MERIDEN — The city’s Board of Education this week approved a change that calls for schools to open with distance and in-person learning on Sept. 3.
School administrators had prepared for an Aug. 31 opening. Instead, Sept. 3 and 4 will be half-days and Sept. 8 is the first full-day of school.
Elementary and middle school students who choose to return to school buildings will be separated by classroom or other groups. Students whose families prefer distance learning will be assigned teachers who are exempt from returning to school because of a health condition.
High school students will return to a hybrid learning system that provides for in-person and distance learning on rotating days.
The student bodies at Maloney and Platt high schools will be divided in half to allow for staggered days in and out of the building. Administrators adopted the hybrid learning program after realizing there was no safe way to divide the large student populations into smaller groups, said School Superintendent Mark Benigni.
“It’s not going to be perfect,” Benigni said. “We’re going to reduce density in our high schools. We are taking the population and cutting it in half and the schools are working on how best to break that down.”
Public health officials will have the final say on whether the plan will be implemented, but educators agreed to move forward after Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, last week addressed the state’s ability to control the coronavirus. Fauci told educators they needed to set their sights on a full reopening if possible for the emotional health of children, the nutritional value many students receive from school meals and the ripple effect on parents who would have to make dramatic changes in their work schedules if schools don’t reopen.
“In short, the board has approved a cohorting model for grades K-8, and a hybrid model for Maloney & Platt,” said Board of Education President Robert Kosienski Jr. “Our plan was created working with surrounding districts and health departments. We also had valuable input from teaching staff and parents through surveys.”Surveys
A final survey was sent Wednesday and is due on Aug. 12. The survey asks students and families if they want in-person or distance learning when schools reopen.
Parents considering remote learning are asked to view the learning models on the Meriden Public Schools website to fully understand the remote schedule and expectations.
In addition to student cohorting, masks will be mandatory in all classrooms, while cleaning and disinfecting will intensify.
Gymnasiums and classrooms will be used for lunch.
Benigni plans to have a question and answer session with local public health officials to discuss circumstances, such as what happens in the event of a positive cases.
Individual schools will host remote parent meetings to discuss reopening details specific to the schools. Parents are encouraged to attend or listen to recordings of the meetings.