Back-to-school will mean just that for Newington and towns across Connecticut this fall.
Newington Public Schools are now preparing for a fall 2020 reopening, after Gov. Ned Lamont and State Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona made the announcement in-person learning will resume for the 2020-21 school year.
Newington Superintendent of Schools Dr. Maureen Brummett had already convened a reopening task force when she received the news.
“I was a bit surprised, especially since summer school guidelines were so restrictive,” Brummett said Monday. “I think if our COVID-19 rates continue to decline in Connecticut then I’m glad for it because I do think the in-person model is optimal.”
Although the district saw success with its distance learning program from March through June, students and teachers both indicated they prefer coming to school.
“There’s nothing that replaces the relationship between children and their teachers, day in and day out,” Brummett said.
Among the restrictions to be put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus, students and staff will be required to wear masks while in school buildings and on buses.
The state was expected to release a more detailed summary of requirements for school districts this week. Each district is expected to have an individual plan in place by July 24.
“This pandemic represents more than a virus, it represents a historic disruption to our school communities and created barriers to how we best deliver academic and non-academic supports in a way that is accessible, equitable and meaningful,” Cardona said. “Addressing the educational setbacks and the social-emotional toll caused by COVID-19 is best addressed by maximizing in-person instructional time. In developing this plan, we worked in close consultation with public health officials to prioritize the safety of our school communities and, just as intensively, engaged students, parents, and educators for their critical input. We stand with our districts, educators and families as we commit to making 2020-21 a year devoted to creativity, innovation, courage, and reimagining education together.”
The superintendent is confident Newington schools will be able to accommodate the state’s new requirements for in-person learning.
“Newington is in pretty good shape,” Brummett said. “Our buildings are adequately sized so we have the ability to spread out. I’m in the process of ordering masks for everybody. Each school will have a mask for each student and staff member with the school’s logo on it, but parents are more than welcome to provide their own masks as well.”
Strict cleaning protocol and monitors will be in place to ensure compliance of all regulations.
If COVID-19 cases begin to rise again the State Department of Education may opt for a partial reopening.
“We have to be ready at a moment’s notice to shut down again should COVID rates go up,” Brummett said. “We have to be nimble enough to switch back to an online platform. The good news for parents who are uneasy sending their children back, is that they still have the right to keep their children home and access an online platform.”
The state is expected to release an alternative program with online curriculum for public schoolchildren this summer.
Check for ongoing updates in the New Britain Herald and Newington Town Crier.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.