a time, why is it okay for schools to open with hundreds of people inside them for many hours a day? Are our lives that invaluable?” said Julia Miller, a teacher.
Wednesday morning, people weighed in on Facebook as well.
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All of these COVID-19-related costs would run the district about $13.9 million. Despite the hefty price, the goal is safety for students and their families and staff.
“Parents who are listening to us out there, please send us some suggestions so that we can incorporate those suggestions into our plan,” said Dr. Iline Tracey, Supt. Of Schools, New Haven.