CT School’s Reopening Plan: What to Expect From Your District
The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) has released “Adapt, Advance, Achieve: Connecticut’s Plan to Learn and Grow Together,” a comprehensive plan that will serve as a roadmap for districts as they plan to reopen schools at the beginning of the 2020-21 academic year.
The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) has released “Adapt, Advance, Achieve Connecticut’s Plan to Learn and Grow Together,” a comprehensive plan that will serve as a roadmap for districts as they plan to reopen schools at the beginning of the 2020-21 academic year.
This document follows the announcement on June 25 of a framework to allow all students – in all school districts statewide – the opportunity to have access to in-school, full-time instruction in the fall as long as public health data continue to support this model.
According to state officials, due to Connecticut’s successful COVID-19 containment efforts, this operating model was selected based on feedback from a wide range of educational stakeholders and public health officials in support of the effectiveness of in-school instruction. The benefits include structures in place to ensure safety protocols, providing for students’ social-emotional well-being, and mitigating any barriers to accessing equitable opportunities that increased during the pandemic. The model will be supported with more intensive mitigation strategies and specific monitoring, containment and class cancellation plans.
“Healthy schools translate to healthy communities, and the safety of our students, educators and school personnel remains the primary focus as we implement this plan. Balancing the reopening of schools will require us to be flexible and prepare to adjust as needed,” said Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona.
“After consulting extensively with public health officials and our school communities, the evidence is clear that having students physically present in school greatly improves outcomes and our ability to provide for their academic and non-academic needs. When COVID-19 first hit, we were all called on to rise to the challenge and, after witnessing the herculean efforts of teachers, school personnel and families over the past two months, I am confident we will come together stronger than ever to lead the evolution of education in Connecticut. ‘Adapt, Advance, Achieve’ is the first step.”
As this plan is implemented, CSDE will continue working collaboratively with public health and educational stakeholders in order to provide support and guidance to assist districts with planning at the local level and providing education to all students in a way that is accessible, equitable and meaningful.
As Connecticut schools plan to reopen, the guidance and considerations outlined in this framework are grounded in six guiding principles, according to Cardona:
- Safeguarding the health and safety of students and staff;
- Allowing all students the opportunity to return to the classrooms full time starting in the fall;
- Monitoring the school populations and, when necessary, potentially cancelling classes in the future to appropriately contain COVID-19 spread;
- Emphasizing equity, access and support for the students and communities who are emerging from this historic disruption;
- Fostering strong two-way communication with partners such as families, educators and staff; and
- Factoring into decisions about reopening the challenges to the physical safety and social-emotional well-being of our students when they are not in school.
These guiding principles require all districts to develop their plans with a certain level of consistency; however, they retain wide discretion in implementing approaches to reopening given unique local considerations. School districts must balance their planning with contingency plans to provide robust, blended learning or remote learning for all grades in the event that a school, district or region has to cancel or limit in-person classes due to health precautions.
Main Operational Considerations Local Districts Must Consider:
- Districts should emphasize grouping students by the same class/group of students and teacher (into a cohort) so each team functions independently as much as possible. Consider this methodology by grade levels.
- Placing students in cohorts is strongly encouraged for grades K-8, and encouraged where feasible for grades 9-12.
Social Distancing and Facilities
- Review building space and reconfigure available classroom space, such as gymnasiums and auditoriums, to maximize social distancing, consistent with public health guidelines in place at that time.
- Districts should plan for buses to operate close to capacity with heightened health and safety protocols, including requiring all students and operators wear face coverings.
- Plans must be developed to activate increased social distancing protocols based upon community spread.
- All staff and students will be expected to wear a protective face covering or face mask that completely covers the nose and mouth when inside the school building, except for certain exceptions, including when teachers are providing instruction.
Ensuring Equity and Access
Equitable access to education is a top priority that supports a full-time in-school model by mitigating any barriers to education or opportunity gaps that increased during the pandemic. Efforts to support equity, close the opportunity gap and provide a wide range of support for students in the state is best achieved with in-person schooling opportunities for all ages.
Districts should identify gaps and develop action plans for reopening that specifically address inclusion, equity and access for all learners with strategies and clearly defined action steps.
Temporarily Choosing Not to Participate Requirements
Districts must plan for parents and students who may temporarily choose not to participate in the return to school. There are defined requirements when participation of a student in the schoolhouse is limited due to a verified medical reason. However, parents and guardians may also voluntarily choose for students to temporarily engage in learning from home for a variety of other reasons.
In developing these plans, options include but are not limited to:
Consider how retired teachers and/or teachers who voluntarily identify as “high risk” or otherwise need to be accommodated outside of the schoolhouse may support operational needs via remote learning, including but not limited to the following:
- Working with students (virtually) who are unable to attend school;
- Developing and implementing district professional development (PD) (virtual or in person);
- Assisting with continued PD to train teachers who need assistance with best practices for virtual teaching and learning.
- Serving as online tutors for those who need additional assistance.
- Connecticut State Department of Education, in consultation with stakeholders, will continue to support LEAs in developing options for students and families choosing not to participate, including by issuing future guidance.
Before July 24, 2020, LEAs and all school operators, including but not limited to choose programs, charter schools and endowed academies will be expected to submit a plan to the CSDE addressing the requirements outlined in “Adapt, Advance, Achieve: Connecticut’s Plan to Learn and Grow Together.” To read the full 50-page document. please visit: https://portal.ct.gov/SDE/COVID19/COVID-19-Resources-for-Families-and-Educators.