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Waterbury families scrambling to adjust after school district announces immediate move to all virtual learning

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WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Parents in Waterbury are scrambling Tuesday after the school district announced a move to full remote learning Monday night.

Monday night, Waterbury Schools Superintendent Dr. Verna Ruffin held a press conference announcing her decision to close all Waterbury Public Schools for in-person learning until the day after Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January.

RELATED: Waterbury Public Schools transitions to full virtual learning through MLK Day

That was at 8:30 p.m. Word got out to Waterbury parents about an hour before that — much to their surprise.

Jessica Shaw was out shopping with a friend — another parent of children in Waterbury Public Schools.

“We were shocked — like wondering ‘who’s going to sit with our kids?'” Shaw said.

Shaw got lucky because her boss decided to give her the day off so she could get situated with her kids — two girls in elementary school and another in high school. Shaw was especially concerned about her youngest daughter who has special needs.

“She can’t sit still for multiple hours and focus,” Shaw explained.

At the press conference and in a letter to parents, Dr. Ruffin explained that she felt she had to act immediately because of the rising COVID cases in the district.

RELATED: Ansonia, Waterbury school districts switching to remote as COVID-19 cases increase during holiday season

“I’m constantly aware that I have to make decisions that are going to protect the people — the people who work very tirelessly to make great things happen on behalf of all children — our teachers, our staff,” Dr. Ruffin said.

Shaw tells News 8 she gives the superintendent high marks for caring about the welfare of students. But, she also added, “At least give us a week’s notice before just throwing it at us.

The district is setting up grab-and-go sites where families can pick up bagged meals for students. One of them is WAMS — Waterbury Arts Magnet School. That’s where we ran into 13-year-old Damian Ortiz and his grandfather. Ortiz also thinks the district is doing a good job looking out for students.

“It’s understanding about why they decided to make that decision,” Ortiz said.

Both he and Shaw agree that no school superintendent should be put in this position in the first place.

“People who don’t social distance and wear masks — they’re the cause of it,” Ortiz said.

“The kids were going to school and everything was fine but then parties led to cases and cases led to schools closing,” Shaw said.

Shaw is relieved she made it through the first day of virtual learning. As for tomorrow, she says her boss is allowing her to take her daughters — and their computers — with them to the office.

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