Important Back to School Information - 8/27/2020

 

Dear Parents, Guardians, and Students:

Welcome back to a new school year.  After a long absence, we are looking forward to your return.  As you enter your buildings you will notice some changes in procedures that are all focused on keeping you happy and safe.  Each of the district’s four buildings, Mitchell Elementary, Bethlehem Elementary, Woodbury Middle and Nonnewaug High School have all experienced some level of makeover.  Our custodians have done amazing work this summer and we are so proud of the end result but moreover, we have spent the summer purchasing new disinfecting equipment and learning how to keep our buildings clean and free of the COVID virus.

We have waited until now to send this letter because expectations, practices and procedures change frequently however, the district’s website homepage will be updated as new information is received and can be found at www.ctreg14.org in the Fall Reopening Plan link. Rest assured, we are in daily contact with our regional health departments - Pomperaug Health District and Torrington Health District and are also briefed on new procedures and expectations by the Connecticut State Department of Health and the Connecticut State Department of Education. Our district’s Covid-19 liaison, Mark Harutunian, is available to answer any inquiries you may have and can be reached via e-email mharutunian@ctreg14.org, or by phone at (203) 290-2449.

This letter, though lengthy, will provide pertinent information regarding the start of the new school year and what the expectations are for our students.  First and foremost, it is very important that every student and staff member wear a mask. Dr. Needleman, our district medical doctor, advises that everyone needs to wear a mask to be safe. This mandate is for all Pre-K through grade 12 students.  Your cooperation ensures that not only our students and staff are kept safe, but our venerable community members as well. There will be mask breaks where students will be taken outside to get fresh air or to an alternate location in inclement weather. We are even asking that teachers instruct their classes outside if possible. Plans are in place to allow for early dismissals on exceptionally hot days, to be determined by the Superintendent.

Our buildings’ ventilation systems have all been turned to exhaust to provide the most amount of fresh air possible.  We have been working on new signage, hallway directional signs, reminders about washing hands, wearing a mask, and 6 feet social distancing guidelines­­. We have new protocols for cleaning our classrooms, bathrooms, hallways, lunchrooms, and gymnasiums. At the elementary schools, we have increased our lunch waves to make sure that we have 6 feet between all students while they are having lunch. We will have hand sanitizer in all of classrooms, as well as, hallways. 

Bus Transportation

All-Star Transportation is taking additional measures to keep students safe.  For elementary students using bus transportation, buses will be loaded from the back to the front as the students are picked up and those will be their assigned seat until further notice.  For high school and middle school students, if high school students are dropped off first, they will sit in the first half of the bus and vice versa for the middle school students.  All drivers and students will be wearing masks.  Bus drivers will have a supply of masks for those students who may forget one. Drivers have been directed to stay home if they are not feeling well.  Buses will be sanitized and areas wiped between and after each bus route and sanitized again at the end of the day in preparation for the next day.  Students will only be allowed to sit with other family members or members of their household.  Students will not be allowed to share their seat or change seats as they have in the past.  Buses will try to stagger their drop off times so that students are not sitting idle on the buses or congregating at school.  Any student who refuses to wear a mask will be seated in the front of the bus and delivered to an administrator upon arrival at school.

The Region 14 School Nurses are collaborating in a multitude of measures to ensure that students and staff return to school in September to a safe and healthy environment during a worldwide pandemic and in order to do so, we are asking for your assistance.  The CDC recommends that we practice preventive behaviors and the importance for parents, staff, and caregivers to monitor for symptoms of Covid-19 at home.  Region 14 schools will follow the CDC guidelines of social distancing, frequent handwashing, masks, cough etiquette, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection of surfaces to prevent the spread of diseases. Nursing offices will be constructed to support an isolation room for students that become ill. Students will need immediate pickup within 30 minutes.  It is mandated by the State of Connecticut that all newly enrolled students and students entering Pre-K, Kindergarten, Grade 6, and Grade 10 to be up to date on their immunizations and physicals.  The health forms can be found and printed from our website www.ctreg14.org. Please submit your health forms to your child’s school nurse.  If a student or teacher is absent from school, or leaves early, because they are sick, they must return to school with a signed doctor’s note. The note must be signed by the doctor who evaluated that student or teacher clearing them to return to school.  A stamped signature will not be accepted; it must be a signature in blue ink. We are asking for your cooperation with keeping our students safe.  If children are not feeling well, please do not give them Tylenol and send them to school. Tylenol masks illness, please keep your children home.

Preschool

Due to our growing numbers of preschoolers, there will be three classrooms this year. Preschoolers will access in-person learning Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Each elementary school will house a Pre-K 4 classroom, while all students enrolled in the Pre-K 3 program will attend half day sessions at Bethlehem Elementary School. The district one-hour delay start time will also be observed at the preschool level. The morning start time will be 10 am.  The Pre-K 3 morning session will run 10 am-11:55 am, followed by the afternoon session from 1 pm - 2:55 pm. The Pre-K 3 classroom will be disinfected between sessions. By closely following health and safety protocols throughout the day, developmentally appropriate preschool play-based learning activities will be offered.

