PLAINVILLE – Plainville Superintendent of Schools Steve LePage said he is in the process of surveying parents, and should know by early next week how many are comfortable sending their children back to school.
“As of our last survey, in early July, 57% of parents felt comfortable sending their kids back, 13% said no and 30% were unsure or undecided,” he said.
The survey is being used to inform LePage’s plan for school reopening. Superintendents statewide have been required by the state to come up with a plan for reopening schools with 100% of students back in physical classes, a plan for 50% of students being back in class and 50% remote learning and a plan for 100% of students remote learning.
LePage called the local plan “solid” and “robust.” He said that school administrators have reviewed it and that he recently held two webinar conversations with parents in the district. More than 500 people participated or watched these webinars as they were streamed to YouTube.
“We received 30 pages of questions in total, which we have synthesized into different areas of concern,” said LePage. “We provided this information to our three subcommittees; health and safety, logistics facilities and operations and teaching and learning. There are about 100 people serving on these committees.”
LePage expressed some frustration in a recent press conference held with Gov. Ned Lamont where he said that the guidelines for schools had changed. While, originally, districts were clearly required to have all students 100% back in classes in the fall, now he said that the state has “backtracked” by saying they would be more “flexible.” This, he said, has led to confusion where parents have been thinking that it will be an entirely local decision now.
Despite some of the uncertainty at the state level, local preparations are continuing to move forward.
“Fortunately, we have a big building and a fairly small population of 700 students, which gives us a lot of flexibility,” said LePage. “We are continuing to order personal protective equipment including dividers and barriers and 200 face shields for students who can’t wear masks due to medical reasons. We are also removing large desks for group activities and ordering close to 200 single desks. It’s like we’re going back in time with the teacher in the front of the room behind a barrier.”
Extraneous furniture is also being removed from classrooms to allow desks to be more spread apart and students will “cohort,” with teachers for various subjects coming to them while they remain in one room. However, “mask breaks” will be incorporated into the schedule as long as students remain 6 feet apart. LePage is also ordering six large tents for Plainville High School that will allow for outdoor classrooms.
Furthermore, LePage said that the school schedule has been reduced from six to four periods. Three will be held in school, followed by a “grab and go” lunch period that avoids use of the cafeteria. The last period will be held remotely after lunch.
LePage also plans to hire bus monitors for the first few weeks of school to make sure that children are wearing masks, avoiding sitting together, and using hand-sanitizer which will be provided on the busses. He also plans to hire additional custodians and encourage paraprofessionals and tutors to wipe down desks as well as to encourage students to do so.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.