New Haven preparing to resume in-person learning; city showing safety measures inside schools

New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Mayor Justin Elicker taking our News 8 crew on a tour inside Bishop Woods Magnet School on Quinnipiac Avenue showing off social distancing and face mask signs that are now part of the new decor.

Mayor Elicker telling News 8 the city’s 41 school buildings are almost ready to re-open their doors to thousands of students on Nov. 9, when the district will adopt a hybrid learning model.

“One thing that’s important to note is that families can still choose to remain remote if they would like,” the mayor said. “But, it’s very important to physically have kids back in school because a lot of kids are much more productive in that type of environment.”

News 8 is getting a look at the environment that awaits thousands of kids: desks spaced six feet apart inside classrooms and the kids will travel in cohorts. They won’t be mingling with many different kids in order to minimize the spread of germs. They’ll see hand sanitizing stations and plenty of PPE in their classrooms. One teacher showed News 8 two cabinets in her classroom stocked with personal protection equipment.

“Here are our face shields we were provided,” Gabriella Lavorgna said. “We were also provided gowns that we’re given to wear everyday. And we keep these stowed away. And if you want to come to this one (another cabinet), we have a plethora of gloves, masks.”

The superintendent telling News 8 all of this time away from the school buildings allowed the district to take measures to improve the facilities and help make them safer for teachers and students — like improving HVAC systems.

“The safety and well-being of our children and our staff is important,” said Dr. Iline Tracey, New Haven’s Superintendent of Public Schools.

Both the mayor and the superintendent say they kept their eyes on practices and procedures of other districts and feel their plan and protocols are excellent when it comes to protection. One big move New Haven is making will happen on Wednesdays.

For at least a brief period after the Nov. 9 reopening, school buildings will close on Wednesdays to students and teachers. That’s so cleaning staff at all of the district’s schools can do a deep cleaning inside. This is in addition to the daily spraying and wipe downs teachers will do after each class on all of the other days. On Wednesdays, the district will engage in remote learning from home.

“It’s a relief because I know that even though I’m keeping up with cleaning, we’re wiping, we’re spraying, we’re doing everything we can, I know they’re taking it a step further,” Lavorgna said.

The plan to keep school buildings open could change if COVID-19 numbers in the community climb.

“If the cases do continue to go up,” said Mayor Elicker. “We’ll pull back.”

For now though, all systems are “go” for students to head back into the buildings on Nov. 9.

“I’m so excited,” Lavorgna said. “I feel very safe coming back to school.”

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