For the time being, Hartford Public Schools will continue with the current learning model, though city officials are monitoring the coronavirus metrics and have said they are prepared to switch schools over to a hybrid learning model if need be.
City officials had warned of an uptick in COVID-19 cases last week and said if the metrics continued to trend up then they would move city schools to a hybrid learning model. However, on Monday officials said that the COVID-19 indicators remained steady for the week of October 5, as compared to the week before, and that there has only been one suspected case of transmission within a classroom since school started.
Based on that information, city officials said schools will remain on the current schedule for the week of October 19, though they will monitor to see if charges are needed for the week of October 26.
At a press conference Monday, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said they are trying to balance the public health risk against the impact and "profound disruption" that pulling students from the current model would have on the roughly 7,000 students who are currently attending in person.
"There is no easy answer here, these are difficult calls," Bronin told reporters.
Bronin said while the numbers are higher than they were in early September and August, they seem to be stable this week. He also noted that Trinity College students who test positive are included in Hartford's numbers and with those excluded, the city saw a more stable trend of COVID-19 cases rather than an accelerating one. City officials may decide to assess on a week by week basis so they can take into account the most recent data.
The mayor also noted that they have not identified significant transmission inside schools, with only one school, Mary Hooker Magnet School, that was of concern. When issues were identified there, the school was closed for two weeks.
“Our priority continues to be providing daily in-person instruction and supports to our beautiful and capable students, and after carefully examining the health metrics and evaluating what we’ve seen in our schools so far, we will continue operating in the current model through next week,” said Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with our health experts and monitor the data every day and we are prepared to make the transition in our instructional delivery models when needed based on the totality of the evidence. We are very grateful to our students, families, teachers and the entire team at Hartford Public Schools for working with us to build and maintain a safe and healthy environment for learning.”
Currently in Hartford, students preK-9 are working under an in-person learning model while students 10-12 are on a hybrid learning model, with the exception of families that specifically requested remote learning. School officials said last week that if the district were to switch, it would put preK-9 students on a hybrid model where they only attend in-person classes two days a week, and 10-12 would move to remote learning.