All school reopening plans for the fall were due to be submitted to the state Department of Education Friday, marking a significant deadline for Connecticut school districts.
Each district has been given latitude to devise its own plan. As the state reviews the proposals officials said this is not an approval process but rather an evaluation.
“We’re really going to dive in, in a really targeted approach to see which districts are having problems and why are they having problems,” said Chris Soto, director of innovation and partnerships for the Connecticut Department of Education.
Moving forward with plans to reopen schools, the governor said the state’s encouraging COVID-19 numbers are the metric fueling the decision.
“When it comes to schools, I’d like to be able to be able to take advantage of the good place we are right now because I don’t know what it will be like in November,” said Governor Ned Lamont.
Each district has presented three plans: In-person classes, a hybrid, including some online learning, and an entire distance learning format in the event of another shutdown. To begin the year though, schools are being encouraged to open and not start with a 100% remote model.
“I pray not, but it could come to a point where (remote learning) has to be what we do again, but only when the metrics say that’s the best option,” said Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona.
In-person classes are being supported by the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS).
“We know that is the most effective way to do teaching and learning,” said CAPSS Executive Director, Fran Rabinowitz.
The state said 180 days of schooling will be required. Remote classes will count toward that for students whose parents don’t feel comfortable sending their children back.
“Those days will count because the district is required and responsible for providing the same education whether it’s in the school or at home,” explained Soto.
While the Department of Education is evaluating each district’s plan, there is no universal approach. Individual districts are planning based upon what’s appropriate for them. They are weighing a wide range of variables including size, resources and economic need.
“Within the context of every district there are nuances and I think the state department and the governor have taken that into consideration,” added Rabinowitz.
Echoing the thoughts of the governor, the Department of Education said Connecticut’s COVID-19 statistics indicate conditions are right to reopen.
“If we can’t do this safely in Connecticut and we can’t be the model with our rates and what we’re doing then it’s going to be hard for any other state to do it,” said Soto.
As it evaluates each plan, the Department of Education said it will be working throughout the weekend and will make an announcement, updating the process very soon.