Elementary Schools

As children arrive at Bethlehem Elementary School, staff will be outdoors to greet them. Buses will disembark one at a time at the front door. For dismissal, students will remain in their classes and seats until their bus number is called, at which time we will similarly load one bus at a time. Staff members will guide students along the way to and from buses.  Mitchell Elementary School buses will unload, one at a time, at three different locations at the school.  At dismissal time teachers will walk their students to the appropriate locations for bus or parent pick up.  At BES, lavatory breaks will be scheduled by class and staggered, and if any students need the lavatory individually, teachers will radio the office to ensure there are not multiple other students using the lavatory.  At MES a Google Docs system for bathroom breaks will be used keeping the number of students out of class at the same time to a minimum.  At both Mitchell and Bethlehem Elementary Schools specials teachers will travel to the classrooms to deliver instruction. Students will have lunch and a 30-minute recess outdoors exclusively with their grade. In addition, each class will have designated areas on campus for outdoor mask and snack breaks, of which we plan at least one in the a.m. and one in the p.m. (in addition to recess). If your child's teachers feel additional breaks are warranted, they will be able to take them as needed. Instruction may occur outdoors as well utilizing designated classroom areas on campus as much as possible. Children will also be allowed to have water bottles at their desks, and will be provided with mask lanyards to help them keep track of their masks. Lastly, the first day and week of in-person learning for our students will include training on health and safety protocols in a positive and developmentally appropriate manner, and support staff will be available to support children who may experience any difficulty. Please rest assured we will go slowly, be flexible to support the needs of children, and treat everyone with grace.

Woodbury Middle School

The staff at Woodbury Middle School has worked diligently preparing for the opening of school. The school year will begin with our A cohort on Sept. 8th, and students will report to their A block (C block for 8th grade) to review opening protocols. Our B cohort students will report on Sept. 10th. Classrooms have been prepared to keep safe social distancing, and signage in halls and common areas will remind students to follow traffic patterns and maintain safe social distancing. Our teachers are working on preparing lessons that maximize student learning while in school or working remotely. Please look for a follow-up letter from WMS detailing specific school reopening protocols.  Sixth-grade orientation will be on Sept. 2nd, starting at 12:30. More information on that will also follow in a separate letter. New students to Region 14 in grades 7 & 8 should call the main office if they are interested in touring our building. We understand how different this school opening appears and want you to know we are available to answer any questions you may have. Please feel free to contact either of the administrators at wnemec@ctreg14.org or sgreene@ctreg14.org.

Nonnewaug High School

At Nonnewaug High School, students in Cohort A (last names A-K) will attend in-person on Tuesday, September 8th with class beginning at 8:35. Students who need to purchase breakfast will be able to purchase a grab and go breakfast. Students in Cohort B (last names L-Z) and remote only learners will be receiving information about how they can join their classes remotely that day. Students will attend periods 1, 3, 5 and 7 on the first day. First period will include discussion of COVID-19 health and safety practices, third period will include a 15-minute advisory session, and fifth period will include lunch waves. Dismissal will begin at 2:05 in order to reduce the number of students waiting together for buses and parent pick-up. We look forward to welcoming Cohort B learners in person on Thursday, Sept. 10th while Cohort A will access their classes that day remotely. We ask that Nonnewaug High School families look for a NHS update this week with more specific information.

Food Services

We want to ensure that all students have access to meals.  Therefore, will be offering a meal pickup option for hybrid and remote learning students.  Meals will charge in the same manner as they would be if your child was in school.  The reduced price lunch is $0.40 and reduced fee breakfast is no charge.  Paid breakfast is $1.50.   Lunch for Elementary Schools are $2.90, Middle and High School are $3.30.  Meals will be available for pick up at Bethlehem and Mitchell Elementary every Monday and Wednesday from 9:00am to 9:30am.  Per USDA regulations a parent or guardian must pick up the meals.  Meal distribution will be on Monday and Wednesday of each week school is in session.  Cohort A will receive meals for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday on Wednesday.  Cohort B will receive meals for Monday and Tuesday on Monday.  Wednesday will be pick up for all students.  All menus will be posted on the district website.  Lunch will consist of choice of the daily meal of the day, or a deli sandwich.  In an effort to better serve you, we ask that you send an email to pbrooks@ctreg14.org no later than Friday at 10:00 am for the upcoming week to preorder lunches.  Please indicate how many meals you will be purchasing and include the names of your children.   You will only need to send one email per family.

Student Services

As we return to the buildings, supporting the emotional wellbeing of students will be an important priority after months of isolation. For students with special needs, while delivering IEP services and conducting pending assessments is essential, we recognize the value of devoting time at the onset to building relationships with the students. To support this critical work, we are fortunate to have a social worker assigned to each building once again. Special education services are best accessed through in-person learning. If your child has a documented medical exemption which prohibits him or her from participating in in-person learning, please provide medical documentation to the school at your earliest convenience so that a specialized learning plan can be developed. For students with no documented medical exemption whose parents opt for remote learning, the services outlined in your child’s special education plan will be delivered virtually to the greatest extent possible as outlined in the IEP. IEP services will be provided as written for in-person learners in grades preschool through 8. In the event that a student would be better served in a manner other than designated in their IEP, a PPT meeting will be scheduled to discuss appropriate changes to the written plan. The re-opening plan accommodates additional in-person time for students with special needs in grades 9-12. Recommendations for 4 days of in-person learning have been made on an individual basis after considering the extent of services outlined in a student’s IEP and a student’s performance during distance learning in the spring. Letters have been sent to parents whose children would best be served by accessing additional learning days. If you are a parent of a high school age child with an IEP and have further questions about this opportunity, please contact Donna Marcinek, Director of Student Services.

We are beginning this school year with a plan that will provide the best education for our students while keeping students, staff and families safe.  Time will tell if we have gone overboard with our preparations but I would rather prepare too much than not prepare enough and risk the health and wellbeing of our community. 

Thank you and we look forward to seeing everyone back to school!

Sincerely,

Joseph A. Olzacki, Ed. D.

Superintendent of Schools